Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Florida Stage: Dr. Radio (7 reviews)

Florida Stage previewed the world premier production Dr Radio on March 24th and 25th, and opened it on March 26, 2010.
The sweetest new musical you’ll ever see. In a dusty old radio repair shop on a forgotten street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, an old man prepares to close his doors for the final time.  But, before he says good-bye, he recalls the story of his greatest adventure – a musical story of neighbors and friends, secrets and ghosts, hidden treasure and, most of all, discovered love.  A beautiful, funny and tender tale of the joy of life.
Bill Castellino directed a cast that included Margot Moreland, Elizabeth Dimon, Irene Adjan, Wayne LeGette, and Nick Duckart.

The Sun-Sentinel has declined to review this production.*

John LaRiviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway.com:
Irene Adjan is perfectly cast as the fashionable villainess, Penny McAdams, complete with wicked laugh. Her costumes are adorable, thanks to the work of Mark Pirolo.
Duckart does an admirable job, and merengues up a storm, though one would wish his character was not written with the stock character stereotyping prevalent in the time period in which radio plays were popular. It is a tad un-PC by today's standards.
True to the bigger than life aspect of the show, the character of Madame Pilchowa is given over the top treatment by Beth Dimon. Bedecked with turbin and shawl, her false Hungarian accent is mysterious-sounding enough to fit that of a fortune teller.
Wayne LeGette as Benji and Margot Moreland as Kate Cuorecantare are the heart of this production. There is a warmth and sweetness to their characters apart and together. This new musical by McGovern and Castellino has great sentimental appeal and well-seasoned performances bound to leave a smile on your face.
Michael Martin reviewed for EDGE Miami:
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.
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.
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.
Brandon K. Thorp reviewed for the Palm Beach/Broward New Times:
....Dr. Radio is being given a production so lively, committed, and fun that bitching about its absence of originality is an act of sheer ingratitude. Adjan is typically committed as the scheming, tooth-grinding McAdams, deploying her famously sturdy pipes in a fun, brash character voice. Dimon plays her flaky Gypsy like she's waited her whole life to behave so kookily — watch as her eyes roll back in her head as she waves her hands in the air and sings "Dun-ty dun-ty diddle-dee-dee, da Dun-ty dun-ty diddle-dee-dee" while she channels an old Irish widow named McKeever. If you don't laugh, you don't have a pulse.
...this is a play that's at its best when at its silliest, and the most valuable service that LeGette and Moreland render is in providing a solid bedrock of seriousness from which actor Duckhart takes off like a goddamned Saturn rocket.
This role, I predict, is going to make (Duckhart) the go-to guy for smart, physical comedy for every theater in the three counties. His dancing is spicy, and even in the play's tuneless moments, his body seems to vibrate to some manic music only he can hear.
Hap Erstein reviewed for the Palm Beach Post:
...(a) serviceable tale packed with nostalgia and romance — welcome ingredients in the realm of musical comedy. And it is certainly a comedy, of the giddy, wacky, often-doesn’t-make-much-sense, but-just-go-with-it sort.
Benji (warm-voiced Wayne LeGette)... tea leaf reader (Elizabeth Dimon), a greedy bank owner (a nutty Irene Adjan), a Latin dance instructor (madcap Nick Duckart, the revelation of the production) and a stranger to the neighborhood named Kate (Margot Moreland)...
...McGovern embellishes it with a score brimming with verve and frequent nods to past musicals, without ever sounding derivative... this is as textured, character-rich a collection of tunes as one could hope to encounter.
Skip Sheffield, former reviewer for the Boca News (and others) reviewed on his blog:
The show deserves an A for ambition.
Creators Christopher McGovern and Bill Castellino hatched their all-original period musical from scratch in record time.
The production deserves an E for execution as well, as director Castellino has assembled a top-flight cast of Florida professionals who could put a polish on any material.
As for content let's call it a C+, because live radio is but a distant memory for many people, and the characters in this fable are right out of central casting.
...it's a little strange that LeGette is half the age of his character, and stranger still that an actress who may be his age or older plays his daughter and his wife.

I cut 'em some slack on these oddities, because this is a fantasy, and I still dig old radios. Tim Macabee's antique-filled set is a marvel to behold.
...comedy or drama, Moreland is alway up to the task.
Another versatile singer-actress, Irene Adjan, plays the heavy... Her comic relief sidekick, Latin lover Rudolpho Garcia, is played hilariously over the top by Nick Duckart...
Adding to the wacky mix is is resident psychic Madame Agnieska Pilchowa, played by yet another versatile powerhouse, Elizabeth Dimon.
As a work-in-progress, "Dr. Radio" is pretty darn good entertainment. Its motto: "You can't know the future until you know the past," is timeless.
Mary Damiano reviewed for South Florida Gay News:
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 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.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Dr. Radio is styled as a kind of vintage radio comedy, though it's one you can see as well as hear. It features eccentric characters from Benjamin's Cannon Street neighborhood, zany (and sometimes baffling) plot shifts and a love story that turns touching only in the show's final moments. Its characters, though boldly played by a strong South Florida cast, may get you thinking about their musical theater predecessors.
The actors, who probably don't really need to be miked in a space as intimate as Florida Stage's, deliver the goods in performing McGovern's score...And they look dandy in Mark Pirolo's period costumes...
Many in the opening night audience, it must be noted, adored Dr. Radio. Still, it's tough not to be picky about things like the characters talking about doing the merengue (a dance from the Dominican Republic), then singing, "Down in Argentina . . .'' Or wondering how it is that Dad is moving in with a youngish-looking daughter who should be pushing 60 if his walk down memory lane is taking place in the present day. Maybe more fine-tuning will lead to (a) better reception for Dr. Radio.
Dr. Radio plays at Florida Stage through May 2, 2010.

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