New Springer show is a collaboration between Paul Pierce and Allen Levi
“Kudzu Covers the South.” That’s the on-air slogan for WKDZ, a Columbus radio station at the center of the action of the Springer’s original musical comedy opening November 8.
KUDZU, The Musical takes place in Columbus during a massive flood on the Chattahoochee River in the summer of 1954. The setting is a tiny radio station – WKDZ – Kudzu Radio – which has scheduled a broadcast of its popular Vine Time Variety Hour just as the river gushes into the flood plain.
When all the other radio stations are knocked off the air, WKDZ becomes the community’s sole lifeline during the disaster. Since the station broadcasts from the third floor of Shipley’s Mortuary and Life Insurance Agency, the broadcasters, musicians and live studio audience are safe from the flood. So the station’s owners, Preacher T.J. Allred and his wife, Jackie, decide to go ahead with the big show even as the storm rages outside.
Kudzu, The Musical features Southern legends, tall tales, rural humor and local news – woven together with the Lost Dog Report, Recipes and Home Remedies, a call-in show called Ask the Preacher and WKDZ’s popular mystery series, Frank Cutter: Phenix City Private Eye.
Legendary Georgia songsmith, Allen Levi, has written original bluegrass, country, blues, gospel and comedy tunes for the production.
Kudzu’s playwright and director, Paul Pierce, collaborated with Levi to produce a musical comedy that explores life in the Chattahoochee Valley in the 1950’s – an era in which Phenix City was in its “Sin City” phase, when Digger O’Dell buried himself alive, when the Goat Man made frequent visits, when Eddie Owens Martin was working out his Pasaquoyan visions, when the textile mills, RC Cola and Tom’s Peanuts were still humming, when mysterious blue fireballs danced on the surface of the river, when UFO’s were commonly reported and when Jim Crow laws were being challenged.
“The idea for this started back in the 1990’s when Allen and I first got to know each other,” Pierce said. “I began meeting regularly with a group of local historians and folklorists like Kaffie Sledge and Cathy Fussell and collected local legends, tall tales and, well, weirdness. Then I spent months at the library going through newspaper archives and began distilling it all into one very weird evening in 1954.
“After I wrote the first draft of the script, I invited Allen to write original songs and jingles for this mythical Southern radio station. He delivered some brilliant tunes. We workshopped the show in 1995 and even toured it a little in the Southeast. Last year when the Springer decided to revive the show and give a full professional treatment, Allen and I decided that the script and the score could use some improvements. As Allen said, ‘We’re both better writers now than we were twenty years ago.’ So this is a fresh take on the story and Allen has written four amazing new songs for the show. We are excited to share our work this November.”
The cast is led by a Springer stage veteran Keith McCoy, who plays Preacher Allred, the owner of the station. Allred’s no-nonsense wife, Jackie, is played by Chelsy Cutwright. Ned Bridges plays Joe D. Wood, the station’s general manager and announcer and Debbie Anderson is Joe’s wife, Charlynn, who is also a singer and musician in the studio band. Kerry Phillips plays Ken Kines, the bandleader and the orchestra is completed by Justin Balew, George Miles and Steve Thompson.
Kudzu, The Musical will be performed in the intimate Dorothy McClure Theatre (aka, “The Dot”) at the Springer Opera House with a set that resembles the Chattahoochee riverfront. The show opens November 8,9,10,15,16,17 at 7:30 pm and November 11 and 18 at 2:30 pm. To reserve tickets, call the Springer box office at 706-327-3688 or visit springeroperahouse.org