Sometimes you leave a show feeling moved. Sometimes you leave a show tapping your feet and humming a tune. Sometimes you leave still chuckling about what you just saw.
Drama Dock’s wonderful “A 1940s Radio Christmas Carol” manages to make you leave feeling all three of those things. It has humor, it has fantastic music and you leave the performance incredibly inspired by the magic of Christmas.
The show features a fantastic ensemble cast, acting as radio show performers busily performing “A Christmas Carol” for the audience. It is full of wonderful songs and comic bits, with the talented cast taking turns in the spotlight.
Highlights include Vashon’s beloved thespian Rich Wiley as an older theater/movie actor struggling with finding the Christmas spirit in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge. Another stand-out was Lisa Peretti as a comedienne with a great Betty Boop radio voice and a fantastic singing voice (and perfect timing). Shannon Flora sang a lovely 1940s torch song that will move the crowd. And there were plenty of others shining in the cast, from a graceful Erica Wagner to a hilarious Dawn Dawson as one of the radio staff.
But two actors stood out in particular for me. One was Hailey Quackenbush, putting on yet another gut-busting performance on the Vashon stage as an egotistical radio actor always trying to make money on the side. Quackenbush’s skill with mimicry and accents, as well as acrobatic pratfalls and energy, are always a joy for theater-lovers.
The highlight of the show for me was Jesse Whitford, who played the behind the scenes sound guy. It was pure delight watching him make all kinds of radio sounds in ways you never could have imagined. He seemed like he had come to us from the 1940s, an earnest radio guy in a tweed vest, earning his pay and then some as he and Wagner magically brought sounds to life. And you can tell the guy is a percussion talent — his timing was pitch-perfect throughout the show. And the props and historic set-pieces? Nostalgic heaven.
In terms of nits, it is hard to mention any, particularly because the cast and Directors Elise and Marita Ericksen graciously let me sit in on the show during dress rehearsal. At that time, the actors were ironing out a couple of issues around pauses in conversations, mics cutting out now and then (but don’t they always?), a few pitches here and there in challenging harmonies. Those are things I expect were ironed out by the opening.
The cast expertly created a feeling of family on the stage, so much so that you experienced that surreal feeling at the end of a play when you realize you will miss the characters.
In the end, the production left me with a warm feeling. It may be the timelessness of Dickens’s story, the joy of good theater or the feeling that these people are all simply having fun together. Whatever it is, it feels good.
“A 1940s Radio Christmas Carol” plays at Vashon Center for the Arts on Dec. 28 and 29. It opened last weekend.