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April 23, 2001

Doc Hollywood comes to town

By Eric Rangus


First Neil Shulman wrote a book. Then Michael J. Fox made a movie. Now, close to two dozen members of the Emory community will bring Doc Hollywood: The Musical to the stage.

For one night only—Monday, April 30 at 8 p.m. at Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points—a cast of 22 will present a staged reading of an original work based on Shulman’s 1978 novel What? Dead ... Again?

“It’ll be as close to a full musical production as we can get without sets, props and costumes,” quipped Travis Sentell, an Emory College senior who co-wrote the play with fellow senior Adam Roberts. Joshua Tarkan, a fourth-year medical student, wrote the music and lyrics. Senior J.C. Aevaliotis and junior Taylor Dooley will co-direct.

The performance, in other words, won’t be stagnant. The players will move about the stage, and there will be music and lighting cues.

And a wide variety of extras are planned. “We’re going to give out vegetables to everyone who attends!” exclaimed Shulman, who has been passionately promoting the play around campus. “And we’re having kids dressed as vegetables for the event.”

This salute to veganism is grounded in the plot, as Dr. Ben Stone, the play’s protagonist (played by Allen Read ’00C) meets his love interest at the Veggie Parade.

Tickets are $15 and are available at Ticketmaster outlets. All proceeds will be donated to Worldplay Inc., an organization that celebrates children around the world who make toys that are related to their cultures from common items. For $50, ticket buyers can attend a post-musical reception. For more ticket information, Shulman can be contacted directly at 404-321-0126 or

Shulman, associate professor of medicine contacted Sentell last September and asked him to write a play based on his book. Sentell then contacted Roberts—the two are acquainted through their work with Rathskeller, a student improv group—who started writing some songs.

Because they didn’t have rights to the movie script, Sentell first tried to adapt the book directly to the stage, but that turned out to be a mistake. Only when Sentell reacquainted himself with the film did things start coming together.

“What I did is I took ideas from both places and put them together, so the play kind of went in a third direction,” Sentell said. “Logistically, it’s completely different than the book or the movie.”

While themes from each work are present in the musical, not a word of dialogue from either the book or movie made it into the musical. The gist of the story (big city doctor finds true happiness in the rural South) remains intact.

The musical’s 22 songs came about a bit differently. In December, Sentell and Roberts got in touch with Tarkan for some help with medical terminology. His role expanded quickly. Tarkan, Rathskellar’s piano player as an undergraduate, was no stranger to musicals, having written seven songs for a staging of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in 1996.

So with Sentell writing the dialogue, Tarkan the songs, and Roberts working as a swingman providing ideas and revisions to both, the project chugged along and was ready for the stage this spring.

“Working with Josh and Adam has been very interesting,” Sentell said. “Josh and I have to be on exactly the same page. We really had to trust each other so the book would play off the music and the music would play off the book.

“He really was the perfect person for the show,” Sentell continued. “He rhymes ‘gastroenteritis’ with ‘acute appendicitis.’ Who else does that?”


Back to Emory Report April 23, 2001