Community theater group revives golden age of radio

Friday, March 1, 2013
Katie Cole and Bill Dunn rehearse for the River City Players presentation of ‘Retro Radio.’ (Laura Simon)

Don't touch that dial. Stay tuned for "Retro Radio," starting tonight when the River City Players community theater kicks off its 2013 season with a dinner theater production that is a tribute to the golden age of radio.

Directed by Tana Howard, "Retro Radio" includes iconic radio skits -- "The Return of Butch Cavendish" from "The Lone Ranger," "The Hands of Death" from "The Shadow" and "The Tax Refund" from "The Bickersons," as well as the classic routine "Who's on First?" that was made famous by the comedy team of Abbott and Costello.

"This is a tribute to the way they used to do things," Howard said. "If you go back to the old days, radio programs were broadcast live in front of a studio audience, and in this production we'll have the opportunity to get the audience involved.

"We're encouraging the audience to applaud the good guys and hiss at the bad guys and whistle or stomp as the stories unfold."

The radio station is KRCP, with the call letters standing for River City Players.

Heather Themm steps on Cheerios and Chex for sound effects for the River City Players presentation of 'Retro Radio.'

The audience will see the ensemble cast as it performs in a reproduction radio studio. The actors will be at microphones, and the Foley artists will provide sound effects, just as they did in the days of live radio with its serial programs that entertained families on a daily and weekly basis.

The term Foley artist comes from Jack Donovan Foley, who originated the art of reproducing everyday sounds, such as a door slamming, brakes screeching or footsteps, to create a sense of reality.

The 10-member cast includes Larry Davis as the announcer, and the other members play various roles in the four programs, from Tonto, the Lone Ranger's faithful companion, to Lamont Cranston, aka, The Shadow. Others in the cast are Patrick Abbott, Mike Craig, Katie Cole, Paul King, Bill Dunn, Heather Themm, Emily Hornburg, Natasha Dannenmuller and Jeniese Fox.

"Some in the cast are regular River City Player performers, and we have some veterans returning to the stage. We also have a newcomer in the cast," said Howard, whose most recently directed the troupe in "The Ransom of Red Chief," based on the short story by O. Henry.

Included in the production are a number of jingles advertising downtown Cape Girardeau merchants that support the River City Players. Written by Howard, the jingles sing the praises of businesses such as Annie Laurie's Antiques, Cup'n'Cork, Ervin's Metalsmiths, Hutson Furniture, Jayson Jewelers, Realty Executives of Cape County and Rhea Optical. Other business supporters are Shivelbine's Music Store and Port Cape Girardeau.

Heather Themm and Bill Dunn rehearse “The Bickersons” for the River City Players presentation of ‘Retro Radio.’ The show is a tribute to the Golden Age of Radio. (Laura Simon)

"Jingles were, and still are, a big part of radio," Howard said. "For this show, we've taken old nursery rhymes and adapted them in a witty, cute and corny fashion to thank the sponsors of the production." Howard said the jingles will be performed live by the troupe's singers.

The show's intermission will be nearly as entertaining as the show, itself: The audience is invited to dance to music of the 1930s.

Performances will be at Port Cape Girardeau, 19 N. Water St. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m., with a buffet dinner at 7 p.m. and the show will begin at 8 p.m. Performances will take place tonight, Saturday, March 8 and March 9. Tickets cost $35 per person. A show-only performance will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at a cost of $15 per person.

Reservations are recommended and may be made by calling 334-0954.

Auditions for the River City Players next production, "Rumors" by Neil Simon, will begin at 2 p.m. March 10 at Port Cape Girardeau. The cast will include five women and five men.


Pertinent address:

19 N. Water St., Cape Girardeau.

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