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Henry Players bringing America’s past to life

The 1940s Radio Hour’ airs on Thursday

Photo by Jason A. Smith
Chris Gansel (left) and Steve Green are among the performers slated to appear in “The 1940s Radio Hour,” Thursday through Sunday. The play is set in New York, during World War II.

Photo by Jason A. Smith Chris Gansel (left) and Steve Green are among the performers slated to appear in “The 1940s Radio Hour,” Thursday through Sunday. The play is set in New York, during World War II.

Music and tales of a bygone era in the United States, will take center stage this week, when the Henry Players unveil their latest production.

“The 1940s Radio Hour” will be presented, Thursday through Sunday, at the Henry County Performing Arts Center, in McDonough. Show times are Thursday through Saturday, at 7:30 p.m., each night, and Sunday, at 2:30 p.m.

Vince Tuccillo is the director of the play, which is set in New York City during World War II. The show depicts the Christmas production of a weekly radio show, which takes place on Dec. 21, 1942.

“It’s about the Feddington Players, a group of ‘B’ performers,” Tuccillo said. “They’re not the big stars of the era. There’s no Frank Sinatra here, but they are all very talented, and as you find out, there’s a reason for them all being where they are.”

Tuccillo said although “The 1940s Radio Hour” contains an element of comedy, serious themes are found in the play as well, as the characters’ backgrounds are put on display for the audience.

“You get a peek into their lives — how they all feel about what’s going on, both nationwide in the war, and dealing with their own personal problems of being left behind,” he said. “I love the show, because it’s got music, it’s got comedy, and it’s got some drama. It’s fun to see it unfold.”

Tuccillo’s assistant director, Melissa Hitchcock, said the music in “Radio Hour” stands out as a strong point for the production. “We have wonderful singers,” she said. “I think audiences are really going to enjoy it.”

Chris Gansel will take on the role of Johnny Cantone, one of the main characters in the “Radio Hour.” He described Cantone as a “Frank Sinatra wannabe,” whose imperfections are evident throughout the production.

“He sort of got his job with the show through nepotism,” said Gansel. “Johnny’s become a bit of a mess. He’s a heavy drinker, and as the play unfolds, you see how that affects his performance. Johnny’s a bit of a skirt-chaser and, I think, is having problems coming to grips with the fact that he’s hit his ceiling.

“He’s a good, small-time Sinatra, who will probably never hit the big time, because of his behaviors.”

Gansel added that he was surprised early in the production process by some of the themes in the play. “It sounds like a madcap Christmas comedy,” he said. “After I read the script, I kind of went, ‘Wait a minute. There’s really some stuff going on here.’”

Steve Green will portray Pops Bailey, who works as a doorman. He said the play serves as a reminder of a pivotal period in American history.

“In the 1940s, there were events that we’d all like to forget about, or hope never happen again,” Green said. “But, there were a lot of things that were good. There was the music, the patriotism, the clothing, that will live forever in a lot of people’s minds.

“People come to see a Henry Players production because they’re pretty sure we’re going to try to do a good job. This one is a little nostalgic and a little patriotic, and I think they’ll enjoy it,” added Green.

Sierra Ingram will assume the role of Connie Miller, an aspiring singer and dancer. Ingram said she can identify with her character. “She’s the youngest person in the show, and she’s the newest person in the studio,” said Ingram. “At the same time, she wants to act older than she really is.”

Ingram said the best part of her experience in “Radio Hour,” is the sense of camaraderie she has developed with her fellow Players.

“We’re all just a huge family, and we help everybody,” she said.

Ticket prices are $12 for adults, and $10 for children and seniors. For more information, visit www.henryplayers.com.