When CAST in McLean board member Doug Stroock came on as producer of Warren Jones' show "The 1940's Radio Hour," he decided that he wanted to find a way to put the community back in community theater.
"When you think about community theater, a lot of it is just amateur theater now," said Stroock. "Or, you've got one person from Rockville, one person from Vienna and one person from Washington D.C., they come and rehearse, and then they go home. Well there's really no community in that."
To combat this phenomenon, Stroock decided to surround CAST's "The 1940's Radio Hour" with community outreach events related to the theme of the show. For example, the July 14 opening night performance at the McLean Community Center's Alden Theatre was "Veterans Night," which meant that all veterans were offered free tickets.
"There's a very strong military theme to the show, and there's a lot of stuff going on with the military these days, and we wanted to honor our veterans," said Stroock.
On Saturday, July 15, a representative from Finewine.com talked about wines before the show, and then offered a wine and cheese tasting reception after it ended. The following day's Sunday matinee performance was preceded by a backstage tour that offered a behind-the-scenes look at the production process behind the show.
"It's about reaching out and saying, 'hey, we're also going to be talking about this,'" said Stroock. "It's a full experience – it's not just a show."
CAST (Community Alliance Supporting Theatre) in McLean was incorporated in 1992, and has put on such musical classics as "South Pacific," "The Sound of Music," and "Annie" at the McLean Community Center's Alden Theatre. CAST recently formed an alliance with another local community theater group, the Great Falls Players.
This year, CAST's board settled on "The 1940's Radio Hour" because it seemed to set itself apart from other shows. Part musical, part play, it takes place inside a radio station studio set against the backdrop of World War II.
"The first half is a play that takes place before the show happens," said Stroock. "The next thing you know, it's more than just a musical. It's song after song after song."
"The 1940's Radio Hour" also differs from a traditional musical in that the music featured in the show was not actually written for the show.
"They just picked all the best big band hits," said Stroock.
Stroock said that working with such an unusual show offered many advantages.
"It's nice to have a new show like this, where people don't come in with any preconceived notions," said Stroock. "You can do a lot of different things with it, and people won't disapprove."
THE SHOW IS DIRECTED by Rachelle Horn, who previously directed "Grease" and "Annie" for CAST in McLean.
"I really love CAST," said Horn. "They are very professional, they support the director, and I love the Alden Theatre."
When Horn agreed to direct this summer's CAST production, the CAST board was still deciding between "Nunsense" and "The 1940's Radio Hour." Horn was very familiar with "Nunsense," but knew next to nothing about "The 1940's Radio Hour."
"But they gave me the script and it seemed like a good opportunity for a director," said Horn. "It's a new show, it's different, and it has all of these layers to it."
David Rampy of McLean plays the part of the smooth voiced radio announcer Clifton Feddington. Rampy was a professional theater actor for many years, but retired to be a stay-at-home father. However, his 13-year-old son Andrew brought him out of his 8-year retirement after seeing an audition advertisement for the CAST production.
"He said 'dad you are going to do this,' and the rest is history," said Rampy with a laugh.
Like Horn, Rampy had never really heard of "The 1940's Radio Hour" until he became involved in the production.
"It's really very good, and it's just a fun show," said Rampy. "There are a lot of good characters that, for better or for worse, are these stereotypes that you can have a lot of fun with."
Rampy said that he really enjoys reciting the campy commercials in his role as the announcer.
"In the 1940s, and even into the 1950s and 1960s, the commercials were all so unrealistic," said Rampy. "So that's kind of fun."