STURGEON BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – As the photo above suggests, the common image of the term “radio play” is stretched in the Third Avenue PlayWorks’ production of  “A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Play.”

The players wear period costumes – the time being 1946 – and the clothing is better-wear and snazzy in the case of the guy on the right end.

The radio studio is more than bare walls, rundown chairs and a flat floor.

The players hold scripts, which they do use somewhat in this production.

Added layers of concept come with this version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” which remarkably still applies in many ways even though it was published 178 years ago today, Dec. 19. Such as: “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both.”

What adapting playwright Joe Landry does and director Mikael Burke runs with is the play-reading cast is made up of showbiz folks who are famed (fictionally) in 1946 on stage and screen.

That’s why they dress so well and behave the way they do, though “the folks at home” listening on radio can’t see them.

The audience in the theater certainly does.

+ Lana Sherwood (Elyse Edelman) is a prima donna given to overacting – even more so than everybody else is required to do. The general drift of reaction to Lana’s slathering on the gravy is, “What’s with her doing all that stuff?”

+ Freddie Fillmore (Ray Jivoff) is a man of 999 faces as Ebenezer Scrooge, with more flexibility than a radio audience could ever imagine.

+ Harry Jazzbo (Dan Klarer) is a ladies man with a certain way of eying prospects and also has a taste for nipping hooch while on the air and getting tipsy. Strangely, he’s able to get sober toward the end.

The cast has all kinds of bits with which to entertain the audience. Sunday afternoon’s full house gave a standing ovation.

Neil Brookshire plays the warmup announcer who unloads a bunch of groaner plays on words involving baking that did (da da dump) get a rise out of the audience. Among his characters is a caroling boy who gets Scrooge’s goat and then in song sticks his tongue out at the old fellow.

Cassandra Bissel, along with all the reactive acting done by all, makes a powerful Jacob Marley. Hers is big of voice, forceful of meaning and downright demanding.

The cast members add audio effects – door slams, coins clinking and such – but mostly when foley artist Brian Grimm either has his hands full or when he is playing music on one of his assortment of instruments. He’s an extremely versatile guy.

All the key points of “A Christmas Carol” are in this play. The concept, though, lightens what Charles Dickens’ story is saying. The production is more about performance than meaning. It’s entertaining… but.

On the other hand, the “show” is very well performed by pros who are versatile and filled with skilled expressions and nuance. And the production looks more than good.

At the very end, the cast sings a little tune to send everyone off with a Merry Christmas in mind.


Running time: One hour, 15 minutes (no intermission)

Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21, 22; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 23; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 27, 28, 29, 30, 31


Creative: Source: Charles Dickens with adaptation by Joe Landry; music – Kevin Connors; director Mikael Burke; scenic designer – Alex Polzin; costume designer – Kärin Kopischke; lighting designer – Eric Watkins; foley artist and musician – Brian Grimm; production stage manager – Kelsey Brennan; managing director – Amy Frank; artistic director – Jacob Janssen


Freddie Filmore/Ebenezer Scrooge – Ray Jivoff

Harry Jazzbo/Etc. – Dan Klarer

Sally Applewhite/Etc. – Cassandra Bissell

Jake Laurents/Etc. – Neil Brookshire

Lana Sherwood/Etc. – Elyse Edelman

Foley artist and musician – Brian Grimm


NEXT: “Katie Dahl and Peter Mulvey Live at TAP,” Jan. 6.

THE VENUE: Third Avenue PlayWorks, which includes the Steve and Jackie Kane Theatre, is located at 239 N. 3rd Ave. in downtown Sturgeon Bay. The building is the greatly renovated former Third Avenue Playhouse and Studio Theatre. The new building is up to the standards of what is expected of a small theater. The origins of Third Avenue Playhouse date to 1999. The playhouse previously was a movie theater, the Donna, which opened Nov. 25, 1958. The new auditorium is a “black box” theater at heart – black stage curtains, black walls (mostly), black ceiling – with all new theatrical support elements. On either side of the stage, walls are exposed to brick-and-stone work of original buildings – a historical touch. Architectural style? Black Box Cleaned Up does the trick. A gray, linear-patterned rug leads from the lobby into the auditorium. Seating for 144 is in eight rows on an inclined seating area, with red handrails for the steps and slopes on the sides. Seats are gray plastic structure in legs, back and arms, with seating area of red fabric. The performers use their natural voices with no assist of wireless headset amplification. The lobby areas – multiple spaces with storefront-type windows facing the street – are a blend of art gallery and loft (some exposed beams and ventilation pipes) in aura. One gathering space at present features historical photographs of the downtown. The space near the theater entrance includes photographs from selected previous productions. A concession stand has opened. Restroom facilities are greatly improved.