Photo: William Beddoe. Lawrence Wall as the narrator.
From the 1920s through the 1940s and beyond, families regularly clustered around floor radios — the main source of electronic entertainment in pre-television days — to hear their favourite dramas. Their imaginations took flight, as the characters they heard (and saw in their minds’ eyes) transported them to new worlds.
One of the earliest of those places was the 100 Acre Wood — first presented by the BBC in a Christmas Day broadcast in 1925. The Wood was the home of Winnie the Pooh, the chief character in A.A. Milne’s classic children’s stories. (The inspiration for Pooh was the teddy bear that belonged to Christopher Robin, the author’s son, and several of the other animals who appear in the tales lived in Christopher’s toy box with the bear.)
Following its tradition of seasonal radio shows, Plosive Productions moves its version of stories of Winnie-the-Pooh and friends, adapted by David Whiteley, to North America. Eeyore the gloomy donkey, for example, is given a Southern drawl, apparently to make him sound even gloomier.
The show, directed by Teri Loretto-Valentik, is fun to watch, just as being part of the live audience for a real radio broadcast is fun. Small pieces of business, such as one of the singers reading a book between songs or Pooh rubbing his tummy while thinking of honey, underline the combination of on/off air and performing for the studio audience.
Among the highlights of the production are the songs from the a cappella trio of Robin Guy, Nicole Milne and Doreen Taylor-Claxton and the very funny athletic performance of sound effects man Jonah Lerner.
The first act keeps the audience smiling and that memory, together with nostalgia for the heyday of radio drama, helps to support a second act that fizzles somewhat, despite strong performances from the voice actors, particularly Chris Ralph as the bear of very little brain.
Winnie-the-Pooh: The Radio Show continues at the Gladstone to December 13.
Adapted from the original BBC broadcast by David Whiteley
Director: Teri Loretto Valentik
Lighting: David Magladry
Sound: Jessica K. Wong
Song arrangements: Robin Guy
No credits in program for set or costumes
Voice actors: Katie bunting, David Gerow, Michelle LeBlanc, Chris Ralph, Laurence Wall
Live sound effects: Jonah Lerner
The Gladstone Sisters: Robin Guy, Nicole Milne, Doreen Taylor-Claxton