Dr. Radio

by Michael Martin

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday April 8, 2010

Penny McAdams and Rudolpho Garcia
Penny McAdams and Rudolpho Garcia  (Source:Photo by: Bruce Bennett)

A new old-styled musical, entitled Dr. Radio, makes its debut currently at Florida Stage in Manalapan, a theater which continues to encourage the production of new works.

After last season's successful run of another new musical, Cagney!, Director/Choreographer Bill Castellino has once again teamed up with Lyricist/Composer Christopher McGovern to create a musical story that takes place around the time that radio was losing its popularity to television in the late 1940's and early 1950's.

Castellino's book begins somewhat ambiguously; at first, we meet Benjamin Weitz (Wayne LeGette), who enters his radio repair shop (ergo the name Dr. Radio). The actor's every move suggests that the character of Benjamin is up in years, though LeGette quite clearly looks to be at least a generation younger.

Soon after his arrival, Benjamin turns on a radio in his shop, and a host of other characters begin to appear.

Are the characters part of a random radio show plotline that Benjamin is listening to, brought to life for the benefit of the theatre audience? Or is Benjamin recounting his own story?

With the sudden flip of an extremely creative set by Tim Mackabee, and a change in gait by LeGette for his now younger Benjamin, the latter proves to be true, but again, not without first spawning some confusion.

Perhaps the book could be better streamlined at the beginning to more clearly define Benjamin's recounting act. A better understanding would more quickly involve the audience with the action at hand.

Once understood, Benjamin's story then introduces us to Kate (Margot Moreland), from the shop around the corner that caters to television, a service industry that Kate considers to be the wave of the future, much to Benjamin's professed doubts.

The producers of Dr. Radio tout the show as a "completely original new musical."

We also meet the very lively Madame Pilchowa (Elizabeth Dimon), a soothsayer that proclaims that there is a hidden treasure of gold that once belonged to a former widow of town stashed in an old radio at Benjamin's store.

The news of a possible fortune perks up the greedy ears of Benjamin's landlord, Penny McAdams (Irene Adjan). Along with her accomplice, sexy dance instructor gigolo Rudolpho Garcia (Nick Duckart), Penny plots to reach the gold before anyone else discovers it.

All five South Florida actors shine in their respective roles. They each receive enough stage time to truly flex their acting prowess and strong vocals, which ultimately makes way for an entertaining evening of theatre.

The producers of Dr. Radio tout the show as a "completely original new musical". Unfortunately, the script seems to contain what appear to be borrowed ideas from other more established musical theatre.

The mention of Kate's "shop around the corner" reminds audiences of the very book that She Loves Me was based on.

Benjamin's come-to-life imagery while listening to a radio, and the character of Rudolpho closely resemble the happenings in Broadway's recent hit, The Drowsy Chaperone.

Though McGovern's music never stands out as particularly memorable, and though Castellino's script could use some fresh ideas of its own, the talented cast injects enough energy into their performances to liven up this old fashioned musical.

Dr. Radio continues through May 2nd at Florida Stage, 262 South Ocean Blvd, Manalapan, FL. For more information, please visit the www.floridastage.org website.

Michael Martin has been an active member of Actors' Equity for over 20 years. As a professional actor, he has toured many parts of the US and the world. Originally from St. Louis, he now resides in Miami.