I was genuinely disturbed and disappointed by Bonnie Gordon’s review of the Los Alamos Little Theater’s production of the 1940’s Radio Hour on November 5, 2016. I attended the same opening performance and it was a wonderful experience, enjoyed by every single person in the house with the obvious exception of Bonnie. I agree with Bonnie that she was not the ideal person to review the play and go further in saying she should have recused herself.
Yes, the characters were stereotypes but so what? Show me one play or movie in which that is not the case to at least some degree. We relate to stereotypes. We understand stereotypes and when they are funny, we love them. The cast does not simply do their best — they were superb in fleshing out those characters.
Let us not forget that these were the types of characters who gave the nation some very sorely needed relief and hope during a time when young men and women were dying around the world. And those same characters brought a bit of sunshine to those troops around the world who desperately needed to hear something cheery from home, troops facing death as a daily fact of their existence.
This is a delightful and heartwarming reminder of the desperate struggle taking place in 1942, just a year after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Radio was the primary source of entertainment in the home and many of those homes were terrified with worried about their loved ones in the military somewhere overseas. Radio was nearly the only source of cheer during those dark winter months. For the troops, it was a touch of home and it had a very positive impact on their morale, an impact that is almost impossible to comprehend today.
Go back and listen to some of the radio archives of shows broadcast during that era. Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Abbott and Costello, the Great Gildersleeve, Fibber McGee and Molly, just to name a few. Of course they were exaggerated, outrageously exaggerated but they were loved by all, perhaps because of the exaggerated characterizations but also because they gave some brief relief from grim and desperate circumstances.
I repeat that this show is absolutely wonderful, with a great collection of talent, fantastic music (Boogy Woogy Bugle Boy of Company B will blow your socks off), and stagecraft that is awesome. Twenty characters on stage for one hour and 45 minutes involves some extremely difficult challenges and Laurie Tomlinson and staff have done a superb job in keeping everything well defined and moving.
Friday is Veterans Day here in the United States. I submit that this rollicking show gives a very moving glimpse into part of the life of 1942. If you know a World War 2, veteran, invite him along. I bet that veteran will love the show. Any veteran for that matter.