The radio version of a classic holiday ghost story, “A Christmas Carol,” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 9, at the Fine and Performing Arts Center at Western Carolina University.
A 30-minute preshow concert will start the evening off with holiday music until the 8 p.m. live broadcast begins.
The show is organized and produced by three WCU faculty members who collaborated two years ago on their first radio re-creation, “The War of the Worlds,” and last year’s award-winning “On the Home Front, Nov. ’44.”
Steve Carlisle, associate dean of the Honors College, is the show’s director; Bruce Frazier, Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professor of Commercial and Electronic Music, is the musical director. Don Connelly, associate professor and head of the Department of Communication, is producer of the show.
The broadcast is a re-enactment of the Campbell’s Playhouse adaptation of “A Christmas Carol,” from 1938.
“The audience is watching a radio production. We don’t play to the audience. We play to the microphone,” Connelly said. “It’s a fun thing to do. What’s neat is to expose people to this unique form of storytelling.”
The one-time performance stars Arthur Anderson, who will reprise his role as the Ghost of Christmas Past from the original Orson Welles 1938 radio production. Anderson was 16 years old at the time.
Anderson, now 88, started his career at age 12 with his long-running role on the CBS radio show “Let’s Pretend” that launched a career that has spanned more 75 years. From radio and television to movies and the stage, the name Arthur Anderson may not sound familiar to most people; however, many have heard his voice for 29 years as Lucky the Leprechaun in commercials for General Mills Lucky Charms cereal.
The Dec. 9 performance is being produced with permission of the show’s original sponsor, Campbell’s Soups.
The audience will get the feel of the holiday spirit as vintage Christmas card images from the archive collection of Hallmark Cards of Kansas City are projected onto a large screen at the back of the stage, said Connelly. The Hallmark artists selected cards from the late 1930s specifically for the WCU show.
“A Christmas Carol” will be performed exactly as it was originally done, including live sound effects, a 20-piece orchestra and an eight-person choir, Connelly said.
Frazier has created his own musical scores for the performance. The original 1938 musical director was Bernard Herrmann, who used a variety of music for the original show, such as traditional Christmas carols and folk music to accompany the festive scenes, and an original musical underscore to play during the dramatic moments.
“We are using a small orchestra and a chorus of carolers and will highlight School of Music faculty vocal soloists Mary Kay Bauer and Dan Cherry,” said Frazier. “‘A Christmas Carol’ is a ghost story with a happy ending and the music reflects the contrast of spine-chilling creepiness and unbridled joy.”
In conjunction with the show, the Biltmore Company will host a display of its first-edition copy of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens from 6:45 to 7:30 p.m. The book is on loan to WCU from the library in the Biltmore House.
The evening’s events are part of the university’s Quality Enhancement Program, enabling students to experience a practical application of what they are learning. The lobby area of the Fine and Performing Arts Center will feature English students displaying a synopsis of papers on Dickens and his Christmas story. The evening’s printed program will feature papers written this semester by students in a 19th-century English literature class taught by Brent Kinser, associate professor of English.
A number of other students in various departments across campus are involved in this professional collaboration.
For tickets, contact WCU’s Fine and Performing Art Center at 828-227-2479 or visit tickets.wcu.edu. All seats are $10. Advance tickets are suggested.