WLRN Presents Live Radio Performance With “Rebecca”
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again,” intones the voice from the stage.
Shut your eyes for a moment and just listen. It’s radio.
Now open your eyes and see the small cast huddled around a microphone, just like those old days of Lux Radio Theatre.
But here you are, sitting in the Carper Theater at Key West’s Tropic Cinema -- a movie house!
And you’re listening to a production of “Rebecca,” the script based on Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 film. You remember “Rebecca,” the Daphne Du Maurier story about a bride tormented by the memory of her husband’s deceased first wife, the Rebecca of the title. Clashing with the housekeeper, the second Mrs. de Winter discovers that Rebecca still has a strange hold on everyone at Manderley.
“Rebecca” will be performed live on stage this Sunday night at the Tropic.
This is the first in a three-times-a year program, the WLRN Radio Theater Series. Each will feature a radio play based on classic movies.
Partnering with WLRN, Arts Radio Network Theatre Project will produce these on-stage performances.
I’d met producer John Watts last year when Arts Radio Network Theatre Project put on “African Queen” at the Tropic as part of the Museum and Attraction Weekend. He’s a guy who collects old radio memorabilia, while pursuing his dream of reviving old-time radio-style entertainment.
Lux Radio Theatre was a long-running anthology series, which thrived 1935 - 1954 on CBS Radio. The hour-long performances were adapted from popular Hollywood movies, in those days often starring the actors who had appeared on screen. As the name implied, it was sponsored by Lever Brothers, maker of Lux Toilet Soap.
“We’ll be using old Lux Radio Theatre scripts,” John Watts assured me, a point of pride about the authenticity of the experience. “We’ll even leave in the commercial break.”
He adds, “‘Rebecca’ is a little heavier because it is a thriller. The commercial break will allow the audience to have a little laugh, then get right back into the play.”
Gretchen Porro stars as “I,” the second Mrs. de Winter. Dave Hyland joins her at the microphone as the patrician Maxim de Winter.
This being radio, Carlos Alayeto, John Carlile, Dan Leonard, and Rae Randall take on multiple roles, populating the radio speakers with their ever-changing voices.
The production is directed by Matt Stabile. The important function of sound effects engineer is handled by Daniel Eilola -- producing such audio effects as wind, surf, even a barking dog. Producer John Watts does his double-duty cuing the music.
Watts has spent the past 25 years as a producer for both audio and video productions. Although his early career included positions with ESPN, the Golf Channel, and NBC, he has specialized in radio production for the past decade.
This performance of “Rebecca” is being recorded live, to be re-broadcast on WLRN Public Radio on May 7. “Come and be part of show,” Watts invites. “There will be lots of audience participation -- crowd noises, screaming, murmuring. The audience will be part of the broadcast.”
After the play there will be a “talk back,” the chance to ask questions of the cast and crew. And if you want to know even more about old-time radio, John Watts will be giving a Distinguished Speaker talk the night before at the Key West Art & Historical Society’s Custom House.
As for the Tropic’s performance of “Rebecca,” it starts off with a champagne reception at 7 p.m. And at 7:30 you will be treated to “a movie inside your head.”