F.A.C.T. production ‘straight-up good old-fashioned entertainment’
If you’ve got a single sentimental bone in your body, or a soft spot for big-band era music, or you never tire of hearing Christmas classic tunes, or you like your patriotism the good old-fashioned way, then “The 1940s Radio Hour” has something for you.
“The 1940s Radio Hour,” being presented by the Fairfield Area Community Theater at the Fairfield Art & Convention Center’s Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts, showcases the era’s music, dancing and old-time sound effects as it portrays the final holiday broadcast of the Mutual Manhattan Variety Cavalcade on New York radio station WOV in December 1942.
The original 1980 production of “The 1940s Radio Hour” on Broadway in New York was well received – it garnered Drama Desk Award nominations for Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Featured Actor and Featured Actress in a Musical, and Outstanding Director.
F.A.C.T. directors John Grunwald and Tim Lantz make good use of “The 1940s Radio Hour” to continue F.A.C.T.’s tradition of summer musicals that offer broad appeal, a big cast that puts the community into Fairfield community theater, and plenty of opportunities for individual actors to shine.
Tom Voorhees is excellent as Clifton A. Feddington, the harried, irascible and often hysterical show producer and announcer. Fred Hucke, Heather Wiges, David Owen, Sam Spicer, Michael Gookin and Mary Rose Kitch each have distinctive characters with individual quirks to play, and they play and sing them well.
Dee Ann Lantz does an outstanding turn as the Radio Hour star who’s a secretary by day and a glamorous knockout by night, singing like Dinah Shore, Doris Day and Peggy Lee all rolled into one when she steps up to the microphone. Rachel Meyer’s short and snappy tap dance near the end of the show is an unexpected treat that works well.
There’s plenty of physical comedy and laughs from Bill Grunwald, Joe Phipps, Coren Hucke, Julie Wetrich and Erin Shriver as the Radio Hour’s supporting cast members who prop up the props and the stars, and keep the whole bandwagon lurching ahead until the lot of them, semi-focused and frequently distracted as they are, somehow manage to pull off yet another hour of live radio.
Jim Edgeton does his usual excellent job of leading a sizable orchestra that, in this case, also does a very good job of looking and sounding like a Big Band Era big band – and they’re not out of sight or in the pit, they’re on stage as a part of the “live” radio broadcast. It adds a lot of humor and visual interest to the show.
“The 1940s Radio Hour” is straight-up, good-old-fashioned entertainment about 1940s-style straight-up, good-old-fashioned entertainment. It is well worth F.A.C.T.’s always-reasonable ticket price. The show is being performed at 7:30 p.m. today through Saturday with a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday.