One thing needs to be cleared up right off the bat. There’s no nudity in Naked Radio.
What the opening show of the Chemainus Theatre’s 2023 season, running March 3-April 2, does offer the audience instead is lots of music and loads of fun.
Naked Radio is created by the same company from Wisconsin, Northern Sky Theater, that had one of its performances featured at the Chemainus Theatre in 2019. Those who remember Lumberjacks In Love will know they’re in for a rollicking good time in the same vein.
The premise for Naked Radio can be summed up by the numbers: two DJs, one blizzard, no records, three actors, 15 characters and no dead air.
According to the Northern Sky Theater website, “when a small radio station gets swallowed up by a corporate parent, the local DJs are relegated to obscurity. But when a snowstorm knocks out the county and the station loses its tie to the pre-programmed feed, the guys have to punt, and a rejuvenated station brings back spontaneity and joy to the community it serves.”
The original music, with some familiar tunes, is by Paul Libman, with book and lyrics by Dave Hudson.
Libman’s career composing for advertisers left him with an exceptional skill for writing jingles, which fill the score with catchy, memorable and often hilarious songs.
Stripping the title down, Hudson explains on the Northern Sky Theater website the name Naked Radio has a double meaning. “The first is the radio station itself is laid bare in the storm without the insulation of the corporate broadcasts. The other meaning suggests things get a bit unhinged in the station.”
Hudson reassures the play is fit for the audience without a PG rating. “Well, hey, we’re on the radio, you can’t see us.”
The two DJs at radio station WHLO (or what would be CHLO in Canada) are: Michael Clarke as Bart Dunwood and Kaden Forsberg as Mike Young.
Clarke has appeared in many Chemainus Theatre performances since relocating from Toronto to Crofton, including Rock Legends and Kim’s Convenience, and last year’s solo project, The Journey.
Forsberg performed in Chemainus in June of 2022 as one of the musicians in Classic Country Roads.
The third person in Naked Radio, Naomi Costain, plays Maggie Wheeling, who works for the station and also calls in, plus a dozen townspeople portrayals calling in for a mind-numbing 13 characters.
“Some of them are more subtle and some are less subtle,” said Costain of the characters. “Sometimes they’re very quick in and out.
“It’s something that’s newer for me, this many. Often you might get three or four. This is a lot. It’s a good challenge.”
Costain is from Victoria originally, but is making her first appearance at the Chemainus Theatre. “I love it here,” she said.
Costain’s parents still live in Victoria and she’ll have a full entourage of family and friends from around the Island coming to the theatre to see her in the show. Costain currently resides in Toronto.
“I was very happy to come here,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve performed in B.C. since I was 20.”
Costain moved to Toronto at an early age and also went to school in London, England, attending college at Laine Theatre Arts in the United Kingdom.
“I wanted to be in a big centre so I could see all that amazing West End Theatre,” she said.
Costain is thrilled to be in Chemainus now to do such a fun show.
“There’s so much music in it,” she said. “It’s just light, fun, fast-paced with a heart.”
After three weeks of rehearsals, she’s anxious to get on with the show.
Costain joins the musical aspect on bass, omnichord and ukulele. Clarke plays guitar and mandolin while Forsberg completes the trio utilizing the guitar, banjolele, ukulele and percussion.
“I’ve done a fair number of musicals over the years,” said Costain. “It’s almost a play with music, but there’s a ton of music. And I love doing things that are comedic.”
Antony Knight, 25, who grew up in Kelowna, is the musical director and an understudy for this performance. Despite his age, he has extensive training in music and acting.
After leaving Kelowna right out of high school in 2016, Knight went to UBC to attain a double major of opera performance and composition, taking six years.
“It’s been great,” he said of his role in shaping the production. “I have a lot of experience in a bunch of styles of music. It feels like directing a band practice. We’re all just kind of in a room, playing the instruments and trying to find out the best way to make the songs sound great.
“The songs were written in a country/folk style. They have that sort of base. I feel like we’re breathing new life into these songs, giving them a different style.”
Spontaneity is a key word to give the songs context.
“They’re all pretty integrated to what’s going on at the moment,” Knight explained. “A lot of the songs in the story are kind of made up on the spot.”
This show is proving to be right up his alley, as he moves his career forward with a focus on both music and acting.
“I’m mainly a composer at this point,” Knight said. “I’m kind of a performer as well. My dad’s a jazz drummer. I grew up with a lot of instruments around me.
“I’m going to continue to do both. I want to keep performing and musical directing. In my downtime, I’m always writing music for various other things so I’m kind of doing it all.”
Knight is sure the positive vibe from everyone on the team putting Naked Radio together will rub off on the audience.
“It’s a super fun show,” he said. “Everyone is going to love it. I have no doubt.”