Radio recreators take on classic ‘Cinnamon Bear’
Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear performer Pat Able shares the stage with co-founders Pam Turlow and Ben Dooley at the Oak Park Arms Retirement Community. The group will recreate the radio special, "The Cinnamon Bear."
Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear presents ‘The Cinnamon Bear’
2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 23
Oak Park Arms Retirement Community, 408 S. Oak Park Ave.
Updated: December 20, 2012 2:23PM
A holiday tradition that began 75 years ago is being revived by Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.
The radio program recreators will perform segments from “The Cinnamon Bear” on Sunday at the Oak Park Arms Retirement Community. The event is free and open to the public.
Starting in 1938, WGN radio broadcast daily 12-minute episodes of that tale between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Ben Dooley, founder and director of the group, thought recreating some of those segments would make wonderful holiday entertainment for all ages.
“I’ve been wanting to do it for quite some time. It’s a Chicago classic,” Dooley said.
It’s the story of two children, Judy and Jimmy, who enlist the help of their friend, the Cinnamon Bear, to search for a stolen silver star which was supposed to go on the top of their Christmas tree. “They travel in a little toy plane into the magical world of Maybeland,” Dooley related. “They meet all these crazy characters. It becomes kind of a ‘Wizard of Oz,’ ‘Alice in Wonderland’ adventure.”
Preparing the script was a gargantuan task because it would have taken over five hours to present all 26 episodes. First, Dooley transcribed all the episodes from the original recordings because the scripts no longer exist. He decided to present several segments from the beginning, middle and end of the series with a narrator filling in the gaps.
Dooley, who is a professional life coach as well as an actor, started Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear in 2002. They perform about six times a year at the Oak Park Arms, where Dooley’s father-in-law lives.
“Anytime that we take on a show, we want to recreate it as accurately as possible and that means matching the voices,” Dooley said. “We really want to pay tribute and respect.”
For “The Cinnamon Bear” veteran group member Aimee Kennedy is cast as the Wintergreen Witch. Kennedy joked, “I guess I know what they think of me!”
To prepare, Kennedy, who coordinates volunteers at Brookfield Zoo, listened to the old time radio show and discovered that her character is “like the witch in ‘Hansel and Gretel.’ She’s going to use [Judy and Jimmy] for her nefarious purposes.”
Don Gingold, who has performed with the group for five years, declared, “I have a juicy role. I’m Santa Claus.”
The actor said he has been preparing for the role “for years and years. I listened to Lou Merrill, who was the original voice actor way back when. His delivery was sort of a rough-voiced Santa. My Santa will be your traditional deep voice.”
Although Gingold works full-time at his own website development company, he performs with a number of local theater companies. He also works in radio and does voiceovers.
Reenacting the old time radio programs pleases Gingold because, “It gives you the ability to perform in front of a group with a very reasonable amount of rehearsal time.”
Kennedy particularly enjoys this medium because the houselights are on. “You get the eye contact from the audience. You see them smiling,” she said.