The Cape Playhouse capped its 87th season with the raucous musical comedy "Radio Gals". Set in 1920s Cedar Ridge, Arkansas, "Radio Gals" is the story of radio host, retired music teacher and airwave jumper Hazel Hunt and her band of merry loonies lovingly dubbed the Hazelnuts.
It's the 1920s and Americans mostly relied on their radios for everything from entertainment to news and weather and sports to spirituality. Hazel is the matriarch of the airwaves waking neighbors each morning and entertaining them throughout the day with gossip, news and songs. WGAL, Hazel's radio show is made possible by her 500 watt Western Electric radio transmitter, a gift from the good folks of Cedar Ridge upon her retirement. To fill the open airtime, Hazel has assembled the Hazelnuts a colorful group of ladies made up of a mysterious set of siblings, Azilee and Mabel Swindle, a coquettish aging flapper, Gladys Fritts, the All American girl, America (what else?), and the eternal Sunshine Girl Rennable. The Hazelnuts are also bound together as Sisters of Pythius.
"Radio Gals" is quick and funny, innocent, yet saucy enough to keep the audience giggling. Some members of the audience were heard saying "it's no 'Hello, Dolly'"--and that's right. It isn't. Apples and oranges, folks, "Dolly" is a big and brash classic, and "Radio Gals" is a musical comedy--clever little ditties woven throughout a madcap, physical story. "Radio Gals" is like "Lake Wobegon" by way of Cedar Ridge, Arkansas. It's pure Americana--like a Fannie Flagg novel set to music.
Hazel's seemingly ordinary day is turned upside down when an inspector from the Dept. of Commerce shows up in her front parlor to investigate allegations of airwave jumping. As with most--really all--slapstick comedies and sitcoms, a misunderstanding leads the characters down a crazy road--Hazel doesn't realize O. B. Abbot is there to shut her down, she instead thinks he is a tenor, come to audition and add a little testosterone into the Hazelnut estrogen mix.
The show relies heavily on the talents of the actors who not only sing and dance, but play a variety of instruments--Hazel's house band could give Letterman or Leno's fellas a run for their money.
Mary Stout as Hazel is the glue that keeps the Hazelnuts together. Stout is wonderful in a role reminiscent of her turn as Reverend Mother Mary Regina in "Nunsense" last year at the playhouse.
The Swindle Sisters played by Mike Craver and Guy Strobel are subtle and funny. Jessica Tyler Wright as America and Katrina Yaukey as Rennable are captivating--each in their own way. Wright's America fits like a glove and it stands to reason--she was involved in the original Off Broadway production of the show. Joy Franz as Gladys, the (probably) world's oldest flapper is a loopy, flirty delight.
"Radio Gals" was written by Mike Craver and Mark Hardwick and features punchy and fun songs like "There Are Fairies in My Mother's Flower Garden", "Buster He's a Hot Dog Now" and "Kittens in the Snow". The show was directed by Pamela Hunt and all the action takes place in Hazel's well-appointed front parlor, designed by James Morgan.
There was a touch of "Noises Off" before the opening performance--although more front of the curtain than backstage drama--as an audience member interrupted Evans Haile's intro to ask if rumors were true that the producing artist director may be leaving the playhouse. The regulars bristled at the idea of a summer at the playhouse without Haile's obvious influence. Following the only standing ovation of the evening, a noticeably touched Haile danced around the rumors and said he hopes to see everyone back for the opening of next year's 88th season in Dennis.
"Radio Gals" is running August 19 through August 31 at the Cape Playhouse, 820 Route 6A in Dennis, 877-385-3911. Shows are Monday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m., matinees are Wednesdays and the second Thursday at 2 p.m. and the first Saturday at 3:30p.m.