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