(Above: Kim Donahey and Bill Barrett play leading roles in Radio Redux’s classic play, “Stage Door”; photos by Scott Kelley)
By Randi Bjornstad
Whether you call it dog-eat-dog or just plain catty, countless plays, movies and musicals have been based on the plot of aspiring actors, dancers and singers vying for their chance to make it big on Broadway’s Great White Way.
Fred Crafts’s Radio Redux troupe takes on the topic with its production of “Stage Door,” onstage in the Soreng Theater at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts for three performances on Feb. 9-11.
The show appeared first in 1936 as a stage play, written by icons Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman. It was adapted by RKO as a movie the next year, and the Lux Radio Theater did its version in 1939.
The movie featured a panoply of stars and future stars, including Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers (her first role without Fred Astaire), Lucille Ball, Eve Arden, Gail Patrick and Ann Miller on the female side. The men — Adolphe Menjou, Franklin Pangborn, Gregory La Cava and Grady Sutton — were generally less memorable.
Regardless of genre, the story line is eerily familiar to recent events: A group of aspiring actresses all live in a boarding house called The Footlights Club as they try to make their way to stardom on the the New York City stage. They encounter the usual career obstacles, including competing with each other, maximizing their physical appeal and fighting off predatory theater producers, a threat that obviously persists to last week, or maybe even this.
But as often happens, within The Footlights Club, the “girls” share their hopes and dreams and terrors, laughing and crying together as they pursue their dreams. The plot revolves around the competition between two of the would-be stars, the hard-boiled veteran Jean Maitland and the newly arrived Terry Randall, who despite her naivete appears not to be intimidated by anyone.
The cast of the Radio Redux version of “Stage Door” includes many of the troupe’s regulars, with Rebecca Nachison playing Jean Maitland and Kim Donahey as Terry Randall. Achilles Massahos takes the role of the smarmy theatrical producer, Anthony Powell.
The remaining roles are portrayed by Nancy Hopps, Judi Weinkauf, Diana Aday, Jennifer Sellers, Bill Barrett, Don Aday, Fred Crafts, Judy Sinnott, Jim Greenwood, Jon Brand and Gary Fetters, some playing multiple roles.
Despite its age, “Stage Door remains as relevant as the day it was born, proving once again that unfortunately change is often agonizingly slow,” Radio Redux founder and producer Fred Crafts said in announcing the show.
“(It’s) loaded with colorful characters, snappy patter and edgy situations that are fascinating to behold. It’s a gem that’s stood the test of time,” he said “While the show has a serious side, it’s a fun ride.”
As always, Radio Redux shows are augmented by period commercials and vocal numbers by the Jewel Tones, made up of singers Jennifer Sellers, Judy Sinott and Debi Noel, backed up in this production by pianist Jim Greenwood, bassist Jon Brand and drummer Gary Fetter.
Forty-five minutes before each show, radio-and-film historian Patrick Lucanio gives a behind-the-show talk in the Hult Center’s Jacobs Community Room, and the lobby sports an exhibit of memorabilia curated by Bob Hart of the Lane County Historical Museum as well as radio-related collectibles provided by Dennis Wright of the Radio Days Theater of the Mind Museum in Sutherlin.
Radio Redux presents “Stage Door”
When: 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Feb.9 and 10; and 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 11
Where: Soreng Theater, Hult Center for the Performing Arts, Seventh Avenue and Willamette Street in downtown Eugene
Tickets: $22 regular, $19 senior citizen, $15 students; $15 apiece, groups of five or more, available at the Hult Center box office, 541-682-5000, or online at radioreduxusa.com or hultcenter.org (online purchases include additional processing fee)