People may think of Vancouver as a stunning, cityscape-meets-ocean-and-mountains metropolis – which it most certainly is – but a new radio noir play coming to the Semiahmoo Peninsula explores the seedier side of the city, circa 1949.
Back then, thousands of neon signs lit the city’s streets – frequently wet from fresh rain – in an era that suits the film noir genre like no other.
The full-length radio play entitled Blue Prelude, which was meticulously researched and written by White Rock director-actor-playwright Alexander Browne – presented complete with commercials – explores the story of Mickey Giordano, a Vancouver private eye whose bread and butter are the secrets that hide in the shadows, behind the city’s brightly coloured neon lights.
The East End prize fighter-turned-gumshoe knows how to play rough on behalf of a paying client, but he’s also in the corner of the victims of crime and corruption, noted Browne, whose original script deliberately evokes echoes of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane, and many of the classic movie adaptations of their novels.
“Mickey’s one of those guys who’s kind of a big brother to everyone,” Browne said.
“His weak spot is that he wants to rescue everyone… he gets himself into trouble when what he thinks is a missing persons case takes a turn into left field.”
Presented in vintage radio style, with performers authentically dressed by costumer and co-producer Kat Siemens, Browne (The Dawn Patrol, White Rock Players; The Adventures of Max Bennett, 2013, Dreaming Elephant) noted it’s a fond tribute to the noir aesthetic of the 1940s and 1950s, and the “bad old days” when crime and corruption were rampant in the neon-lit streets of Vancouver.
“Blue Prelude is really a film noir created for the ears – and the imagination – of the listener,” he said.
“It works on two different levels,” as the audience can watch and be entertained, or even close their eyes and listen, like people used to do when they gathered around the radio before televisions were common household items.
No stranger to White Rock and South Surrey audiences, Browne was the Suspense announcer for the classic radio play Sorry, Wrong Number and director of the Agatha Christie thriller The Stranger, both for Peninsula Productions in 2022.
He’s also an aficionado of all things vintage, and well-known as a bandleader of 1920s and ’30s-era music (featured at Peninsula Productions’ April gala this year) and as a long-time reporter for the Peace Arch News.
He and Siemens are bringing the show to Peninsula Productions Studio Theatre in Centennial Park, 14600 North Bluff Rd., for four performances on Saturday, Sept. 30 and Sunday, Oct. 1, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. each day.
Helping bring Blue Prelude to life on stage will be a talented, hand-picked team portraying the radio actors for the broadcast.
Dovreshin MacRae (Shakespeare In Love, Murder on the Orient Express, Theatre In The Country) voices the tough, but tender-hearted, Mickey, while Adrian Shaffer (The Fantasticks, The Magic Flute, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, White Rock Players) plays Lila Duprez, torch singer at The Cave (based on a real Vancouver nightclub).
Jacqueline Rose (A Comedy of Tenors, White Rock Players, Annie, Royal City Musical Theatre, Just Broadway, James Productions) voices the role of enigmatic former showgirl Georgia Morrison.
Rounding out the cast are Hunter Golden (Light Rapid Transit, Coffeehouse Theatre, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Capilano University, Blue Hour, Muskrat Pass Productions), as a multitude of characters – including a sinister mining and lumber baron and art collector Hamilton Collyer – and Browne himself, as announcer and multiple-character player.
Browne couldn’t rave enough about the talented cast, whom he hand-picked.
“I am very happy with the cast I have. They’re all really versatile,” he said.
While vestiges of the Vancouver of old still remain, Browne said it was a much more gritty, rough-and-ready place in the 1940s and ’50s, as it was a busy place for drug distribution, prostitution and gambling.
“The police at the time would turn a blind eye, provided they got paid,” he said, recalling how in 1955, Vancouver police chief Walter Mulligan skipped town just ahead of an inquiry – the Tupper Inquiry, which investigated the illegal activity and corruption of what became known as The Mulligan Affair.
“Vancouver has a rich history of bad stuff going on,” he said. “People think… there were the pioneer days, then World War One, then World War Two, then Expo’86… nothing else to see here,” but that wasn’t necessarily the case.
With the proliferation of material from the past now available on video and film, “the past is much more with us now than it ever used to be,” Browne said.
“Now it’s very present.”
He and Siemens are hoping audiences will appreciate taking a step back into the past, and enjoy a true radio noir experience.
Being an intimate venue, tickets will likely sell quickly; they’re $30 each, available through