Excerpts from the no-longer-existent Whitsend.org feature called the Odyssey Times. Originally published around February of 2002.
The Great Wishy Woz aired the last two weeks on Kid’s Radio and is getting many “thumbs up” reviews form listeners. But how did this program come about. The Odyssey Times talked to Mandy Straussberg-the show’s writer, director, and star-to get the full scoop.
Eugene Meltsner served as the production engineer and sound designer for the show. The Times recently conducted this exclusive interview with him.
What was the most difficult scene to get sound effects for?
Are there any hidden jokes we should watch for in the show?
Additionally, and this is probably the most interesting in-joke of all, if you listen closely when Leopold the Librarian, played by Mr. Whittaker, is giving Manny Kin the Complete Encyclopedia of Human Knowledge in 52 volumes, you’ll hear that we actually used the Universal Encyclopedia to make the sound effects.
Which objects were used for the sound effects of the quest items?
The initiative for the show came from Mandy herself. She was a colossal fan of musicals and says she always wanted to produce one. Mandy says, “I really love to sing and act and after I wrote a couple of plays for the Little Theatre, I wanted to write something longer and bigger.” Initially, Mandy wrote the production to be another Little Theatre play, but soon found that it wasn’t working. “I found that the sets and costumes were going to be very costly and expensive. So, after talking with Mr. Whittaker, we changed it to a Kids’ Radio production. I think it turned out much better that way.”
The story, eventually titled “The Great Wishy Woz” was a two-part adventure about a little girl named Dotty who found herself lost in another world. She tried to find her way home with the help of the Fairy Oddmother, who sent her to see the Great Wishy Woz. Along the way, she met up with Manny Kin, Metal Guy, and Mystic Mountain Lion. Together they went to the Wishy Woz, who sent them off on a quest to get various items.
After the script was finished, the next job was finding the actors. “For some of the parts, I had a particular person in mind,” says Mandy. “For others, whenever I found someone who wanted to act, their character seemed to fit into place.”
Mandy’s first choice for the part of Manny Kin, a department store mannequin, was Harlow Doyle. “He seemed right for the part since he’s always looking for something, just like Manny,” says Mandy. “Unfortunately he was unavailable because he was too busy with a case involving a Wilson family member.”
Mr. Whittaker suggested that Tom Riley play the part. “Tom loves acting and he’s so good at it,” says Whit. “And to top it all off, he has a great radio voice. We’ve used him before in Kid’s Radio shows.”
For the part of the Metal Guy, who is always making wisecracks and has somewhat of a jaded view of the world, Mandy looked no further than Bernard Walton. “I had him in mind when I wrote the part,” says Mandy. “He was just perfect for the part and I’m glad he was so interested in helping us out.”
But what about Mystic Mountain Lion, the backwards talking cat looking for power? “That was the hardest part to cast just because he had a very particular way he spoke and I couldn’t think of anyone who talked like that,” says Mandy. The question was solved, however, when Jack Allen volunteered for the part. “Mr. Allen was such a great actor. I’m glad we found him,” says Mandy.
With the actors cast, it was on to the recording session. “The recording sessions in the Kid’s Radio studio are a lot of fun, but also a lot of work,” says Mandy. “Thankfully, I had a lot of help.”
The most difficult part of the sessions was working with Maximilian, the dog who played Nono. “I wouldn’t call him temperamental, but he was a bit difficult to work with,” says Mandy. “Most of the scenes with Nono in them had to be recorded quite a few times just to get the right barks.”
Another difficult part of the recordings was the voice for the Great Wishy Woz. “The person who plays the Wishy Woz (and Mr. Iam) was a great actor, but he had the very difficult job of pretending all these sound effects were happening to his voice. He would often start making his own sound effects for the Wishy Woz. He would be talking and start making ‘whoosh’ and ‘boom’ sounds. Eugene had to do quite a bit of work to take those out,” says Mandy.
“After it was all over, I was very tired, but I was also very glad that I got to do such a fun program for everybody,” says Mandy. When asked if she would do another show anytime soon, she said, “If I ever recover from this one, I just might.”
Kid’s Radio will be re-airing its popular program, “A Thanksgiving Carol” this Thanksgiving at its traditional time of 8:00 p.m. The show has become a Thanksgiving tradition for many families.