Dallas — We may not be dashing through the snow in Dallas in December, still what fun it is to watch B. J. Cleveland dash around the sound studio of David Tenney’s prop-filled set design for radio station WXMS in David Alberts’ A Christmas Carol: The Radio Show. The popular one-man show, directed with wit and graceful pacing by Gene Raye Price, is onstage at Theatre Too, the intimate basement space at Theatre Three.
Alberts retells Charles Dickens’ famous story through the revved up sound effects man Bob Bennett, an eager thespian waiting for his moment of fame in a mid-American town back when it still snowed reliably in winter, and nobody worried about global warming. Glenn Miller’s band swings into holiday music in the background, and bright-eyed, clean-shaven Bob, wearing his warm sweater vest, is checking out the mikes. When all the musicians and actors are snowed in on the night WXMS is to broadcast “A Christmas Carol”, only early bird Bob has made it to the station. No problem. Bob’s got it covered.
Cleveland’s Bob, sweetly cunning and ready to rock, delivers the whole production single-handedly, including the voices of 22 characters, plus a crazy and convincing array of sound effects, in 90 minutes of hustle, histrionics and holiday cheer. Way to ring them bells, Bob!
Cleveland has all the moves and characters down. He starred in the show initially at One Thirty Productions, revived it last season at Theatre Too, and the third time is as charming as ever.
It’s not easy being two dozen people and all the noises they make going about their lives in London in the 19th century. Cleveland has fun with all the wonky noise machines and sound effects, which include slamming bricks to hear the clip-clop of horses, and slamming the toy door when people come and go. He cranks the hilarious torn sheet wind machine when a spirit breezes into the script, while mustering a deep and hollow voice for Marley’s warning words.
Cleveland conveys Bob’s pride and determination, as well as the love this loquacious sound man has for the story itself. Cleveland’s Bob is not just a masterful multi-tasker, but a dynamite actor with a voice range from a squealing Tiny Tim to a high-toned and haughty gentleman collecting for the fabled poor of Dickens’ story.
Fascinatingly, Cleveland’s narration of Dickens’ magnificent tale of a selfish miser’s midnight salvation is wonderfully clear and cogent if you only listen. You can see Scrooge and all the people in his world with your eyes closed, thanks to the author’s richly evocative words and the actor’s delightful delivery.
But don’t close your eyes for long. You won’t want to miss Bob’s manic antics and hilarious business. God bless us one and all, especially the guy playing us all.