BENNINGTON >> An old-time variety show that will hit the airwaves live this Saturday night aims to bring holiday cheer and celebrate the glory days of radio.
The show, which combines a classic Christmas radio play, music, and comedy skits, is presented by Oldcastle Theatre Company and WBTN — 1370 AM and starts at 7:30 p.m. Cast members will perform on stage front of an audience in the company's theater, located at 311 Main St. And it will all be broadcast live on the radio and online.
The show hearkens back to the days where radio was king, when big name stars all had holiday specials — like Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Pat Boone and Bob Hope, to name a few. "There was a warmth about them," Eric Peterson, producing artistic director for Oldcastle, told the Banner Thursday.
"People would look forward to them all year," said Christine Decker, the company's director of education.
Serving as the show's "anchor" will be a recreation of the radio adaptation of "Miracle on 34th Street," which first aired on Lux Radio Theater in 1947. Holiday music, original ads for local businesses and a sleigh full of holiday silliness are also on tap.
Some two dozen cast members will grace the stage in some way or another, Peterson said. Some are regular Oldcastle players and others are returning for a special appearance.
The Mount Anthony Union High School Chorus will be led by their instructor Lynn Sweet, who also serves as the production's music director and pianist. They'll be joined by Oldcastle's long-time percussionist Mike Chapman on drums.
A special guest will be "radio legend" Herb Oscar Anderson, a Hoosick Falls, N.Y. resident who was known as "The Morning Mayor" while he served as WABC's morning drive-time personality from 1960 to 1968.
It's the third year in a row the local community-supported radio station has partnered with the theater company. Peterson noted WBTN General Manager was instrumental in planning the show.
Oldcastle has performed similar radio shows on stage in the past, including an evening of sections from the Lone Ranger radio show, Peterson said. Many people today wouldn't have heard these shows as they aired, he said, but the recordings have a dedicated following.
Radio provides an intimate experience, Peterson said, that can't be had with television.
"What we look forward to, and had a lot of fun with last year, was the communal experience," Peterson said. "There's an audience in the theater watching us, but then there's a whole other audience listening live."
It's a format from the time when people didn't listen to the radio or watch TV by themselves.
"Families would gather around the radio in the living room and listen to shows together," Decker said. "It was a communal experience."
For Decker, the event combines two institutions in town that provide entertainment and bring people together.
"These could become lost forms of entertainment in the future," she said. "I think we're so fortunate a town of this size has a professional theater and a radio station."
New to this year's lineup is a series of on-air ads for local businesses, Peterson said, which will be acted out by cast members.
Both Decker and Peterson noted that, except for news and sports, many programs today are pre-recorded. Having a show like this broadcast live, they said, is at once unique, thrilling and a bit scary.
"Anything could happen, but that's exciting," Peterson said.
There were still tickets left as of press time Thursday. They can be purchased by calling Oldcastle Theatre at 802-447-0564 or online at www.oldcastletheatre.org. Tickets are $15 for adults and students, $10.
To listen to the show live, tune into WBTN 1230 AM on the radio, or stream the broadcast online at www.wbtnam.org.
Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979