It’s Christmas 1942, and the world is at war. But at radio station WOV in New York City, men and women are trying to put their best faces forward for an hour or so.
That’s the set up for “The 1940’s Radio Hour,” Anderson University’s latest theater production, which opens Friday.
The actors portray the cast and crew of a weekly variety show who have assembled at the station for a live broadcast on the evening of Dec. 21. The audience in AU’s Byrum Hall doubles as WOV’s live studio audience and is privy to all the drama taking place before, after and during the radio broadcast.
Those interpersonal quarrels aren’t so interesting by themselves: One musician is going off to war, a star vocalist is thinking of splitting town and moving to Hollywood. Mostly these stories bookend the song, dance and comedy routines that make up the variety hour and make the student theater show worth someone’s time.
To some extent, the little dramas add some spice to the radio show, because the audience gets a behind-the-scenes scoop of how the stars work to maintain composure while on stage. But more than anything else, the laundry list of nostalgic songs like “Stormy Weather” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” make “The 1940’s Radio Hour” a show for old music lovers.
The show also includes some charming comedy routines, most notably when the radio players present a portion of “A Christmas Carol,” complete with makeshift sound effects. But even the good laughs can’t outshine the music that really makes “The 1940’s Radio Hour” worth two hours of time.
The mostly student cast has been well coached under musical director David Duncan, and every soloist is in some way a stand out. It would be nice to praise them all one by one, but who has the space? They should just know that anyone who sings in this production has the voice to pull it off.
If the singing here rates a 10 out of 10, and the jokes an 8, the dancing is somewhere around a 5. Doug King’s choreography pinpoints the decade, and the actors make decent dancers. None are tripping over themselves. Some just don’t dance with the confidence they have in their voices.
The show, which works as one uninterrupted scene, has several complex moments of layered action that smoothly fly by. The comedy is also very well executed. All that is due to director Laurel Goetzinger no doubt.
The full orchestra wasn’t present for Tuesday night’s dress rehearsal, but having the musicians there should only enhance the experience.
“The 1940’s Radio Hour,” presented by the Boze Lyric Theatre at Anderson University Friday through Sunday, and Oct. 13 -14
Saturday shows at 7:30 p.m., Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m.
Byrum Hall, Anderson University
Tickets: $12 adults, $10 seniors and military, $5 students
Byrum box office: (765) 641-4351
–Barrett Newkirk is a reporter for The Herald Bulletin in Anderson. Story republished with permission.