1940's Radio Hour' a pleasant musical trip down memory lane

June 25, 1992|By Winifred Walsh | Winifred Walsh,Contributing Writer

The nostalgic days of radio's golden era are amusingly depicted in Walton Jones' swinging musical, "The 1940's Radio Hour," currently being staged in Cockpit in Court's Upstairs Cabaret through Sunday.

The show, full of golden oldies -- "Ain't She Sweet," "Blues in the Night," "I'll Never Smile Again," "Five O'Clock Whistle" -- features a lively full orchestra under the direction of Doug Bull.

As directed by Joseph A. Senatore II, the production is pleasantly entertaining. But Senatore's present interpretation does not live up to his smash hit version which he first staged at Cockpit in 1984.

The first act flounders. The action is slow and there are too many dead spots. But the second act starts out on a high energy level and, for the most part, maintains a vigorous, peppy pace until the touching "I'll Be Seeing You" musical conclusion.

Sentimental swing, boogie woogie, jitterbugging and tap dancing were the rage in the early '40s. Screaming bobby-soxers swooned over popular velvet-voiced crooners while bright-faced young men marched off to the grim realities of World War II.

The story line centers on the talented members of the WOV Variety Cavalcade who are conducting a "live" radio broadcast from the Hotel Astor's Algonquin Room in New York on Dec. 21, 1942. The program, punctuated by hilarious old singing commercials, is dedicated to the boys serving in the armed forces overseas.

The show is replete with little behind-the-scenes hopes and shattered dreams.

The first act is pre-broadcast madness. Nerves are frayed, egos are bruised and tempers flare.

The longer second act is the actual broadcast and this is the heart of the show. Highlights include snappy ensemble work in the "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy from Company B" and "Strike Up the Band" numbers.

"I Love New York in June" is admirably sung and danced by Gary Marshall Dieter and Laura Edwards. Susan Shanahan Walthen as the lead pop songstress is outstanding in her renditions of "Old Black Magic" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

Tammy Brandwein is a riot in her squeaky-voiced version of an Eskimo Pie commercial and Shawn Patrick Cochran sings "Blue Moon" nicely.

Jeff Birch as the "bandleader" croons a charming "Moonlight TC Seranade," and Ralph Walsh does well as the old custodian taking horse bets on the side.

As the "star" male singer, Johnny Cantone, a sleazy, arrogant womanizer who proceeds to get drunk as he warbles his not-so-golden notes, Rick Brown is excellent. As he sinks deeper and deeper into his cups we can see the terrible hurt within.

Toni Richards needs stronger character projection in her role as a Lena Horne type, but her singing voice is priceless. Richards' soulful rendition of the blues number, "I've Got It Bad and That Ain't Good" brings down the house.

Lenny Miller is convincing as the producer and singing emcee, but the actor who has to set the pace for the whole show and keep it going has to imbue his role with enormous vigor. Being more abrasive in the first act makes for good contrast in the second when the producer speaks in dulcet, unctuous tones.

*

A charming production of "The Flowering Peach," Clifford Odets' retelling of Noah and the building of the Ark, is being staged by Theatre Hopkins outdoors at Evergreen House Saturday and Sunday under the direction of Suzanne Straughn Pratt.

Not one of the author's best scripts, the play nevertheless serves as an often amusing allegory for contemporary clashing family ideologies as to the nature and purpose of God.

Stan Weiman is superb as Noah, blindly accepting God's will. Jack Manion as the youngest son, who disagrees with his father, gives an in-depth, earnest performance. Doris Margulis is fine as the loving, earthy wife who forgives all. Noteworthy performances are given by Vivian Hasbrook, Patricia Coleman and J.R. Lyston.

Usually good actor Richard Jackson is much too nice as the oldest son, a selfish, rapacious man concerned only with profit. Debbie Dickerson pleases as a dutiful wife. But Brian Applestein as the middle son overdoes his ne'er-do-well, lecherous character to the point of being downright nasty.

The grounds open at 4:30 p.m. for picnickers. Performances are at 6:15 and patrons are requested to bring lawn chairs.

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