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Mike Randall as Charles Dickens
by Anthony Chase
10 interesting facts about Mike Randall
1. He went to Kenmore West High School, where he was involved in theater, and his favorite teacher and mentor was the late Jerry Starr.
2. When he was 17 years old, he started doing a solo Mark Twain show, performing it for the first time at Daemen College (then Rosary Hill) in 1972.
3. At age 19 he talked John Cimasi at the Buffalo Showboat into booking the show, and it ran two nights a week for 12 weeks. Here he met and worked with aspiring playwright Tom Dudzick (author of Miracle on South Division Street, Over the Tavern, and Greetings).
4. He continued to work at area dinner theaters during a golden age of Buffalo dinner theater.
5. He began to tour his Mark Twain show, eventually securing a booking off-Broadway. This prominent booking attracted the ire of famed Mark Twain impersonator Hal Holbook, who sued. The case was settled out of court, with Randall agreeing to expunge anything from his solo show that resembled Holbrook’s show. (See www.marktwainlive.com/lawsuit.htm.)
6. Randall began to do commercials and got his first television job in 1981.
7. Today he is the chief meteorologist for WKBW-TV, Channel 7.
8. Randall is the official Mark Twain of the Huck Finn Jubilee in California.
9. His annual Huck Finn Jubilee appearance turned him into a question on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? (See www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2LVVuWOmk4.)
10. Randall’s television schedule was recently altered, opening the possibility that he will appear in future stage productions. He is already booked to appear in A. R. Gurney’s Love Letters at Fredonia Opera House with Christina Rausa.
In March of 1868, as part of his acclaimed American reading tour, Charles Dickens visited Buffalo. He performed two sold-out shows at St. James Hall, a venue located where One M&T Plaza is today. Scalpers were able to resell tickets for many times their $2 face value.
The first story Dickens read at these performances was his beloved holiday ghost story, “A Christmas Carol.”
Every holiday season since 2006, Mike Randall has impersonated Dickens to recreate this fabled solo performance. This year, Red Thread Theatre in association with the Kavinoky Theatre will showcase Randall in Charles Dickens Presents: A Christmas Carol for five performances at the Kavinoky, Thursday, December 12 through Sunday, December 15.
“[This engagement] is a fund-raiser for the Red Thread Theatre Company,” explains Randall. “The Kavinoky is practically giving us their theater for free for the five performances.”
Randall recalls how he first embarked on his Dickens adventure.
“I went to MusicalFare Theatre with my idea of recreating Charles Dickens’s presentation of ‘A Christmas Carol’ in 2006. [Artistic director] Randy Kramer agreed to co-produce-and then it took me about a year to memorize the show and get it all together.”
Randall reveals that he actually took a wood shop class so he could build a replica of Dickens’s reading desk to serve as the visual centerpiece of the production. The show premiered in 2007.
Beginning that first year, and every year since, Randall has continued to perform the piece in venues across Western New York: the Roycroft Pavilion, New Angola Theatre, Bromley Family Theatre in Bradford, The Stage In Warsaw, Theatre 101 in Mount Morris, as well as at churches and schools.
“I was with MusicalFare for four seasons,” recalls Randall, “and since then I have just been doing one-nighters around Western New York, mainly in November and December, averaging 12 to 18 performances a year.”
The performer opines that the secret to the enduring popularity of his performance is the popular and recognizable title coupled with the idea of seeing Dickens himself perform his own words, and acting out all of the characters.
Randall will perform the 90-minute show in two acts at the Kavinoky, but he also has a one-hour version that he has done at libraries and nursing homes.
Charles Dickens Presents: A Christmas Carol will play at the Kavinoky Theatre December 12-15, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8pm with matinees on Saturday at 4pm and Sunday at 2pm. Reservations can be made by calling 716-829-7668. All tickets are $25. For more, visit www.CharlesDickensLive.com.
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