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The 1940's Radio Hour

The attractive aspects of The 1940's Radio Hour are plain to see. It's got all those great songs and the setting is nothing but nostalgia—an old time radio station with all the trappings, including quaint live ads, live sound effects, and a host of colorful characters.

If you spent time listening to radio during this era, whether at home or overseas, here's a look at what was going on backstage—at the Hotel Astor's Algonquin Room on December 21, 1942—while you were missing your sweetie. Perhaps this explains why it's been performed by 8,000 theatres and now has a sequel.

Alicia Dunfee as Ginger Brooks
Alicia Dunfee as Ginger Brooks
Photo: Boulder's Dinner Theatre
Nevertheless, it's not great theatre. From the time the talented ensemble at Boulder's Dinner Theatre (BDT) begins tinkering around on stage, preparing the station for the live show, it's about a half an hour before "Clifton and the Boutineers" finally perform the opening number, "Kalamazoo." By then, half the audience is asleep from plotless shtick and small talk.

The only drama here—which performers won't show up on time, because they've been carousing and canoodling, and who will get their big break because of this—isn't enough to sustain a storyline.

Regardless, BDT's song and dance and character work is stellar, and the eight-piece band, with Neil Dunfee on piano and conducting, swings. Kent Sugg and A.K. Klimpke share duties during the run as Clifton E. Feddington, the emcee, who not only directs the show and provides continuity, but must handle all the off-air personnel issues. On the night of the review, Sugg's energy kept everything moving smoothly.

Brandon Dill as BJ Gibson, Shelly Cox-Robie as Ann Collier, Joanie Brousseau-Beyette as Connie Miller, and Scot Beyette as Neal Tilden
Brandon Dill as BJ Gibson,
Shelly Cox-Robie as Ann Collier,
Joanie Brousseau-Beyette as Connie Miller,
and Scot Beyette as Neal Tilden
Photo: Boulder's Dinner Theatre
Joanie Brousseau-Beyette, as Connie, brings loads of glitter to a series of song and dance numbers, including "Daddy,", "How About You," and "Five O'Clock Whistle," and teams up with Alicia Dunfee, as Ginger, and Brandon Dill, as BJ Gibson, in a peppy "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy." Dunfee, who also directs and choreographs, follows with a sexy rendition of "Blues in the Night," having her way with five male dancers.

Barb Reeves as Geneva Lee Browne and Neal Dunfee as Zoot Doubleman
Barb Reeves as Geneva Lee Browne
and Neal Dunfee as Zoot Doubleman
Photo: Boulder's Dinner Theatre
"Black Magic" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," never sounded better than enveloped by the crystalline soprano of Shelly Cox-Robie. In an interesting twist, Barb Reeves (former Rare Silk member whose solo CD is entitled "White Girl from Boulder"), plays Geneva Lee Browne, a soul sister, and does an admirable job infusing some grit into "Rose of the Rio Grande" and "You Go to My Head."

In a tip of the fedora to a real-life drama from that era, there's Johnny Cantone, a boozing Italian crooner who's looking to turn around his once bright, now plummeting career in Hollywood. As Cantone, Brian Norber retrieves the genre's fusion of enigmatic melancholy and the romantic come-on in "Love is Here to Stay" and "I'll Never Smile Again."

In a quixotic turn as the ambitious, but talent-deficient Neal, Scott Beyette meets the challenge of masking his surfeit of talent, as Neal flubs his big chance. This leaves the door open for BJ Gibson—a mellifluous Brandon Dill with a perfect piece of period crooning—to win the job as Cantone's replacement.

Cindy Lawrence as Lou-Ann and Wayne Kennedy as Pops Bailey
Cindy Lawrence as Lou-Ann and
Wayne Kennedy as Pops Bailey
Photo: Boulder's Dinner Theatre
Even the studio caretaker, Pops, gets into the act, with Wayne Kennedy's scat-peppered "Don't Get Around Much Anymore."

Amy Campion's impressively detailed set and Linda Morken's fun costumes add to the authenticity.

Boulder's Dinner Theatre's The 1940's Radio Hour runs through January 28th. 303-449-6000.

 

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