Regional Reviews: Los Angeles
Life Could Be a Dream
To be fair, the plot is paper thinbut no thinner than, say, a bride-to-be trying to find out which of three men is her father so he can walk her down the aisle. Life Could Be a Dream is a "making the band" story. It starts with Denny and his friend Eugene, learning about a radio contest for a fresh new sound, and deciding in Denny's basement (great 1950s design by Tom Buderwitz) to try their luck. Daniel Tatar plays Denny, the lead singer (he doesn't care what the band is called, as long as it starts with "Denny and the ..."). Tatar's voice is strong, and he gyrates in that brilliantly unselfconscious way one only does when singing into a broom handle in one's basement. (At the performance reviewed, he was egged on by some approving shouts from women in the audience.) Eugene, played by Jim Holdridge, is pretty much what you'd expect from a Eugenegeeky, glasses-wearing, painfully unathletic, and often on the wrong foot with the choreography. But he sings well, and when Eugene sings "Tears on My Pillow" in front of a girl who broke his heart in fifth grade, Holdridge manages to combine pathos and humor.
Denny and Eugene meet various challenges in preparing for the contest: Denny's mom wants him to "Get a Job"; their friend Wally (Ryan Castellino, the sensitive one) wants to join the group; they need to find a sponsor to pay the $50 entrance fee; their sponsor requires them to add a fourth member (Doug Carpenter as Skip, the tough guy); and so forth. And soon, "Denny and the Dreamers" are born.
But there's a bit more to it than thatmore challenges the group has to overcome. Skip is tall, good-looking and a better lead singer than Dennysomething that does not go down at all well with Denny. The sponsor's daughter Lois (a sweet-voiced Jessica Keenan Wynn) sends three of the guys' hearts a-flutter, but she "Only Ha[s] Eyes For" the fourth. And what makes it all workperhaps better than The Marvelous Wonderettesis that nearly every song serves a purpose. It may be a jukebox musical, but the numbers aren't interchangeable. Sure, there are a couple of flat-out performance pieces when the guys rehearse, but most of the songs fit particular characters and what they are feeling at the moment. And because of that, we carewe want the conflicts among the guys to be resolved; we want the group to win the talent contest; and we want the lovers to end up together. And because we're engaged, the whole thing is an awful lot of fun.
Well, no. It's not a lot of fun just because we're engaged; it's a lot of fun because the doo-wop music is infectious, the guys harmonize beautifully, choreographer Lee Martino has given them great smooth sliding dance steps and, perhaps most importantly, Roger Bean, Jon Newton and Steve Parsons have put together some perfect musical arrangements which show off the guys' talents and, just often enough, reflect the mood of the moment.
At times, the performers seem a bit too over-amplified for the small house in which the show is playing, but it's a small quibble with an otherwise delightful show.
Life Could Be a Dream continues at the Hudson Mainstage Theatre in Hollywood through October 25, 2009. For tickets and information, see www.lifecouldbeadream.net.
David Elzer, Peter Schneider & Crooning Crabcakes, LLC present: Life Could Be A Dream Written by Roger Bean. Musical Arrangements by Roger Bean and Jon Newton; Additional Musical Arrangements by Steve Parsons; Scenic Design by Tom Buderwitz; Lighting Design by Luke Moyer; Sound Design by Cricket S. Myers; Costume Design by Shon LeBlanc; Casting by Michael Donovan CSA; Production Stage Manager Nate Genung; Musical Direction by Michael Paternostro; Choreography by Lee Martino; Directed by Roger Bean.