Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Thrilling Adventure Hour: One Of Los Angeles' Finest Hours of Entertainment [Event]

I had the great pleasure this past weekend of seeing The Thrilling Adventure Hour at Largo on La Cienega, a show that's been running in Los Angeles for five years, but has only recently begun getting the amount of attention it deserves. Created in 2005 by Ben Acker & Ben Blacker, The Thrilling Adventure Hour is a throwback to radio plays of the 30s and 40s. Each month features an installment of three of Acker & Blacker's ongoing serials, told in an old fashioned style, but with modern sensibility.

This month, we saw:

Sparks Nevada: Marshall of Mars,
Marc Evan Jackson as the melty voice Marshall (his voice. was so melty.)
Mark Gagliardi as his Martian sidekick
Busy Phillips as the woman stuck between them
Guest Star Yvette Nicole Brown as the Trouble Shooter
(Theme song sung by Sean & Sara Watkins!)

Captain Laserbeam!
John DiMaggio as the title hero
Hal Lubin & Guest Star Matt Braunger as his prepubescent sidekicks
Guest Star Nick Kroll (whose vocal choice was indescribably hilarious) as King Mammal
John Ennis as his number one henchmen
(Theme song sung by Yvette Nicole Brown & The Workjuice Players)

Jefferson Reed, Ace American
guest star Nathan Fillion (having the time of his life) as Mr. Reed
Annie Savage as his best gal
Samm Levine as a fellow soldier
John DiMaggio as the general
Craig Cackowski as a nasty Kraut Nazi

In between each episode, and during the opening of the show, we got spot on satirical recreations of old radio ads for cigarettes and coffee, starring the rest of the Workjuice Players, mostly featuring the hilarious James Urbaniak (Dr. Venture himself!) & Mark Gagliardi as New York cops (and sometimes perps) who really love their Workjuice Coffee & Patriot Cigarettes.

On paper, this idea sounded amazing and I was THRILLED to discover that it actually is as wonderful as I had hoped. An hour of pure joy. Not only is this kind of humor right up my alley (I'm looking at you, Marc Evan Jackson in particular, and honoring you with the "Greatest line readings ever" award for the evening) but it's nothing short of exhilarating to see actors I enjoy having a great time on stage, totally committing, giving it their all, and delivering fantastic results.

There's a fine mix of players too - comedians, voiceover actors, Freaks & Geeks alum, and high profile guest stars like this week's Nathan Fillion, Community's Yvette Nicole Brown, The League's Nick Kroll & Nickel Creek's Sean & Sara Watkins. Every person brings something unique to the table. A lot of the players who we would recognize from the small screen like Nathan Fillion & Samm Levine would give a few winks & nods (literally) to the live audience - if you listen to the podcast and hear uproarious laughter in places that make no sense, it's most likely because of some perfectly timed mugging, courtesy of Fillion or Levine.

A highlight of the live experience was when  Samm Levine raised an eyebrow to the audience when another character described his character as having "arayan good looks", which appropriately brought the house down. One of Fillion's best "unheard" moments was when Craig Cackowski's nazi told him in Germany they just called German Shephards, Shephards. Fillion didn't react for a long while until finally his Jefferson Reed "got" what the nazi was saying & nodded - a brilliant move, but one only witnessable by those in the audience - a case for heading down to Largo in person instead of waiting for the podcast to be released.

Then you have the voiceover gods like James Urbaniak & John DiMaggio, who use their voices in such varied, exciting ways (particularly DiMaggio in this edition, who got to play a few different characters) that you as an audience member feel like you're witnessing something truly special. And finally, the comedians like Paul F. Tompkins, would crack us up with their particular takes on the material. Tompkins took on a drunk Errol Flynn during the commercial breaks in this installment that had Workjuice Players themselves losing it in the background.

Having dabbled in recording original noir radio plays in my time, it was nice to see that kind of recording done on a large scale - a MUCH larger scale. There's clearly a lot of passion here. There's a full band, 3 mics, plus a special area for the announcer (Hal Lubin) and someone, somewhere is doing sound effects, which I'm fairly certain were recordings this time, but my understanding is they are sometimes done live. And the actors don't just dress nicely - they dress period. Busy Philips & Annie Savage even had costume changes. Yvette Nicole Brown rocked a tight black sheath and had her hair styled straight of the late 30s. The men all wore suits and looked mighty dapper. The Workjuice Players don't fuck around - everyone does what they can to make the audience really feel like they've been transported back in time & are a part of this experience. I'm even considering dressing up for next month's show. No joke.

An added bonus! Get to the show early enough to have a drink at the bar, and you may catch actors from the show, or in our case, the Watkins Siblings, sitting beside you. You can also buy posters, hot cider & cookies that I heard were amazing, and afterwards, chat it up in the courtyard with your favorite Workjuice Players.

I truly can't recommend this experience enough. As soon as it ended, I, along with some of the people who came with me, immediately bought tickets for next month. Buy yours here - both February and March are on sale now! And for the first time ever, these shows are being recorded for podcast! The August 7th show is online now. You can subscribe by clicking here.

If you're based in the San Francisco area or are looking for an excuse to take a trip there, the San Francisco Sketchfest next weekend will feature two Thrilling Adventure Hours and the cast list is unbelievable. Aside from the usual suspects, the shows will feature Neil Patrick Harris, Alison Brie, Colin Hanks, Danny Pudi, Donal Logue and more. To quote Workjuice Player & sweetheart Samm Levine "I don't know if it is sold out, but if not, buy a ticket, you won't be wrong...?"Click here to take Levine's advice.

For more info on the Thrilling Adventure Hour, head to the website here.
For more photos from the evening by Jonathan Reilly, including behind the scenes shots, click here.
Follow The Thrilling Adventure Hour on Twitter - @ThrillingAdv

And stay tuned here for interviews with some of the cast members, as well as a peak at the movie a bunch of the Workjuice Players made together, Drones.


Virtualbri said...

I believe the sound effects were coming from the Mac front stage, mostly worked by Hal Lubin, except when he was on (Then I think Mark Gagliardi worked it?)

Often Michael Sinterniklaas, Dean Venture, tickles the laptop keys!

Acker and Blacker write smart, funny stuff, and the cast really gets every laugh out of it.

It's a fantastic show, with just one of the greatest ensemble casts, even before great guest stars. It's a true Los Angeles gem. Not to be missed!

LoquaciousMuse said...

Yeah, I thought Lubin's mac was making the sound, but then I couldn't figure out where the sound was coming from when he wasn't at his station!

Love Sinterniklaas, fingers crossed he is at the February show!

Hal said...

Yep - that was me on the SFX (with Mark stepping in while I was doing Laserbeam).

Have I ruined the illusion?

EruditeChick said...

God, I want to go to this.

LoquaciousMuse said...

I'm just gonna choose to believe that somehow, magically, you guys were making sounds like nazis getting beaten up, gunshots, laserbeams, etc entirely with your voices and a piece of wood. Totally plausible! ....

When I dabbled in radio plays, we had a hard as hell time finding digital sounds as it was! Props to you guys for such excellent sound design :)