Alliance airs ‘A Christmas Carol’ on radio and screens

The Alliance's "A Christmas Carol: The Live Radio Play," featuring Jeremy Aggers, is also available for viewing in an online streaming format.
Courtesy of Greg Mooney
The Alliance's "A Christmas Carol: The Live Radio Play," featuring Jeremy Aggers, is also available for viewing in an online streaming format. Courtesy of Greg Mooney

Credit: Greg Mooney

Credit: Greg Mooney

A holiday classic continues on via the airwaves.

If the Alliance Theatre’s traditional production of “A Christmas Carol” sort of felt like your parents’ or grandparents’ version of the classic Charles Dickens story — insofar as the company has been remounting the same old David Bell adaptation of it for some 30 years now — so, in its own way, does the troupe’s newfangled, COVID-modified rendition of the oft-told tale, “A Christmas Carol: The Live Radio Play,” which harkens back to an era of drive-in movie screens and wireless broadcasts.

Co-scripted by director Leora Morris (whose previous Alliance credits include “Ride the Cyclone” and “Crossing Delancey”) and sound designer Ben Coleman, the outdoor show unfolds in the Summerhill parking lot of Center Parc Stadium, where even the cars are socially distanced (two spaces per vehicle). The set (designed by An-Lin Dauber) is comprised of four red- and green-tinted cubicles (lighting by W. Bruce Harlan), occupied by three actors and one sound-effects artist, and a number of large video monitors above the stage.

The sound technician is Georgia State University professor Stuart Gerber. The cast of versatile Atlanta performers includes Jeremy Aggers (Georgia Ensemble’s “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story”), Jeanette Illidge (“Rent” at Actor’s Express) and Brad Raymond (“Chasin’ Dem Blues” with True Colors) — each of whom alternates narrating duties, in addition to voicing a wide array of different Dickens characters, and all of whom (not surprisingly) are veteran readers in the audio-book industry.

Brad Raymond appears in the Alliance's "A Christmas Carol: The Live Radio Play," continuing through Dec. 23.
Courtesy of Greg Mooney
Brad Raymond appears in the Alliance's "A Christmas Carol: The Live Radio Play," continuing through Dec. 23. Courtesy of Greg Mooney

Credit: Greg Mooney

Credit: Greg Mooney

Raymond primarily plays the central role of Ebenezer Scrooge, the curmudgeon who famously undergoes a heartwarming Christmas Eve epiphany after he’s visited by supernatural spirits who reveal to him the errors of his inhumane ways. Illidge is both the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present, and Aggers runs the gamut as the lowly clerk Bob Cratchit, his sickly son Tiny Tim, the jovial Mr. Fezziwig and the portentous Jacob Marley. The co-stars distinguish all of their parts with a pronounced relish.

The three of them are talented singers and musicians, as well. Interspersed throughout the show are refrains from several well-known Christmas carols, with Aggers occasionally accompanying the songs on guitar or banjo, and Illidge periodically playing the flute. “Deck the Halls” includes a projected montage of seasonal photos submitted in advance by Alliance audience members. “Silent Night” is presented as a singalong. (The lyrics are displayed on those monitors, albeit without the obligatory bouncing ball.)

Jeanette Illidge co-stars in the Alliance Theatre's interactive drive-in production of "A Christmas Carol: The Live Radio Play," performed from the Summerhill parking lot of Georgia State University's Center Parc Credit Union Stadium.  
Courtesy of Greg Mooney
Jeanette Illidge co-stars in the Alliance Theatre's interactive drive-in production of "A Christmas Carol: The Live Radio Play," performed from the Summerhill parking lot of Georgia State University's Center Parc Credit Union Stadium. Courtesy of Greg Mooney

Credit: Greg Mooney

Credit: Greg Mooney

In lieu of applause, spectators are encouraged to honk their horns or flash their headlights. As a symbolic gesture of “lighting a candle” for the pitiable Tiny Tim, we’re asked to turn on the interior lights of our cars. On opening night, the lucky occupants of one vehicle were treated to donuts delivered from a neighborhood bakery. And to acknowledge the contributions of essential workers during this modern-day pandemic we’re facing, another aside featured an interview with a local nurse.

For whatever it lacks in terms of the usual production values or period atmosphere, the Alliance deserves a proverbial “A” for effort in adjusting the show to suit the extenuating circumstances. But some of the logistics are problematic nonetheless. Never mind the distraction of a nearby vehicle needing assistance to recharge its dead battery during the show; moreover, from where I happened to be positioned, my view of the cubicles on stage was largely obscured by a big SUV parked in the space ahead of me.

“A Christmas Carol: The Live Radio Play” is also available for streaming via the Alliance Theatre Anywhere digital platform, and I suspect I would have appreciated just as much (if not more) emotion and nuance from the show in that format as I did at such a distance in an idling car for 90-odd minutes. As cranky old Ebenezer might say: “Bah, humbug!”

THEATER REVIEW

“A Christmas Carol: The Live Radio Play”

Through Dec. 23. Nightly at 7 p.m. (excluding Dec. 14). $55-$130 per vehicle. Summerhill parking lot at Georgia State University’s Center Parc Credit Union Stadium, 18 Georgia Ave. SE, Atlanta. Also available for streaming ($20). 404-733-4650. alliancetheatre.org.

Bottom line: For better or worse, a sign of these unprecedented times.

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