On the air

Set your dial to ‘The 1940s Radio Hour’

By: Maria Allard | Farmington Press | Published November 30, 2012

 Jim Moll, left, and Keith Firstenburg, both of Farmington Hills, rehearse a scene in “The 1940s Radio Hour.”

Jim Moll, left, and Keith Firstenburg, both of Farmington Hills, rehearse a scene in “The 1940s Radio Hour.”

Photos courtesy of Jim Kelly

Show dates and times for the Farmington Players’ “The 1940s Radio Hour” are:
8 p.m. Dec. 7-8; 2 p.m. Dec. 9; 8 p.m. Dec. 14-15; 2 p.m. Dec. 16; 8 p.m. Dec. 20-22. Adult tickets are $18 each, and students receive $2 off any performance. There is a $2 discount Dec. 20. Groups of 10 or more people also receive a $2 discount. Tickets are available at www.farmingtonplayers.org and the box office by calling (248) 553-2955.

It’s Christmas, 1942, and the Mutual Manhattan Variety Cavalcade is gearing up for its final holiday radio broadcast to entertain the troops stationed overseas in World War II.

Airtime is just minutes away at WOV in New York City, but chaos, an inebriated lead singer, an incompetent soundman and other misfortunes threaten to ruin the broadcast.

Will the show come together in time? Will it be a Merry Christmas after all? Stay tuned.

This month, the Farmington Players brings “The 1940s Radio Hour” to the stage.  After nearly three months of rehearsals, the troupe is ready for the stage. On Nov. 28, two days before opening night, the group performed for a small audience during a final run-through.

“It went so well. I couldn’t be more proud of them,” director and Waterford resident Rachael Rose said. “It’s a great show.”

The musical comedy by Walton Jones, based on an idea he devised with Carol Lees, has everything it takes to be a hit: a talented ensemble cast, camaraderie, pandemonium, special sound effects and a live big band performing WWII-era songs. Adding to the story — and commotion — is a delivery boy who wants a chance at the microphone, and the second banana who aspires to sing a ballad over the airwaves.

The musical is interactive, and the audience becomes part of the show. That’s because the cast plays to the theatergoers as though it is speaking directly to the live audience of radio station WOV.

“It’s got a lot going on. It’s pretty patriotic. It has some Christmas elements in it,” said Farmington Hills resident Jim Moll, who portrays Clifton Feddington. “The music is really solid. There’s a little bit of dancing. It’s truly an ensemble show. It’s been a joy to be a part of it.”

Moll, 61, described his character as overbearing with a paternal nature. Think Garrison Keillor.

Amy Lauter, of Farmington Hills, was cast as Ann Collier, one of the radio program’s staple singers. Lauter found that she and her character share a common bond.

“From her background she sings as a young child,” Lauter, 35, said. As an adult, Ann gets a regular job. “She’s a secretary by day and does the radio show in her spare time. She’s happy with a normal life and this little bit of celebrity.”

Lauter, too, sang as a young girl. She dreamed of playing “Annie” on stage and eventually went to college, and now the busy mom works in sales at a graphics company. But the desire to be in the spotlight never went away.

“I still have the opportunity to perform,” she said. “There’s something about getting the applause and getting the recognition. Once it started, I liked it.”

“The 1940s Radio Hour” hits close to home for Rose, whose parents grew up listening to music heard on the airwaves during WWII. Rose, whose husband, Michael, was cast as Wally Fergusson in the show, also is a veteran. She served two years in the U.S. Army from 1988-90 as a Chinese interpreter.

“It was certainly a learning time for me,” said Rose, whose brother served in Desert Storm. “You make bonds in the military you don’t make anywhere else.”

After Wednesday’s dress rehearsal, some audience members who remember the big band era well sang along to the musical’s songs, which include “Strike Up the Band” and “Love Is Here to Stay.”

“They said they couldn’t stop smiling,” Rose said.

Jose Reyes, of Royal Oak, is the show’s musical director, and Farmington Hills resident Jarrod Henderson is the choreographer.

The Farmington Players Barn is located at 32332 W. 12 Mile Road on the north side of the road, between Orchard Lake and Farmington roads. Tickets cost $18 for adults, $16 for students, and are available at www.farmingtonplayers.org and the box office by calling (248) 553-2955.