1940’s Radio Hour

1940’s Radio Hour set

1940’s Radio Hour was a play I wish I had gone and seen twice. It was the first UWS play I have seen, and I was gen­uinely blown away. The set, cos­tumes, music, singing and incred­i­ble danc­ing, the actor’s ded­i­ca­tion to their char­ac­ter, the level of deep­ness every char­ac­ter had despite the extremely min­i­mal actual dia­log between them—all of these things sur­prised me in the best kind of way.

I had tried find­ing out what this play was going to be about before I saw it. The descrip­tions were all very short. “Takes place in the well worn stu­dios of WOV Radio in New York City on Decem­ber 22nd, 1942,” and “A radio show fea­tur­ing live music and issues from the day.” None of these things told me who the char­ac­ters were and what tri­als they would face.

When I arrived to see the play with my friends, we were seated by an actress whose char­ac­ter was one of the radio shows ush­ers. Look­ing on stage, it appeared the show, to some extent, had already started. I learned that what we were see­ing was a pre-show. We were the audi­ence and on stage were the cast set­ting every­thing up for their radio show. Man­ion The­ater was now in the year 1942.

The char­ac­ter Stan­ley, played by Yoel Yohannes, fixed Christ­mas lights. BJ Gib­son, played by Myles Heis­tad, and Con­nie Miller, played by Maken­zie Morse, were clearly in a rela­tion­ship, but a trou­bled one and Con­nie made fre­quent trips to the Coca-Cola machine where Johnny Can­tone, played by Nick Mon­te­calvo, was hang­ing out. Through­out the play I think she ended up drink­ing 10 glasses of Coke. Clifton Fed­ding­ton, played by KUWS direc­tor John Mun­son, was the show’s host and director.

Johnny was the shows fea­tured vocal­ist, and had been for the six years WOV Radio had been on the air. At the begin­ning of the play, you find him flirt­ing on the back­ground with Con­nie. Also going around and ask­ing every­one to loan him a few dol­lars, a request in-which every­one denied, except for Neal Tilden, played by Sam Bohanon. Johnny said he needed to money to go to Hol­ly­wood. He was leav­ing the radio to be in the movies. If Neal loaned him the money, he would tell Clifton to make Neal the new fea­tured vocalist.

Before Johnny’s first song, he said “this one goes out to my wife, wher­ever she is.” Once the show started, the char­ac­ters no longer talked to each other in dia­log we can hear. We saw their lips mov­ing, and their phys­i­cal­ity, and through that we were told of the story behind all 17 actors and actresses on stage.

As we find out more about how Johnny is dis­traught about his mar­riage, things get bet­ter between Con­nie and BJ. The two of them have to sing a love song together part way through the radio show. They start out with their backs fac­ing away, and singing angrily, but as they sing about love, they begin to look at one another again, and remem­ber why they fell in love in the first place.

Johnny dis­ap­pears for a while, and when he comes back he is drunk. He goes up the mic and talks about how he had come onto the show in the first place. He tells Clifton that he is leav­ing the show, and is going to Hol­ly­wood to find his wife, but before he goes he has to tell Clifton who the new fea­tured vocal­ist should be. Neal stands up and has this giddy look on his face, but Johnny says that BJ should get the top role. We would expect Neal to be angry, and pos­si­bly even a fight to emerge from this betrayal, but instead, Neal shakes BJs hand, and John­nys, and though he looks dis­ap­pointed, he accepts the outcome.

Com­mer­cials on the show are also live. They adver­tise Pepsi, and some other prod­ucts that made more sense for the day. In the com­mer­cials, they fre­quently ref­er­ence the war, and that if you can­not find the prod­uct they are adver­tis­ing, its fine but you will have to wait because mak­ing sure the boys over­seas are healthy and ready for fight­ing is of the utmost impor­tance. Though they all are proud and patri­otic of the sol­diers, every­thing gets very quiet when­ever the war is mentioned.

Biff Baker, played by Alan Haney, is wear­ing a soldier’s uni­form. He is given time to speak about the war effort, say­ing that he was only given a week back in the States. He says his par­ents miss him, and that with the help of Amer­ica, the war will be over by Christ­mas 1943. This state­ment sent chills down my spine because every­one seems so sad, but they act so alright and happy, and I knew the war would not end for another two years.

The play is not over when the radio show is. Clifton hands every­one their pay­checks. Clifton and sound cre­ator Lou Cohn, played by Andrew Kirov, plan to get drinks until Lou’s newly appar­ent girl­friend Gin­ger Books, played by Sky Fielder, reminds him that the two of them have plans. Dur­ing the play you see Clifton as a cold and angry boss, but when he is left alone on the set, you see another, very lonely side to him.

Clifton leaves, and on the set is a char­ac­ter who has been sit­ting in the back, smok­ing and play­ing cards the whole show, named Pops Bai­ley, played by Todd Lar­son. Pops is the one who locks up after every­one leaves. Clifton jokes telling him not to sleep here, and Pops jokes back about it, but once Clifton leaves, Pops pulls out a tooth brush and a towel, mak­ing it appar­ent that it was not a joke. Pops turns on a sin­gle light bulb on the cen­ter of the stage, and plays on the radio a slow smooth, “I’ll be home for Christ­mas.” He leaves to brush his teeth, and the lights fade as we all hear “if only in my dreams,” a scene so deep and sad it almost made me want to cry. The audi­ence pro­ceeded to stand up and to clap.

 

 

Image cour­tesy of Felic­ity Bosk — The Stinger
Print Friendly