Monday, March 18, 2013

Theater Review: Life Could Be a Dream -- Ivoryton

Aaron Catano, Matt Densky, Rob Rodems, Sheila Coyle and Evan Siegel. Photo courtesy of Ivoryton Playhouse.
Dreams of Rock ‘n’ Roll Fame Spin on the Flipside of Love
By Lauren Yarger
In a basement rec room in the 1950s, four guys dream of being the next big thing in rock ‘n’ roll and of winning the girl who has stolen their hearts in Life Could Be A Dream, a jukebox musical that has them clapping and singing along at the Ivoryton Playhouse.

Denny (Aaron Catano) is living at home with his mom, who constantly reminds him over the house intercom system (Sheila Coye provides her voice) to “Get a Job” (the basement is created in wonderful detail by designer Daniel Nischan). He and nerdy friend Eugene (Matt Densky) put together a singing duo in hopes of winning a recording contract from the label owned by Bulls Eye Miller (the voice of Bob Muscatel). Church choir-singer and preacher’s son Wally (Rob Rodems) gets into the act and Denny and the Dreamers are born (costumes by Kari Crowther).

Potential sponsor Big Eddy sends Skip (Evan Siegel), head mechanic in his shop, over to check out the group. He brings along Big Eddy’s daughter, Lois (Coyle), to give a woman’s opinion. She thinks Skip should sing with the guys and soon he’s the group’s soloist.

It’s clear that Denny and his crooners are an out-of-step nightmare with the men competing for attention, but all that becomes secondary when they see Lois. She is the girl of their dreams. Eugene still hasn’t recovered from her rejection of his invitation to join him at the school carnival in 5th grade (“Devil or Angel”); Wally thinks she’s a vision from heaven (“Earth Angel”) and Denny thinks she’ll go for him (“Only You”). Even Skip is in love with Lois, but keeps his feelings hidden since Big Eddy would never approve of his daughter dating a lowly mechanic from the wrong side of the tracks with possible criminal ties. What none of the men know, however, is that Lois is in love with Skip (“I Only Have Eyes for You.”)

This scenario is nicely played with each character singing the love songs to express their feelings. The musical, written and created by Roger Bean (The Marvelous Wonderettes) is a step above most jukebox musicals in that the lyrics in each of the more than 20 musical numbers help propel the story (the typical jukebox story is crafted as a vehicle just to get to the next song). This helps Bean’s rather unimaginative book (Wally’s character is one of the most stereotypical, cliché-riddled, nerdy Christians ever to be written for the stage – and that’s saying something). The hour and 30 minutes with an intermission feels a bit long. This easily could have been penned as a 90-minute no intermission show.

The music is directed by Jason Wetzel, who conducts a five-member band. The ensemble, directed by Jacqueline Hubbard, doesn’t quite solidify. Coyle and Siegel sound fine, but don’t have power behind their solos (flipping Catano, who lights up the stage even though he’s not supposed to as Denny, with the less boisterous Siegel might have proved a more interesting dynamic). Densky does “silly” well, but overreaches at times for Eugene’s nerdy side.

Rodems pulls off a miracle, however, by making Wally likable. His creates some very funny bits with uptight body language in “Buzz, Buzz, Buzz” (Schuyler Beeman, choreography) and while reverently serving cartons of wholesome milk from the rec room’s bar. Siegel also had a genuinely humorous interaction with a woman in the audience and these touches keep the piece from feeling too hokey.

Life Could Be a Dream plays through March 30 at Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main St., Ivoryton. Performances are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2 pm; evenings Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 and Friday and Saturday at 8. Tickets: $40 for adults, $35 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children. 860-767-7318; www.ivorytonplayhouse.org.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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