It is the midst of the Blitz and morale needs boosting. Where better to look than the Variety Bandwagon, a light entertainment radio show recorded live in front of a theatre audience, where troubles are packed away? Radio Times follows them for one evening, as their show is broadcast live to America for the first time.
For one week only the Oxford Playhouse is transformed into the London Criterion Theatre, where for part of the show the audience acts out its normal role, watching the ‘reality’ of the play as the cast fall in and out of love and make their backstage preparations, and for the rest of the show we form the audience of the Variety Bandwagon, treated to non-stop double entendres, plenty of 1940s close harmony singing, and a Foley artist (Christian Edwards) instructing us when to applaud and almost stealing the show on many occasions.Gary Wilmot was clearly having a whale of a time as Sammy Shaw, the star of the show, bantering with the audience – whether it was ad-libbed or scripted I simply couldn’t tell, it was so slick. Also slick were the musical numbers, with Run Rabbit Run, sounding rather different to the Elmer Fudd version, being a particular highlight.
The show’s jokes were old fashioned and some of the puns groan-inducingly dreadful, but it is more than aware of this fact, one of characters describing Variety Bandwagon as being made up of "old jokes, poor puns, and cheap characters". The constant barrage of jokes does however mean that when the play attempts to take a serious turn after one of the characters has been outside and experienced the bombing, he says "Let me give you my impression" and it's surprising that he doesn't launch into a James Stewart impersonation.Aside from this abrupt shift in tone, Radio Times is a charming, undemanding evening out, and a must for 1940s music fans. If your morale needs a boost this is the place to be.
Debbie Sims (DI Reviewer), 26/09/12
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