August 12, 2009

Route 66 Playhouse Live Radio-Stage Program to be Held Oct. 3 at RSU

A prestigious slate of Oklahoma authors, musicians and actors will take the stage of the historic Will Rogers Auditorium at Rogers State University in Claremore on Saturday, Oct. 3, for the Route 66 Playhouse, an old-fashioned live program featuring music, skits, comedy and interviews.

Hosted by Sam Jones, the radio-stage production of the Route 66 Playhouse will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets will be $12 dollars for adults and $5 for children under 12 and will be available at the box office or in advance by calling the RSU Foundation at (918) 343-7768. All proceeds will benefit RSU.

"This will be an old-fashioned live radio program that will showcase some of Oklahoma's most treasured and talented individuals who have enjoyed long and successful careers in broadcasting, instrumental and vocal music, writing and production," said Jones, producer and director of the Route 66 Playhouse. Jones is an Emmy Award-winning Tulsa television and radio broadcaster and host of the Perspective series on RSU Public Television.

"Our main goal is to form an ensemble that will entertain as well as educate," Jones said. "In fact, some RSU students will be involved both on stage and behind the scenes where they will learn how a stage production such as this one comes together."

Auditions will be announced later this year for RSU students who wish to be part of the "Outrageous Human Antics" or "What We Didn't Learn in Class" segments of the production, Jones said.

During the Route 66 Playhouse production, writer Michael Wallis, best known for his books about Route 66, Frank Phillips, the 101 Ranch and Wilma Mankiller, will present readings from his "Songdog Diary" series. John Wooley, author of "100 Years On The Hill," a History of RSU, also will appear on stage to discuss RSU, Oklahoma Music, his various writing projects and his years with the Tulsa World.

Chuck Gardner of Tulsa will serve as musical director of the Route 66 Playhouse Band. Gardner is a veteran pianist, composer and arranger. Route 66 Playhouse Band members include Frank Brown on guitar, Bill Crosby on upright bass and Anthony Yohe on drums.

During his long and storied career, Gardner has performed and recorded with such notables as Bob and Delores Hope, Rosernary Clooney, Vic Damone, Mel Torme and Nancy Wilson. He studied music with Henry Mancini. As a member of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Band, he performed in New York's Carnegie Hall and on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Sonny Gray of Tulsa is assistant musical director and sound effects supervisor for the production. Gray has participated in major jazz concerts in Tulsa and throughout the nation for many years. He is a member of the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame and serves as a music faculty member at the University of Tulsa.

Rebecca Ungerman will appear as a featured vocalist and Route 66 Playhouse ensemble actor. Ungerman is a popular local jazz singer who has been lead singer of Blue Combo, performed as a headliner at the Little Rock Blues Festival and appeared on stage with Little Richard and Kenny G. She also directs children's theatre in Oklahoma and other states.

David Berntson will be featured with Route 66 Playhouse Band on harmonica. His specialty is blues and he will also present a demonstration of harmonicas during the production. Berntson is well known for working with students in the Tulsa Public School system.

In addition, Dan and Debbie Kara, hosts of "All That Jazz" on RSU Radio, will take the stage, with Dan serving as announcer and back stage director and Deb appearing as a featured actor in the Route 66 Playhouse ensemble. Dan Kara is transmitter and maintenance engineer at RSU Public Television.

Jones describes the Route 66 Playhouse as "radio with pictures." The playhouse harkens back to a time when the listener was the most important element," he said. "Writing, the weaving of images, music and timing will be our top priority as the audience is introduced to various, magical people who in just moments, will become like old friends and take us all back to a place that feels like home."

Jones will write many of the skits and serve as host for the production which will feature "live sound effects" similar to radio of the 1930s and 1940s. "It's all designed to take audience behind the radio speaker and maybe raise a few eyebrows along the way," he said.

The show will also feature several surprise elements and guests. Additionally, Books by Michael Wallis and John Wooley will be for sale in the lobby along with CDs by the various musicians.

For more information, call the RSU Foundation at (918) 343-7768.