The Halloween Tree

Radio drama, Colonial Radio Theatre, October 2008.

Production Credits Synopsis Review Ordering Information

The Halloween Tree

The Halloween Tree was first published as a novel in 1972, but began as a film script for an animated cartoon in the late 1960s. The film was abandoned, although Bradbury later re-adapted his novel for screen.

 

Production Credits

Dramatised by Jerry Robbins
Music: Jeffrey Gage
Director: Nancy Curran Willis
Producer: Chris Snyder
Executive Producers: Mark Vander Berg


Synopsis

Halloween in Green Town, Illinois. A group of kids go trick or treating, but one of their number (Pip) goes missing. The mysterious Mr Moundshroud takes the children on a whirlwind journey through time and space in search of their missing friend, along the way educating them on the origins and meaning of Halloween and other rituals.

Review

With this production of Ray Bradbury's novel, Colonial Radio Theatre have completed a trilogy of "Green Town" stories. This is the most extravagant of the three, and quite possibly their best production to date.

It's a lengthy play, running a little over two hours, and with an awkward imbalance in the length of the two acts. But it somehow manages to cram in the whole of Bradbury's book with ease.

Unlike the earlier two productions, Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes - both performed from Bradbury's own plays - this is a brand new adaptation written especially for Colonial by Jerry Robbins. This seems to have given Colonial a sense of freedom, to pick and choose which elements of the source material to dramatise or emphasise. This has given the show a little more cohesiveness than the earlier productions. This is not to belittle the previous shows, which were well produced and highly significant contributions to the catalogue of Bradbury media adaptations.

The Halloween Tree is an awkward piece to adapt. Bradbury's novel really has two narrators: as well as the authorial presence, Mr Moundshroud is a non-stop explainer of the fantastic events that happen to Tom Skelton and his friends. The novel is also highly episodic, as the gang find themselves transported from one historical tableau to another in their continuing quest to find and rescue their friend Pip.

Robbins' dramatisation is, however, effortless. With none of the constraints of pre-defined stage play scenes to work from, he has created a pure radio dramatic experience: a free-wheeling adventure that can in an instant convince us that we are flying with a kite, building Notre Dame, or visiting the catacombs where Mexican mummies pass eternity.

This latter section incidentally provides a link between two significant recurring strands in Bradbury's fiction: his Green Town stories, and his Mexican stories. The mummies of Guanajuato fascinated the author from at least his first sighting of them in the 1940s, prompting him to write various short stories including "The Next In Line" (1947) and "The Life Work of Juan Diaz (1963). He further explored the Mexican way of death in "The Candy Skull" (1948) and "El Dia de Muerte" (1947).

What makes this dramatisation of The Halloween Tree work is the extravagant musical score. In some previous Colonial productions, the underscoring has sometimes threatened to overwhelm. Perhaps because this production has a narrator (or two narrators), it is never prevented from summoning up fantastic imagery, imagery which comfortably rides on the elegance of Jeffrey Gage's music.

Although released in October 2008, The Halloween Tree was recorded in December 2006. It took nearly a year to complete post-production, largely because Jerry Robbins and his team wanted to wait until a new music system (East-West) became available to them; this system has allowed Jeffrey Gage to use real instruments in his score, rather than purely synthesised sounds.

The show even has a couple of short musical numbers. These are unexpected (and potential show-wreckers for those of us who have no time for musicals!), but they do help break the show up. However, as Jerry Robbins has pointed out, the songs merely put music to lyrics that are present in Bradbury's original book.

It's fair to say that any weaknesses in this production are there in the source material. If the play seems more suited to younger listeners than the more mature reflections of Colonial's earlier production Dandelion Wine, it's because the source of the present work was originally targeted at a juvenile readership.

I have only once concern about this production: I'm not at all sure how Colonial can top this.

Jerry Robbins (Moundshroud - also script writer)

 

J.T.Turner (Narrator)

 

Anastas Varinos(Pip)

 

Matthew Scott-Robertson (Tom)

 

Jeffrey Gage (musical director)

View other cast and crew photos on Colonial's photo page.


The trailer for The Halloween Tree, plus ordering and other information can be found at Colonial Radio Theatre's website.

Green Town

Green Town is Bradbury's fictionalisation of his home town of Waukegan, Illinois. It appears several times in Bradbury's body of work,most prominently in Dandelion Wine and its sequel Farewell Summer, but also in a number of other short stories.

Visit my Dandelion Wine page for information on the geography of the town.

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Page updated 19 September, 2008