Monday, April 1, 2019

The Wizard of Oz Comes to Life at Midnight Radio

It seems like I can’t review a normal play in this town. The mission of the Downtown-based Bricolage Production Company is to immerse artists and audiences in adventurous theatrical experiences. One such project is Midnight Radio, a live radio show in the style of old-timey radio dramas. Their current show takes audiences down a familiar yellow brick road.

Disclaimer: I was provided complimentary tickets to Midnight Radio’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz courtesy of The Bricolage Production Company.
Opinions are my own.

Let us sweep you away to a land full of magic with a legendary crew of misfit friends where the weather is unpredictable, wickedness flies in from every direction, and a ‘great and powerful’ man behind a curtain is said to have all the answers. What happens when we wait for someone to give us what we already possess? Join us for a Midnight Radio retelling of the classic tale about finding home.

Radio plays have, traditionally, been performed on live on broadcast radio. Actors would perform their lines into a microphone while a sound engineer would create believable sound effects with everyday objects. Before every household had multiple TVs or anything resembling the internet, radio plays were family entertainment.

Midnight Radio is an immersive take on the classic concept updated for the 21st century. The actors aren’t just reading from a script while one guy does all the sound effects. Every person on stage is working together to create the world of Oz and deliver it right into your ear-holes.

Each of the performer's microphone station is equipped with different objects and contraptions to create different sound effects. Aside from the music, I couldn't detect a single digital effect the entire show. The soundscape, an important part of building an audio-based narrative, is a team effort here.

While you definitely could enjoy the show with your eyes shut, the experience isn’t restricted to audio. The performers are all expressive and energetic and the lighting effects occasionally produce a wonderful visual on stage.

With all of the different sound effects, from clapping hands together to pouring oil in hot water, something new and exciting happens every second of the show. I recommend watching the show five times and focusing on a different performer each time. Then go see it blindfolded.

As for the adaptation of the Wizard of Oz itself, it’s your usual parody that blends elements of the original novel and the classic technicolor film with references to other adaptations such as Wicked. There are topical jokes spliced in with a humorous analysis of a children’s story that only cynical adults could come up with.

There are also commercial breaks where, again in the style of old-timey radio plays, the show’s (fictional) sponsors are thanked and given a quick shout out. These parts were golden and I could watch a whole show of just fake radio commercials.

I guess I should mention the venue itself since this was my first show at the Bricolage. The building was clearly never meant to be a theater and the layout of the seats shows that. There are no armrests or aisles to easily get in and out of rows. That’s not too much of a problem though. The whole experience was rather quaint and since it was an audio show everyone had the best seat in the house. It was however extremely hot and I felt like I was drowning in sweat in just a T-shirt and jeans.

Midnight Radio is a one of a kind experience and truly the best radio show that’s not on the radio. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is running at the Bricolage production Company through April 14. Click here for ticket information.