World Premiere Musical Could Use Surgery

A new world premiere musical is now at Florida Stage, a show that pays homage to the golden age of radio.

Part wacky radio play, part poignant memory piece, Dr. Radio takes its audience inside the mind and radio of Benji Weitz (Wayne LeGette) owner of the Dr. Radio Repair Shop. The bulk of the play is set in 1949, just before radio began to be usurped by television as America’s dominant form of home entertainment. Benji’s favorite story from his past comes to life on stage, structured like one of his beloved radio plays and embellished to cartoonish proportions. The core of the story involves Benji’s unlikely romance with forward-thinking Kate (Margot Moreland) but also includes a Hungarian fortune teller (Elizabeth Dimon) and greedy bank president (Irene Adjan) and her Latin lover dance instructor (Nick Duckart).

Dr. Radio boasts a stellar South Florida cast of four Carbonell Award-winning performers and one up and comer. Dimon plays the fortune teller to the hilt, while Adjan is the picture of hard-hearted greed—she should really play the villain more often. Adjan also gets to wear all the best costumes, whimsically garish ensembles of pink, green and leopard by Mark Pirolo. Duckart, who has made a name for himself on South Florida stages mostly in serious dramas, is a revelation as Rudolpho, the amore-crazed, hip-swiveling dance teacher more than happy to be Adjan’s Latin lap dog. Duckart steals nearly every scene he’s in.

LeGette and Moreland do a terrific job of playing it straight amid the wackiness that surrounds them. They both possess wonderful voices and deliver nuanced, realistic performances.

The ensemble does wonders with what they have to work with, because Dr. Radio needs work. It’s a handsome production, with Tim Mackabee’s inventive and detailed set, and Bill Castellino’s staging, which includes quite a work-out for the theatre’s turntable stage.

The problems lie with Castellino’s book and Christopher McGovern’s score. The story and structure is overly cluttered and could use some streamlining and clarity. McGovern’s music is bouncy and light, and while the score includes some gorgeous harmonies, some of his lyrics are clunky and cumbersome. The exception is LeGette and Moreland’s lovely duet, “There’s Nothing Wrong with Things the Way Things Are,” a romantic winner.

Dr. Radio is a world premiere, and according to comments in the opening night curtain speech, did not go through the typical process of readings and workshops before its debut. That process might have helped this musical fulfill its potential. There’s a lot of good stuff here, it’s just not quite there yet.

Dr. Radio
Florida Stage
262 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan
Through May 2

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