Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
"The 1940's Radio Hour" is so considered and exquisite a distillation of its period that at least two immediate reactions are likely from this new muscial at the Kreeger Theater, where the run is through Dec. 17.
If you lived through the '40s you are likely to well up with teary eyes and then chuckle with delight. If you arrived too late for that, you first will hoot and then become ever so tender.
This is lovely, lovely little piece, performed with adroit guile. It does for the 1940s what "The Boy Friend" did for the '20's. Played with impeccable faithfuless - and with some orchestrations of the period which an 11-piece band manage to make sound wholly authentic - "The 1940's Radio Hour" suggests more than it states. May the 1970s do as well when some future Yale creator imagine a past they never knew.
Writer-director Walton Jones, through either impossible recall or his Yale training, gives us exactly what his title states, the performance of one of those aural hours of jazz, commercials, religion, patriotism and genial sentimentally which were a part of American life when FDR was girding us up for battle. There is only the slenderest thread of a plot about one of the principals about to don a uniform and one of the girls, a tap-dancer, flashing about in red, white and blue.
What Jones has perceived is only a mood, surely long before his time, of how we were then. The insouciance, the bravura, the razzmatazz and, above all, the innocence of 35 years back are caught in myriad, delicious details.
The radio studio setting has a casualness one didn't find in the self-conscious similar little play Joseph Papp produced last winter in Astor Place and then took uptown. From the "Pops" Reilly of the stage door to the sassy "Johnny Cantone" (who knew Sinatra when, meaning only a few months before fame hit), these characters are deliciously embodied.
Just as vital are the orchestrations Gary Fagin and Paul Schierhorn have reconstructed from the well-replayed Glenn Miller sounds of the era.
Films of the period must have led these creators in the right direction but their own taste has kept them from pushing too far. There is the ingenue who smirks and taps, smilingly portrayed by Crissy Wilzak, and the "Grease" progenitor smirkingly etched by Jeff Keller. There is the statuesque type limned by Franchelle Stewart Dorn and the knotty fellow created by Paul Schierhorn. All dozen of these characters are busy and honorably so.
The band is a gloriously zingy unit for a show that is magical and unique. "The 1940's Radio Hour" brings 'emback alive.