By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Most Kearny residents are quite used to seeing Mayor Alberto G. Santos cutting ribbons. We’ve all seen, at one point or another, Councilwomen Sue McCurrie and Carol Jean Doyle marching along in the big parade on St. Patrick’s Day up to their necks in shamrocks.
We’ve all read Jim Hague’s sports columns and stories right here on the pages of this newspaper. And yet, the aforementioned, and several other notables of Kearny, will be way out of their element on Oct. 24 and 25 as they star in the kickoff to the West Hudson Arts & Theatre Company’s new season in “A Tribute to Old Time Radio.”
That’s right — Kearny’s mayor and two councilwomen will be on stage with Jim Hague, his wife, Superior Court Judge Mary Costello, Vince Abbott, Dr. John Branwell, Cecilia Lindenfelser, John Peneda, Phil Thiele, Steven Thiele, Edmund Shea, Robert Strauch and Robert Zika.
They’ll be appearing in the old-time radio plays “Boston Blackie and the Fur Trade,” “The Great McGinty” and “Our Miss Brooks.”
Jerry Ficeto, a founding member and president of the W.H.A.T. board, says the idea was to bring together a group of well-known Kearny residents to put on a show that would draw people who might not otherwise go to a play. And let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to see a starstudded cast like this performing?
“We’re always thinking community,” Ficeto said. “Putting something like this on makes people want to see the people they know performing — people who are not normally on the stage. This is what we’re all about. And we figured we’d bring it all back to where performances started — on the radio — where the stars don’t need to memorize their lines.
“It’s a much easier way to act.”
That’s because just like back in the day when there were radio performances, the cast here will have all their lines right in front of them. They’ll be performing as if they were really broadcasting on the radio. Each segment is 28 to 30 minutes.
But it hardly means the participants won’t be getting into character, Ficeto says. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
“At first I thought it might take some time for them to get into their roles, but it was only a matter of minutes,” Ficeto said. “For example, the mayor (Santos) plays a police role. And it didn’t take long for a fellow cast member, Judge (Mary) Costello, to tell him he might have a job in law enforcement if he ever steps away from being mayor.
“I mean, it really took about 20 minutes before everyone was taking on their characters, doing the voices. It’s just magnificent.”
Just how much does Ficeto think the show will attract people?
“Before tickets were even on sale, the first call came from [Essex County Assignment] Costello — Mary’s sister, Patricia,” Ficeto said. “We certainly hope other family members and friends do the same.”
During the weekend of performances, W.H.A.T. will kick off its 2014-15 season fundraising drive. As a grassroots organization, fundraising is vitally essential to ensure a full season of shows and educational programs.
“So there will, indeed, be opportunities for the people who come to the shows over that weekend to get involved with our fundraising efforts,” Ficeto said. “Community theater is the people’s theater. And at W.H.A.T., we are reminded that part of its beauty is seeing friends and neighbors on stage, having fun and sharing a passion.”
The two performances will take place at the W.H.A.T. Theater, at the First Lutheran Church, 65 Oakwood Ave., Kearny, on Friday, Oct. 24, and Saturday, Oct. 25, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are just $12 for adults and $10 for students and senior citizens and may be purchased by calling 201- 467-8624 or by visiting www.whatco.org.