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Theatre Sarnia to stage ‘War of the Worlds’

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Orson Welles’ ‘War of the Worlds’ is coming to Theatre Sarnia’s stage but with a big dose of humour and music that lightens the tone of the rather dark classic, says director and stage manager Paul Richardson.

Paul Richardson

“What we are doing is a play within a play so there’s the actual re-enactment of the Orson Welles’ 1938 show, which tends to be heavy and serious, as well as another radio show done in 1948 with some hilarious commercials that are totally over the top,” said Richardson.

The show is also elevated by a trio of singers from Petrolia performing jingles and other songs, he said. Carol Graham, Linda Nap and Sandra Johnson sound like The Andrews Sisters who were known for their boogie woogie harmonizing in the 1940s.

Richardson has been with Theatre Sarnia for 35 years and filled all kinds of roles both at the front and the back of the house. He chose to direct and stage manage ‘WAR OF THE WORLDS: The Panic Broadcast’ by Joe Landry because he thought it might be a more simple production.

“I was wrong!” he laughed. “I’m realizing how hard directing is with all the details and so much decision-making.”

Kelly Barrington at the sound effets table. Photo by Emily Nutson

But rehearsals with the cast of 25 are going well and he anticipates a show that is both entertaining and thought-provoking. One of the highlights is the sound effects table used in the early days of live radio when shows like the original War of the Worlds were performed in the studio. For this show, Kelly Barrington, Linda Johnson and Mackenzie Hutchinson operate various sound-making equipment including a wind machine called an aeliophone built by the late Bill Allingham for the show.

WAR OF THE WORLDS: The Panic Broadcast was originally scheduled by Theatre Sarnia for the fall of 2020 and postponed by the pandemic, but not before Allingham completed work on his wind machine. The entire show is being dedicated to Bill Allingham’s memory.

“The aeliophone really is a work of art,” said Richardson. “Bill also built a miniature door we use to simulate the sound of a door slamming. “We’ve got bells; we have whistles; bags of marbles that sound like it’s raining and empty bottles that make boat sounds. The effects are really wonderful,” said Richardson.

Kieran Corless plays The Stranger. Photo by Emily Nutson

He recommends audiences arrive 15 minutes early for the show because of a unique twist that involves cast members performing even as the audience is seated. And the final few minutes of the show offer another unique feature with an audio visual production to reflect the media’s role in major world events starting in the 1930s through to the 2020s.

“It demonstrates what (writer H.G.) Wells believed, that what you see has an impact on what you think. It shows how powerful the media can be,” said Richardson.

IF YOU GO:

WHAT: Theatre Sarnia’s “WAR OF THE WORLDS: The Panic Broadcast” by Joe Landry      WHEN: Sept. 28 – Oct. 1, 2022. 7:30 p.m.                                                          WHERE: Imperial Theatre, 168 North Christina St.                                            TICKETS: Visit www.imperialtheatre.net or call the box office at 519-344-7469

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