The Great Big Radio Show at Teatru Manoel Online
An old-fashioned musical about radio showbiz in New York, The Great Big Radio Show – produced and filmed in 2014 by Teatru Manoel and directed by Polly Marsh – is classic Americana, a comic vaudeville-style review, a gratifyingly escapist cabaret. With music and lyrics by Philip Glassborow, and arrangements and dance melodies by David Rhind-Tutt, the production was a prizewinner at the 1989 Vivian Ellis Awards. Accompanied by a series of upbeat tuneful numbers, a hilarious, slapstick plot unfolds involving overnight sensations, gangsters (Joseph Zammit, Mariele Zammit) with guns in violin cases, and one love story after another.
The year is 1933, the setting is the “Radio Building” in New York, where a Saturday radio variety program by NBS (similar to the real NBC) is about to be broadcast live. Calamity ensues after it is discovered that the star performer, Gloria Pilbeam, is missing. Not only that – to the host/director’s (Alan Montanaro) horror, the show’s primary sponsor (Michael Mangion) has shown up unexpectedly, prompting some ingenious schemes to make the latter believe all is going as planned. While filling in with various creatively wacky songs advertising a nutritional supplement and inducing the entire cast to pitch in with a tune, the day is saved by a waitress (Nicola Azzopardi) who can sing, thugs who used to be a musical act, and a big celebrity songstress, Olga Schadenfreude (Katja Brauneis), who happens to saunter in for a visit. Serendipity never stops, and as per the mode of the era, everything works out cheerfully and for the best.
Aided by a well-designed set and costumes, the visuals evoke an archetypal, amusingly cartoonish pre-second world war America. Despite brandishing heavy “New Yawk” accents and slang, many of the actors are clearly European – though they manage to convince us we’re watching Manhattan at the tail end of the Depression. Supported by terrific piano playing, with strong comedic and vocal talent, the performers keep the audience laughing throughout.
Well-coordinated and performed, The Great Big Radio Show is a funny, clever, lively, merry and entertaining foray into another time.
Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi
The Great Big Radio Show was available to watch online from Teatru Manoel from 25th – 27th July 2020. For further information visit the theatre’s website here.