Encore Michigan

Gribble’s one-man humbug at The Williamston

Review December 02, 2019 Bridgette Redman

WILLIAMSTON, MICH.–There are few stories as endearing or enduring this time of year than The Christmas Carol, and theaters around the state find many different ways of telling the tale.

At Williamston Theatre, putting on a full production that would rival The Meadowbrook’s is impossible given their space restrictions. Nor would it fit with what their audiences have come to expect from them. Instead, the theater is putting on a version that fits its personality perfectly and uses an actor and director who have long been audience favorites.

A Christmas Carol: The Radio Show features Aral Gribble, directed by John Lepard, in a one-person tour-de-force where Gribble not only plays all the characters, but also does all the sound effects. The show opens on a radio set from 1947 where a group of players is supposed to perform A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately (and fortunately for us) the players have all been snowed in across town except for the foley man, Bob Bennett, and the radio engineer (played by stage manager Stefanie Din) who stays in the sound booth above the audience.

He soon rearranges all the sound effect tables, filled with authentic, period goodies collected by props master Michelle Raymond, and launches into a singular performance of the classic Dickens tale.

So intense are many of Gribble’s choices that you wonder at first if he’ll be able to maintain them through the course of the show, but such is his skill that the wonder soon fades. Each character has a distinct voice, especially the old, crochety Scrooge whom Gribble endows with plenty of snuffling, grumbling and verbal shenanigans even when he is not speaking. Even his snoring has a story to tell.

Equally delightful is the wide-range of sound-effect devices, devices all made anachronistic in today’s digital world, but hearkening back to an earlier era where sound engineers were experts in found instruments from balloons to shoes to chains to wind tunnels.

Lepard doubles as director and sound designer, an appropriate pairing given how much the sound design is crucial to telling the story of a radio play. He makes excellent choices with the toys Raymond provided him, toys that surround Gribble on stage and keep him in constant motion providing the sound track of the story.

Kirk A. Domer has created a simple backdrop of a set that fulfills its purpose of simulating a live radio stage without overpowering or distracting from the main event. It sets the period and provides the requisite “on air” light, and then gets out of the way.

David Albert’s “A Christmas Carol: The Radio Show” summons up the spirit of Christmases past, filled as it is with the familiar story, the radio lore, and Karen Kangas-Preston’s old-fashioned costuming of Gribble. It brings up memories of the 1940s, the 1800s, and Christmases of childhood past when familiar stories were told each December.

If you’re looking for an evening that the entire family can enjoy, one that will take you back to days of yore and fill you with holiday spirit, you’ll be hard pressed to do better than to buy a ticket to Williamston’s show this month.

Week of 12/9/2019

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