Offbeat to the max, Midnight Radio’s Holiday Spectacular! is the perfect vintage throwback for the season. Performed in the style of a 1940s radio program, this Bricolage production is a delightful nod to holiday mainstays while including plenty of local flair and Pittsburgh in-jokes. At 90 minutes, the evening’s entertainment is brisk but satisfying. Starring in a show that spotlights dozens of characters, and creating all the sound effects in real time on stage, the five-person cast is nothing short of brilliant. Likewise, director Jeffrey Carpenter channels the frenetic energy of his actors into something that feels at once effortless and meticulously produced.
The show includes fabulous mash-ups of holiday classics from comedy writers Matt Henderson, Tessa Karel and Gayle Pazerski, with the bulk of the running time spent on two locally penned parodies — A Frightmare Ahead of Christmas and Homestead Alone, both of which deliver a dose of loving respect to the source material while also subverting expectations in devilishly fun ways. Without a moment wasted, shorter segments of spoof songs and a holiday-themed Mad Libs buffer the main programming; The Fake Breaking News segment in particular showcases the talents of the entire cast with aplomb. Between skits, musical interludes from rotating performers, including Molly Alphabet, Anqwenique Wingfield and Bob Banerjee, up the holiday ante with a unique blend of holiday tunes.
To finish off the evening, the cast brings it down a notch as they perform the quiet Christmas-in-outer-space tale “The Gift,” by Ray Bradbury. After the raucous laughs that preceded it, this simple and underrated holiday story is almost out of place, but with the cast’s spot-on delivery and Bradbury’s characteristically gorgeous prose, the pithy yet sweet finale is an ideal end to a wonderful evening.
Although in no way a typical holiday foray, the production features enough of the season’s well-worn trimmings to please the traditionalist and plenty of wacky laughs for those of us who are already sick of all this eggnog and joy, Midnight Radio’s Holiday Spectacular! is one festive adventure that’s sure to entertain.