"Don't you just love live radio?" asked Dan Wilson, the radio station's general sales manager who brought the concept to Hagerstown. He had a similar program at an Annapolis radio station several years ago.
Staub called the program "theater of the mind in words and song." It harks back to the early days of radio and earlier days of WJEJ, established in 1932, the fifth station in Maryland and one of 600 in the world at the time. The station had studios on Franklin Street in downtown Hagerstown, and programs included choral music, poetry readings and band leader Stan Kenton's first east-of-the Mississippi peformance, according to Staub.
"Radio Showcase" is a nonprofit production company comprised of volunteer staff and performers. The mission is to provide a performing opportunity for experienced and emerging talent of all ages. Sixty-five people showed up for the first auditions in May. Wilson is looking for people with "personality." He cautioned that the performers have to be serious; they have to be good.
"It's not like a gong show," Staub said.
Cristoforo Padula, a tenor born in Italy who has sung at the White House and with LaScala, the famed Milan, Italy, opera company, directs "Radio Showcase" and performed at the first show. Host of "The World of Music," his own 4 p.m. Sunday radio show on WJEJ/WWMD, Padula called the program a "tremendous blessing" because it is giving people a chance to perform, to make their dreams come true.
Holly Creek's dream is to perform on Broadway someday. The 19-year-old Williamsport resident, who is studying speech pathology at James Madison University, sang "Unchained Melody" and "The Trolley Song" at the Venice. She considers "Radio Showcase" a wonderful opportunity.
Content Allamong, a Hagerstown actress who plans to return to California to pursue her dream, acted in two of the showcase's skits.
"This is so exciting," she said before the show.
Linda Huber of Hanover, Pa., performed Southern Appalachian fiddle tunes on her autoharp. She learned about the showcase from friends listening to their car radio while traveling from Missouri. A school bus driver who studied music in college, Huber, 61, says she likes to perform, so she decided to audition.
Marlynn Masters Shelley of Martinsburg sang "Smile" and "Put on a Happy Face." The 35-year-old mother of two has a degree in vocal performance from Columbia Union College in Takoma Park, Md. She came to "Radio Showcase" for fun and experience and the chance that people who hear her singing will enjoy it enough to want to hear her again.