Last night my wife and I enjoyed an Enlightened Theatrics' musical show at Salem's downtown Grand Theatre just about as much as we liked a previous production, "Hair."
"The 1940's Radio Hour" is much different, of course -- a generation apart in setting. Which gave it much of its appeal.
I was born in 1948. The Radio Hour show is set in 1942. When I first heard the name of this production, I thought, "That's ancient history, the 1940's; I'm not sure if I want to listen to old-folks music."
But when I first heard a mention of 1942 from one of the actors, my still super-sharp senior citizen brain whirled away from our reserved front-row center seats (a steal at $20), calculating that, um, let's see now, subtract 2 from 8, why, I was born just six years later!
A bit more glass-of-red-wine-enhanced reasoning revealed that my mother was 30 years old in 1942, close to the same age most of the "1940's Radio Hour" characters appeared to be.
So she lived through those times, and I was born soon after that time. This made the songs, dancing, dialogue, hair styles, clothes, and such more real to me.
Not hard to do, though, given our front-row seats and the generally intimate atmosphere of the Grand Theatre. In this age of cyberspace, there's something deeply appealing about live theatre.
I sat there gazing at the actors, immersed in a super-wide unobstructed view of the production, enjoying a 3-D immersement in the action, feeling like the cast were so close to me I could almost touch them. Gosh, the show was better than any sort of virtual reality, because...
It was freaking real reality!
For the price of a few generously equipped and sized expresso drinks, Laurel and I had a marvelous Salem entertainment experience. My only gripe was that so many seats were unfilled. The cast and crew got enthusiastic applause (even when the stage's "applause" sign wasn't lit up), but they deserved a packed house.
So get with it, Salem.
Enlightened Theatrics is putting on very high quality productions.
Their tag line is "Broadway to Salem." I've never seen a Broadway Show, but I've seen lots of professional plays/musicals. Our local theatre company is offering shows that are just as good, but a heck of a lot less expensive and easier to get to (no drive to Portland or Eugene).
The acting, singing, and dancing last night were simply superb.
"The 1940's Radio Hour" starts off rather slowly, then builds in energy as the live radio hour begins. I've got to believe this is a pretty accurate reflection of how musical radio shows did things back in those days.
Makeup, hair, clothes, NY accents, general 40's vibe, musicians (who are on stage) -- the whole presentation of the play seemed perfect to me. And given the loose, relaxed spontaneity of the production, there really was no way to tell if there were any "bloopers."
If so, they must have added to, rather than detracted from, the action. These actors (about half from Oregon, and half from other states) are so skilled, they could make a forgotten line into an unforgettable moment.
Speaking of such... one of mine was a rendition of "Blues in the Night" by, I'm pretty sure, actress Allison Barrale, who lives in New York. Playing Ginger, when she posed in various sultry ways on a chair while singing the song, I was mesmerized.
Lastly, I enjoyed the Director's Note in the back of the program. Here's how it ends:
The people we notice and name in our history books are the ones at the top of the pile, the crest of that wave. But they are never first nor can they exist alone. Just as a wave needs an ocean under it, there are oceans of people who had to be the first to push the boundaries, to be at the beginning of the idea that snowballs into a revolution.
1942 saw FDR's call for inclusion, no matter race or gender, to band together, working side by side for our future. Eleanor Roosevelt as well, calling on women to take a new place, to inhabit a newly expanded version of female.
In a time of transition when our comfortable ideas of what men and women are, what they should do and who they should be. When we, sometimes in spite of ourselves, are being forced to see the gifts our neighbors bring to our community, regardless of age or race or gender... home is supposed to be the place where there is room for whoever you are AND whoever you are becoming.
Even when that might make us uncomfortable. Because that is what family, born and built, is for.
Welcome to our home.
Jamie M. Rea
Director, The 1940's Radio Hour