Radio Allstars take over the Bowl

Last week I wrote a brief preview of a new performance group, Radio Allstars, whose show hinges on the tropes of Prairie Home Companion and Whad'Ya Know? Sunday night I headed down to Bryant-Lake Bowl for a firsthand look-see. Before I review the show, let's review the concept behind the Allstars: take ye olde time radio variety show and give it a modern-day kick in the ass. Instead of being broadcast over the airwaves, the evening is recorded for a podcast.

I was skeptical (though intrigued), I'll admit. With simple storytelling or a rock show, a misspoken word or a clumsy phrase usually passes unnoticed. But in a slick, radio-style presentation, such a mistake could kill the mood beyond resuscitation. And in all honesty, the delivery and transitions between segments are a little rough at times--but the performers and crew of the Allstars (and in particular the host, the ever-self-deprecating Dave Mondy) do an excellent job balancing the more "produced" format with a relaxed, informal atmosphere, so any minor missteps don't derail the fun.

Those old radio standbys, bluegrass and gospel, were nowhere to be heard--instead guest rapper Omaur Bliss (or Omac Montainya, depending on the project) took the stage with a request for more volume from house turntablist DJ King Otto, then slipped into into an easy flow. "Can I get a soul clap?" he asked the hesitant assemblage, then with a grin: "It's okay, we do this at rap shows." As musical counterpoint, soul and jazz singer Bobbi Miller (a regular Allstar cast member), in an impressive display of vocal range, recorded herself live on-stage and then harmonized with her own voice in layered loops, with the aid of a Digitech JamMan.

No variety show would be whole without radio plays, and the Allstars' story arc of choice is The Spectre: The World's Most Average Superhero. Taking a cue from Mystery Men, the episodic sequences follow the exploits of a man who can turn only half-invisible. It's one of the few places where the Allstars show weakness--the integration of sound effects with the voice acting is a bit off. But The Spectre sequences also held one of the highest points of the evening--the completely over-the-top voice-acting of Shannon O’Keefe. Beer-snortage, I will admit, was a serious concern.

Booked every Sunday from now till April 13th (save Easter Sunday), Radio Allstars has already announced Black Blondie on next week's bill. The regular cast brings hefty talent, and I'm pumped to see the content and delivery mature after the performers get a few more shows under their belts. And let's face it, we all know you've got nothing going on Sunday evenings anyways. If you must stay in and twiddle your thumbs, be sure to do it while listening to the podcast of the previous week's show.

Click [audio-1] to listen to a segment of The Spectre: The World's Most Average Superhero

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