News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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February 20, 2014

‘The Whistler’ among Crosley Radio Players acts

The Crosley Radio Players return Sunday to the new dinner theater at Tuscany Restaurant in Paris, Ill. Tuscany, at 1218 N. Main St., will offer a buffet dinner with drink and dessert, plus the 80-minute show for $20.

The Crosley Radio Players will feature episodes of “The Whistler,” “Your Hit Parade,” and “Fibber McGee and Molly.” Many of the sound effects used will be generated live, just as they were when the shows were on radio.

Reservations are strongly suggested, as seating is limited. Tickets may be purchased in advance at Tuscany, or by calling 217-466-1610. Buffet service begins at 5 p.m. CST with the Crosley show about an hour later.

“The Whistler” — one of radio’s top mysteries – premiered May 16, 1942, on the CBS Radio Network, and ran for the next 13 years. The stories followed a formula in which a person’s criminal acts were typically undone either by an overlooked but important detail or by their own stupidity. The Whistler himself narrated, often commenting directly upon the action in the manner of a Greek chorus, taunting the characters, guilty or innocent, from an omniscient perspective. Rod Serling of “Twilight Zone” fame said this program was the inspiration for many of his shows.    

“Your Hit Parade” debuted April 20, 1935, on NBC and bounced between NBC and CBS until after World War II. Dozens of singers and band leaders appeared on the show, including Frank Sinatra and Doris Day. But the bulk of the singing was done by the “regular” cast of the show as the producers wanted to highlight the songs instead of the singers. For the entire radio run, the show had only one sponsor: Lucky Strike Cigarettes. The radio version lasted until Jan. 16, 1953.

Beginning a 24-year radio run just four days before “Your Hit Parade,” Peoria, Ill., natives Jim and Marian Jordan became one of America’s most beloved comedy couples in “Fibber McGee and Molly.” Many reoccurring gags and characters heard in the 1,611 episodes kept the nation howling with laughter through two wars and a depression. Terre Haute native Bill Thompson voiced no fewer than four different character’s voices. For many years, Johnson’s Wax was the show’s sole sponsor. Pitchman Harlow Wilcox wove a Johnson’s commercial into the fabric of the show so as to not disrupt the timing and continuity of the program.

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