Dr. Radio by Christopher McGovern
BOOK BY: BILL CASTELLINO
MUSIC & LYRICS BY: CHRISTOPHER McGOVERN
It is autumn 1984 and Benjamin Weitz (aka "Dr. Radio") is finally closing his radio repair shop on the lower east side of Manhattan. As he stands amid boxes and memories, he sees his favorite radio of all, a 1940s RCA. Reaching to pack it, the radio lights up and a beautiful Bandsinger appears, taking Benji...
BOOK BY: BILL CASTELLINO
MUSIC & LYRICS BY: CHRISTOPHER McGOVERN
It is autumn 1984 and Benjamin Weitz (aka "Dr. Radio") is finally closing his radio repair shop on the lower east side of Manhattan. As he stands amid boxes and memories, he sees his favorite radio of all, a 1940s RCA. Reaching to pack it, the radio lights up and a beautiful Bandsinger appears, taking Benji back to the late 1940s and his youth (The Love I Have For You.) Lost in the melody, Benji joins in the tune, only to be interrupted by "futurologist" Madam Pilchowa, banker Penny McAdams and her lover, dance teacher Rudolpho Garcia - characters that spring to life from the radio and his memories of his past. As the characters fill in the events of previous "radio episodes" in Benji's life, a lost stranger appears on Cannon Street, Kate Cuorecantare. Kate has rented the recently departed Widow McKeever's shop, sight unseen, on the corner of Cannon Street to begin a new business. Her neighbors help her find the shop, and Rudolpho even offers Kate a free merengue lesson the following evening. Finally, all the characters take their places to help tell the newest "chapter" in Benjamin's "memory" (History.)
Settling to his workbench, Benji begins to diagnose and repair a radio - Rudolpho's Admiral T70-X, and marvels at its beauty (I'll Help You Sing Again.) Suddenly Kate enters the shop with an old dusty radio she has found while cleaning out the Widow McKeever's basement. Benji discovers that Kate intends to open up a "Television Emporium" as the wave of the future, and unintentionally insults Benji's "dinosaur" of a business - that of repairing radios. Kate storms out of the shop, and Benji returns to his work. (I'll Help You Sing Again - Reprise**). Back at her new shop, Kate's moving chores are interrupted by a visit from Madam Pilchowa, who has arrived with Hungarian cookies and a thermos full of tea to offer Kate a "complimentary "tea life reading" as a "hello gift." Kate is intrigued, but she accidentally gives Madam Pilchowa one of the Widow McKeever's china tea cups to use in the reading, resulting in the unintentional channeling of the dead Widow's spirit. The Widow seems desperate to impart a message, but its meaning is unclear to the Madam and unsettling for Kate (That Is Vot I Read.) The unnerved Madam leaves the shop, and Kate, spooked, runs to the first lighted storefront she sees, Dr. Radio. They briefly converse and Kate calms down, but the two again spar over the coming technological revolution versus the appreciation for "what has been."
Left alone, Dr. Radio begins work on another radio belonging to Penny McAdams, the "evil financier of Cannon Street." Penny appears with her paramour, dance instructor Rudolpho Garcia. But the heiress is distraught, having just learned her departed father had over leveraged the bank and the Pennywise Fiduciary Savings & Loan is just days from collapse. Reading the obituaries for comfort, she realizes some of the departed were her customers, some had no survivors, and that the earthly possessions they left behind might help her debt. (The Object Of My Affection.) As she goes through their safe deposit boxes she finds there is not enough wealth to solve her dilemma, but then she discovers the Widow McKeever's drawer. But it contains only a diary. Breaking open the locked journal, Penny reads of the Widow's "golden treasure", carefully hidden somewhere in the neighborhood. Having found an answer to her problems, she rushes to Rudolpho's dance studio to let him know that the day has been saved.
Back at the shop, Dr. Radio finishes Rudolpho's Admiral and delivers it to the dance studio, where he becomes roped into a merengue lesson, and maneuvered by match-making Rudolpho into being Kate's dance partner. (Hubba Hubba.) After class, having not killed each other and actually having had a decent time, they walk down Cannon Street together. While they both are extreme opposites, they begin to find humor in each others differences. Kate suggests the two go to see 'Wonderful Town,' which has just opened at the neighborhood movie palace. Benji quickly disappears into his shop, leaving Kate to try to sort out her complicated feelings toward him (Go Figure.) The neighbors appear and try to each take credit for the developing attraction between Kate and Dr. Radio (History - Reprise**).
The next evening, Kate and Benji have indeed both ended up at the movie, and on the walk home their mutual attraction becomes more apparent to each of them, although their differences still loom large (Things The Way They Are.) But there is no time for that, since the neighborhood is about to be turned upside down. Madam Pilchowa has been getting increasingly more possessed by the Widow McKeever's spirit and cryptic messages of hidden gold, and Penny has realized that the Widow's directions to the "treasure" in the diary are actually a series of red herrings. At last, they all discover that the treasure was hidden inside the RCA radio in the shop, and they all rush to Kate's store (Keep Livin'.)
Suddenly, Benji's daughter Katherine enters and breaks him from his radio play. The car is waiting and its time for him to say goodbye at last to Dr. Radio's repair shop. But he's not ready yet. He wants to finish his story, and won't leave until he does. Katherine agrees to allow him to finish, and even volunteers to play the part of Kate, her mother. Benji begins the story from where he left off, Penny entering the store with a gun, Madam Pilchowa revealing she has been told all along by the Widow that Penny has been up to no good, and Rudolpho cowering in fear amidst all the confusion. Penny demands the treasure and Kate's eviction, but Madam Pilchowa first insists on a Seance as the Widow has something very important to impart. Penny reluctantly agrees, while still holding tight to her gun. However, during the Seance, the Widow misfires and not only posseses Madam Pilchowa, but also inhabits Rudolpho and Penny as well, as she tells of her love for her husband - a sailor who was lost at sea. Finally, Benji plays the Widow as she tells of how she was unable to continue truly living her life after the loss. (Seance/Widow McKeever.) All the characters are truly moved by the story, they forgive each other, Penny relinguishes the gun and her animosity, and Madam Pilchowa collapses in relief and exhaustion. They all disappear leaving Benji and Katherine alone.
But Benjamin will still not tell the end of the story. Katherine insists he finish packing and gives him just a few more moments alone. Haltingly, Benji recalls the part of his "history" he has avoided remembering for so long - that he and Kate courted, married and had a daughter Katherine, but then one winter Kate fell ill and passed away. Strengthened by this last retelling of the story and the Widow's message of moving forward with life, he finishes his story. At the end, Kate appears, and Benji produces the Widow's true treasure, hidden inside the RCA radio - her wedding ring, inscribed with the words "Keep Livin' ". Benji is at last able to say goodbye to Kate (Nothing Else To Say.)
Finally, Benjamin gathers his last box of radios, and leaves the shop for good, at last able to finish this chapter of his story and say "goodbye". The other characters appear one last time, to see him off to the rest of his life (Finale.)