Springfield High has spawned some pretty remarkable singing groups. First the “Wonderettes” and now “Denny and The Dreams”. It all started with an unseen group called the “Crooning Crabcakes” who were the sensation of Springfield but were banned from the prom, leaving room for The Marvelous Wonderettes to take center stage. Well The Marvelous Wonderettes played for 19 months at the El Portal Theatre before singing their way into the hearts of New Yorkers for the last year and they are still running. They also played at the Laguna Playhouse and will appear again at Musical Theatre West next April.
In hopes that lightening will strike twice, the creator and director Roger Bean has fashioned a 50s doo wop sh-boom musical called Life Could Be A Dream. This time there is a semblance of a plot (although a very thin one) where a loser group of guys form a singing group to enter and win a talent contest at the local radio show (Big Whooper Radio). They are helped along the way by a very pretty girl Jessica Keenan Wynn (yes, granddaughter of the Keenan Wynn) who is the object of all the boy’s desire. This of course leads each boy and girl to sing those heartfelt longing smaltzy 50’s tunes like “Tears on My Pillow”, “A Sunday Kind of Love”, “Lonely Teardrops”, ”The Glory of Love”, and a terrific version of “Unchained Melody”. Ironically the best song in the show was a song from a different era that became a retro hit in the 50s “I Only Have Eyes For You”. Wonderful!
The cast consists of guys who are familiar around Southern California. Daniel Tartar plays Denny and is well known for his appearances in “Kiss of The Spider Woman”, “Last Five Years”, “Fiddler on the Roof” (Rubicon) and the Ovation –winning “Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings”. He is the character that decides he can form a group and win the contest. Onto the scene comes Eugene, the scene-stealing brilliant Jim Holderidge who is the titular nerd of the group. There is nothing especially new about this character but Holderidge plays it so well and manages to get every laugh that we forgive the stereotype. Ryan Castellino is a church boy with the good voice they rope into joining. The last guy to join is a local grease monkey who happens to stop by and confesses that he can “sing a little”. Boy is that an understatement because the very handsome Doug Carpenter, opera trained, sings the hell out of such standards as The Great Pretender and “Duke of Earl”. I doubt these songs have ever been sung by such s voice.
Tom Buderwitz has designed a perfect 50s wreck room set. Luke Moyer provides the very creative lighting Cricket Myers is responsible for the well-balanced sound design. Shon Leblanc provides the period- perfect costumes. The super- talented Michael Paternostro provides the musical direction. Lee Martino gives us the limited but effective choreography. Roger Bean does a bang-up job of directing. Depending on your tolerance for yet another 50s musical, and the thin plot line. Life Could Be A Dream provides some great tunes and some outstanding singing. It plays at the Hudson Mainstage through October 25th though I predict many extensions and full houses ahead.