Saturday, December 7, 2013

A WW II Radio Christmas: 1943 Edition—OCT’s Young Professionals Company—NE Portland

"Where Have All the Flowers Gone…”

This production is written by OPB’s Pat Kruis Tellinghusen, based on the Christmas From Home series, originally performed by Tapestry Theatre, and directed by Sharon Mann.  It is enacted by an all teenage cast at Oregon Children’s Theatre’s home base at 1939 NE Sandy Blvd. through December 15th.  For more information go to www.octc.org.  (It should be noted that the last two seasons, this production sold out its entire run.)

As mentioned, this show is performed entirely by teenagers, people who would have no personal knowledge of the importance of radio in the public’s lives or the impact of WWII on society.  This is also the group that houses Impulse!, an Improv young company that is reigning champion of a contest that was held at the Curious Comedy Club, retiring undefeated, beating out adult teams.  Add this to their accomplishments and you have an amazing company of young people!

The stories you will hear in this hour-long “broadcast,” are taken from actual transcripts, letters and commercials of the time, exhaustingly researched, I’m sure, by the play’s author.  I look forward to future renditions of the Radio Christmas series.  The play moves at a very clipped pace, with many transformation of characters in this cast of seven, well directed by Mann.  And Darcy White as the Musical Director and pianist, is wonderful, as are the costumes, very appropriate for the time, by OCT’s Education Director, Dani Baldwin.  And the Foley (radio sound effects), designed by David Ian, is spot on.

The story consists of a series of skits in a radio studio of the 1940’s.  They do the acting out of various roles, singing, commercials of the day, and even dancing (yes, they did often have a studio audience that would watch the performers).  They sing the traditional melodies of the day including “Boogie, Woogie, Bugle Boy,” “Happy Holidays,” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”  My particular favorites were the haunting, “As Time Goes By” by the emcee (Thom Hilton) and “I’ll be Seeing You,” sung beautifully by Madeleine Delaplane and Lea Zawada.  I’ve seen both of these actresses a few times before in OCT shows, as well as at NWCT, and they never fail to shine in the roles they perform.

Also extremely impressive was Adie Fecker, in a skit as a Japanese teenager, an American citizen, being forced to live In a Internment Camp, simply because of her nationality and the color of her skin.  A shameful day in American history.  The fact that it was okay for Japanese-American citizens to enter the armed forces and die for our country, was acceptable, but to walk around as free Americans wasn’t, is unbelievable that it even made sense to anyone.  Very movingly done by Fecker.

And the romance between Clyde (Jack Levis), an Air Raid Warden and Vivian (Maeve Stier), was both humorous and touching.  And a special note should be taken about the three soldiers (Daniel Martin, Jack Levis & Thom Hilton), on a Japanese-held island, that discover the grave of an American pilot, that had been buried, with all respect and honors, by the enemy.  A true story and a tribute to the humanity in all of us, regardless of beliefs or nationality.  It would have been fitting to have the photo (which the author showed me) of the actual site in the program.  Also mentioned, were the heroic efforts of a young soldier rescuing a fellow mate off a destroyed PT boat.  His name was Kennedy.

The commercials are rendered just as silly and inane as they are now.  Cigarettes, soap, toothpaste, etc. were just as important to the “success” of a person then as they purport to be now.  The whole show is over in a flash, too fast to fully appreciate the stories left to tell.  But what an experience, to have been transported back in time, however briefly. 

And the abilities of this young cast to jump back and forth quickly between characters and song, accents included, is worth the show!  They are even in character when they are simply sitting in the background.  These young actors could rival any adult company I know.


Obviously, I recommend this show but, as noted, it does have a tendency to sell out, so best get your tickets quickly.  If you do go, please tell them Dennis sent you.