entire contents copyright 1995 by Larry Stark
For many years now, one of the joys of Boston has been the four hours every Saturday from 10 till 2 that STANDING ROOM ONLY airs over Emerson Radio --- 88.9 on your f m dial, WERS.
The program has been hosted by a long series of students who have refused to be stereotyped as mere disc-jockeys, though their stock in trade is original cast recordings selected out of what must be the biggest library of musical entertainment north of New York City. They have a finger on the pulse of the area, taking requests and dedications while on the air at 1(617)824-8890 --- Press ONE when you call to talk to a live human being --- but every one of these hosts has found a way to impress a unique personality on those four hours dedicated to American theater each week.
They announce any performances and auditions they hear about, and give occasional comps to lucky callers --- often throwing in a trivia question or two to spice the anticipation. And almost every week the cast from a local company either performing or rehearsing a show will come into the WERS studio to do live selections as a sampler.
Cheryl Dechayne, the current voice of S.R.O., has an unashamed empathy for belt-it-out broads, and ends every show with a Barbra Streisand selection. She once admitted to a dream of one day singing "I Ain't Leaving Without You" as well as it's done on the DREAMGIRLS cast recording. She's had an occasional "saloon singer" in to show the audience how it's done. And lately, after every-week requests for the same old tight play-list began to cast the show in concrete, she has been casting a wider net. (A cut of "The Lambeth Walk" was literally played through to the other side of the disc, and I hope it was thrown into the Charles with full military honors.) Playing up to half a dozen songs without a break, she manages to find more music I've never heard before than any of her predecessors.
Cheryl has become an excellent, spontaneous radio performer. She's mastered breath-control enough to point-up all her long, enthusiastic, uninhibited sentences. Even when (very rarely) admitting to being a little down, or moved by a caller's personal problems, she's always sincere, and her bubbly enthusiasm for live theater is not only honest, its infectious.
Her "better half" Ami Clark is no slouch either. Acting as producer, engineer, fill-in voice, library gopher, and occasional off-mike giggler, Ami will probably be the voice that answers when you call in a comment or a request. She is sometimes the silent voice in the obvious dialog of equals that the show represents.
The bad news, I learned today, is that Cheryl and Ami will graduate this year. The good news is that you won't have to worry about that until May, and undoubtedly Emerson Radio by then will discover yet another unique individual, or pair, who will turn STANDING ROOM ONLY into something new and different --- but, oddly, always the same. There's nothing that better conveys the joys of live theater than this live radio program. If you haven't heard it, you just may have been wasting all your Saturdays from 10 till 2 up to now.
S.R.O. WERS. 88.9 f m. Lend it your ears. And, if Ami and Cheryl happen to play the "Intermission Ballet" and "The Big Black Giant" from ME AND JULIET back to back, you'll know they were playing them just for me.