‘COVID couldn’t stop us’: Ford’s Theatre presents ‘A Christmas Carol’ radio play

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'A Christmas Carol' (Part 1)

COVID-19 may have canceled live theater in D.C., but there’s no time for humbug.

Ford’s Theatre is instead staging a radio play of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

The hourlong production will stream for members from Dec. 7-13, and to the general public from Dec. 14 to Jan. 1, on the Ford’s Theatre website. It will then air on WAMU 88.5 FM on Dec. 25 at noon. Ford’s will provide a downloadable souvenir program.

“When we shut everything down in March we kept thinking that maybe by the fall, and certainly by December, we can do ‘A Christmas Carol,'” actor Craig Wallace told WTOP. “As that became not a possibility, we were all crestfallen, but we knew that we wanted to do something, the radio play idea came up and we put it together.”

How exactly was it recorded?

“We started with a virtual table read with our adapter and director Michael Wilson,” Wallace said. “Then, there were a handful of us that actually went into Ford’s and recorded, but everyone else was in their own spaces via Zoom, via Zoom recorders. It was elaborate. We knocked most of it out in about two weeks.”

It was a unique acting challenge to create “theater of the mind.”

“It was new for me,” Wallace said. “We put our faith in our director, Michael Wilson, and our sound designer, John Gromada. … We basically laid the vocal tracks down and left it to those guys to create it, so in that regard, it was scary. … It all happened in post.”

Joining Wallace as Scrooge are Greg Mayhew as Bob Cratchit, Stephen Schmidt as Jacob Marley, Justine “Icy” Moral as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Rayanne Gonzales as the Ghost of Christmas Present and a voiceless Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

“It’s the gang, everybody you’ve seen in the past,” Wallace said. “We had a listening party for the show mid-last week and it was so moving for us to come together and hear how it came out, the creation of art. COVID couldn’t stop us from creating this.”

Based on Dickens’ 1843 novella, the play follows London miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by spirits on Christmas Eve, showing him what was, what is and what might be, transforming him from a greedy curmudgeon to a generous soul for Tiny Tim.

“Scrooge is a practical guy,” Wallace said. “There are many things that he believes in, but charity, benevolence and friendship aren’t among them. He goes through a journey on Christmas Eve where he realizes those things are very important and that, with what little time he has left, he should embrace those ideals to live a happier life.”

These themes should lift listeners’ spirits in a very dark time.

“You can enjoy it now in your own home safe with your family,” Wallace said. “Hopefully, that will rekindle some hope and some light. We’ve been looking for light ever since March since we had to go on lockdown. … It’s Christmastime. We wanted to give this gift to everyone and say we love you, we miss you and hope to see you again soon.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'A Christmas Carol' (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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