Mar 29, 2010

Posted in Liner Notes, What's New

‘THE CASE OF THE MURDERED MISER’

‘The Case of the Murdered Miser’

 

Recorded at: HT Recording Studio, Dennis, Cape Cod

Play’s location: Victorian London during Charles Dickens’ brief tenure as a reporter

First live broadcast: Live performance:  Sandwich High School,

simulcast WSDH, 91.5 FM,  Saturday, November 22nd, 1986

 

Trivia:                           This radio whodunit has led some credulous listeners to believe that a real Ebenezer Scrooge existed and that he was the victim in a murder case at the Old Bailey Courthouse where his clerk, Bob Crachit, stood in the dock accused.  This Perry Mason courtroom spoof has consistently ranked as a listener favorite, although a few have felt just the opposite, objecting to our tampering, however playfully, with Dickens’ beloved world masterpiece.  The author partially agrees.

Cast in order:              Cabbie. . . . . . . . . . . . . Bob Nolan *

Constable Delwood Perkins . . . Neil McGarry *

Bob Crachit . . . . . Jeff Camish *

Announcer . . . . . . . . . .  Fred Morey *

Rawley Fingers . . . . . Bob Gianferante *

Charles Dickens . . . . Daniel MaClean *

Clerk . . . . . . . . Scott Dickey

Judge Francis Hawkins . . . .Bob Giaferante *

Sir Percy Mason . . . . . . .Bob Nolan *

Hamilton Burgomaster, Esq . . . . Jeff Camish *

Fredrick Applegate . . . . . Neil McGarry *

Ebenezer Scrooge . . . . . Carol McManus

Giles Pithy . . . . . . . . . Bernard Willis *

Martha Crachit . . . . . . .Carol McManus

Barney Sullivan . . . . . . . . . Jeff Camish *

Paul Mandrake . . . . . . . . . Neil McGarry *

Davy O’Shanty . . . . . . . . .Floyd Pratt

Belle Langley . . . . . . . . . . Debby Oney

Lucy Duffy . . . . . . . . . Eva Broderson *

Jason Every . . . . . . . . . Scott Dickie

 

 

 

(*) First appearance in a CCRMT program

 

Author’s Notes and Recollections:

‘The Case of the Murdered Miser’ was the fourth radio play that our still fledging group attempted and the first time we departed from a suspense thriller or a Captain Underhill mystery to try our hands at a spoof.

The story idea came about because I had been studying Perry Mason mysteries, both the novels and the Raymond Burr TV re-runs.  (My older brother and I used to enjoy watching them regularly and even had developed a fairly reliable method of correctly guessing the real murderer based solely upon at what point the nefarious character is introduced into the story.)  I had been an inveterate admirer of Charles Dickens, especially his Christmas Carol, having read the story many times, loved it since childhood, and seen practically every dramatized version that came out, whether for screen, television, radio or stage.  From Reginald Owen to George C. Scott,  From Lionel Barrymore to Mr. Magoo.   It is one of the seminal works of Western civilization, and so I am sympathetic and partially agree with those listeners who are uncomfortable with anyone brazen enough to attempt to transform this heartwarming tale it into a jaundiced courtroom melodrama.

I can only claim in self-defense that  1) at the very end of the play it redeems itself and 2) that if you examine the original story closely you will see it is the perfect murder mystery waiting to be told, i.e. everyone hated Scrooge and everyone had a motive to kill him, and 3) as the old saying goes: satire  often makes fun of what it most respects.

We needed British accents across the board, so John Todd, Scott Dickieand I advertised locally and held another open audition at Cape Cod Community College.  And, like fishermen casting their nets in the sea, again we made a major haul of talent.

Annie Oney and Bob Nolan

First and chief on the list there was Bob Nolan of Sandwich, who was the perfect choice to play Sir Percy Mason, not only because he could act and had a great voice and an authentic accent, but because he was actually a barrister himself.   Bob was also a font of sparkling wit, with lots of sotto voce repartee that constantly had everybody cracking up in the studio.  When he wasn’t acting or being a wiseacre, he would sit in a corner reading his favorite author, Marcel Proust.   A further qualification: Bob was born on Christmas Day.  As a practicing attorney he worked in Washington D.C. under the Eisenhower administration and later in Boston as a trial lawyer.  On Cape Cod he was a director of the Friends of Prisoners, Cape Cod Chapter.  I remember bumping into him one day in front of the Barnstable County Courthouse where he had just been mentoring several prisoners in the lockup.  I lauded him for his selfless work, but his only response that day was to shake his head and reply in his low, dulcet tones, saying, “You can’t take the wiggle out of a snake.”

Bob Nolan as "Sir Percy Mason"

One further note on Bob, when we did Murdered Miser live on the stage at Sandwich High School and broadcast it over the air, Bob somehow either fell asleep on stage or was accidentally hypnotized.  The result was he ended up 12 pages behind in the script.  I was on stage too, at the podium facing the audience, and when it was his turn to speak and he didn’t chime in on cue, I turned to look at him where he sat.  His head was tilted to one side, his eyes were closed and he was clearly unconscious.  As I was closest, I leaned over and touched him on the shoulder to wake him up, and I will never forget the look on his face when he awoke.  It was the real-life fulfillment of the classic actor’s nightmare to suddenly wake up on stage and forget your part.  Local radio personality, Ray Brown, was playing the part of Judge Hawkins and, like a real pro, he adlibbed marvelously while Bob caught up.

There were other great actors and accents in the cast too:  Jeff Camish, using his perfect natural accent as well as his chameleon-like voice he was able to play three parts: Hamilton Burgomaster and Bob Crachit as well as the bartender, Barney Sullivan.  Carol McManus, fresh from The Automatic Murders, played Martha Crachit and lobbied hard to play Scrooge too, which she had done as a child and which she pulled off with aplomb.  Her close friend, Eva Broderson, another member of the Sandwich Glasstown Players, had an authentic accent and the sweetest personality.  She played the charwoman, Lucy Duffy.

Bob Gianferante played a very comedic hanging judge, Judge Hawkins, as well as the professionally-compromised tabloid reporter, Rawley Fingers.  (A note on that character’s name:  while writing the script I dredged it out of my subconscious, liking the sound of it and  believing it to be a name that corresponded to the personality of the character I was after and also the kind of name that Charles Dickens might have chosen.  It was only later when we were at the music stage that  Mark Birmingham pointed out to me that Rawley Fingers was the name of a pitcher for the Yankees.  However, by then I was too committed to using it, feeling it matched the character too well, and besides, I predicted, with haughty expectations, that my  play would far outstrip the memory of any transient baseball player anyway, especially a Yankee.

Neil McGarry donned an accent and showed up to play three parts: Fred Applegate, Paul Mandrake and Constable Delwood Perkins.

Floyd Pratt did a great job as the house-breaker, Davy O’Shanty.

Annie Oney (AKA Debby, Deb, Dev and Amrit) put on her accent and played the gold digging, Belle Langley.   After we recorded the voices, John, Scott and I once again lay in the sound effects, and Mark, once more, supplied the music using a harmonium this time to conjure up the sound of Victorian England.

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