In fact, director Wesley Savick says, the idea was to make audiences leave thinking that maybe the Tom and Ray Magliozzi really did write the play, which couples parodies of Broadway standards with original songs by Boston's Michael Wartofsky to tell a classic, if auto-themed, love story.
In an interview with Universal Hub, Savick said the use of cars to reflect identities, hopes and embarrassments, combined with the classic story of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, results in an "unlikely marriage between Broadway musicals and automotive advice." Characters include Rusty Fenders, a hapless middle-aged owner of a terminally ill '93 Kia, who falls in love with Miata C. LaChassis, who convinces him to go to the Emerald Garage to get help from the Wizard of Cahs - who proceeds to give them guidance in navigating through life, love, car repair and everything in between.
Savick said the Magliozzi brothers, hosts of the long running NPR advice show, granted permission for Suffolk University to use their show as an adaptation for the musical, which will be the new Modern Theatre's first production. Savick, who is also a Suffolk professor, chose "Car Talk: The Musical" as the first production because it reflects the ambitious departmental values of creating original work and experimenting with theatrical forms.
Tom and Ray Magliozzi once taught at Suffolk University and Savick, a long-time listener of the show, said it was their "self-effacing, absurd and generous" brand of humor that led him to the inspiration for a musical rather than a typical theatre performance. "The possibility of a musical seemed the most striking, unexpected way to re-imagine their spirit on stage, plus, they have a long-running history of incorporating irreverent music into their show."
And the brothers have an unseen role in the new play - as the voices for an enormous Wizard of Cahs puppet.
Savick said he started writing the musical last summer. Choreographing a musical on a small stage at a new theater proved especially challenging, he said, adding, however, working with Tom and Ray was an "unspeakable pleasure."
Car Talk: The Musical! features 22 Suffolk students and an alumnus from the class of 2005. It premieres at the Modern Theatre March 31st and run through April 3rd. Tickets are $25 for the general public and are available through Brown Paper Tickets or the Modern Theatre.