Audiences can take a step back to December 1942 when Hope College Theatre presents "The 1940's Radio Hour" by Walton Jones in the DeWitt Center main theatre from Thursday, Nov. 20, through Tuesday, Nov. 25, at a variety of times.
Show times are Thursday, Nov. 20, at 8 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 21, at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 22, at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 24 and 25, at 7 p.m.
The production features a colorful cast of characters working on The Mutual Manhattan Variety Cavalcade. There's the announcer and producer always in search of his bromo; the Sinatra-wannabe lead singer who just can't keep it together; the bubble-headed waitress who speaks with a Gracie Allen vacancy---until she opens her mouth to sing that is, and many more.
"'The 1940's Radio Hour' takes us back to the days of radio variety shows and radio drama," said John K.V. Tammi, who is the production's director. "The remarkable thing is that it is both a stage show and a radio broadcast, very much like attending Garrison Keeler's 'Prairie Home Companion' in person. There will be music from the swing era, well-known love songs, comedy routines and radio drama with sound effects."
Some of the songs in the production include "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "Blues in the Night," "I'll Be Seeing You" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Tammi and the rest of the cast have been working closely with members of the department of music at Hope on the production. "Working closely with the music department is something we always enjoy, but in this case we are putting that collaboration at center stage," Tammi said.
Conductor Brian Coyle and the jazz ensemble will be featured as Zoot Doubleman and his orchestra. Two other members of the music department faculty are in key positions: Linda Dykstra as vocal director, and Edye Hyde as vocal and style coach. Dance major Kari Burke of Saint Marys, Ohio, is serving as choreographer.
Tammi noted that he finds working with students on the production especially rewarding. "Perhaps I'm most happy that this play will give our students a chance to learn about the time when their grandparents were young and in love, jitterbugging to the big band sound and crooning the songs that are now standards of the American popular songbook," he said. The play takes place during the dark days of World War II but it is full of American optimism, a quality that is being referred to in the current political conversation."
Another draw for the audience will be Equity guest artist Chip Duford, who is a 1990 Hope graduate and Hope Summer Repertory Theatre favorite. Michelle Bombe, who is director of theatre at Hope, said that Duford "has just the right touch and great voice for this period and he is always a charmer--audiences always love him. Plus, this is a real homecoming for Chip. He was actually in this production as a student when it was last performed at Hope 20 years ago."
In addition to Tammi, faculty members working on the production team are Michelle Bombe, costume designer; Perry Landes, lighting and sound designer; and Richard Smith, scenic and property designer. Serving as technical director is staff member Paul Anderson.
Several other students are also serving on the production team: assistant costume designer, Lisa Borton of Hudson; rehearsal accompanist, Larry Figueroa of Holland; assistant sound designer, Jeri Frederickson of Wheaton, Ill.; dramaturg, Cassie Niespodziewanski of Clarendon Hills, Ill.; assistant stage manager, Brittni Nowicki of West Bloomfield; properties co-designer, Katie Terpstra of Zeeland; assistant stage manager, Amanda VanAssen of Grand Rapids; and stage manager, Laura Van Tassell of Spencer, Iowa.
Members of the cast include: Tom Bird of Baraboo, Wis., as Neal Tilden; Lauren Conley of White Lake as Connie Miller; Andrew Gras of Holland as Stanley; Jared Graybiel of Lebanon, Ind., as B.J. Gibson; Nick Hemeren of Skovde, Sweden, as Biff Baker; Ben Hertel of New Richmond as Lou Cohn; Scott L. Kosiba of Vicksburg as Johnny Cantone; Lucas Leavenworth of Naperville, Ill., as Pops Bailey; Evann Potts of Kalamazoo as Wally Fergusson; Kalyn Rivers of Flossmoor, Ill., as Geneva Lee Browne; Brittany Stock of St. Charles, Ill., as Ann Collier; and Candice Tindell of Grayslake, Ill., as Ginger Brooks.
Tickets for "The 1940's Radio Hour" are $7 for regular admission, $5 for Hope faculty and staff, and $4 for students and senior citizens, and are available in the ticket office inside the east entrance of the DeVos Fieldhouse, which is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition, the theatre lobby ticket office in the DeWitt Center will be open on performance days shortly before the curtain rises. The ticket office may be contacted at (616) 395-7890.
The DeVos Fieldhouse is located at 222 Fairbanks Ave. between Ninth and 11th streets. The DeWittCenter is located at 141 E. 12th St., facing Columbia Avenue at 12th Street.