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Christmas revival for radio classics


The Christmas season invokes more than its share of nostalgia, and if anyone can raise a walk down Memory Lane to the level of high art, it's John Tegler.

The gravelly voiced Severna Park resident is truly a Renaissance man. He is the host of a syndicated radio talk show and a jazz aficionado who produces festivals and cruises devoted to his beloved musical art form.

And he's a lover of the big bands and the Golden Age of Radio whose polished and loving evocations of classic radio broadcasts from the 1930s and '40s have won him a large and enthusiastic following. So this holiday season, as at Christmases over a half-century ago, the humor of Bob Hope, George Burns and Gracie Allen and the music of Bing Crosby, Helen Forest and Dick Haymes will help keep the Yuletide bright.

On Dec. 8, Tegler's troupe will come to the Onstage Room at the Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis for a recreation of the George Burns and Gracie Allen Christmas Show of 1943.

Burns and Allen, of course, were one of the greatest comedy teams of vaudeville and the airwaves. Burns, the consummate straight man, would ask simple questions that would inspire his real-life wife, Gracie, to take off on monologues that still have us chuckling 60 years later.

"They appealed to an everyman audience," Tegler recalls. "George stood there and reacted like an incredulous husband as Gracie talked. She was so ditsy the audience would fall down laughing. And it was all in good, fun, creative and clean as a whistle."

Tegler's handcrafted revival will be presented with the original commercials intact. Burns and Allen will be played by two of the area's funniest comedians, Peter and Mary Kaiser, who are also a married couple.

"Gracie was an absolute riot," says Mary Kaiser, a regular performer at the Chesapeake Music Hall. She boned up for her part by watching old Burns and Allen movies.

Sue Matthews, the popular jazz singer based in Chestertown, and Jamie Zemarel, son of the late Baltimore bandleader, will deliver golden oldies like "Stars Fell in Alabama," "I've Got a Crush on You" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas."

The show and venue will change on Dec. 13, when Tegler will bring the 1948 Bob Hope Christmas Show to the Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts in Brooklyn Park.

The Bob Hope extravaganza featured Crosby and superstar singer Doris Day, comedian Rags Ragland and the great Les Brown and his Band of Renown. Vintage Hope and Crosby banter was punctuated by standards such as "Moonlight Becomes You" and, of course, "White Christmas."

Tickets for the Burns and Allen Christmas Show at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Rams Head Tavern, 33 West St. in Annapolis, are $24. Reservations: 410-268-4545.

Tickets for the Bob Hope Christmas Show at 8 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts, 194 Hammonds Lane in Brooklyn Park, are $24 and $20. Reservations: 410-636-6597.

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