Sunday, November 22, 2009

The 1940s Radio Hour, Austin Community College Choir at One World Theatre, November 17-19

I knew that The 1940s Radio Hour done last week at the One World Theatre by the Austin Community College Choir would provide us a time machine to amusement. The surprise for me was the dipsy-doodle movement of that flight through time.

I went to the 11:30 a.m. performance, enjoying the novel sensation of driving in daylight to a theatre performance. I got there half an hour early, picked up my ticket, hiked upstairs to the theatre and was astonished to find myself walking into a capacious performance space with almost every seat already filled. I had to scramble to get a front seat to the far right of the stage.

Looking a little closer, I realized that I'd unwittingly signed up for the "senior special" performance -- rarely had I seen such a vast display of tidily coiffed older women. Yes, I saw some men here and there, usually of the same age, but for a moment it was if the Frank Sinatra fan club of 1942 had been waiting eagerly and patiently in that magic space for the past 68 years. Buzzing and happy, they didn't mind that the show started ten minutes late.

Strictly speaking, most of these folks were probably toddlers back in 1942, so the time warp wasn't exactly perfect. But the ACC choir players gave us good renditions of the golly-gee-whiz all-American entertainment of the 40s, so it hardly mattered.

The set-up for the Radio Hour is familiar -- it's exactly the sort of ensemble piece about young hopefuls in the entertainment world churned out in the various Big Broadcast films of the 1930s and perfected by Arthur Freed at MGM. The hassled, abrupt producer; his dutiful second banana ordering the players around; a crooner with a drinking problem; a cute girl group, the Boutineers, that's a direct knock-off of the Andrews sisters; a couple of clean-cut young men, one destined for the Army Air Force and another taking the relay from his older brothers, now both in the service; "Pops," the janitor; the Judy Garland vulnerable heart of gold, and the tough sexy blonde who reeks of late nights with sugar daddies.

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