Take a step back in time to 1944 and enjoy Christmas in the Airwaves at Lyric Arts. John Patrick Bray wrote this heart-warming show specifically for Lyric Arts which makes it that much more special.
Admittedly, I’m not really into the holidays; I have to confess that I’ve never even seen A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie (I know – gasp!). However, I love non-traditional ways of telling stories, and I looked forward to the radio broadcast aspect of Christmas in the Airwaves (CitA). Mounds Theater presented the radio broadcast version of A Christmas Carol two years ago, and I thought the visual aspect of including the sound effects added so much charm to the show, which is also the case for CitA.
Philip (Dann Peterson) runs the down-on-its-luck local radio station, WLAG, and they’re welcoming New York radio star Max Tyrone (Jordan Oxborough) as a guest star while he’s back at home in the Midwest trying to sell the family farm. Having such a popular name on the show means regional broadcasting which is a pretty big deal to WLAG. Oxborough helps you settle into the Christmas spirit by kicking off the show with a beautiful rendition of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” Then Anthony R Johnson jumps in as Skip with the perfect radio announcer voice, and you’re swept into the world of Plain River, MN, “Where you can stand on the river and see the plain…”
You’ll meet the Welsh sisters: Stephanie Wipf plays Muriel, the oldest, practical sister. Right off the bat, she admits, “I don’t care about happy, I care about content.” Missy Hildebrandt plays Alice who quite obviously has a huge crush on Max but isn’t sure if he remembers her from way-back-when. And Sarah Frazier’s Gloria will tug at your heartstrings as she has to cope with hearing updates about her fiancee who’s fighting overseas.
Enjoy a variety of sketches and songs as the cast shows off their skills. These moments in particular are when Brendan Veerman and Michael Conroy as Buck and Hubert get to shine. Buck writes the scripts for the sketches, but we’re fortunate that Veerman is skilled at a number of different voices so you’ll get a little bit of everything from him. I could watch him all night!
I’ve never heard of many of the songs in the show, which makes sense because their copyright dates range from 1933 to 1950. Many are cute, silly songs: Little Bo Peep Has Lost Her Jeep, The Mistletoe Kiss Polka, and more. Director Craig Johnson includes in his program notes: “We had a lot of fun digging up a few forgotten novelty numbers, and added a stirring set of World War II songs that recall the optimism, strength, humor, and unity of life on the home front.”
Hubert is a displaced Frenchman who doesn’t talk much, but he’s a delight to watch as the sound effects specialist. Conroy gets to go a little crazy as Hubert enjoys a drink or four during the broadcast. But then Johnson has sculpted a gorgeous scene when the lights go down, and Hubert sings “Cantique de Noel.” Time stops for this moment as the audience takes in Conroy’s beautiful voice, and you won’t be able to think of anywhere else you’d rather be.
Christmas in the Airwaves weaves together all the elements of a classic holiday story. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, there’s a little bit of love and a little bit of hardship. But I don’t want to give away too much because you should see it for yourself. The show runs now through Dec 20. Enjoy the trailer below then click here to purchase tickets online.
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Photos and tickets provided by Lyric Arts. Opinions expressed are my own.