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Absolute opens season with ‘upbeat’ musical ‘Radio Gals’

October 5, 2018

Absolute Theatre of Rochester is opening its third season with a musical, “Radio Gals,” and Suzie Hansen, who is directing the show, is feeling the pressure.

“Absolutely,” she said. “You want to kick off the season with something wonderful. You hope people will love it. As an artist, you put pressure on yourself. There’s a lot of pressure to make Absolute look great. And,” she added, “my name is on this show.”

Hansen picked “Radio Gals,” which opens Oct. 11, because, she said, “we thought it would be fun to do something upbeat to kick off the season.”

“Radio Gals,” which comes from the same team that wrote “Pump Boys & Dinettes” and “Smoke on the Mountain,” is indeed promised to be upbeat and family-friendly. The show is set in 1920s Arkansas, where music teacher Hazel Hunt runs a small, unlicensed radio station from her living room. A government inspector arrives to check things out, and ends up falling under Hazel’s spell.

It’s a folksy tale with 21 original songs, not to mention dancing and comedy. Plus, Hazel appears to be brewing up more than music. “She has a still in the backyard,” Hansen said.

Aynsley Scheffert is the music director, and is also in the cast. “When I cast the show, it was not a prerequisite to play a musical instrument,” Hansen said.

It turns out, though, that there are talented musicians in the cast, and Hansen is learning something new with this show. “It’s been a journey,” she said. “I’ve never done a play where I have my actors play instruments.”

Also in the cast are Jennifer Peterson, Amanda Pyfferoen, Annette Schuler, Patricia Barrier, Emily Watkins and Peter Amendaler.

This group has been rehearsing for nearly two months. For much of that time, Hansen and her cast have been confined to a classroom at Rochester Civic Theatre, while other productions take over all available space. It’s worked out fine, she said, because “I want the set to feel like an overstuff parlor.”

That, in turn, will give audiences a sense of the community Hazel built with her radio station. “Even though it’s a little radio broadcast,” Hansen said, “this is what they have. This is their life, their entertainment. And anybody who comes into the parlor, they ask, ‘Would you like to sing a song?’”

For this show, Absolute will perform on the main stage at the Civic.

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