Sunday, January 11, 2009

First Mini-Review of 2009


Breaking Up Is Hard To Do
featuring the songs of Neil Sedaka

book by Erik Jackson and Ben H. Winters
directed & choreographed by Troy Magino
Cabrillo Music Theatre
@ Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza
through January 18 only

In its West Coast premiere, Breaking Up Is Hard To Do is a look back at the 60s when rock and roll, oversized hairdos and hoola hoops were all the rage. The scene is the Catskills, NY where performers poured their hearts out in song - to find the right manager or agent and resorted to just about anything, including backstabbing and vicious deception, to make it big.

The production, which had its world premiere in Branson, Missouri, has a neat cast, snappy choreography and, of course, the frolicsome tunes of Sedaka to allure, but the charm and intimacy get somewhat squelched on the Kavli's large stage. I've always thought that Mama Mia would have been so much more quaint and picturesque on a smaller stage, but "where's the profit in that?" you query.

That critique aside, I had a good time, and if nostalgia is your grab bag, so will you. The entire ensemble including Eileen Barnett, Julie Dixon Jackson, Nathan Holland, Ryan Nearhoff, Jeff Leatherwood and Leslie Spencer Smith are terrific. Audiences will delight in the chance to participate, especially in the "Happy Birthday Sweet 16" and "Calendar Girl" sequences. The humor is corny, the visuals silly, and there's nothing substantial to take home, except the image of a nice long walk down memory lane.

4/5 stars


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