Variety show

OLD-TIME COMMERCIAL Steven Zbin, Lindsay Sommers, Megan Griffin, Rob Christopher perform “Pepsi-Cola” in South Valley Civic Theater’s production of ‘1940s Radio Hour.’Photo: Elizabeth Mandel

Step back a few decades to a time perhaps just as complicated as our own, when war raged in Europe and uncertainty was around every turn, in The 1940s Radio Hour, the holiday musical production of the South Valley Civic Theater.
Directed by Buddy Butler with musical and vocal direction by Carol Harris, the show, written by Walton Jones, recreates the Dec. 21, 1942 broadcast of “The Mutual Manhattan Variety Cavalcade,” a live radio show (think precursor to “Prairie Home Companion”), complete with those funny advertisements for soap, Eskimo Pies and other necessities of life, albeit constrained by wartime availability.
Led by Peter Mandel as nervous station manager and host Clifton Feddington, the musical ensemble revolves around Johnny Cantone (Tom Hepner), a somewhat loutish lounge singer in the style of Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin, complete with white jacket and martini glass. But despite the screaming girls outside the radio station door, Hepner fails to truly strike the right notes on such standards as “Love is Here to Stay,” leaving the women and younger men to carry the vocal load.
Lindsay Sommers is a delight as bobbysoxer Connie Miller, swigging Coca-Colas and flirting up a storm with B.J. Gibson on “How About You” and “The Five O’Clock Whistle,” where they also do a stylish lindy hop (Jyovonne Montosa choreographed the show).
Jenafer Thompson as sultry jazz songstress Geneva Lee Brown and Joy Reynolds as statuesque and elegant Ann Collier do fine work on “I Got It Bad (and That Ain’t Good),” “That Old Black Magic” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Comic relief comes in the form of Megan Griffin as gum-popping Ginger Brooks, who also gets the sexiest evening gown of the night and puts a double entendre spin on an ad for Eskimo Pies.
A bittersweet wartime theme runs around Biff Baker (Zack Goller), a trumpet player in the orchestra who’s about to be shipped overseas for war service. Goller is an excellent addition to the men’s ensemble, adding nice harmonies to “Ain’t’ She Sweet” and “Jingle Bells.”
Rob Christopher sports an almost lurid orange windowpane check suit as Neal Tilden, who hopes to inherit Johnny Cantone’s central role.
Carol Harris leads a capable onstage orchestra with such great stage names as Ladyfingers, Snookie, Pieface, Toots and Flap.
The show is a mostly light holiday treat, with just enough uncertainty and moodiness to keep from being saccharine.
South Valley Civic Theatre presents “The 1940’s Radio Hour,” by Walton Jones. Performances run through Dec. 10 at the Morgan Hill Community Playhouse. Visit or call svct.org or (408) 842-SHOW.

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