(Above: Voice actor Ken Hof stars as Captain Nemo in Radio Redux’s opening show of the 2019-20 season, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea)

By Randi Bjornstad

Believe it or not, the Jules Verne classic, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, has attained the ripe old age of 149 years. It’s still a draw for appreciators of science fiction and otherworldly adventure, and it will exercise its allure once again as Radio Redux, under the direction of founder Fred Crafts, performs it in its season opening on Oct. 4-6.

Verne, of course, had an amazing mind for the sci-fi genre. He also wrote Journey to the Center of the Earth and Around the World in Eighty Days.

But as far as 20,000 Leagues is concerned, Verne’s imagination was truly ahead of his time, describing Captain Nemo’s submarine, the Nautilus, in a way that predicted the future design of modern submarines at a time when the concept was fledgling, at best.

The plot involves repeated sightings in 1866 by ships of several nations of a supposed sea monster, and a contingent on a U.S. Navy frigate, the Abraham Lincoln, sets sail from Pier 34 in Manhattan to try to destroy the creature. It comes across the thing in the Pacific Ocean, after a trip around the tip of South America, and attacks it, but in the fracas the ship is damaged and three of its crew end up in the water, clutching the monster to save themselves.

It’s not a monster at all, of course, it’s the submarine Nautilus with Capt. Nemo and his crew aboard. Nemo designed and built the craft too pursue scientific research as well as to escape — and oppose — what he sees as the growing dangers of civilization. His three guests — or captives — are enthralled by what they see in the Nautilus’ ensuing adventures, but also eventually appalled when the submarine engages and destroys a ship from the country that Nemo believes to have wronged him and his family. They plan their escape, and just as they succeed in launching a dinghy, they see the Nautilus enter a maelstrom, apparently to its own destruction.

The story eventually made its way to film, in a Walt Disney version in 1954. The year before, it had been adapted for radio by Family Theater, which distilled the entire saga into a 30-minute broadcast. That production omitted one of the most famous scenes from the Verne story, in which the Nautilus battles a giant squid. However, for the Radio Redux production, Fred Crafts, has restored that scene, featuring the efforts of his sound effects crew.

A “crazy comedy” round out the opening show of the 2019-20 season, Crafts said in announcing the lineup, with Archie Has Three Days to Live, an episode from a 1940s radio show Duffy’s Tavern, which often focused on get-rich schemes and romantic entangements. This episode shows what can go wrong when someone eavesdrops on one end of a telephone call.

Regular Radio Redux voice actors in this production feature Ken Hof as Captain Nemo and Achilles Massahos as Pierre Aronnax in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The Duffy’s Tavern episode features Dan Pegoda, Kim Donahey, and Al Villanueva, with Paul Rhoden making his first appearance on the Radio Redux stage.

Sound effects will be created by Judy Sinnott, Jennifer Sellers, Debi Noel, who form the vocal trio The Jewel Tones, along with Jim Greenwood.

Additional pre-show and intermission music will feature a 1940s-style jazz group, The Redux Rhythmaires, featuring vocalist Kirstin Nusser, along with Michael Anderson (guitar/leader), Randy Roe (piano/alto sax), Dean Livelybrooks (bass), Cameron Siegal (drums).

One hour before each show, radio-film historian Patrick Lucanio 60 minutes before show time in the Soreng Theater. The lobby will offer an exhibit of radio collectibles by curator Dennis Wright of the Radio Days Theater of the Mind Museum in Sutherlin.

Radio Redux: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

When: Evening show at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 4; matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 5-6

Where: Soreng Theater, Hult Center for the Performing Arts, One Eugene Center (Seventh and Willamette streets), Eugene

Tickets: Adults, $23; students and ages 65+, $20; groups of five or more, $16 each, available at the Hult Center box office, 541-682-5000, or online at radioreduxusa.com or hultcenter.org