Radio Repertory Company of America, July 2011
Maureen Lambert (Kelli O'Hara) was once a famous singer, attracting large
audiences to her performances all over the country. Now she has fallen on hard times; having emerged from a nervous breakdown,
she is reduced to singing in sleazy joints to small audiences. The thought of standing once again in front of large crowds
fills her with terror. Maureen also experiences problems with her teenage daughter Holly, who objects to her mother's smothering
attentions towards her (a reaction, perhaps, to Maureen's largely hands-off treatment of Holly when Holly was younger).
Into Maureen's life comes another ageing singer, Amelia Storm (Shirley Jones), who
offers to pass on to Maureen what Amelia identifies as "a gift" - the ability to see into the future. Maureen objects initially,
but eventually acquiesces. However this "gift" proves to be a double-edged sword, as Maureen has visions of her daughter being
kidnapped and held to ransom. Eventually this vision proves true, so Maureen hires recently-retired cop Henry Powell (Ed Asner)
to aid her in her quest to find Holly.
The action twists and turns, leading to a conclusion at a ball game, where Maureen
has to overcome her fears and sing in front of a large crowd once more, to guarantee her daughter's safety. Meanwhile we discover
Amelia's true identity, while Henry's illusions are shattered.
Although set in the future, Song Bird has its roots in the kind of mysteries
that used to dominate the silver screen and/or the air waves in the so-called 'Golden Age' of the 1940s and 1950s. Both
O'Hara and Jones have the opportunity to sing, and very pleasant they are too. For those of a certain age, who remember Jones
in The Partridge Family, and Asner in Lou Grant, the play offers a chance to recall their childhood and
adolescent viewing habits. The ending is a little rushed, but on the whole this is an entertaining drama with music:
well worth a listen.