By Randi Bjornstad
Of course, cowboys love Christmas.
“Cowboys and Christmas go together like Scrooge and Marley,” Fred Crafts quips, referring to Charles Dickens’ famous yuletide story, “A Christmas Carol,” which his Radio Redux players have performed several times in past years.
But this year, they’re doing “A Cowboy Christmas,” reinterpreting vintage radio programs as the wranglers of the Old West might have envisioned them. Performances will be Dec. 16-18 at Eugene’s Hult Center for the Performing Arts.
“We’re honoring our early American heritage by crooning cowboy songs and telling Western stories the way singing cowboys like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry did during Christmas seasons of bygone years,” Crafts said. “I can’t wait for the public to see us all gussied up in our fanciest cowboy duds —and to hear the cast adopt amusing cowboy voices.”
This go-round, the off-the-cuff plots will thicken onstage at a fictitious spread called Rancho Redux, as well as reproducing radio versions of holiday episodes from the popular “Gunsmoke” and “The Six Shooter” series.
The scene will be set in the ranch house where the ranch hands gather around the Christmas tree to share favorite holiday stories and songs. There will be lots of Christmas carols and cowpoke-related songs in this variety show, with special appearances by the Jewel Tones, the Hanson Family Singers, Al Villanueva, Adriana Ripley and Bill Reid.
That still will leave plenty of time for corny holiday jokes, recitations of cowboy poetry and an audience singalong of favorite Christmas tunes.
“We’ll perform it the Radio Redux way, the way a vintage radio program would have been back in the day,” Crafts said.
He encourages the audience to dress up in the spirit of the Old West to lend their own holiday spirit to the occasion.
The “Gunsmoke” show that Radio Redux will recreate features Marshal Matt Dillon — played by Ken Hof — as he’s drawn into the middle of a hillbilly feud that threatens, literally, “to take the life out of Christmas,” Crafts said.
In “The Six Shooter,” lawman Britt Ponset, played by Dan Pegoda, tells a youngster a life-changing tale with a Western setting but based on one of the most famous Christmas stories of all time, Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
Other members of the sat include actors Achilles Massahos, Bill Barrett, Don Aday, Jonathan Ward, Judi Weinkauf and Kim Donahey, with Fred Crafts as writer and director.
Radio Redux does “A Cowboy Christmas”
When: 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 16-17 and 2 p.m. on Dec. 18
Where: The Soreng Theater at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts at Seventh and Willamette streets in downtown Eugene
Tickets: $15 to $22, available at the Hult Center box office, 541-682-5000, or online at radioreduxusa.com or hultcenter.org
* “Explore,” a free behind-the-scenes talk by radio and film historian Patrick Lucanio, 45 minutes before each show in the Jacobs Community Room on the lower level of the Hult Center
* An exhibit of historic radio collectibles by Dennis Wright and a display of period memorabilia from the Lane County Historical Museum
* A “Meet-and-Greet” with the cast and crew in the lobby after each show