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Review: The Arvada Center Warms the Holiday Season With 1940’s Radio Hour

1940’s Radio Hour is a holiday story that only briefly touches on the holidays. But set in a cozy radio studio on a snowy day in December 1941, it’s sure to conjure nostalgic thoughts of holidays past. The play centers around the hour-long broadcast for the troops overseas, but the audience is treated to much more than the delightful radio broadcast filled with classic tunes. By peeking behind the scenes, the audience is treated to more than a well-crafted radio show — a hilarious, touching slice of life from the 1940s.


Radio Hour Brings Nostalgia In Time for the Holidays

HE SAID: Well, that was simply delightful, wasn’t it? This not-so-abudantly-holiday play with music is really just such a joy to watch that everyone leaving the theatre at the end of the night had a smile on their face and bounce in their step (probably still humming “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” in their head). The reason I call it a play with music instead of a musical is because the songs do very little, if anything, to advance the story or truly develop the characters. Some songs provide some great oppotunities for characters to shine, but mostly they are there to entertain and share the beautiful 1940’s sound with the audience. The real meat of the piece lies in the scenes, which are endlessly hilarious.

SHE SAID: I was totally ready for a holiday-themed show that wasn’t hitting me over the head with well-worn Christmas messages and themes. Although 1940s Radio Hour takes place over the holidays, it’s really a small part of the play, and very little about what makes it touching. The show is written very well — it’s classy and nostalgic, but it also moves quickly and therefore feels more modern. The songs are all period-specific, but even within that period there are a variety of styles and themes, and so it stays fresh and entertaining. With the large cast and band onstage the entire time, there’s a sense of urgency, excitement and bustle that keeps the energy high for the whole evening.

Fast-Paced Comedy Moves Show Along

HE SAID: The show definitely moved along at a nice clip, sometimes reaching an almost Sorkin-esque pace in the dialogue, but the cast was also able to find delightful dynamics in the rhythm of the show. In fact, the comedic timing in the performances we saw were stellar. John Arp as the show’s producer, Clifton Fedddington, was responsible for the delivery of the old vintage commercials that always delivered a surprising punchline and hearty laughter in the theatre. The biggest laughs of the night came during Ben Dicke’s performance of “Bloon Moon”. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. But the whole ensemble – each with their own distinct bits – deliver a wealth of wonderful moments to the show.

SHE SAID: This is a true ensemble show — with 13 cast members, all with solo numbers and duets, it’s unclear who is starring and who is supporting whom. What was remarkable to me is that not a single performance failed to impress. From the outrageously talented (and constantly busy) Joseph Bearss, who kept the radio show running smoothly while providing sound effects for all of the segments to the velvety voices of all of the women in the cast, almost every performance was extremely smooth, but also very warm and realistic. Both Shannan Steele and Gayle Turner gave me goosebumps during their numbers, and the rest of the cast wasn’t trailing far behind their masterful voices.

Design Perfectly Supports Story at Arvada Center

HE SAID: I am a sucker for live foley sounds and these were not only fun to watch as they were being created but Bearss also brought a lot of comedy to the performance. The foley sounds were just one of many details that brought this world into a beautiful life. The band music stands, the Coca-Cola machine, and the neon sign outside glowing in the falling snow were all wonderful touches and worked in tandem with the talent and music to fully envelope me in the piece.

SHE SAID: The entire experience was up to the high standards to which we’ve come to hold the Arvada Center. Scenic design by Brian Mallgrave was charming, just busy enough and perfectly period. The sound design (Steve Stevens) was especially challenging — creating the illusion that the sound from body mics were coming from the stand-microphones on the floor, and it went off just seamlessly. And I have to say that the costumes by Chris Campbell were delightful — including a patterned silk dress and matching shoes that I seriously would like to steal.

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There’s No Reason To Not Visit the 1940’s This Holiday Season

THEY SAID: The Arvada Center has brought back 1940’s Radio Hour due to popular demand and it is easy to see why. The script for this play-with-music is absurdly funny and when combined with the bouncing swing/velvet crooning of the 1940’s musical sound, all performed by a first rate cast, there is no down side to found at all. So bundle up, head on down to Arvada, sit back and enjoy what is sure to be one of the holiday season’s best offerings.

Arvada Center, Denver, Theatre, Theater, ReviewsFor more information on 1940’s Radio Hour , see the wikipedia article. 1940s Radio Hour plays through December 23 at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities. Click the banner above for tickets and more information.


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