Radio Gals
 by Mike Craver and Mark Hardwick
 Stetson University Stover Theatre
 February 1998

This new musical comedy by Mike Craver and Mark Hardwick takes place in Cedar Ridge Arkansas, in the parlor of Hazel Hunt's home, in the late 1920s - during prohibition, but before the Stock market crash. Hazel is the town's music teacher who, upon receiving a 500 watt Western Electric AM transmitter for a retirement present, begins broadcasting as WGAL. She is joined in this endeavor by the "Hazelnuts," composed chiefly of her singers from the local chapter of the Sisters of Pythias, and a collection of town musicians who wander by from time to time.

Amateurs in the true sense of the word (in this case, "lovers of music"), Hazel and the Hazelnuts provide weather reports, gossip, baseball scores, community announcements, and most importantly, a wealth of whimsical musical numbers that range in style from ragtime to swing, from crooning to bluegrass, from the art song to the Broadway show tune. They also finance their enterprise by selling Hunt's Horehound Compound, a dubious brew made from Grandpa Hunt's time-proven recipe - it cures dyspepsia and strips floor wax.

When the investigator O.B. Abbott pays them a visit, he is horrified at their technique of choosing random broadcast frequencies as they search for a "clear channel." Unfortunately for him, he is also love-stricken with Gladys Fritts, the Hazelnuts' "masked soprano." Torn between love and duty, Abbott flees on his motorcycle pursued by Gladys, who turns his flight into an elopement. The two are brought back to Hazel's parlor at the point of her ancient shotgun to immortalize their love on the airwaves. Abbott contributes his talent as a tenor and accordionist the group, and leaves his job to join the "radio gals" permanently.

Radio Gals was a very new musical at the time; our production was approximately the fifth in its history. It has since experienced dozens of productions all over the country. It was an experiment in collaboration with voice faculty and students from the School of Music. As it turns out, the show's off-Broadway producer lives in nearby Spruce Creek and was able to fly in the playwright and one of the original cast members to see the production and meet the students. The play was discovered through internet research, and email correspondence with the author/composer allowed us to make changes in the writing to suit our production demands.

 

Probably the most important adjustment had to do with casting. The play was written to be performed a by a small cast who act, sing, and play very specific musical instruments; the talent pool at Stetson did not allow for this arrangement exactly as written, so the main creative task for the director was to make the play work by separating the actor/singers from the band. This resulted not only in giving the musicians lots of stage business and writing some lines for them, but also in giving the show its first choreography for several numbers, since actors who were not playing musical instruments now had to dance. It was the first time the play had been performed in this manner.

Review from the student newspaper

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Copyright 2003 by Ken McCoy.