RADIO GALS is a quirky little musical that would seem to fit the tastes of theater audiences in the final dog days of summer. It is produced by Hedgerow Theatre in Media, Pa., and was written by Mark Craver and Mark Hardwick, the pair responsible for /Pump Boys and Dinettes/.

This show takes us back to the 1920s (the writers specify 1927), when radio was in its infancy. Those were the days when any amateur who could locate a transformer could throw a program on the air, without much regard for location on the dial, content or accountability. Naturally enough big business hated the competition and urged the government (think Commerce Department) to find and stamp out the fly flicks on the radio dial. The FCC was, of course, not yet in existence.

Our story focuses on Hazel Hunt, a retired music teacher in Cedar Creek, Ark., who is given a 500-watt transmitter as a retirement present (she really expected and wanted a washing machine). With the aid of some of her former students, she sets up a morning radio broadcast, mixing local gossip, a few witty songs (sung by the "Hazelnuts") and some ads for a home-grown brew called Worehound Compound (which apparently tastes a lot like gin).

But Hazel is also apt to change the transmission settings whenever any one of her loyal listeners calls in to complain of a fading signal, and this, in time, has caused a visit by O.B. Abbott of the Commerce Department. In the natural cause of events, it takes very little time for the ladies to charm Mr. Abbott into showing off his own musical talents, which apparently include strapping on an accordion and singing a ditty or two.

This sort of byplay takes an ensemble that flips dialogue as easily as flapjacks, can pick up a musical instrument and strum, blow or finger with authority. They also form trios and quartets at a moment's notice. Susan Wefel, who plays Hazel Hunt with considerable glee, has spent more than a quarter century with Hedgerow. Micki Sharpe has a voice that spans a full two octaves plus. Among the others, Gabrielle Enriquez performed in operas at Florida State University, Helen Clark teaches instrumental music and Pam Monaco plays the clarinet in pit orchestras. At any point, any member of the ensemble may pick up any instrument and make good music.

Of course, that includes Newton Buchanan, who plays O.B. Abbott (the accordion, remember). And you should know that Hedgerow is something of a family theater. Director Penelope Reed (whom you may remember from her years at McCarter Theatre in Princeton) has her husband, Zoran Kovcic, as a set designer, and her son, Jared Reed, as a lighting and sound consultant.

Hedgerow Theatre's production of RADIO GALS presented at the Open Air Theatre in Washington Crossing, Titusville, NJ. Summer 2006