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The Lost Elevator

The second audible drama from Northern Lights Media is an adaption of a play. This is the very definition of a full-cast production. I could picture the stage and the actors who inhabited it, making this an enjoyable experience. Even if you aren’t a fan of live theater—though from my experience most audio drama fans are some form of actor/actress—the piece is short enough that it doesn’t become boring.

The ending didn’t have any big twist that redefined the story. The twist came at the end of the play when the people trapped figured out what happened to the elevator. Most stories these days have a big twist that changes the nature of the story. Back when this play was written, the exact opposite must have been true. in terms of writing, the twist was inevitable, just not surprising.



When you have the star of BBC’s Sherlock and a young Charles Xavier from X-men: First Class as part of the cast, the possibilities are endless. You don’t see the words “all-star cast” in audio dramas too much, but this deserves it. I’m just talking about the production value now. Don’t get me started on the story. I feel like I’ve reviewed Dirk Maggs’ work before on the site. Or at least, I’ve heard that name somewhere before.

The story is simple and at times, filled with too many tropes—at least in the first episode. That’s not to say they’re cliche, however. When they introduced the majority of the characters in that first episode, the main problem was that I could see the almighty hand of either the author or the person adapting the work for audio. For example, they make the protagonist be nice to everyone right from the start. That’s a good way to make a reader like a character, because we’re being shown who the character is, rather than being told. In an audio drama however, this feels a little awkward. I thought this throughout the first episode, but once episode two came along, I forgot all about it. That has to be my only complaint about this six part BBC Radio 4 production of Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere” (that and it’s no longer available). 😦

The Count of Monte Christo (Radio Drama Revival Episodes 256-257)

This tale of revenge is broken into two parts over at Radio Drama Revival and produced by Lifehouse Theater on the Air. It is also an abridged version, which means there are a lot of things cut out, or glossed over too quickly, to get a real sense for the characters. All the problems I have with part one stem from that one fact. The first part jumps a lot and you don’t get invested with any of the characters. The scenes are short and sporadic, which makes the story feel more like a thriller and less like classic literature. I feel this adaptation doesn’t do the source material justice.

Part two is much better. Once all the setup of part one is out of the way, the story really gets rolling and feels more like a tale of revenge, rather than a series of unfortunate events that revolve around the theme of revenge. Another plus when comparing part 1 to 2 is that the thriller pacing slows down and feels more appropriate. There’s a “fall from grace” archetype that gets fleshed out. Which in the first part, just feels tacked on. That tiny Cambellian theme got me more invested in the story, because I wasn’t sure if the protagonist would give up on revenge.

It’s amazing what the simplest things can do to engage an individual in a story.

Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls: Sweeney Todd’s Barbary Falls in a Trap.

Stories that wrap everything up in a bow are my favorite kind of endings. The conclusion of Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls does just that. This is one of the few times where I can honestly say that the mystery plot of a story is executed perfectly. I’ve said before that it’s hard to pull of a mystery in an audio drama, because of the lack of visual. The only way to mention something as being a clue is to hang a lantern on it. The screenwriting term: “hanging a lantern on it,” in terms of audio drama is basically playing an episode of blues clues with the listener. It’s so painfully obvious that it’s a clue.

I think what made the ending so successful was the fact that it made a promise to the listener that they didn’t know was being made. The concept of “surprising, yet inevitable.” I’ll try not to spoil too much, but a character who has very little backstory turns out to be someone important. It references the opening in that the listener should go: “oh that’s right” and think: “How did I not see the coming.” That reaction, for me, is what makes an ending truly great.

I can’t stress enough how cathartic the ending was to me. So you’ll just have to use the information in the paragraph above to determine that.

Sweeney Todd: A Barbarous Black Friday with Sweeney Todd

The third part in this tale entitled: “The String of Pearls” is the closing of the mystery subplot. At the end, we know all about what’s in the meat pies. If you didn’t already know. What makes the end of this part an interesting place to stop is because the audience is probably disgusted (if they didn’t know what was in the pies) and/or is wondering: what next? And that’s all in the last scene.

What about the scenes before? The scenes before are used to build tension. When the friend of the deceased sailor, the one whom Joanna was supposed to marry, decides to infiltrate Sweeney Todd establishment in disguise the audience gasps and desperately wants to jump into the story and reveal everything they know. Shakespeare did it in Romeo and Juliet, but it wasn’t nearly as effective as it was in here. This is probably do to the different form of language. Yuri Rasovsky (the author of this audio tale) doesn’t require an optional side-by-side translation. It’s clear enough on its own.

The tension in the middle made the ending revelation that much more evocative. For lack of a better term, it foreshadowed the tone of the end. I’m not a huge fan of cliffhangers that aren’t necessary. I know that some genres and mediums rely strongly on this writing tool, but I’m talking about the cheap kind. It’s the same principle as seeing the writer’s hand, swoop down and influence the story. Such an example is when someone opens a door and we don’t see what is behind the door. That’s a pretty standard, if not cliche, way of putting it.

This part of Sweeney Todd achieves the successful cliffhanger.

Sweeney Todd: A Bit More Polishing Off From Olde Sweeney Todd

The plot thickens. Now I’ve used that cliche twice to start a review. I really need new one liners. Anyway, the second part of Sweeney Todd and the String of Pearls has a plot that does thicken.

What I really noticed this time around was the Nineteenth century dialogue. It blended quite well with the attention span of modern audiences. Being a member of the modern audience, by which I mean, I’m not old old enough to remember the golden age of radio. In fact, I heard my first audio drama podcast in 2008. But that’s not why you came to this website. You came to hear me review this wonderful story.

Back to the dialogue, the script had that shakespearean acting vibe. The result of this, however, wasn’t confusion. There was no need for a “No-Fear…” series of books for this four part adventure. I could tell the amount of work that went into each line of dialogue. It got its point across, moved the story forward, and all by using a style of speaking that has been non-existent for centuries. (Not sure if that last sentence I wrote counts?).

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Strikes

The first episode of the four part series, produced by Blackstone Audio. This was made free via the Radio Drama Revival podcast. Technical information aside, I enjoyed this interpretation of the demon barber from fleet street.

This episode is a simple, yet ingenious mystery plot. Its simple in that we know what happened in the first scene. Sweeney Todd is one of my favorite stories so I know the story quite well. After listening to this episode I found out that Sweeney Todd used to be a serialized newspaper story. The mystery that every character but Mrs. Lovitt and Sweeney Todd don’t know is practically common knowledge.

What makes this ingenious is that you spend the majority of the story with characters who don’t know and are curious about what happened to a Mr. ______. So much time is spent that you often forget what really happened.

That, of course, is just my reaction. However, the tension and suspense alone will keep your headphones glued to your ears. It plays the sliding scale between a mystery plot and suspenseful anticipation. Most stories have a mystery plot and a anticipation plot that are separate from one another. In fact it could be argued that those are the two main plot archetypes (anticipation and mystery). This rendition of Sweeney Todd has elements of both and sits somewhere in the middle, making it a great listen for those long car rides.