Review: 'The 1940's Radio Hour' by Landmark Community Theatre

Nancy Sasso Janis

“Celebrate the holidays with a vintage family musical!”

Landmark Community Theatre is doing just that with their current production of ‘The 1940’s Radio Hour’ by Walton Jones. Dan Checovetes directs this period piece that features a list of characters broadcasting classic musical numbers, comedy and radio spots at a seedy little New York radio station for the troops overseas. 

Set at the beginning of World War II, lights come up (beautifully) with the crotchety stage doorkeeper/race bookie Pops Bailey (Jeff Savage) arriving at the station. He is followed by the delivery boy who wants nothing more than a chance in front of the mike, the harassed radio producer, the often drunk leading singer, the second banana, the sound effects guy and a cavalcade of others with a backstory. After probably too much pre-show interaction, the cast gets down to the Mutual Manhattan Variety Cavalcade broadcast and we, the studio audience, are taken back to the era of radio.

There is dancing thrown in just for the studio audience, although presumably listeners could hear the tap number, and the choreography by Rhiannon Carta is very well done. The set designed by the director, Alex Dunn and Jim Luurtsema brought us into an old-time radio studio and the costumes designed by the incomparable Barbara Piscopo (with her army of assistants) added to the feel of the era.

High school history teacher Allen Marko played the sometimes hysterical announcer and general manager of WOV and was the complete opposite of Tom Chute (Billy Flynn in Landmark’s hit ‘Chicago,’) the modern day manager of the show’s media sponsor 1320 WATR. Steve Sorriero provided the wonderful sound effects and reminded the audience to obey the lighted applause sign. Robert Saunders of Thomaston played the featured crooner with a drink in his hand and Frank Beaudry was perfectly cast as the cab driver who is eyeing that featured vocalist spot. Mr. Beaudry’s comic timing, singing and dancing made his character so much fun to watch.

Another fun character was WAMS senior Nolan Cummings as the eager delivery boy Wally Ferguson. His antics had both me and his classmate sitting next to me giggling throughout. WAMS graduate Justin Normandin played the handsome trumpet player Biff Baker who is heading off to war. 

Betsy Ingraham sang well as the standard vocalist Ann Collier and Becky Sawicki (Ariel in LCT’s ‘Little Mermaid’) brought her impressive talents to the role of the young bobby soxer Connie Miller. 

It was so good to see Alexa Campagna on the Thomaston Opera House stage for the first time in the role of the bubble-headed Ginger Brooks. Ms. Campagna was an impossibly cute bombshell and sang beautifully on “Blues in the Night” with the guys.  

I looked forward to Geneva Lee Browne’s solo because the amazing Carletha Hawley (Mama Morton in Landmark’s ‘Chicago’) was able to use that voice to perform “At Last.” Naugatuck High School graduate Michael Newman was strong in his role as the squeaky-clean and preppy B.J. Gibson; his duet with Ms. Sawicki on “How About You?” was a musical highlight.

Jim Luurtsema was part of the action as bandleader Zoot Doubleman, in addition to conducting the onstage orchestra. Pianist John Dressel was the co-musical director.  The musicians had the requisite Big Band sound and deserved to take their bow at curtain call. 

Before the opening night performance, Executive Director Jeff Dunn honored long-time organist Juan Cardona Jr. in the Thomaston Opera House Volunteer Spotlight. The audience was treated to a video of Mr. Cardona speaking about his many years playing the magnificent theatre organ and we even got to see some of the inner workings of the instrument. 

The final production of the 2015 Season is a big band holiday musical, 1940’S RADIO HOUR, runs December 4, 5, 11, 12 @ 8pm and November 28, 29, December 6, 13 @ 2pm. Tickets: Adults $24.00 Seniors & Students $20.00