One Book Bradford:
Randall Brings Mark Twain to Bromeley


This year may not be one that brings Halley’s Comet soaring through the air, but it is one that brings Mark Twain into town.

Well, while it may not be the real Mark Twain, it will be a stellar impersonation by Mike Randall. Randall will grace the stage at Bromeley Theater in Blaisdell Hall at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford Saturday for Mark Twain Live! The show will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Randall’s performance is part of this year’s One Book Bradford season. One Book Bradford is a community-wide reading initiative whose selection for 2010 is “Becky: The Life and Times of Becky Thatcher” by Lenore Hart. Hart herself will be coming to Bradford March 31 to discuss the book.

Given the obvious connection between Twain and Hart, the One Book Bradford committee thought it only seemed right to bring “Twain” to Bradford, if only for a night.

Randall, who has been doing his Mark Twain show in Western New York since 1972, first became interested back in high school when a friend was doing a Mark Twain bit for a junior class show. Then, he saw Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain. Holbrook, perhaps the best known Mark Twain impersonator, won a Tony for his portrayal of the famed author. At that point, Randall was hooked.

“I think what first captivated me about Mark Twain was the humor and the fact that he had an opinion on just about everything and he felt free to express it. Lucky for us,” Randall said.

Randall created his Twain character from the ground up based on old folks he knew. He studied material about and by Twain and figured out suitable make-up and costume and learned the words.

“Ultimately, it’s the actor’s job to bring the words to life. Make them real,” Randall said. “How it’s done isn’t all that interesting. It’s a lot of hard work. Having slipped into the Mark Twain character some 2,000 times in the past 39 years, I don’t really think about it anymore.”

Despite the longevity, the show has not gotten old for Randall.

“I suppose if I was doing the show constantly, I might get bored, but with my other commitments – family and job – I can only pull Mark Twain out about 15 to 20 times a year,” he said. “Like any actor in any part, the more times you do it, the more you learn and come away with. As long as people want to laugh and as long as I can muster the energy to do a two-hour show alone on stage, I will.”

Randall continues to ad new bits to the show and will again this year, especially since 2010 is the 175th anniversary of Twain’s birth and 100th anniversary of his death.

“This year, I am working on three never-performed pieces for my show.”

Randall’s “day job” is as a meteorologist and co-host of Good Morning Western New York for WKBW-Channel 7 in Buffalo, N.Y.

He started out as a feature reporter, and then Tom Jolls convinced Randall he might be interested in doing the weekend weather.

“And I have to say, Tom was right,” Randall said. “I do very much enjoy doing the weather.”

And while he wears a couple different hats in his professional life, he does not find it difficult to balance the two worlds.

“Theatre is my advocation and broadcasting is my vocation.”

Randall also does a one-man show of Charles Dickens, a show he took on as a challenge at 50-something to see if he could start from scratch, create a new character and memorize 90 minutes of material. He succeeded.

As far as his Twain show, Randall explained that it is two 50-minute acts “with Mark Twain talking right to the crowd.”

“People who like Mark Twain, me or just like to laugh at some good all-American humor should not miss Mark Twain Live,” Randall said.

And besides, Randall has one of the greatest writers in the world working for him – Twain.

Randall also clarified his take on why the show may not be for those under 14.

“I can tell you that kids don’t always get the jokes,” he said, adding there’s no “blue material” and only mild language.

It’s more of a difference in generations than anything else.

“Some children might be entertained by Mr. Twain, the master storyteller,” Randall said. “But most will find an old guy telling jokes not to their liking.”

Tickets are still available for those who enjoy Twain’s humor.

Tickets are on sale at the Bradford Area Public Library and at the Bradford Area Creative and Performing Arts Center office.

Tickets will also be available Saturday night at the door.

The event is sponsored by American Refining Group and CNB Bank.


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