Retro Review: 1940s RADIO HOUR Transports Audiences Back to a Yule of Yesteryear at Theatre in the Square

Posted on: Dec 20th, 2011 By:

 

By Jordan Barbeau
Contributing Writer

THE 1940s RADIO HOUR; Theatre in the Square; Dec. 17, 2011-Jan. 1, 2012; please note: all performances are at Southern Polytechnic State University – Joe Mack Wilson Student Center; tickets here.

Possibly more so than any other time period, the 1940s were an incredible example of beauty amongst chaos. As World War II raged on across the sea, Americans on the home front did their best to keep up the morale of the citizens through various mediums. One such medium, used to entertain, inform and advertise, was the radio.

THE 1940s RADIO HOUR, written by Walton Jones and directed by Susan Reid at Marietta’s Theatre in the Square, focuses on a New York radio station in December 1942. The play opens as a group of people (including singers, musicians, workers at the station, etc.) are frantically preparing for an hour-long radio show they are about to perform. When everything comes together, the ensuing hour, full of music and commercials alike, is a brilliant, faithful throwback to the time it is emulating.

To begin, a confession is in order: before attending the production, I was a bit skeptical of the content. A recreation of a 1940s radio hour did not seem like the most interesting plot for a play, but I will be the first to admit that this could not be farther from the truth. Produced by Theatre in the Square and running through Jan. 1, THE 1940s RADIO HOUR is not only an excellent musical, it is an excellent representation of the ‘40s.

Jeff Jackson in THE 1940s Radio Hour, now playing at Theatre in the Square. Photo credit: Seamus Bourne

The most important part of any musical is, of course, the music. THE 1940s RADIO HOUR boasts an impressive soundtrack that is very faithful to its source time, ranging from famous ‘40s songs such as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” to holiday classics like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” The performers were in top condition; everyone from Johnny Cantone (played by Maxim Gukham), the man with the velvety-smooth voice, to Ginger Brooks (played by Jessica Miesel), the comically high-pitched, wannabe pin-up girl, wowed in their own unique ways.

Authenticity can often suffer in productions based on different time periods, the time period itself taking a back seat to the performances. This was not the case with RADIO HOUR; before the play even began, looking at the stage as I walked into the auditorium, I felt as if I had stepped back in time. The set’s Christmas theme was overshadowed by the attention paid to recreating the 1940s, with everything from the furniture to the telephones looking authentic.

One of the most impressive aspects of the production was its cohesiveness. From the second it began to the second the lights went out at the end, the show did not stop; there was no changing of scenes, no intermission, nothing. The dynamic set contributed greatly to the show’s easy accessibility to audiences, as the lack of constant scene changes and set changes made the show extremely easy to follow and very enjoyable.

Left to Right: Drew Arthur, Jessica Miesel and Anna Kimmell. Photo credit: Seamus Bourne.

While it may seem an odd topic to point out in a musical, my personal favorite parts of THE 1940s RADIO HOUR were the commercials that separated the songs being performed. The play did an impeccable job at recreating how commercials were done back in the ‘40s, such as how sound effects were made either by mouth or by various random items. These short breaks in the show not only provide some enjoyable comic relief (an advertisement for a laxative coming to mind), but also provided a very interesting, real look on the differences and similarities between commercials then and now.

THE 1940s RADIO HOUR is an incredible production that even non-theater fans will enjoy. It is simple to follow, the songs performed are authentic and enjoyable, the actors are likeable and charismatic, and the attention to detail paid to recreating a lost time is painstaking. THE 1940s RADIO HOUR is not only a fantastic Christmas play, it is a fantastic play in general and should not be passed up.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Scott Glazer Takes Listeners Backstage with Rock, R&B and Country Greats on AM 1690

Posted on: Aug 18th, 2011 By:

Scott Glazer performing with Mojo Dojo at Northside Tavern. Photo courtesy by Scott Glazer.

Take a visit to the audio green room that is BACKSTAGE ATLANTA (Tues. at 12:30 p.m.; encore Sun. 11:30 a.m.) , and you might find bassist Joe B. Maudlin of Buddy Holly & The Crickets sharing a firsthand account of the heyday of early rock ‘n’ roll. Or ‘80s synth-pop maestro Jan Hammer revealing the story behind how he came to compose the soundtrack to MIAMI VICE. R&B legend Peabo Bryson has stopped by, The Beach BoysBrian Wilson was a recent guest, and country star Emmylou Harris came to sit a spell, as well as pianist Kenny Ascher, who’s collaborated with John Lennon, Barbara Streisand and Paul Williams.

Those Retro music greats, however, never would have found it onto Atlanta’s airwaves if it wasn’t for the existence of an eclectic little radio station called AM 1690 The Voice of the Arts and a visionary local musician named Scott Glazer known for jumping music genres and fascinated with what goes on behind the curtains.  ATLRetro recently caught up with Scott, who also deejays The Midday Mix (Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.) on AM 1690, to find out more about the independent radio station and Scott’s passion for preserving music history on the air.

How did you become involved with AM 1690 The Voice of the Arts?

I am a musician. In the fall of ’03, I was playing the annual run of  THE 1940s RADIO HOUR at Theatre in the Square in Marietta. One evening after the show I went to a jam session at Darwin’s, a blues joint. There I sang and played with a piano player and spoke and exchanged phone numbers with him. Turns out that he was/is station owner Joe Weber. We touched base a couple of times during the year, and [in] fall of ’04, he called me and asked me to come in to speak with him and [General Manager] Jeff Davis. I was astounded and excited!

When people hear “The Voice of the Arts,” they might think you’re another public radio station playing classical and experimental jazz. They’d be wrong, right?

First off, they’d be wrong in thinking that we are “public radio.” No National Endowment for the Arts funds come our way. Led by noted industry veteran and my personal hero Jeff Davis, our advertising sales staff is #1 and hustles like hell! As far as classical and experimental music, well, you’ll get some of everything on AM1690. We play music that we are passionate about. Most of it is music that you won’t hear on the big megabucks media conglomerates. How can there not be George Jones, Emmylou or Loretta on country radio?  Or Chuck Berry, The Olympics, Percy Mayfield, Ruth Brown, Patsy Cline or a litany of other American greats on the air?

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