OCEANSIDE — At a recent staging of “A Christmas Carol: A Radio Play,” the inside of the Sunshine Brooks Theater was suitably decked out for the holiday season: There was a man playing Christmas tunes on a piano in the corner by the door, a silver Christmas tree with faux gifts scattered around its hem and champagne being served. And comfy seats. Quite the welcome, indeed.
As everyone filed into the theater for “A Christmas Carol: A Radio Play,” director Ted Leib and Oceanside Theatre president John McCoy came on stage, flaunting the sort of ugly Christmas sweaters to make the eyes bleed and offend every other sensory organ as well.
As this was the Christmas Carol radio show, the show was performed and portrayed as if it were an actual live radio production, with an enormous light blaring “On Air” behind the actors, and plenty of emphasis on the voice in their respective portrayals.
Now while the idea of having the actors sitting, waiting to deliver their lines may not sound all that exciting, it lends a certain relaxed atmosphere to the production, a comfortable casual feeling.
Set design was also minimal. There was a plush red chair for the narrator, a tree much like the one in the lobby, and … that was it. In lieu of moving about the set, the actors waited in chairs to deliver their lines, donning different hats, scarves or other pieces of costumery to denote a literal change in character.
As the narrator, Tom Brault kept things moving along at a reasonably brisk pace, dictating the story from within the confines of the sorts of enormous tomes you’d see at the start of a fairytale movie. Speaking of, images were projected behind him to help viewers visualize the story, taking imagery from the likes of Robert Zemeckis’ “A Christmas Carol” and what appeared to be lithographs portraying key scenes.
Edward Howell portrayed the incorrigible miser Ebeneezer Scrooge with a scratchy yet resonant intonation. He’s terse in the deepest chasms of miserhood but turns more jovial and sincere in his performance as the story goes on.
Of all the actors, Alex Tanner was probably the breakout star of the show, doing an impeccable impression of a radio announcer declaring the show’s beginning and intermission, and doing an over-the-top, ghostly wail as Jacob Marley, along with some flawless variations on the English accent.
To really make the illusion that the show was a radio drama hit home, some music and sound effects crooned within the cozy confines of the theatre auditorium with naught a technical hiccup to be found.
If you want to see a take on the Dickens classic that is profoundly unique production-wise, Oceanside Theater Company’s show is not one to pass up. The show will play again Friday, Dec. 20 through Sunday, Dec. 22, and then it’s gone. Tickets can be bought at oceansidetheatre.org/tickets.
Alex Wehrung covers Rancho Santa Fe and theatre-related news in North County. He previously reported for The Daily Nexus in Santa Barbara, CA and the Escondido Times-Advocate in Escondido, CA.