Oak Park Arms
Golden Age of Radio performances for seniors at the Oak Park Arms

Radio Reenactment: “The Big Show”

Oak Park Arms

Ben Dooley uses shoes on a wooden box for sound effectsThose Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, an all volunteer radio reenactment group, will present “The Big Show” at 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8, at the Oak Park Arms retirement community, 408 S. Oak Park Ave.

Originally aired on Nov. 12, 1950, “The Big Show” was hosted by Talulah Bankhead and guest starred Fanny Brice, Handley Stafford, Jane Powell, Ezio Pinza, John Agar, Frank Lovejoy, Meredith Wilson and Groucho Marx

“The Big Show” was an American comedy-variety-musical TV series that strived to revitalize what was becoming a dwindling TV genre of variety shows like the   “Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Carol Burnett Show.” Using a huge stage set complete with a live audience, ice rink and swimming pool, the 90-minute time slots were always filled to capacity.

Famous guests performing skits, songs and comedic routines were regularly featured. Although the show started out with high ratings, poor reviews resulted in its cancellation just months later.

Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear will now entertain the audience with renditions of radio’s last great variety show.

The performers

Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear is composed of Chicagoland actors who share a common interest – to perform old time radio programs for the community. Each actor and technician donates talent and time for free.

Group founders, Ben Dooley and Pam Turlow, husband and wife, established a connection with The Oak Park Arms in September of 2002, when Turlow’s father became a resident. They’ve been volunteering/performing at The Arms ever since.

Dooley and Turlow’s group performs only once every two months due to the considerable challenges involved in creating a show. They browse through thousands of old time radio episodes, select a favorite, listen and type out the script. Many shows are not available in print and have to be painstakingly transcribed. Then they gather sound effect, rehearse and mount the show.

Sound effects were an important part of live radio shows, and the group performs them live. They have a real door for slamming, buzzers, a sound board and shoes for footsteps, and doorbells.

The shows are very popular with residents and people from the community. Some even bring their children and grandchildren to show them what entertainment was like before television.

“Since the entire cast donates its time and energy, we can only do shows six times a year,” Dooley said, “but we strive to make sure that it’s well worth the wait.”

The Oak Park Arms is a rental retirement community which provides independent and assisted living apartments and a full schedule of activities and services. Furnished apartments are also available for a short-term stay – a weekend, a week, a month or longer.

The radio show is free and open to the public. For more information call 708-386-4040.