The Midnight Mystery Theater germinated from The Tricano Desales Show; a live variety talk show which ran weekly at an off campus pub for Seattle University students called the Sundance Tavern in 1984. Hosted by James Goldsmith, co-hosted by Matthew Hoover, Brian Goldsmith and John Ruoff as the comedy writing staff and John Ruoff as the announcer. A bold, experimental comedy show featuring the newly formed Theater Sports improvisational troupe (still active), local stand up comedians and celebrities topped off with a game show and a musical guest.
One of the most popular features was Hollywood Pulse Line; “A wacky, way-out look at the world of motion picture and television entertainment” written by Brian Goldsmith and John Ruoff and performed by John Ruoff as the unseen announcer. Out of the this comedy spot evolved mini radio plays starring Brian Goldsmith and John Ruoff as noir insurance agent Dick Doubleheart and his wise guy nutty assistant pal Sparky.
In 1985 John Ruoff and Brian Goldsmith began writing a radio comedy/mystery serial based on these characters which became the first MMT show recorded by Tommy Ott entitled “The Case of the Missing Molar.” The sound effects were created by Richard Devitte. The music was written and performed by Benet Fleck. The cast included Matthew Hoover, Benet Fleck, Mary Sherman, Anne Marie Goines and Victoria Livingston. Although funny and original, the show was 90 minutes in length and was not suitable for air play but served as a learning experience in production and collaboration for the next phase of MMT.
In the spring of 1992 began the famous Gina Marie Delaney rehearsals in the Broadway district of Seattle’s Capitol Hill. The ambiance was that of a wedding reception with plentiful food, drinks, and laughter as the Midnight Mystery Theater players prepared for MMT first show to be recorded in the studio, The cast recruited for the troupe was Brady Anderson, Gina Marie Delaney, Mary Harper, Rick Silver and originals Brian Goldsmith, Benet Fleck (Actor and music) Matthew Hoover (Sound effects) and John Ruoff (Announcer and actor) who now took over as solo script writer for MMT.
“The Case of the Missing Ghostwriter” was recorded by legendary recording engineer Carney Barton. Mr. Barton’s eccentric studio stands out as one of the strangest sights in my memory with it’s thousands of chords and piled up papers creating the greatest potential fire trap in history but Carney Barton’s old style reel-to-reel, grand piano and horrible puns were all quite an unforgettable experience for the maiden recording. The show ran an hour and was more of a labor of artistic love than a marketable piece but served to hone the craft and chemistry of the budding troupe. “The Case of the Missing Model” (1993) was basically the same cast and length as another developmental piece with Paul Harding joining MMT as an extremely versatile character actor and Brady Anderson creating the lead character Chick Cavalier which was the first of the MMT regular characters.
“The Case of the Missing Mogul” (1994) marked the first of the standard half hour format used to this day. “The Case of the Missing Crown”. (1995) introduced Cindy Lee, a popular lead with a marvelous sense of comedic timing and lyricist Sarah Biddle collaborating with composer Benet Fleck for a featured number sung by Gina Marie Delaney. Brian Goldsmith began expanding his incredible range of wonderful characters with his personal favorite Lord Pickleton. Stephanie Burris (Licu) replaced Gina Marie Delaney in the summer of 1996 wowing everyone with a rendition of “Tomorrow” from Annie in the “The Case of the Missing Talent”. Gail Wamba joined MMT taking leads from 1996 to 1998.
KSER 90.7 FM in Lynnwood, Washington first aired a MMT show “The Case of the Missing Six Shooter November 28, 1995 which began, oddly enough, sharing a one hour Sunday night slot on the decidedly somber BBC Mystery Theater with the rather less than young Rebecca Young as host. This monthly slot would run for three years including a live broadcast from the Evergreen State fair, competing with hog calls and amusement rides.
The 8 studio shows recorded from the summer of 1995 to the summer of 1996 were all recorded by Don Carlson, whose expertise in the genre and loud laughter had many of the MMT players using the refrain ala Jack Benny “You know, Don…” . The shows recorded at this time “The case of the Missing Six Shooter (Western) Ring (Noir) Brain (Hospital soaps) Belle (The old South) Fruitcake (Gothic melodrama) Talent (Broadway) Case (Law) Jaguar (Spies) are the period of development which most defines The Midnight Mystery Theater. The cast members were;
Brady Anderson, Charles Crowley, Stephanie Burris (Licu) Gail Wamba, Brian Goldsmith, Paul Harding, Rick Silver, Matthew Hoover, Benet Fleck and John Ruoff with the scripts written by John Ruoff.
“The Case of the Missing Mogul” (1994) marked the first of the standard half hour format used to this day. “The Case of the Missing Crown” (1995) introduced Cindy Lee, a popular lead with a marvelous sense of comedic timing and lyricist Sarah Biddle collaborating with composer Benet Fleck for a featured number sung by Gina Marie Delaney. Brian Goldsmith began expanding his incredible range of wonderful characters with his personal favorite Lord Pickleton.
“The Case of the Missing Six Shooter” (1995) was MMT’s first western and show to be aired introducing regular star Charles Crowley who at his first rehearsal ever as a MMT’er was gradually surprised to learn, as director John Ruoff read off the assignments, that Charles was to play nearly all the character parts for his first show! The Six Shooter remains a favorite amongst original cast members. Lucky McCoy; the perplexed newspaper man and goofy old west coot Scruffy Larue (Ruoff) with Suckatash Sally (Cindy Lee) are MMT regular characters to this day.
“The Case of The Missing Ring” introduced Gil Salmon (semi professional seafood inspector) and Clarisa Clamour with the first of four songs written for Charles Crowley by Fleck and Biddle.