The happy-to-be-in-Lanesboro cast of “Radio Gals” includes, from left, Kay Wold (Azilee), Beth Hennessy (Mabel), Bonnie Hulsing (Gladys), Barb Keith (Rennabelle), Kevin Hoeltzle (Inspector Abbott), Val Tindall (America) and Sandy Webb (Hazel). The role of Azilee will be played by Ceil Allen in the production, not shown.  SUBMITTED PHOTO
The happy-to-be-in-Lanesboro cast of “Radio Gals” includes, from left, Kay Wold (Azilee), Beth Hennessy (Mabel), Bonnie Hulsing (Gladys), Barb Keith (Rennabelle), Kevin Hoeltzle (Inspector Abbott), Val Tindall (America) and Sandy Webb (Hazel). The role of Azilee will be played by Ceil Allen in the production, not shown. SUBMITTED PHOTO
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The stories of the cast members of the upcoming Lanesboro Community Theater production of "Radio Gals" could double as the stories of the characters in the humorous musical play.

Six live theater performances of the musical comedy "Radio Gals" will run the weekends of July 19-21 and July 26-28 at the Historic St. Mane Theatre in Lanesboro. Friday and Saturday evening performances begin at 7 p.m. and Sunday matinees begin at 2 p.m.

According to Beth Hennessy, who plays Mabel in the play, it's "a story about middle-age and older women who like to perform in a small rural community. The story of my life in a way!" Hennessy came to Lanesboro in 2008, attracted to a community "that encourages us to take the stage and try new things."

Similar sentiments are echoed by others in the "Radio Gals" cast and crew who have each made their way to the Lanesboro area over the past handful of years because of its reputation for encouraging theater, the Arts and an active lifestyle.

"Radio Gals" was written by Mike Craver and Mark Hardwick. The play's setting is small town Cedar Ridge, Ark., in the 1920s. On the heels of her retirement, lead character Hazel Hunt, who has spent her career as the town's music teacher, receives a Western Electric 500-watt transmitter as a gift. So she sets up broadcast station WGAL right in her living room and, with the help of former students who provide their musical and entertainment talents, takes to the local airwaves.

An interesting tidbit to note is that Lanesboro resident and stage set volunteer, Don Bell, rounded up a broadcast microphone once used in 1920s radio work on the East Coast. Look for the big brass floor mike during the production!

Her programming is a mix of small town diary, calendar and stream of consciousness, with generous installments of song and music by Hazel's orchestra, the Hazelnuts. The trouble is, radio broadcast in the 1920s was not well regulated. When other broadcasters infringe on Hazel's place on the dial, she wave-jumps to bandwidths outside her licensing - an illegal practice that brings Federal Radio Inspector O.B. Abbott, intent on shutting down Hazel's broadcasts.

"It gets crazy from there," said Musical Director Rita Dalzell.

Dalzell, formerly from the lake country of Park Rapids, Minn., knew of Lanesboro's reputation in the arts and joined the community in 2010 to be nearer kids and grandkids.

The production is also led by stage director, Robin Krom, who came to Lanesboro after he and his wife, Bethany, were deciding on a community where they'd retire. Each made a list of things they wanted: biking, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, theater, arts and golf. Robin shrugged. "Everything pointed to Lanesboro."

Sandy Webb, who plays Hazel, arrived three years ago by way of stints in New Mexico and before that the Oregon Coast. Having learned about Lanesboro by listening to the Rhubarb Festival Prairie Home Companion Broadcast, she and her husband "chose this gem of a place to live" because of the access to the arts and to the natural world.

Bonnie Hulsing, portraying Gladys in the play, grew up in Winona, then lived in La Crosse and came to Fillmore County and performing arts opportunities at Forestville State Park.

Barbara Benson Keith, portraying Rennabelle, and husband Pete migrated from urban St. Paul to build a home in the quiet countryside south of Lanesboro in 2008. She jumped into Lanesboro's arts community in its many forms: exhibiting at the Arts Center, teaching glass mosaics classes, directing community theater plays, producing an all-local-video for an outdoor showing, hosting a weekly arts broadcast show, and more.

Beth Hennessy, as Mabel, and husband, Tom, came to Lanesboro for their wedding anniversary during a scenic detour in 2004, passing by the historic 1870s brick home they soon after purchased and moved into.

Ceil Alan, playing Azilee, moved to Lanesboro from Chicagoland at the turn of the century, enchanted with the area, and has been involved in so many community projects and Community Theater productions, she's lost count of the number.

Val Tindall, playing America, moved to Lanesboro from Decorah five years ago after she and her husband, Gordy, found the perfect spot for their authentically restored historic Spud Boy diner. Tourism to support the diner was key, but Val also appreciates Lanesboro's beautiful community filled with creative people. "It's opened up a lot of doors for us," she said.

Kevin Hoeltzle, who plays inspector O. B. Abbott, left the St. Louis area and bought a hobby farm near Canton in 2003 when his now-ex-wife took a research job at Mayo. In 2008, he was in a play with Jill Underwood and has since moved to Lanesboro, renting Jill's house and enjoying the landscapes that remind him of childhood in the Ozarks.

Advance tickets to "Radio Gals" performances are $14 for adults, $12 for students and seniors. Reserve by calling the Lanesboro Arts Center at (507) 467-2446; or get tickets at the door just prior to show times if the show isn't sold out.

The St. Mane Theatre is located at 206 Parkway Avenue North, the main street of Lanesboro. For more information, visit http://lanesborocommunitytheater.blogspot.com/ or find the Lanesboro Community Theater on Facebook.