I’m running SO FAR BEHIND this month! ‘Tis the season, I suppose…I haven’t even started my Xmas shopping, as I’m too busy getting the spirit crushed out of me at the drudgery. It was jut a couple days after one of the nastiest workshifts I’ve ever had, actually (and a happy birthday it was NOT, I can tell ya, dear readers), that I found myself with a pleasant Sunday off. I spent it in the best way possible…at the theatre. Always a good decision.
We’re winding down the theatrical year here in O-Town, not much left on the 2012 horizon (tho there ARE still things going on, never fear). And one way to spot the end of the calendar is the return of the Gladstone‘s seasonal event, the live Radio Play, back now for its, what, third incarnation? Fourth? (*thanks to Teri Loretto Valentik and Nicole Milne for the clarification offstage…this is the Fourth radio Play at the Gladstone*) However many it is, it has officially (I’m calling it) become a holiday tradition in this burg, and a welcome sight it is. Considering what a dearth of genuinely family-friendly theatre there usually is on the schedule (not complaining, mind…I’m a weirdo bachelor and can take whatever you throw at me), the cheery, friendly Gladstone gang is like an extra present under everyone’s tree, or whichever device you install in your home to celebrate the season.
After a neato double-bill of classic Shadow radio broadcasts last year, the gang has returned in full force to with a face full of Christmas with MIRACLE ON 34th STREET: THE RADIO SHOW, based on the classic flick and adapted here by Tale Wagging Theatre’s John Cook. And the kids at Plosive Productions just couldn’t wait until you actually took your seat to blast you with some Yuletide cheer…the Gladstone lobby is decked out in, I must say, a pretty impressive bit of festive dressing, train set and all. And the musical Gladstone Sisters (Rachel Eugster, Lori Jean Hodge and Michele Fansett) lead us in to the show Pied-Piper style, if the Pied Piper were a holiday-themed trio. The familiar Radio Gladstone set awaits, with a newly added twist from director Nicole Milne of a Grandfather and young boy (Bob Lackey and Ben Blacklock), waiting impatiently by their own old-timey radio to listen to the broadcast. But the show doesn’t kick into gear until the announcer (this time Steve Martin, in one of several key roles) calls the play, and the ON AIR sign shines to life.
The dependably classic story centers around Macy’s department store, where a drunken Santa-for-hire has to be replaced at the last minute by a pair of desperate executives (voiced by Gladstone mainstay smooth Tim Oberholzer and Irish O’Brien, who I totally went to high school with!). They end up with the jolly ‘Kris Kringle’ (Tom Charlebois), who excels at his job, with a couple of minor hitches. One, he has a tendency to send customers to other stores if Macy’s doesn’t have what they need (a move that turns into PR gold, mightily pleasing loud-talking Mr. Macy himself…Steve Martin again). The other problem is that Kringle claims to be the real Santa Claus, something that starts out as a minor quibble, but ends up getting serious when Kringle is tossed in the nuthouse, and must prove himself to be the genuine article in a court of law.
The Plosive team does a predictably great job with the material…Shaun Toohey makes his Gladstone debut as a psychiatrist who escalates the whole situation in the first place, forcing Steve Martin into triple duty as a friendly lawyer who takes Kringle’s case. Irish O’Brien is perfect as the doubting Doris, with her real-life daughter Kelty stepping in as her onstage daughter Susan (a magnificent debut indeed, and she steals several scenes with pure charm). And speaking of scene stealing, did I mention Katie Bunting is in this show? Because she is, and you haven’t lived until you’ve heard Katie as a little girl, or perhaps a monkey. For serious. And ALL the props go to Karen Benoit, providing the live sound effects for the whole production right there on stage. Nobody can slam a door like Benoit, folks.
The Radio Play is pure holiday charm, and if that’s what you need, then look not further. I do have my own Grinchey problems with the story of Miracle as a whole, which I’ll reserve for an upcoming Foofarah rant. 🙂 For today, I’m content to say that the serious talent assembled on the Radio Gladstone stage makes for some serious theatrical merry in this show, and should leave you smiling even if you’re a bitter old grump like me. Peace, love and soul,
The Visitor (and Winston)