A Christmas Carol

The Sounds of Christmas

A holiday show in a 40's radio station

By Mallory Smith

In a few short weeks, the delights of the winter season will be upon us: snow will fall, children will make snowmen, the holiday decorations will be up and you won’t be able to drive down a street without seeing the twinkle of white lights on a tree. But this year you can really get a glimpse of the good old days with Alexander Showcase Theatre’s production of the timeless classic “A Christmas Carol”, brought back by popular demand to the Alumnae Theatre.

Once again, you will be welcomed into the cozy radio station, WAPR, and entertained by a host of charming, funny, and loveable characters as they set out to bring Charles Dickens’ story to life. You are transported into the era of gentlemen in fedoras and ladies with handbags and gartered stockings. Your eyes are drawn downstage where there’s a table with all sorts of things on it. An actor walks onstage, says hello to a few people and then goes over to the table. She greets the other girl sitting there with a brief smile that says ‘Hello’ but also ‘Let’s get to work’. They start organizing the items in front of them: some crunched up paper, a bicycle bell, a gong and much more. Who are they? What are they doing? Despite the hustle and bustle of the other characters on the stage, you cannot stop watching them. Ms. Beulah Higgins (portrayed by AST veteran Deborah Mills) and her partner are Foley artists. Foley is the reproduction of everyday sound effects that are added to film, video, and other media in post-production to enhance audio quality. Nowadays, the sound effects we hear in films are made using computers. But years and years ago, they were made by people making sounds on random objects: smashing pots together, clinking glasses, clomping shoes on a wooden box, and much more.

“With a staged radio play you are presenting a “show within a show”, so I’m not simply creating the sounds, my partner and I are also acting the role of 1940s Foley artists, so we have to demonstrate a believable and entertaining rapport between these two radio station employees, as well as with the voice actors and the station manager. Although my character Beulah has pretty much remained a constant for each show – a grumpy battle-axe who’s worked at the radio station for more years than she cares to remember – the way she interacts with the other WAPR employees is always changing.” explains Ms. Mills. “I enjoy making the background noises of a Victorian street: banging coconut shells together for horse’s clopping hooves, squeezing a box of cornstarch for footsteps in the snow, and striking the fabulous 6-foot-high chimes to make the church bells ring out on Christmas Day.” The Foley artists have amazing source material written by Dickens. The sounds were impeccably described by him: the chains of Marley coming up the stairs to greet Scrooge, the jovial laughter of the Ghost of Christmas Present, the crunch of shoes in the snow of the graveyard and the laughter and delight of the children in the street on Christmas morning. The demands on the Foley artists are great but well worth the meticulous effort, as each sound you hear is what brings Dickens’ story to life before your eyes!

If you want to get into the Christmas spirit with your family and hear all the special sounds of Christmas made by the amazing Foley artists of WAPR, join in on the holiday cheer with the whole family at the Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley Street, Toronto) on November 24, 25, 26, 30, December 1, 2, 3 @ 8pm and November 27 and December 4 @ 2pm. Tickets (Adults $27, Students/Seniors $22) are available online at www.alexandershowcasetheatre.com , by phone (416) 324-1259 or by email at tickets@alexandershowcasetheatre.com

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