BFT In The 1980s News
Friday, April 8, 1983: The 1940s Radio Hour

BFT's 'Radio' is perfect charmer
By Kenneth Shorey
News theater critic

THE 1940S RADIO HOUR. A production of Birmingham Festival Theater. Performances Friday-Saturday and April 14-17 at 8 p.m. Matinees this Sunday and April 17 at 2:30. For tickets call 322-5259.

Thanks, Ginger (Sallie Higgins), for the dance. Sorry I stepped on you, but for a while I didn't know where I was.

Thanks, too, for "Blues in the Night," the song to your mother "who taught me all the lessons I had to learn for myself," for the steamy ice-cream commercial, for the line about dating and shyness, (not war), and for being slender as a reed.

You and Mae (Susan Beckett-Jones) give new meaning to the term body language. Mae, who pulls off the longest, best-sustained upstaging act in the history of world theater just by sitting in one place, has you beat with her mouth, but oh, your eyes!

WWII RADIO PROGRAMS devoted almost exclusively to music were romantic trips for the imagination. Listeners at home and soldiers overseas could "be" wherever they wanted to be as they listened to one song after another. Radio in the '40s was in the business of selling fantasies.

Walton Jones' The 1940s Radio Hour, first presented by the Ensemble Company and Yale Repertory Theater, is a way of demonstrating to theatergoers of the '80s what behind-the-scenes radio was like 40 years ago. It's an unusual show for a theater company to be doing, but still just as  charming as charming can be.

A clean-shaven, youthfully spirited Carl Stewart has given us a wonderfully mock-serious show that  works every minute of the time. It might be argued that a Dec. 21, 1942 broadcast would have been devoted to Christmas music, but this is just a minor quibble.

SONGS INCLUDE "Chattanooga Choo-Choo," "Daddy," "Our Love Is Here To Stay," "That Ol' Black Magic," "Ain't She Sweet?," "How About You?," "Rose of the Rio Grande," "I'll Never Smile Again," "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "Blue Moon," "At Last," "Little Brown Jug," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and a totally sensational, knock 'em dead solo by Geneva Lee Browne (Marva Douglas), "I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good."

In between are silly commercials for Pepsi, Cashmere Bouquet, Sal Hepatica, swim caps and dental cream. The players all have appropriately vacant looks while singing, waving fingers in the air while Carl Stewart himself, with pursed lips, does the sound effects hilariously.

© The Birmingham News; On The Aisle, p 7C; Friday, April 8, 1983.

Unauthorized use or reproduction of any content on this site in any form is strictly forbidden without the specific written permission of Birmingham Festival Theatre.