Patrick Barlow’s A Christmas Carol
Nashville Repertory Theatre
Director: Beki Baker
Role: Sound Designer
Time: November-December 2019
Patrick Barlow’s A Christmas Carol is one of the most challenging scripts I have worked with yet. It was performed in The Johnson Theatre within the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. This version of the story was a zany take on a classic tale and it allowed the fun elements to show the heart of the story very quickly. The design elements all collaborating and created a darker world around the actors which helped accentuate what the comedic tendencies the performers had on stage. The sound world was used to set mood of the scene and to help build the underlying problem of Scrooge avoiding his fate until he finally comes face to face with the Ghost of Christmas Future.
The script called for a ton of sound cues just by itself. It had songs from movie soundtracks, specific environmental sounds, and even called for which songs he wanted the actors to sing and when. The first challenge with this was seeing if we would be able to use the copyrighted film scores the script called for in the venue we were having the production. In the end we did not have the rights, so I set out to replace many of the songs with royalty free music to help underscore scenes. It was also a collaborative effort between the music director and myself to find songs that the actors could sing with, as we jumped back and forth between live singing and recorded singing.
Scrooge’s business contained many custom cues to build the atmosphere of the world. Throughout the scene, Scrooge had his phonograph playing periodically throughout the scene to show that he had Christmas spirit. I took some classic Christmas carols and edited them to make it sound as though it were actually coming from an old phonograph.
I created a Victorian London Street Ambience to play every time a window or door was opened in the scene in order to add to the world of Scrooge’s shop. The ambience contains horse and carriages, crowd noise, and various other street noises of the time.
This wind sound was used to give the effect of flying. There were many transitions where the characters would ride a staircase through the air.
Throughout the play, I used a few recurring themes to foreshadow the future of Scrooge if he does not change his ways. This pieces first appears at the end of the first scene before Marley’s visit and builds underneath Scrooge’s crazed monologue talking of how dead Marley is and cuts with the lights at the end of the scene. I wanted to use this piece because I believe it brings up a feeling of dread and foreboding and leaves the listener unsettled.
This scene was mainly used in conjunction with the narrators as they prefaced the dark and foreboding challenges that were to come Scrooge’s way. I used this piece to portray a haunting feeling unto the audience.
Venomous was used to underscore the Ghost of Christmas Past’s entrance and presence going into that scene.
This song was used to underscore an emotional moment with the Cratchits. Cratchit’s wife asks him how Tiny Time is faring, and it underscores a small moment of victory with the family as they watch him walk across the floor. It also doubles as underscoring to a moment between Frederick and his wife as they talk about how Scrooge might have a spark of love inside him. I wanted something to portray sadness, but with just a hint of hope.
There were many portions of the scrip that called for the cast to sing. This was not always possible due to timing, a small cast, and scene changes, so we decided to prerecord a couple of the songs to give the cast room to breath and change costumes. I worked in conjunction with the music director to find some songs we could base these a cappella recordings on. We recorded these songs “gang vocal” style on an AKG Perception 420 Microphone.