Posted by Daniel Buckwalter | Dec 22, 2018 | Reviews | 0 |

(Above: Achilles Massahos, a longtime member of the Radio Redux acting ensemble, portraying a role in A Cowboy Christmas; photo by Scott Kelley)

By Daniel Buckwalter

I wondered Friday night what I was walking into when I stepped inside Soreng Theater at the Hult Center.

Yes, it was Radio Redux and its holiday show, A Cowboy Christmas. And yes, Radio Redux is in its tenth season of proudly entertaining audiences in Lane County. Also, like me, Fred Crafts (founder and driving force of Radio Redux) was a longtime veteran of the previously family-owned newspaper, The Register-Guard. Someday, Crafts and I (along with his wife, Marti Gerdes, another veteran of the “old” R-G), will have to get together and reminisce.

In spite of all that connection, until Friday night, I had never attended a Radio Redux show.

It’s a charming production. I found myself tapping my feet to the beat of Christmas music with a Western backdrop. I was swaying a little to the five-piece ensemble called Western Exposure and following the lyrics of the three women singers who make up The Jewel Tones.

I followed the story of Scrooge (as told from the perspective of the old radio series, The Six Shooter), as well as another story of two men from the Ozarks. The last members of their respective feuding families, with the help of Marshal Matt Dillon (remember Gunsmoke, everyone?), reconcile their hate-filled differences on Twelfth Night.

All of this was done with great care by the men and women of the cast who clearly adore the work. A special shout-out goes to Adriana Ripley, a sophomore at South Eugene High School with a lovely voice, who, I hope, understands how lucky she is to perform with a professional cast: Don’t take this for granted.

All of this, too, was done before an appreciative, thoroughly engaged audience who were singing and shouting along, ready to revel in Christmas spirit.

At intermission, I scouted the exhibits. These included items from the Lane County History Museum in Eugene and the Radio Days Theater of the Mind Museum in Sutherlin.

Especially helpful, I thought, was what I call the Wall of Fame exhibit at the entrance of the Soreng Theater, made up of black-and-white photos of men and women who brought radio to life for millions of Americans before the advent of television.

There are some names from the exhibit that I recognized, for instsance Jimmy Stewart and Jack Benny, and many more I didn’t. It’s a life and culture I vaguely know, although my late father talked fondly about it. It comes from a more rural, and slower, America that we undoubtedly will never see again.

You can taste a slice of it, however, Saturday at 7:30 pm., with a final matinee performance at 2 p.m. on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Soreng Theater.

Radio Redux’s A Cowboy Christmas is a wonderful, light-hearted way to take a break from the frenetic run-up to the holiday.