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Garrison Keillor: The Man on the Radio in the Red Shoes

Garrison Keillor: The Man on the Radio in the Red Shoes
Peter Rosen Productions
Now Showing at: Fath Auditorium, Cincinnati Art Museum
Wednesday, March 25 2009 - 7 pm
Review by: Larry Thomas

Sometimes, performers can take on mythic proportions in given areas, for whatever reason. At Riverbend, Jimmy Buffet constantly attracts flocks of Parrotheads every year, and the annual ritual shows no signs of slowing down at all. For Public Radio, the same might be said for Garrison Keillor. This folksy, homespun humorist who has been gathering fans to the radio for his weekly broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion for some thirty years, is a crowd-gatherer, and a crowd-pleaser. His two visits to Cincinnati to do live broadcasts of Prairie Home from Music Hall sold out all seats in a very short amount of time. People come from great distances to see this weekly cavalcade of entertainment performed live.

If you saw Robert Altman’s terrific movie A Prairie Home Companion, you got some idea of the behind-the-scenes goings on during a broadcast, even though it was a fictional story with an all-star cast. Now there’s a new documentary about the legendary broadcaster called Garrison Keillor: The Man on the Radio in the Red Shoes. Produced and directed by Peter Rosen, it will premiere in July on PBS Television’s American Masters series. But you can catch a sneak preview of it on Wednesday night as a benefit performance for WVXU.

If you’re already a fan of Keillor and A Prairie Home Companion, the film will not likely show or tell you anything you didn’t already know. If you’ve never been able to warm up to his style, maybe it will give you a little more insight to Garrison Keillor the man… how he works, how he feels about getting older, and especially how he reconciles his life to his new job, that of being a father in later years. The film also does a good job of on-location filming in both the Minneapolis theatre where the program originates, and in the field, like when Keillor takes the program to a state fair, and performs in a field under a tent.

Quite often you’ll hear comparisons of Garrison Keillor to the likes of Mark Twain and Will Rogers… and those are valid comparisons. Had Keillor come along several years earlier, he would likely have been a mainstay of commercial television in its early days. As it is, his audience is smaller than superstardom would have bestowed, but is rock-solid loyal, and likely to follow their down-home spokesperson for some time to come.

The preview screening of Garrison Keillor: The Man on the Radio in the Red Shoes is Wednesday night at the Cincinnati Art Museum’s Fath Auditorium. The evening’s events begin at 7 pm with a musical performance by Jake Speed, who performed on the last Cincinnati broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion at Music Hall this past November. The music and the movie are one price, and you can get your tickets on our website at wvxu.org. Proceeds will benefit 91.7 WVXU.


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