Arts In LA

Archives 2019

Life Could Be a Dream
International City Theatre

Plays designed as jukebox musicals have one function. They catalog a series of pop hits generally delivered by actors with good voices and skillful harmonizing. One of the better ones was The Marvelous Wonderettes, featuring a quartet of high school girls singing 1950s and ’60s songs, including “Lollipop” and “It’s My Party.” Following his success with it, writer Roger Bean followed up with Life Could Be a Dream, with guys now front and center.
   It takes place in a basement (set by Amanda J. Stuart); only this time a fifth member is along for the ride. Denny Varney (Josey Montana McCoy) has just graduated and is unemployed, hanging out in his basement with a friend, Eugene (Hunter Berecochea). Denny dreams of becoming a singer and winning the Big Whopper radio contest, but he needs three other singers to accomplish the four-part harmonies required. Eugene can sing the falsettos with abandon, but two more need convincing.
   Preacher’s son, Wally (J. Thomas Miller), arrives with potential, but there is still a missing member and the complication of needing an entrance fee. Fortunately, they know a girl, Lois Franklin (Marisa Matthews), whose daddy owns an auto business, and she guaranties sponsorship. She also provides the fourth singer, Skip (Trevor Shor). She’s admired by all the guys, but her heart belongs to Skip. The complication is that he’s the “wrong-side-of-town” guy, and Daddy isn’t buying it. This presents the only serious dilemma, but as predicted from the outset, all will turn out successfully.

At International City Theatre, all the voices are well-suited to the chosen songs, and the singers belt them out fully. From “Sh-Boom” to “Duke of Earl,” the numbers capture the flavor of the time period—largely top hits. But the production, helmed by Jamie Torcellini, depends a little too much on stereotypes for the energy and laughs.
   There are two offstage voices delivering part of the storyline. Denny’s mother via speakerphone carps and whines at him for his transgressions, which could easily be eliminated in this version to better effect. The other is the voice of Bullseye Miller, a local DJ, delivered by David Engel.
   Bill Wolfe’s musical direction is spot-on, adding to the success of the many vocals in the show. After the fellows triumph in the contest, the curtain parts and Wolfe (piano), Adolfo Kushelevich (guitar), and Juan Garcia (drums) appear onstage as the orchestra for the now-famous Denny and the Dreamers.

This is a crowd-pleaser, certainly for those in the audience who listened to the originals growing up. For a younger generation, it’s an introduction to the ’50s and ’60s doo-wop phenomenon first-hand.
Reviewed by Melinda Schupmann
March 3, 2019
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