Stage Struck Review

Reviews for theater within the greater Los Angeles area.

The Fog of Nostalgia in “Life Could Be a Dream” at La Mirada

Nostalgia is in. Actually that’s not news. As the Boomers have aged into retirement, they have consistently reached back into what we see as a more innocent time. It’s an attractive, if somewhat two-dimensional vision of that period before Woodstock or Watergate, when songs spoke of blue moons and teen angels, and Mr. Sandman could bring a dream date.

The theatrical homage to this fondness for the Eisenhower years has taken root on stage, in such gems as “Forever Plaid,” which gleefully celebrated the period’s kitsch with a fictional “guy group”, or “The Marvelous Wondrettes” whose earnest high school girl group experiences prom night fame, then reflects upon it from their actual adult lives. Both of these are sweet, still understanding the boundaries of a period seen only through its rather rose colored popular tunes.

The creator of “The Marvelous Wondrettes,” Roger Bean, has a second venture into this realm with “Life Could Be a Dream,” now at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, courtesy of McCoy Rigby Entertainment. Although it has more plot than either of the above, it suffers from a split personality. Well performed, its salute to late 50s music cannot figure out if it’s a send-up of earnest amateur singing groups, with its obligatory caricatures, or an earnest love story.

Denny the post-high school loafer (Daniel Tatar), Eugene the dorky and uncoordinated geek (Jim Holdridge) and Wally the minister’s kid (Ryan Castellino), all of them refugees from high school glee club, decide to organize, rehearse and compete as a group to win a recording contract through a local radio station. They get sponsorship from an auto repair shop, represented by the owner’s daughter Lois (Jessica Keenan Wynn) and Skip, the mechanic she brings along who classes up the boys’ act (Doug Carpenter).

There’s a lot of singing of familiar tunes as they rehearse, and as a relationship simmers between Lois and Skip, who is apparently forbidden fruit for a business owner’s daughter. When they are singing in dream sequences, or even when dealing with the more serious side of the Skip-Lois thing, everyone is profoundly professional. When they are acting in the guise of the guy group trying to get ahead, they are comically ill equipped for success. The division leaves one unconnected to the characters, as there is no way for them to consistently be one thing or another.

The talented, game cast sings very well – a delight when dealing with the tight harmony of that era. Their movements remind one quickly of the innate silliness of the choreographed groups of the period. Still, there are moments when traditionally male songs (even if originally sung in falsetto) are handed to Lois, and one trips on one’s nostalgia. A girl doesn’t sing “Only You,” any more than a girl sings “Lonely Teardrops.” The premise of these things is to keep sacred the arrangements and settings of these classic songs. It is a mild violation to skew things that far.

Particular nods go to Holdridge and Castellino, who play their stereotypes to the hilt. If only the consistency issues kept one from losing interest in them. By the predictable ending one wishes that “Life Could Be a Dream” had settled for being a really cool, costumed concert instead of creating plots that don’t intertwine well.

What: “Life Could Be a Dream” When: Through November 20, 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with 2 p.m. matinees Saturdays and Sundays Where: La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, 14900 La Mirada Blvd. in La Mirada How Much: $35 – $50 Info: (562) 944-9801 or (714) 994-6310 or http://www.lamiradatheatre.com

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