It may very well have been Hazel Hunt’s parlor by night but as the rooster crowed and the Hazelnuts appeared Hunt’s parlor was transformed into radio station WGAL, the voice of Cedar Ridge, Ark., or at least that was the set at the Mesquite Community Theatre on Sept. 20, 21 and 22.
The performances were well attended and by sounds of the laughter and applause well appreciated. The audience members are all that really matter in any production; without an audience, performances are just rehearsals.
Rehearsals are a way of perfecting the characters, the lines and in this case the music but it’s not until the audience settles in, the lights go down and the curtain is drawn that the magic happens. The wand which is waved to initiate the transformation is the first bit of laughter erupting from the audience.
Before the show can go on there is much in the way of preparation that has to be done. In the case of “Radio Gals” it all began with an audition held in the early part of April 2012 which was the largest audition turnout I’ve seen with the group then again, there aren’t many of Mesquite’s talented that wouldn’t be thrilled at the idea of working with a director such as Larry LeMieux.
Many of the cast members feel the same way but it was Brian Wursten, the only male cast member, which said it best when he summed everything up in a few little words, “I’d do anything for Larry.” Several cast members have had the good fortune to work with Larry in other musical endeavors and they didn’t hesitate to put in those long months of rehearsals for this show.
With this musical, the cast had a great opportunity to work with some very talented musicians who were new to the VVTG group. Rita Hermie and Doris Points did exceptional jobs on the piano, Lawrence Mulloy on guitar, Robin Smith on bass did a wonderful job of playing some difficult musical scores and Mike Lister kept everyone on tempo with the drums.
Rehearsals began as far back as April and continued three times a week until two weeks before show time when they were kicked up a notch to five nights a week.
Rehearsals aren’t the only consideration when putting together a show such as “Radio Gals”, there was the job of finding all the props and costumes that not only fit the situation but the time period as well and Janet McDonald who played the character of America was right on top of all that work. Not only did Janet go all out on costumes, furniture covers and props, she kept it all straight and organized so there wasn’t one hitch in the cast getting to the props that were needed or in the 1920s style costumes. McDonald couldn’t find a dress for flapper Gladys Fritz, played by Felicia Smith, so she made one.
LeMieux wanted things as authentic as possible and he purchased a true General Electric Super heterodyne 500 watt radio transmitter, the kind Hazel Hunt, played by Sarah Mulloy, used to broadcast radio station WGAL according to the script. LeMieux made labels for the bottles of Horehound Complex, pictures of Grandpa Hunt and used a picture of his own grandmother in the production. He even made the broadcast license that hung on the wall in Hunt’s parlor keeping all the props as true to the script as you could possible get nearly 100 years past the decade of the show.
Pressures rose as many of the original cast members had obligations such as family, work and school to otherwise tend to. Family emergencies caused some cast members to drop out of the performance. Luckily there were members such as Felicia Smith who is the consummate professional and not only directed the band members, played the flute and saxophone during the performance, she stepped in at the 11th hour to take on the major role of Gladys Fritz, the Hazlenut’s masked soprano and as Hazel Hunt said, “Any radio station worth its salt needs a masked soprano.”
With as many microphones that needed to be used in the show, there were of course endless hours of adjusting and readjusting the sound. Bob Thacker, another true professional, wasn’t going to give up easily and in the end everything went off without a hitch. Clyde Heckler was a true genius when he set the lights just right on the set and gave the stage the true feel of a 1920’s parlor.
Keeping cool, calm and collected are the traits that make Larry LeMieux the perfect director for the musical productions and he kept the cast energized and full of confidence during some very tense moments when everything seemed like it was going to crash and burn.
After the long months of preparation, the stage was set and rehearsals complete, came the time to face the audience and make all those endless hours of work pay off. This was to be the second time a musical was performed with live music rather than recorded and many of the cast members felt that it was much easier than past performances where the music was prerecorded and timing had to be exact. The bands ability to structure the music and timing according to the actors, not an easy feat by any means for the band, made things much less tense for the cast and the flow of the production felt good. The cast was set and ready to go on opening night.
Actors donned the costumes, makeup and hairstyles of the period. Makeup and hairstyles were flawless due to the hard work and dedication of our stylist, Darlene Heckman. Last minute scripts were reviewed and Brian Wursten led the cast in prayer asking the “Heavenly Father” to give them the strength, the energy and the ability to give the audience their best.
The curtain opened and the Mesquite stage became Hazel Hunt’s parlor. The moment Mulloy spoke her first words into the microphone and the audience responded with laughter, the magic happened and the cast was full of excitement and energy raring to give it their all.
LeMieux’s smile at the end of the performances let the cast and band know that they had done a great job and they lived up to his high expectations but it’s the audience’s laughter and applause that assure those involved in the production that all their hard work is well worth the effort.
The cast and crew of “Radio Gals” say thank you to a wonderful audience of supporters, you are the ones that drive us and give us the ability and desire to keep the performing arts alive in Mesquite.
Don’t miss Larry LeMieux and the Greater Mesquite Arts Foundations production of the Big Band Swing Concert at the Mesquite Community Theatre which is scheduled for Oct. 12 and 13 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 13 at 3 p.m.
The Virgin Valley Theatre Group’s next production is “Those Crazy Ladies in the House on the Corner” which is being directed by Susan Bennett and is scheduled to open on Oct. 26 at 6 p.m. with performances also on Oct. 27 at 2 p.m. and Nov. 2 and 3 at 6 p.m. Tickets for “Those Crazy Ladies…” are $10 for evening performances and $8 for the 2 p.m. matinee.