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Springfield Community Theatre Radio Drama

By • Sep 30th, 2010 • Category: Reviews
Radio Drama
Springfield Community Theatre
Immanuel United Methodist Church, Annandale, VA
Through October 3rd
2:20 with one intermission
$18/$16 Students and Seniors
Reviewed September 26, 2010

Radio Drama is not a straight play, but actually three old time radio shows: The Death House Rescue, The Threat of the White Legion, and the unforgettable War of the Worlds. Orson Welles was heavily involved in the original broadcasts of these three shows in 1937 and 1938.

The ensemble cast projected well and were quite understandable, even managing to change voices depending on their character. In The Death House Rescue David James played Lefty, a desperate young man who took a job that put him in the wrong place at the wrong time. James projected a very nervous nasally voice that filled the listening audience with agitation. Later in The War of the Words James spoke with an intensity that grabbed the audience’s attention. Denis Romas served as The Shadow/Lamont Cranston in the first two dramas. Roma was quite expressive as he “spoke” as the invisible man to different characters, and was very effective in changing his voice as he interacted with his wife, the police, or the bad guys. Bill Hensel played both Orson Welles and Professor Pierson in The War of the Words. He was successful in being authoritative in his inflections, and later showing panic and excitement as he explored the new world the Martians had left behind.

Dan DeVany’s sound effects kept the play from becoming too mundane. The door slams and gun shots took one back to the “good ol’ days” when sound was the only way to enhance a story and make it come alive.

Overall, the pacing of the evening occasionally dragged. While each individual radio play was interesting, there wasn’t a significant difference between the two Shadow plays. We’d recommend dropping one of them, probably The Threat of the White Legion.

On the whole, Springfield Community Theatre has organized an enjoyable evening of 1930’s radio drama. The visuals were basic, the stories were interesting, but a bit drawn out.

Background Notes

Walter B. Gibson was a freelance writer for many publications, including the popular pulp-fiction magazine “True Detective.” In the early 1930s Gibson introduced a new, intermittent crime fighter known as The Shadow to “True Detective” readers. The became increasingly popular, with increasing demands for more Shadow episodes, which were naturally followed by pulp novellas with The Shadow as the hero. For the rest of the 1930s, Gibson wrote over 200 such Shadow novellas, as well as the story line for the Shadow comic strip and comic books, also immensely popular. Inevitably, th Shadow made the leap to radio. In 1937, young Orson Welles became the voice of Lamont Cranston, alias The Shadow. Our first presentation this evening is Welles’ first episode, broadcast in September 1937 and titled Death House Rescue. Welles was the voice of The Shadow for only one season then moved to larger projects with Mercury Theatre.

Our second presentation this evening “The White Legion,” was Welles’ final Shadow episode, broadcast in May 1938. In Mid-season, Cranston’s companion and confidante, Margot Lane, became a new and permanent character of the series (played by Mercury Theatre Cast member Agnes Morehead). The radio series continued for many years without Welles and Morehead as the leading characters. Welles was already at work on “The War of The World” with co-Producer John Houseman and The Mercury Theatre, and the project was ready for broadcast on Halloween Eve, October 1938.

“The War of the Worlds” is arguably the most famous radio drama ever broadcast, because of th panic it created throughout the nation. Listeners who missed the opening announcement that the broadcast was an adaptation of H.G. Wells novel thought they were listening to live broadcast news broadcasts of an invasion from Mars, and the stories of irrational behavior ar legendary. The radio adaptation was written by Howard koch, who a few years later won the Oscar for his screenplay of “Casablanca,” and was directed by Welles. H.G. Welles was reported to have been unhappy with the liberties Koch and Welles had taken with his novel.

As you view and her our production, try to imagine a time prior to World War II when television was a new invention, not yet markete, and people worldwide depended upon radio and newspapers for all of their news, information, commercials, sports, and entertainment. Try to envision the creativity of other radio industry to bring story lines, vocal energy, and sound effects into millions of homes and offices world wide, without the benefit of pictures and graphics. It was quite a challenge to hold the listeners’ attention. If our production does not contain enough physical activity to suit you, try closing your eyes and letting your imagination take over for a few minutes. And please remember that these broadcasts were entertainment, a diversion from life’s problems. We hope they are as much fun today as they were during the Golden Age of Radio. It’s too bad that we don’t still have Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Fibber McGee and mollie, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Tom mix, Superman, The Green Hornet, Stella Dallas, Jack Armstrong (the list coul go on for pages) on our radios today. We hope you have as much fun in our audience as we have had in rehearsing and perfoming live radio for you.

Finally, our thanks and appreciation to John Holt, station engineer at WAMU, for the use of his vintage microphones from his personal collection, and to Mark and Marsha Bush for th loan of some of our Foley sound effects, also from their personal collection. Finally, thanks to John Reiser for the loan of his sound mixer and his technical sound assistnce, as well as to Rob Henshaw for the use of part of his vintage magazine collection. Enjoy.

Donald Neal, Producer

Cast: The Death House Rescue

  • The Shadow/ Lamont Cranston: Denis Roma
  • Network Announcer: Brian Bochicchio
  • Lefty: David James
  • Red: Donald Neal
  • Grace: Bridget Myers
  • Gordon: Paul Rubenstein
  • The Warden: Bill Hensel
  • Voice Ensemble: Cathy Gallagher, Mary Whipple, Jeff Whipple, Brandon Brylawski

Cast: The Threat of the White Legion

  • Network Announcer: Brandon Brylawski
  • Devens: Brian Bochicchio
  • Judge: Bill Hensel
  • The Shadow/Cranston: Denis Roma
  • Margot Lane: Bridget Myers
  • Alton Parker: Brian Bochicchio
  • Helen Parker: Cathy Gallagher
  • Hartney Clays: David James
  • Voice Ensemble: Mary Whipple, Paul Rubenstein, Donald Neal

Cast: The War of the Worlds

  • Network Announcers: Brian Bochicchio and Brandon Brylawski
  • Orson Welles/ Professor Pierson: Bill Hensel
  • Carl Phillips: Paul Rubenstein
  • Mr. Wilmuth/The Stranger: David James
  • Voice Ensemble: Cathy Gallagher, Mary Whipple, Jeff Whipple, Bridget Myers, Denis Roma, Donald Neal

Crew

  • Director: Dan DeVany
  • Producer: Donald Neal
  • Light Designer: Chris Hardy
  • Sound Design: Dan deVany
  • Assisted by: John Holt, Martha and Frank Bush and John Reiser
  • Production Assistant: Anita Gardner

Disclaimer: Springfield Community Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.

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