Radio Chiller Theater Opens Tonight
Here's a fun thing to do for Halloween! I'm part of the cast for the latest old time radio performance at the Great Escape Stage Company in Marshall. Come out and be part of the fun!
Two strange tales from the days of classic radio will be brought to vivid life on the stage of the Great Escape Stage Company during the week of Halloween. The two-part evening of “Chilling Radio Theater” will feature live re-creations of original radio scripts for “The House in Cypress Canyon” from 1946 and “The Day the Earth Stood Still” from 1954, said Randy Lake, Great Escape's artistic director and producer.
Performances will be at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, through Saturday, Oct. 31 – Halloween night. A matinee performance also is planned at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31. For tickets, call (269) 781-2700. See more information about the theater at greatescapestagecompany.com.
One of the all-time classics of horror radio, “The House in Cypress Canyon” was first aired nearly six decades ago as part of the series known as “Suspense!” The original broadcast featured the well-known film actors Robert Taylor and Howard Duff. According to the Wikipedia entry for this classic radio story, the episode is “consistently cited as one of the most terrifying programs broadcast during radio's Golden Age.” The Great Escape production will feature Alan Elliott as Jim and Colleen Clement as Ellen, a couple who move into a new California home only to discover that sinister forces appear to stalk the grounds. Also in the cast are Morris Arvoy, Tim Collins, Tamara Hicks-Syron, Cameron Lake and Gary Reed.
“We're going to have a lot of fun with 'The House in Cypress Canyon' because it's perfect for the Halloween season – a real creeper, so you can expect some genuine chills,” said John Sherwood, the show's script editor and director. “But we hope to pull out all the stops for the evening's second act,” he added. “That's when we'll serve up 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' – and it's hard for me to convey how excited I am about staging this classic science-fiction story at Great Escape.”
Film buffs are familiar with the famous movie under the same title, released in 1951 and starring Michael Rennie and Patricia Neal, Sherwood said. The story relates a visit to Washington, D.C., by a seemingly all-powerful space alien and a gigantic, laser-armed robot. “I've loved the movie since I first saw it when I was 10 years old, and it's still regarded as one of the greatest science-fiction films ever made,” Sherwood said. “What's not well known is the fact that – just a few years after the movie premiered – the Lux Radio Theater broadcast a radio dramatization of the story, in early January of 1954 on the CBS Radio Network.”
In the radio version, Rennie reprised his role as the alien visitor Klaatu, and on radio Jean Peters portrayed Helen, the woman who comes to trust him. The Great Escape production will feature Arvoy as Klaatu; Clement as Helen; Sherwood as Helen's untrusting boyfriend; Reed as Professor Barnhardt; and Elliott, Collins, Hicks-Syron and Cameron Lake in several supporting roles. “We're offering a fond reshaping of this long-forgotten radio drama, much as it was originally presented,” said Sherwood, who is directing the script that he also revised and edited for modern audiences. “However, our version will be augmented to bring it a bit closer to the mood and style of the original film, including Bernard Herrmann's incredible, ground-breaking music.”
Cast members also will be responsible for creating a broad range of strange – often bizarre – sound effects and voices that both scripts call for, Sherwood and Randy Lake said. Audiences will be able to see the often strange and unexpected materials that are used to generate the unusually evocative sounds. “We love doing these 'live' radio shows because they allow the audiences to exercise their own imaginations,” Lake said. “The real 'special effects' are always right there, and they're usually better than anything you might possibly see on screen.”
Great Escape Stage Company at 155 W. Michigan Ave. has been in operation since late 2011, and since then has staged 37 plays, musicals, cabaret productions and “live radio” shows. The company recently received a Wilde Aware for its sound design for last year's “live radio” production of “It's a Wonderful Life.”