Like the Prairie Home Companion with Baggy Pants

March 5, 2009


              A photo from the lobby

A photo from the lobby

Or at least thats how the Garden State Jubilee referred to themselves as I was introduced to them, before noon on Wednesday; in the humble suburban town of Teaneck, NJ. Protected by a large  Orthodox  Jewish community the town is seemingly  untouched – many of its storefronts so old they’re practically retro, and the Cedar Lane Cinema is no exception. Playing mostly art house, indie and jewish indie flicks, the price of admissions is a mere $4.75. The snacks? my twizzlers set me back $2.25 – combined, thats less than admission for a matinee at the Megaplex. But I wasn’t there for a movie (not today, I’ll get to that), I was there to see something I never thought I would – a live radio broadcast. So for the better half of the early afternoon, from the upstairs theatre that houses fifty; myself and seven or so other audience members clapped, laughed and participated exactly just in that fashion. 

Until today, my only recollection of live, theatrical radio came from  such movies as “Annie” and “A League of There Own” where middle aged women in dark colored itchy looking dresses read the radio when prompted by an “on- air” and “off- air” blinking red sign. Usually some fast paced newsy sounding jingle hummed in the background as these aging women in their modest heels and proper white gloves read grim war front news into heavy metal microphones. Or at least thats what I imagine. But not what I saw. More like ten or so actors and technicians recording a show in t-shirts and jeans; old time noise effects replaced with a Mac, and a couple cameras on tripods. Not a single cellphone sighting, no huffy or fussy performers – just actors (characters!) collaborating for a dying art in an old movie theatre.

And what a show.  I can’t say I’ve been to many recordings of anything, in fact, the last live taping I went to was back in August when I saw Doug Benson’s Marijuanalogues. I also don’t listen to much live, theatrical radio these days -in fact, more like 1010 wins for New York City traffic updates. So, I’m no authority- but between the Jersey Devil skits and Uncle Floyd’s banter, the games of “Trivial Prosciutto”   with audience member participation and the occasion catchy tune performed mere feet from me – it was fun. Engaging, worth return for, what people refer to as “a real treat.” 

 The whole experience, the entire theatre is in fact a treat, from the pimply teenager in his bow tie and matching vest who sells you your ticket – to the original posters and  original seats in the theatre downstairs. No reclining chairs or $7 sodas, neon signs or 30 minutes of commercials and trailers before the movie. No circles of teenagers huddled in the lobby you have to worm yourself  around or long lines for bathrooms or tickets or candy. Its simple, small, quaint and the exact opposite of my every other movie going experience as of late.

A poster from outside

A poster from outside

But before we made it to the theatre upstairs for the show, we waited patiently in the lobby when in between going gaga over old movie posters and smoking cigarettes I discovered the news. From March 11th to April 29th on Wednesday at 8 pm you can catch an old time classic, played on original 35mm film for $6. If you get there at 7:30 you have the pleasure of hearing Jeff Barker play the organ,  and then if your lucky they’ll play this. If you want to make a true evening of it, I suggest taking your date down the street to Bischoff’s  for an ice cream beforehand. Did I mention they still wear paper hats, churn their  own ice cream from scratch, and have booths in the back worthy of making out in between sipping from the same milkshake like you’re Sandy & Danny and this is Grease.  Now where did I put my saddle shoes?

Movies & Dates: 

March 11 – Casablanca

March 18 – A Night at the Opera

March 25 – Goldfinger

April 1 – Beyond the Rocks

April 8 – Dr. Strangelove 

April 15 – Jezebel

April 22 – On the Waterfront 

April 29 – It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World 

Cedar Lane Theatres 503 Cedar Lane, Teaneck, NJ 201-836-3334

Garden State Jubilee: – Airs at 9:03 on Saturday nights, but if you’d like to attend a live recording, you can attend Wednesdays at 11 am now through mid-April. For more information, call the theatre.

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