HUDSON -- After eight months, live theater is making its return to The Phipps.
“A Christmas Carol: The Radio Show” premieres Friday, Nov. 6, on the main stage.
The production tells the classic Dickens tale, in a unique format. A 1940 radio play is in jeopardy when snow strands the actors at home. The sound engineer steps up, putting on a one-man performance that covers all the characters and all the sound effects.
“It’s a clever adaptation,” Director John Potter said. “It’s the traditional story told in an untraditional manner.”
As a longtime fan of the story, Potter was excited to lead this production. This is his first one-man show, but he pulled from previous experience of a two-person production to help guide him.
Two actors — Charlie Shoemaker and Mike Tober — will take on the role on different nights.
The two are both new to The Phipps stage, and to one-man shows.
Both actors jumped in, Potter said, ready to try different things.
“It was just a fun, fun experience,” he said. “And I think the audience will see all of that, the enthusiasm.”
They both have to take on 30 characters and more than 100 sound effects. Many of the items used to make those sound effects are surprising.
Shoemaker has done the Christmas Carol many times, but this new adaptation made him consider the roles he’s never played.
“It made me think about them and their art and their storylines,” he said.
Tober has also done the show multiple times, helping him feel qualified for this complex role.
“I jumped at the opportunity and tried to sink my teeth in as soon as I could,” he said.
While the character is mainly locked into one spot physically, the role is very vocally demanding, Shoemaker said.
“The spectacle of the play becomes fully sound and whatever voice, vocal characterizations the actors bring to it to try to distinguish each of these characters from each of the other characters,” he said.
The challenge, and the chance to rise to it, is something Shoemaker enjoys.
“I find I do my best work when I’m ever so slightly intimidated,” he said.
The vocal quality of the arts is something that’s always fascinated Tober, and what first drew him to theater. He enjoys that this show allows him to show off his interpretation of many characters, including older characters he wouldn’t have been able to take on for many years.
“In the context of this year I love that I get to do it, not only do I get to do something at all, but to take on such a challenge as this,” he said.
Though both actors follow the same script, Potter said their performances are far from identical. Each one of them brings a different take.
“For those who love the story as much as I do, I would suggest they go to see both of them,” he said.
Being back to live theater is the best, Potter said.
“I do think people are longing for live entertainment,” he said.
The Phipps has a safety protocol for the actors and crew, as well as for the audiences. During rehearsals, it was just one actor and the stage manager. Figuring out the rehearsal schedule to keep the actors separate was a bit challenging Potter said, but they found a system.
The audience of each performance will be limited to 25% capacity, which is about 60 people. Audience members will be socially-distanced, and masks are required.
"A Christmas Carol: The Radio Show" runs some weekend dates through Dec. 6. A full schedule is available at thephipps.org.