Archive for February, 2009

What I Really Want to Do is Direct

February 28, 2009

I’m excited to announce that I’ll soon be directing THREE different classic radio comedy productions, live onstage, at Beverly Garland’s Holiday Inn in North Hollywood. These shows, featuring live sound effects (just like during radio’s “Golden Age”) are part of the Old-Time Radio Convention Friday evening, May 1st, and Saturday evening, May 2nd.

FRIDAY, MAY 1: “BURNS AND ALLEN with JACK BENNY” plus “THE GREAT GILDERSLEEVE”

On Friday, I’ll be directing two great comedies:

1. Maxwell House Coffee Time starring George Burns and Gracie Allen, with Special Guest Star Jack Benny. We’ll be re-creating the hilarious episode “How Jack Benny Became a Cheapskate,” featuring the incomparable Eddie Carroll as Jack Benny. Eddie’s uncanny portrayal of Jack Benny has won him rave reviews for his award-winning one man show, Jack Benny: Laughter in Bloom, currently on tour around the country. Eddie is also the voice of Disney’s “Jiminy Cricket.”

Starring as George Burns will be the prolific and talented voice actor Gregg Berger (the voice of countless cartoon characters, including “Odie” on Garfield and Friends, and named by Animation Magazine as “one of the “top 15 voice actors of the new generation”).

And joining them as Gracie Allen will be the delightful Janet Waldo (the voice of “Judy Jetson” and “Josie” of Josie and the Pussycats, star of radio’s Meet Corliss Archer, and the lovesick teenager, “Peggy,” who had a crush on Ricky Ricardo on I Love Lucy).

2. The Great Gildersleeve, starring, as Gildersleeve, the “man of a thousand commercials,” Chuck McCann (the “hi guy” fellow in the medicine cabinet for Right Guard, and the voice of the “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs” bird).

Co-starring will be the amazing Shirley Mitchell, reprising her role in the original radio broadcast as Gildy’s lady love, “Leila Ransom.” I Love Lucy fans remember Shirley as “Marion Strong,” Lucy Ricardo’s girlfriend with the distinctive laugh. (LUCY: “Quit cackling, Marion. I’ve been waiting ten years for you to lay that egg.”)

The production will also feature four additional original Great Gildersleeve cast members: Janet Waldo, Dick Beals (the voice of both “Speedy Alka-Seltzer” and “Gumby”), Gloria McMillan (“Harriet Conklin” on Our Miss Brooks on both radio and TV), and veteran radio and TV actor Stuffy Singer (The Jack Benny Program, Our Miss Brooks, The Bill Cosby Show).

Rounding out our stellar cast will be Eddie Carroll and the legendary June Foray (voice of “Witch Hazel,” “Granny” (owner of “Tweety” and “Sylvester”), “Jokey Smurf”, and Bullwinkle’s pal, “Rocky,” as well as his sultry nemesis, “Natasha Fatale.”).

SATURDAY, MAY 2: “BABY SNOOKS” plus “DRAGNET” and “LUX RADIO THEATRE: CASABLANCA”

On Saturday evening, which will be emceed by film critic Leonard Maltin, I’ll get to do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time: direct a re-creation of The Baby Snooks Show, which originally starred Fanny Brice, the legendary actress, singer, and comedienne portrayed by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl. Fanny played “Snooks Higgins” — a wise-beyond-her-years little girl who constantly drives her daddy crazy. My dad’s experience writing for Snooks led him to create the character of “Lucy Ricardo” — a little girl, in a grown woman’s body, who constantly drives her husband crazy — for I Love Lucy. Starring as Snooks will be Marilyn King (premiere soloist of the King Sisters, and the baby sister of a show business dynasty: The King Family).

Co-starring as “Daddy Higgins” will be the talented Harold Gould (“Mr. Morgenstern” on Rhoda, “Miles Webber” on Golden Girls, and the dapper “Kid Twist” in the movie The Sting).

Rounding out our cast will be original Snooks cast members Gloria McMillan and Tommy Cook (reprising his role as Snooks’ little boyfriend, Alexander), and veteran radio and TV announcer John Harlan.

Also on Saturday, we’ll celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Jack Webb’s Dragnet with a re-creation of an episode of the famous series, directed by and starring Herb Ellis, who played Sergeant Joe Friday’s partner, “Sergeant Frank Smith,” on radio.

Our 60th Anniversary Dragnet re-creation will co-star radio actress Barbara Fuller (best known as “Claudia” on Carleton E. Morse’s long-running radio series, One Man’s Family ) and Gladys Holland (To Catch a Thief, The Man Who Knew Too Much), whose first radio role was on Dragnet, as well as the unforgettable Kenneth Mars (the crazy Nazi playwright in Mel Brooks’ The Producers and the Transylvanian police inspector in Young Frankenstein).

Last but not least, we will celebrate the 75th Anniversary of The Lux Radio Theatre with an abridged radio version of Casablanca, directed by radio personality Frank Bresee. The Lux cast will include Doris Singleton, better known to I Love Lucy fans as Lucy’s nearsighted nemesis “Carolyn Appleby.” Doris played The Lux Radio Theatre’s “Hollywood Correspondent, Libby Collins” on the original radio program.

SUNDAY MORNING, MAY 3, will feature “FROM RADIO TO CARTOONS” – an entertaining after-breakfast panel discussion featuring Janet Waldo, Dick Beals, and the legendary June Foray (best known as the voice of Bullwinkle’s pal, “Rocky,” as well as his sultry nemesis, “Natasha Fatale,” and “Granny,” owner of “Tweety” and “Sylvester”).

Tickets for each evening are $55 per person ($50 for SPERDVAC members), which includes a full sit-down dinner banquet before the shows (6:30 p.m. on Friday, 6:00 p.m. on Saturday). Tickets for Sunday Brunch are $35 per person, which includes a full breakfast (at 9:30 a.m.) before the program (which begins at 10:30 a.m.)

MAKE YOUR RESERVATIONS EARLY, because table assignments will be made on a first-come, first-served basis.

A mail-in order form is available here (PDF Format)

And take a look at last year’s beautiful Convention Program (complete with celebrity profiles and cartoons).

I hope to see you there.

Take care.

– Gregg Oppenheimer

P.S. The Old-Time Radio Convention runs from 12:30 pm on Friday, May 1 until late Sunday Morning, May 3, and features panel discussions and additional re-creations during the daytime. Click here for a full schedule.