Saturday, November 16, 2013

Radio City Playhouse Features Three Classic Radio Shows

The Senior Actors Theatre of Slidell (SATS) will transform Slidell Little Theatre tonight into Radio City Playhouse.  They will perform three shows from the golden age of radio and WGSO 990 AM will broadcast the show over the internet and the radio.  The three shows SATS will perform are Little Orphan Annie, Our Miss Brooks, and Stagecoach.  These shows were very popular and eventually turned into other mediums: one a television show and one had the honor of becoming a movie and a Broadway production.  Stagecoach was originally a movie re-enacted for the radio.

Little Orphan Annie
 Little Orphan Annie was a fifteen minute show that debuted in Chicago in 1930 on WGN.  It was adapted from the comic strip that was created by Harold Gray.  Gray got the name from the 1885 poem Little Orphant Annie by James Whitcomb Riley. The show followed the adventures of Annie and her friends.

When the show debuted there was not a coast-to-coast radio network established so two casts performed the show.  There was a cast in San Francisco and one in Chicago.  In 1933 the coast to coast networking was established and the cast from Chicago became the only cast to perform.  Shirley Bell was the voice behind Annie and was replace by Janice Gilbert in 1940.

Ovaltine was the main sponsor of Little Orphan Annie and if you drank enough Ovaltine you could redeem the proofs of purchase for the secret decoder ring and then you could decode the secret message at the end of every show.

Little Orphan Annie went off the air in 1942 but the comic lived on until 2010 and this show was turned into a movie and into a hit Broadway production.

 Our Miss Brooks
Our Miss Brooks was a comedy about an English teacher at Madison High School, Connie Brooks.  It was a radio show on CBS from 1948 to 1957 and starred Eve Arden.  The show was written and directed by Al Lewis and would eventually be a television show.

Connie Brooks was clever, sarcastic and kindhearted and her character was related to by many teachers across the country.

Arden would receive letters from teachers who shared with her their experiences and Arden even had several job offers to become a teacher.   

Our Miss Brooks was ahead of its time.  It was the first show who had a strong independent woman who was witty and held a professional job.  The radio show did outlive its television counterpart and still to this day the situations portrayed in the show are relevant.

John Wayne, left, and Ward Bond
Stagecoach is the tale of nine strangers traveling through Apache territory and the hardship they faced on their perilous journey across the Wild West.  The movie was John Wayne’s breakthrough role.  He played the character Ringo Kid.  The radio broadcast was adapted from the movie and was converted to a half hour radio show that aired on NBC Theatre on January 9, 1949. John Wayne and Claire Trevor and other members of the cast reprized their roles for the radio show and the script was almost identical to the movie.

Ernest Haycox wrote the original story with Dudley Nichols writing the screenplay and John Ford was the director of the movie.  In 1986 Stagecoach got the remake treatment from Hollywood.  It starred Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.

These three shows will make for a great night of entertainment and will broadcast 7pm on WGSO 990 AM or you can be a part of the audience and watch the performance.  The Radio City Playhouse is sponsored by Slidell Memorial Hospital.

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