My imagination enjoyed a feast at the most recent show presented by the California Artists Radio Theater. CART observed the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. And the romantic classic was brought to life thanks to the stellar group of CART performers who gathered at the well-attended theatre at the Beverly Garland Holiday Inn last weekend.
Samantha Eggar headed the cast, and pulled double duty as both Jane Austen narrating the story, and as Elizabeth Bennet, who is arguably one of the most endearing characters in literature. The way Eggar’s voice went from Elizabeth’s girlish conversations, to a mature Austen giving exposition, was tantamount to having two totally different personalities come from the same lovely lady. Both helped to weave the much-loved tale of Elizabeth and her Mr. Darcy, played with a genteel air by John Rafter Lee. Although Lee has played “the most evil man in the world” in several projects such as HBO’s Spawn, The Black Mask, and Aeon Flux, he really was superb playing a refined gentleman such as Mr. Darcy.
Always one of my favorite performers, JoAnne Worley played a snobbish British aristocrat to perfection. From someone as warm and wonderful as Worley, that’s quite an acting achievement. JoAnne loves doing radio, “because you can do it without putting on your false eyelashes.”
The rest of the cast also deserves the spotlight: Annie Gagen, James Lancaster, Paul Keith, Phil Proctor, Diane Mercer, Melinda Peterson, Christina Carroll, Elizabeth Dennehy, Johnny O’Callaghan, Tom Williams, Bob Legionaire, and the great announcer John Harlan.
Only the most talented performers can do a radio play properly, getting the most out of every line of dialog, without benefit of facial expressions or body language. It’s all done with great imagination. I guess that’s why I admire the CART players so much, and I’ve become a regular at their shows which are recorded for radio broadcasts. They air on SiriusXM Radio worldwide, Mondays at 6 p.m. and Fridays at 6:30 p.m.
The force behind the presentations is CART’s founder, producer and director Peggy Webber. She explained the difference between old time radio broadcasts and the new. “I guess that today a lot of people are repeating the old time radio shows, and we do not. I try to do Broadway hits, popular classics, and new plays. We are on Sirius XM twice a week, Monday and Friday evenings.” The exception in her choice for not repeating shows are the works of Norman Corwin, the celebrated playwright who was a great supporter of CART’s productions. “When he was writing for radio, his work was above all the others,” she praised.
Webber herself is quite celebrated as an actress with thousands of credits on radio shows, stage, films, and television. Webber took on a little role in Pride and Prejudice, as well as producing, directing, and doing the audio script adapted from Jane Austen’s novel. There was original romantic theme music composed by Ken Stange.
There have been many great performers that have supported CART from the beginning. Webber reported, “More than 25 years ago Linda Henning was in our first show, as was Jeanette Nolan and Dan O’Herlihy, then James Lancaster and Elizabeth Dennehy, who just showed off their talent in Pride and Prejudice. David Warner, Janet Waldo, Kathleen Freeman, Norman Lloyd, Rene Auberginoir, were other founding members along with Parley Baer, William Windom, Les Tremayne, Richard Crenna, William Woodson, Lois Nettleton, Lou Krugman, Michael York, Marvin Kaplan, and many others.” It was a delight to see the wonderful Marvin Kaplan enjoying Pride and Prejudice from the audience, applauding his fellow CART buddies. Accept my “Mea culpa” for not mentioning all the numerous other stars who have graced the stage as part of the CART casts.
Webber noted, “Our distinguished performers come from such respected groups as the National Theatres of Great Britain and Ireland, the Actors Studio, and the best of Broadway.” They have done the works of Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, and Ray Bradbury, and CART has a catalogue of cassettes and CDs if you are interested in enjoying a performance. To discover more visit cartradio.com.