Who knows what nostalgia lurks in the hearts of men? Mitch Hogue does, that’s who. A revue of the golden years of radio, “Radio WARP” is often mop-your-eyes hilarious and sometimes moving, an always interesting history of the medium.
The show starts with Allen Lewis Rickman as Eddie, an old man in a cardigan and a bow tie, chatting up the cabaret-seated audience. We travel back in memory with him to his heyday as a radio announcer, starting in the 1920s and continuing to the lamented demise in the 1950s. “The Tick of Time,” featuring Vulture Vinchell giving us the year’s highlights, is the device that moves the show through the decades with glee and affection.
Rickman does many voices as a variety of announcers, switching between them with speed and authenticity, aided by his old-timey looks of rosy cheeks, sparkly eyes and pencil-line mustache. When he’s not an announcer, he’s the man in the armchair next to a big old radio on an end table, and he maintains the posture and gaze of a man intently listening while the show’s acts are going on.
The acts fly by, some parodic, some genuine: the first commercials (Mormon Oats), the first soap opera (“Stolen Husband,” 1931), Westerns, horror shows, newscasts and public service announcements, and singing (“Wait ’til the Sun Shines Nellie,””Bei Mir Bist Du Shoen,””Rum and Coca Cola”) and dancing — the Charleston, the rumba, the Lindy, the jitterbug (not to mention the Swiss Miss duet with the two women dancing with shoes on their knees).
The quartet gets the sound as well as the moves of each era just right. (Michael Pinney is the one weak link, since he can neither sing nor dance; even his good looks are contemporary.) Kelly Newkirk has a melodic voice and gets all the shoulder swings right, while Bethanne Collins is a strong and versatile comedienne. Rick Delaney is the sexy dope (each of the four is a suggested if not developed character), and his beautiful rendition of “The White Cliffs of Dover” is nicely desentimentalized after we’ve had our misty moment.
Two constants are the lively onstage piano playing (John Glaudini) and the sound effects guy (Mitch Hogue) who is always silent and always disgruntled; part of the fun is watching the tricks that make the sounds. Some of the early patter (featuring dated slang) is too corny, as is some of the late patter (featuring here-comes-television warnings), but most of what’s in between is an irresistible good time if you’re middle-aged or older; whether younger people like “Radio WARP” probably depends on their nostalgia quotient.