Updated: Feb 5
A new (?) holiday classic
By Paul Atreide
Author, playwright paul-atreides.com Twitter: @ atreides_paul
Are you a bit weary of adaptation after adaptation of A Christmas Carol during the holiday season? Looking for something other than The Nutcracker or Handel’s Messiah? Those are all wonderful seasonal classics, but if you still want to see something else that enjoins the spirit look no further.
Las Vegas Little Theatre (LVLT) has the perfect solution with their Mainstage production of Walton Jones’ 1979 1940’s Radio Hour. Based on an idea by Jones and Carol Lees, it is about 90 minutes of pure fun as Radio Station WOV live-broadcasts its final presentation of the annual “Mutual Manhattan Variety Cavalcade” from the Hotel Astor’s Algonquin Room.
Director April Sauline has assembled a fine, talented cast and, using a live band, ushers in a genuinely fun show of the jukebox variety. But this is not your standard static jukebox play.
Set in 1942, the production brings a wonderful mix of music from the era, all songs that were popular at the time, from “Blue Moon” to “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” There are even old commercials for things like Chiquita Bananas and Pepsi Cola. True to the era of live radio, we, the patrons, become the studio audience to witness the fun. There are plenty of antics to catch, too, as the actors embody and embrace their characters with all manner of stage business.
It’s a great ensemble cast, each with a quirky character, and they all work well together. The standouts: Steve McMillan, as the sometimes frantic station general manager, Clifton A. Feddington, chasing down and firing and rehiring performers at the drop of a hat; there’s Peter Losasso as the handsome and debonair Sinatra wannabe headliner vocalist, Johnny Cantone, uncovering his hidden stash of liquor; then we get Michael Blair as the eager-to-please errand boy begging for his chance at the microphone; the shady stage doorkeeper, Pops Bailey, played by James (JD) Smith running his bookie business during the entire affair.
What would a live radio broadcast be without the sound effects guy? Max Lardent, as station engineer Lou Cohn does a great job hitting all the right sound effects and bellowing instructions already given by Clifton.
If there were one complaint to be made, it would be the final scene. Whether scripted or a director choice, the exit of Pops Bailey simply plays out too long and drops and loses the sense of fun we’ve just experienced, especially given the humor in the final line.
Between Ron Linblom’s wonderful set, dressed in all manner of items to discover (right down to a coffee percolator, yet missing a stack of 78rpm records), Julie Horton’s costumes, and Music director Toby McEvoy’s perfect vocals blending, the period comes right to the forefront. All lit to beautiful effect by Ginny Adams.
It’s a well-done production of pure fun and deserves to become a new holiday season classic.
What: 1940’s Radio Hour
When: 8 p.m. Friday - Saturday; 2 p.m. Sundays through December 18
2 p.m. Saturday, December 10
Where: Las Vegas Little Theatre-Mainstage, 3920 Schiff Drive
Grade: **** Delicious
Producer: Las Vegas Little Theatre; Director-Choreographer: April Sauline; Music Director: Toby McEvoy; Set Design: Ron Lindblom; Lighting Design: Ginny Adams; Costume Design: Julie Horton; Sound Design: Mike Olsen; Stage Manager: Jim BraunKyra Shults