Saturday morning I had the pleasure of shooting the dress rehearsal of Peninsula High School Theater’s production of “The 1940’s Radio Hour” by Walton Jones with music by various composers, which first opened October 7, 1979 at the St. James Theatre.
It’s an exhilarating romp through the spirit of a bygone era when the world was at war and pop music meant “Strike Up the Band” and “In the Mood.” The day is December 21, 1942.
And I was a junior at Lincoln High in Tacoma. “Bygone era?”
A play within a play, Radio Hour’s cast is “The Mutual Manhattan Variety Cavalcade.” A neurotic producer copes with a drunk lead singer, a delivery boy pleads to get the mic, a second rate disliked scene stealer schemes for the spotlight, a coke-guzzling jitterbugger fights with her boyfriend and several divas prepare for a live broadcast during an intense snow storm.
Junior SydneyRose Gillis, who plays Blanche Winnie Goude, says, “It’s been a great experience for me; it taught me so much about the era and what it was like to live in it. It’s hilarious. You’ll see goofballs and know-it-alls, all something to remember.”
Classmate Peter Murphy, playing Pops, feels “being a part of this production showed me the intense passion PHS students have for theatre, and where that passion stems from.”
“As this is my first year in theatre, I’m getting a crash course and love it,” said senior Emma Kilcup, stage manager. “I’ve loved watching this show come together into a beautiful, cohesive act. It’s incredible to be a part of making this happen.”
To director Kara Beloate, “This is such a fun experience, especially coming off ‘Les Miserables.’ We needed to do something light, and this show is simply hilarious! We have kids from every walk: football, soccer, baseball and tennis players, cross country runners, artists, choir kids, band kids, leadership kids and tech kids. But for this production, we are all drama kids, a family brought together by theatre!”
Playing a member of the “Melodiers,” sophomore Ellie Coberly says, “Everyone in the cast has put so much effort into playing their role just right. It’s been so cool for different kinds of people at school to get together and bring a really great story to life.”
“We aren’t forced to be here, we aren’t paid to be here, we are here because we truly want to be,” declared senior Niall Silberman, who plays Johnny Cantone. “That type of excitement will be evident to every member of our audience.”
To classmate Hayley Hartman, who plays Ann Collier, “I have become more confident and focused because of the support and determination of Mrs. Beloate and the cast. This production is going to be amazing. It’s family friendly, fun and sure to make anyone laugh!”
Junior Taylor Cooper ,who plays Connie Miller, said, “Being in ‘The 1940’s Radio Hour,’ I’m learning 1940s culture, music, dance and the livelihood surrounding it. In rehearsal and performing I’ve experienced the community theatre creates among people who might never have known each other.”
See it at 7 p.m. Dec. 3, 9 and 10 and at 3 p.m. Dec. 3, 4 and 11 at the Milton S. Boyd theater at PHS. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students, senior and military. A special dinner theatre package is available for both Saturday evening performances, Dec. 3 and 10, for $25. Dinner is a traditional 1940s-style meal. Seating begins at 6 p.m.; curtain time is 7 p.m.
Tickets can be purchased online at phs.psd401.net or at the door.
What makes this show unique is the audience’s interaction during a 1940s live radio show. It captures the essence of everyday life when sacrifice was the norm and people were unified in working for the common good.
Hugh McMillan is a longtime contributing writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at email@example.com.