Review: The Good Time Radio Variety Show

Review | By Doug Gallant

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There was a time when radio was our source for virtually everything. From the 1920s through the 1950s we tuned into local radio stations by the millions for the news, the weather and the popular music of the day, just as we do today. But there was so much more than that during radio’s golden age. There was live music in the studio performed by full in-house orchestras. There were serialized radio shows like The Lone Ranger, Little Orphan Annie, Flash Gordon and The Shadow. There were even helpful household hints from The Betty Crocker Cooking School of the Air which actually ran for three decades. The Good Time Radio Variety Show, which plays weekends this summer at Victoria Playhouse, gives audiences a taste of what it was like when radio was king.

The inaugural production of PEI’s Farmgate Theatre, this fun-filled, 80-minute show takes you to the sound stage of Island Radio Station CRPO for the weekly broadcast of—what else—The Good Time Radio Variety Show.

“It’s always a good time for a good time” is the mantra for the characters who call CRPO home and they really take that to heart as they dish out everything from local breaking news and ghost stories to helpful hints on how to talk to your plants. And in the true spirit of old time radio they also present serialized instalments of their homegrown Island soap opera, The Young And The Jobless.

It’s lighthearted fare, interspersed with snickers, guffaws, gasps and belly laughs, perfect for a summer evening out with the family or those pesky visitors from away. And as a member of the audience you get to play a part too during some segments, responding to directions from the cast on how to react, where to react and when.

Every segment of the show is tied together by music, from original material created by members of the cast to handpicked gems from Regina’s folk/bluegrass quintet The Dead South, Columbian Canadian Lido Pimienta, the late great Guy Clark, Texas swing pioneer Bob Wills, and several others.

The Good Time Radio Variety Show was created by Charlottetown Festival favourites Cameron MacDuffee and Julain Molnar, Karen Graves and Adam Hill of the Atlantic String Machine, and their director Charlotte Gowdy.

And they work their tails off here.

MacDuffee, Molnar, Graves and Hill create all the characters, perform all the music, play all instruments and create all their own sound effects, just as they would have in old time radio. All four have written original music for the show. Director Charlotte Gowdy, whose credits include the Stratford Festival, PEI’s Watermark Theatre, and two previous shows for the Victoria Playhouse, has delivered the goods here.

The Good Time Radio Variety Show at Victoria Playhouse is the kind of entertainment many people seek out at this time of year. It strikes just the right balance of music, comedy and adventure.