Ho Ho Ha Ha Hee Hee

There pretty much couldn't be a cooler show-business story than the amazing tale of Wallace and Ladmo. Think about it: a cheapo local kids' TV program that somehow lasted for a solid three and a half decades. Few, if any, similar shows ever came close to that kind of longevity. It's the story of some good guys who enjoyed each other's company and shared a love of making kids laugh. And it all happened right here in the desert back in the days when it seemed that nothing cool ever came out of Phoenix.It's that story that is relived in Ben Tyler's play The Wallace and Ladmo Show. The Cathy Dresbach-directed production had its première engagement a few months back out at Desert Foothills Theater. Those who couldn't make the hourlong cruise out to Carefree now have another chance to catch the fun, as the show will be spending the month of June downtown at Herberger.

The cast features Hamilton Mitchell and Wes Martin as Ladmo and Wal-boy, Christian Miller as the wide-eyed musical prodigy Mike Condello and Bob Sorenson, who seemingly channels Pat McMahon. In a recent phone conversation, Martin recalled watching the TV show as a kid. "The thing that made them so special was that they never spoke down to the kids. They didn't condescend, and they assumed the kids watching actually had brains in their heads. A lot of their material was simply old vaudeville shtick and wasn't about a particular place or time. But they could still drop in a reference to Goldwater or McGovern or what have you and give their viewers enough credit to catch it."

When asked if being in a show about such a beloved institution opened the floodgates of stories from folks in the audience, Martin laughed. "Everyone in the cast has heard one of two stories. It's either, "I went on the show and got a Ladmo bag' or, "I went on the show and some dumb kid next to me got the Ladmo bag.'"

The Wallace and Ladmo Show runs June 1 to June 25 at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe. Tickets are $18 to $20. Call 602-254-7399.

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David Gofstein