Western New Yorkers have seen Mike Randall on their TV screens for decades as Channel 7’s longtime meteorologist. They may also recognize him as Mark Twain or Charles Dickens, both characters he’s brought to life on stage in one-man shows for years. But this summer, Randall is trying something new: playing Angelo, a necklace-hawking, payment-seeking goldsmith in debt with the Mafia, in Shakespeare in Delaware Park’s “The Comedy of Errors.”
“It’s probably the biggest production I’ve ever been a part of,” Randall said. “This is just unbelievable in the level of performers in it. We’ve got everything from Equity (union) actors all the way down to apprentices that are in high school. It’s just a really neat experience.”
Randall said working with a large cast – more than 20 people – was initially a strange experience after decades of performing solo roles.
“It was kind of weird. I’m used to just counting on myself – when you’re on stage alone, you’re not really taking cues from anyone else, but you have to take cues from yourself,” he said. “But I think there’s a lot more discipline involved when you’re working with a number of people, and there’s only so much that you can do with your part. You have to listen intently, even after it becomes second nature and you become really comfortable in your part and in the show, you still really have to focus.”
Randall is currently working a reduced, 32 hours-a-week schedule for Channel 7. He called Shakespeare in Delaware Park’s Managing Director, Lisa Ludwig, for information about Theater Alliance of Buffalo auditions, and she suggested trying out for “Comedy of Errors.” His audition is where he first got a taste of the nontraditional style director Steve Vaughan was planning for the show.
“I auditioned with an English accent, and they looked at me like ‘what the heck is he doing?’ ” Randall recalled with a laugh. “They said, ‘We’re not doing, like, literary … can you do a New York accent?’ ”
Randall said he “couldn’t make hide nor hair” of the comedy when he first read it, but that like many of Shakespeare’s works, seeing it performed makes it much more accessible.
“That, I think is the key with Shakespeare in general,” he said. “I think that’s what really brings these things to life: when people infuse it with real-life emotion, vocal cadence, rhythm.”
He also said the show gains appeal for both young and old from Vaughan’s unique take on it, which includes vividly colored costumes, plenty of musical accents and a “steampunk” theme, along with a lack of distinct time period.
“It really appeals to people … who say ‘Eh, I’ve never really gone, I’m not into Shakespeare.’ You’re not into Shakespeare because you’ve probably never seen it performed by people who really do it well,” Randall said. “It’s a very entertaining show … There is a lot of music, a lot of sight gags, a lot of running around – the hill, it’s almost like a party every night. People are really into it – lots of laughs, lots of applause.”
Shakespeare in Delaware Park continues with free performances at 7:30 p.m. through Aug. 18 at Shakespeare Hill in Delaware Park, ” next to Hoyt Lake off Lincoln Parkway.