Friday, May 15, 2015

The 1940’s Radio Hour—Battle Ground High School—Battle Ground, WA

Gone Are The Days…

This nostalgic musical is presented in The Lair at BGHS, 300 W. Main St.  It was written by Walton Jones and is directed by Stephan “Cash” Henry, music direction by Darcy Schmitt and set/costume designs by Sundance Wilson Henry.  It is playing through May 16th.

The “good ole days,” how often have we heard that expression?  But, depending on what age you were, those “days” may be different eras for each of us.  In this case, it is a time before TV’s and personal computers and cell phones.  And why take a trip back in time?  Because, as the Director (Henry), has so eloquently said, “…it is important to just turn it all off and listen to life around you, to reconnect with the world outside of a three foot bubble that exists when we lose ourselves in the grip of social media.”  Amen!

The radio play takes place in a studio in New York City on Christmas Eve, 1942.  The story is a broadcast of one of their shows, complete with PSA’s, commercials, songs, dances (there is a live audience present), a play (“A Christmas Carol,” naturally) and the usual backstage dramas that occur when a close-knit family gathers.  In this case, the host and founder of the six-year old program, “The Mutual Manhattan Variety Cavalcade,” is the amiable, Clifton (Reagan Joner) with his second-in-command, the ever-patient, Lou (Andre Roy), his  able soundman, Stanley (Marcus Perry) and his cranky, security fellow, Pops Bailey (Cade Hansen), also a bookie on the side.

Into this network of radio waves are the performers.  There is the playboy-star, Johnny Cantone (Cody Bronkhorst), a bit of a lush, with eyes for very talented, Ann (Brianna Sievers), a top vocalist.  There is the flirty, flighty, Ginger (Cassidy MacAdam) who is sweet on Lou, and the newbie, Connie (Desiree Roy), the innocent ingenue, who has a thing for B. J. (Nic Manuel), an up-and-coming, young singer.  Then there is the comic and character actor, Neal (Skyler Denfeld), looking for romantic parts, and persistent Wally (Brendan Groat), eager for his big break into show biz.  And the diva, the sultry, Geneva (Francesca Dixson), who has eyes for the playful pianist, Zoot (Cade O’Haver).

And there is the Quartet (Emily Christensen, Jordan Ledbetter, Elijah Ortez and Tristan Decker), a trumpeter and soldier, Biff (Levi Schenk) and the rest of the orchestra.  Although there was no list of the songs or the singers, I did recognize some familiar tunes.  There was “Boogie, Woogie, Bugle Boy,” “Blue Moon,” “How About You,” “I’ll Never Smile Again…,” “That Old Black Magic,” “My Mama Done Told Me…,” “You Go To My Head,” and some Christmas favorites, of course.

You’ll have to “tune in” for yourself to see how all these little intrigues turn out but the pleasure in the play is recreating an actual broadcast situation from long ago.  And the crowning glory for me was the silent, little inter-plays between characters as the story progressed.  The actors were always in character and you understood all the muted signals they gave.  This, I’m sure, was from some very concentrated efforts of a talented cast and an even more studious Director (Henry).  And the set, costumes and wigs were spot on for the period, thanks to Mrs. Henry, et. al.  Well done, all!

My favorite moments in the plays were Ginger’s (MacAdam) slyly, sexy ad-libbing of a commercial; the melt-downs of Johnny (Bronkhorst) and Neal (Denfeld); and the simply, super vocalization of Ann (Sievers), who easily has a career as a singer if she chooses.  Also the orchestra was good but did overpower some of the singers at times.  And one more note, these young people were not even alive when this period in history took place and to see them so convincingly recreate that era is absolutely amazing!  This company always does worthwhile material and they have a fine cast of young actors, as well as a very talented director/teacher in Henry.

I recommend this show but hurry, it ends Saturday.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.