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Review: THE 1940'S RADIO HOUR at The Players Centre For Performing Arts

By: Dec. 17, 2017
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Review: THE 1940'S RADIO HOUR at The Players Centre For Performing Arts  Image

Playing through December 23 at The Players Centre is The 1940's Radio Hour, A Prairie Home Companion-type production that takes us back to the good ole days of radio, where voices and sound effects allowed your mind to wander and create a world only you could envision. Although film and television have taken that away from us and replaced it with stunning visual effects, I still like to listen to the old radio shows, especially the mysteries. This production makes you feel comfy cozy as if you were home listening, all warm and bundled up, while it snows outside.

It is December 21, 1942 and fictional York City radio station, WOV is about to go live to record a broadcast for our troops serving overseas in World War ll. The stage is set up to provide a behind-the-scenes look as the cast, crew and band entering the studio to prepare. Downstage the mics are set for the actors and singers, behind them is a nice size big band set up and behind the band is an elevated sound booth for the engineer and sound effects. There is also a small desk area in the back where the business dealings are performed. This set works nicely as above them all are lighting cues for the audience alerting us for "applause" and letting us know when we are "on air".

Thirty minutes before the musical begins theatregoers can enter the theater for a pre-show, an inventive opportunity to watch as the players arrive at the station, chat with each other, review their scripts, and hear the band warm up. There is an attempt at theater dramatics to display chaos in the station, pitting the easy-going way the actors prepare while the management panics and beckons for everyone to get ready. This is displaced writing and direction from the original production that I felt made for a bit of awkwardness before the program got stated.

When the actual show does begin, the ensemble brings it together nicely. They take you through songs such as "Kalamazoo", "Ain't She Sweet", "Love Is Here To Stay", "I'll Be Seeing You", "Blue Moon", "Strike Up The Band" and the number that brought the house down, "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy". The on-air commercials for Pepsi, Chiquita Banana and Cashmere Bouquet Soap added a nostalgic sense of humor.

Stevie Romero playing BJ Gibson, a clean- cut Yale student who can sing and dance exuded stage presence. He nailed "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy". Debbi White is enchanting as Southern belle, Geneva Lee Browne and has the chops to deliver "At Last" and "I Got It Bad". Victor Mongillo playing Biff Baker, a trumpeter with the orchestra who will be leaving after the show for Army duty, works his magic on the horn and tears at your heart when he announces that duty calls him overseas. Lacey Knispel as Ann Collier brings a sweet touch and beautiful vocals to "That Old Black Magic" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". Lindsay MacConnell is fun to watch as Ginger Brooks - crafty with stretching gum to its limits. Derek Dutcher as Clifton Feddington, the general manager and show announcer maintained a nice pace and ambience for the show. Full of finesse, Steve McAllister proved his character, lead singer Johnny Cantone, is much better at drinking than singing. Bandleader, Zoot Doubleman (Musical Director Alan Jay Corey) kept the music tight and the band and singers on spot. Each cast member contributed well to this production and brought their quirky characters to life in amusing interaction.

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