Local celebs give spirited reading of ‘Christmas Carol’Written by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
As Christmastime returns, draw a chair closer to the fire, fill the glass, and listen to “Holiday Wishes 3” disc two, the bonus track.
Familiar voices haunt the rendition of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” which begins and ends with Vincent Price to scare up a little holiday spirit.
“It’s a nightmare before Christmas; it’s a haunting ghost story, but it’s a Christmas story. Who better than Vincent Price to start the reading?” said Michael S. Miller, Toledo Free Press editor in chief, who produced the Make-A-Wish fundraising project.
Price narrated a 1949 TV special of the yuletide classic.
“It was one of those sublime moments when [Michael and I] found it and we were like, ‘This is cool,’” said music producer Mighty Wyte, sound engineer for the charity CD.
Miller decided to use the 1843 story to showcase the talent who volunteered for the disc.
“I thought: Let’s do a radio play. And the absolute zenith of this art is ‘A Christmas Carol,’” Miller said. “I edited a radio script of [the story] down to its bare essence of the ghost appearances — Dickens, forgive me for hacking at your work. But I’m extraordinarily pleased with the results.”
Enter the star power — cue the recording — hear the fun!
Fred LeFebvre, host of the morning news on 1370 WSPD, recorded an Ogden Nash poem for the 2012 CD. This year, he plays Ebenezer Scrooge.
“I took it as a challenge to become a character,” LeFebvre said. “I wanted it to be something that people would remember. You have to suck people into that story because it’s so familiar; you have to bring a little something new to it to make them want to pay attention.”
And he does. From his first utterance, LeFebvre commands attention.
“There’s a little bit of evil in everybody, and I think I reached back to a little bit of Scrooge in my own self and pulled that out,” LeFebvre said and laughed. “I did put a little bit of an English accent on it, more like the original Alastair Sim’s version that people see on TV in black and white during the holiday season.”
“[LeFebvre] just becomes Ebenezer Scrooge,” said Jerry Anderson, WTOL-11 anchor, who voices Jacob Marley. “There’s just so much talent in this city and in this region, and it’s really nice through this fun, seasonal project a lot more of it gets exposed than otherwise would; I think it’s great.”
Floating in to be early-morning specters were Mary Beth Zolik and Rick Woodell of 101.5 The River.
“When you’re in a room with the talent we were in, it’s very easy to fall into character,” said Woodell, who plays the Ghost of Christmas Present. “And mostly everybody hit it cold.”
“And did it in one take,” added Zolik, who voiced the Ghost of Christmas Past. “We were all in the same room and then one of us would get up from a chair and somebody else would sit down, somebody else would step in front of the microphone and somebody else would move out — it was like old-style radio. We thought it was so fun,” Zolik said.
“Once the light came on, it stayed on until it was finished; it’s seamless,” Woodell said.
That was even with two players making their recording debuts: Evan Miller, 7, and Sean Miller, 5, sons of the editor, have parts in the play.
“Evan and Sean and I rehearsed for about five days. I had no idea how they’d react to being in the studio and being surrounded by the grownups acting to microphones,” Miller said. “To watch all those people stand around when Sean walked up to the mic and uttered ‘God bless us every one!’ and was just so happy to do that — to watch the smiles on everybody’s faces, it just really warmed everybody. It was fantastic.”
Local actor and director Matthew Gretzinger narrates the timeless tale, which also includes Toledo Free Press columnists Jeff McGinnis and Jim Beard.
“[‘A Christmas Carol’ is] a story of realization and redemption and it goes down to the core of what makes us human,” Wyte said.
“Who wouldn’t like to be able to get a do-over if you didn’t do it right the first time?” Zolik said.
“Dickens and Scrooge will forever remind people — just like [Dr.] Seuss and the Grinch. Those two stories, which ironically are about sourpusses, illustrate how even in the grumpiest person, that light of Christmas shines through and makes us smile,” Miller said.
Tags: 1370 WSPD, A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, Dr. Seuss and the Grinch, Ebenezer Scrooge, Ghost of Christmas Present, Jacob Marley, Jerry Anderson, Local actor and director Matthew Gretzinger, Mary Beth Zolik and Rick Woodell of 101.5 The River, Ogden Nash, Toledo Free Press columnists Jeff McGinnis and Jim Beard, WTOL-11 anchor, “Holiday Wishes 3” CD