Thursday, August 6, 2009

review - Life Could Be a Dream

Life Could Be a Dream
written/directed by Roger Bean
Hudson Mainstage Theatre
limited engagement through September 27

Roger Bean's current off-Broadway nostalgic musical hit The Marvelous Wonderettes with 60s female rock group classics performed in the style of an intimate concert could very easily be considered the female counterpart of the long-running all-male musical giant Forever Plaid.
Bean has wisely changed formats in creating Life Could Be a Dream, his world premiere male version of The Wonderettes. On the heels of the international success of Mama Mia, he has concocted, not a revue, but a more traditional book-type musical play in which the various 60s rock songs are cleverly utilized to advance the plot. To take but one example, a nagging mother complains about her loafing son and then, imitating her, he bursts into song with "Get a Job". It's heavenly to hear such golden oldies played out within a brand new story context -from an era we've lived through and can relate to on levels of joy and anxiety. It's the story of an all-boy singing group out to win a radio contest. The smart and inspired incorporation of a beautiful female sponsor and coach (Jessica Keenan Wynn) and an Elvis-like adonis from the wrong side of the tracks (Doug Carpenter) to magically give the group its 4th singer works wonders in magnefying audience appeal. Inside out, from top to bottom, Life Could Be a Dream is a winner.
The entire cast are magnetic. Like the boys in Plaid, there are distinct characters that Bean, for guaranteed comic effect, plays out to the extreme. The most obvious is the nerdy and awkard Eugene played to the hilt by versatile Jim Holdridge. To give Eugene a romantic edge with Lois (Wynn) because of a past flirtation, is nothing short of comic genius. It works dynamically, all the boys fall madly in lust for her, and this element keeps the audience in stitches for a very long space of time. Then there's the leader, the dreamer Denny played solidly by Daniel Tatar. His name must go before everyone else's, until Skip (Carpenter) shows up. Of course, there's the dutiful choirboy Wally - a religious boy meant so very much back in the 60s - played beautifully by Ryan Castellino. He receives the least comedic attention of the mix but stands apart with his lilting voice. Carpenter as Skip is a forceful leading man that dominates the stage when he's on, as did Robert Goulet in the 60s. Skip's back story becomes poignant and tender, especially with Lois' loving attention. Not enough praise can be given the stunning Wynn whose true beauty shines from within.
There are some vibrant musical arrangements by Bean and Jon Newton, like "Tears On My Pillow", "The Wanderer", "The Great Pretender" "Duke of Earl" and a glorious 'angel' medley.
The boys shimmy, shake and do all the right bodily moves thanks to choreographer extraordinaire Lee Martino. Ever reliable Michael Paternostro serves as musical director.
Basement set by Tom Buderwitz with a staircase, partial laundry room and cluttered memorabilia is period perfection, as are Shon LeBlanc's costumes. Loved those blue (leopard panelled) bowling shirts and the finale in black and leopard. Leopard is in!
Bean's direction is tight and his script, playfully cute. Listen for the 60s take on superglue! This little show is heaven-sent and will run everywhere for many years to come - and may even beat out that ...aforementioned classic...
Does it really matter? There's always room for nostalgia well done and, as served up here, Life's to LIVE for.
5 out of 5 stars
ps On a constructive note, change the group name from Denny and the Dreamers (with Skip in the lead) to just The Dreamers.


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