Feel the warmth of Christmas past this December at a local stage production.
Pacific Theatre’s presentation of Christmas on the Radio puts on a participatory and intimate play for the audience that many will find appealing.
Set in 1949 at CKOS (Sea Coast) radio in Vancouver, the play tells the story of the Frank family as they air a live variety show with an in-studio audience on Christmas Eve. The show incorporates singing and a bit of dancing along with the acting. From reciting Christmas stories to new renditions of old seasonal songs, the play takes us back to the golden years of broadcasting.
The plot mainly revolves around Danny Frank, son of the station owner Percival, and Kitty McNally, one of the other radio show players, who’s recently had a baby out of wedlock. She’s been keeping it hidden from her co-workers up until now. Nonetheless, Danny is in love with Kitty and is trying to figure out how to tell her. He eventually finds his answer by writing into the radio segment on advice for the lovelorn that his mother, Yolanda, delivers as part of the show.
Local writer and actor Lucia Frangione wrote the play when she was 23 years old. The themes reflect an inexperienced perspective, for example, it underplays the seriousness of the social backlash that would result for a young, unmarried woman with a baby in the 1940s, but it’s not a morality tale after all.
The musical numbers are the strongest aspect of the production, such as “Wassail”, “Go Tell It on The Mountain” and “Little Town of Bethlehem.” As the station promotional jingle says, it’s where the sweet waves of music can be heard. While the actors prompt the audience with cue cards, as is still the custom today, they don’t need much encouragement. The actual audience claps and laughs along just like the studio crowd would have done back then. They even sing a carol or two, like “O Come All Ye Faithful”, along with the cast.
Local actors Benjamin Elliot, as Danny, and Diana Kaarina, as Kitty, shine in their roles as the young couple falling in love. Elliot stands out as a great comic actor in many of the scenes throughout the show, effortlessly playing up the slapstick bits.
In the end, the young couple is rewarded, in more ways than one, and the audience is left feeling the Christmas spirit. It’s good light-hearted entertainment suited to the holidays, especially for those who remember the radio days from when they were children. For younger viewers, the play will show them how podcasting was done before there was all this new-fangled technology on the scene.
Pacific Theatre is located at W. 12th Ave. and Hemlock in Vancouver. The show runs until Jan. 1, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. with weekend matinees at 2 p.m. Artist talkback session: Dec. 17. Check pacifictheatre.org or call 604-731-5518 for tickets or details.