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Review: SH-BOOM! LIFE COULD BE A DREAM at The Winter Park Playhouse

Review: SH-BOOM! LIFE COULD BE A DREAM at The Winter Park Playhouse

An entertaining, high-quality, and fun production filled with mid-century favorites

Review: SH-BOOM! LIFE COULD BE A DREAM at The Winter Park Playhouse The Winter Park Playhouse, in Winter Park, FL is extremely good at producing intimate, sometimes lesser-known, but always high-quality musicals. In my short time here in Orlando, I have had the pleasure of visiting the Playhouse on a few occasions, and each time have been thrilled at my experience - not just because the shows themselves were outstanding, but because the environment radiates warmth, positivity and a true love of the craft of musical theatre. So, it was once again my pleasure to make it out this weekend to see the latest production of The Winter Park Playhouse's 20th anniversary season - SH-BOOM! LIFE COULD BE A DREAM, and once again I came away with a huge smile and a heartwarming feeling. This latest production is everything audiences have come to expect: a fun and entertaining night of musical theatre, presented by a highly talented cast and imagined by a strong creative team.

Review: SH-BOOM! LIFE COULD BE A DREAM at The Winter Park Playhouse Written & Created by Roger Bean, with "Do-wop" music from the 50's and 60's (arranged by Roger Bean, Michael Borth & Steve Parsons), SH-BOOM! LIFE COULD BE A DREAM shares a similar construct to Mr. Bean's other musical works, including THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES, and is, in fact, set in the same town as that quartet of hit musicals (think of it as taking place in the Roger Bean Theatrical Universe - to borrow from Marvel). SH-BOOM! focuses on a single, eventful week in the life of a set of young friends, Denny Varney (Adam Fields), his best friend Eugene Johnson (Ryan Matthew Petty), and his church friend Wally Patton (Chase Williams). Set almost entirely in Denny's basement rec room, the three young men are preparing for a big radio contest where the winner will be awarded a recording contract and the chance of a lifetime. With dreams of being the next big thing in rock and roll, "Denny and the Dreamers" work to first find a sponsor for the contest - which they find in Big Stuff Auto - which introduces the boys to head mechanic, Duke Henderson (Russell Stephens) and the daughter of "Big" Earl Franklin, the owner of big stuff, Lois (Olivia LaBarge). Very soon, Duke finds himself in the group and Lois finds herself falling for Duke and the boys not sure how to act - especially when this causes tension for their sponsor and Lois' father. Over the six days that span the two acts of the musical the group forms their sound and shares their dreams and ambitions through popular 60's "Do-wop" music including hits such as "Get A Job", "Earth Angel", "I Only Have Eyes For You", "Duke of Earl" and "Unchained Melody", culminating in an energetic and fulfilling finale punctuating the story of these five young people in a bygone era.

Review: SH-BOOM! LIFE COULD BE A DREAM at The Winter Park Playhouse I have never loved the descriptor of "jukebox musical" which typically is given to any musical that utilizes existing, popular music for its score, mainly because to me, "jukebox" creates a very specific image of the mid-20th century, when jukeboxes were a primary source of musical entertainment - not an artist's catalog or otherwise. But for SH-BOOM! LIFE COULD BE A DREAM, however, I think the description works perfectly. The list of musical numbers looks like it could have come straight off a jukebox in a diner or soda fountain in the early 60's - and as each musical number begins, creates that same feeling of sitting in a booth and being thrilled when a favorite song begins playing. The song selections are great, weaving together favorites, and lesser-known numbers, and Roger Bean's script serves its primary purpose - getting the audience from one song to another while also becoming invested in the simple, yet effective plot of the show.

A musical such as SH-BOOM! LIFE COULD BE A DREAM, requires each of its actors to be skilled and flexible and in the Winter Park Playhouse production this is absolutely the case. The five voices are wonderful, blend marvelously together and each actor has a chance to shine on their own or in the lead as well. Adam Fields is starry-eyed and hardheaded, but loveable as Denny. Ryan Matthew Petty's Eugene is wonderfully nerdy and awkward - you can't help but love him. As "church friend" Wally, Chase Williams is naive but open to the wild new experience of being in a singing group. Russell Stephens gives a standout performance as brooding outsider, Duke, and has several opportunities to show off a marvelous voice. Rounding out the group, Olivia LaBarge, as Lois, brings a softer but determined air to the proceedings - and even though she finds herself falling for Duke, does not come across lovestruck and helpless, as so many films of the time portrayed the heroine, but instead strong and sure.

Review: SH-BOOM! LIFE COULD BE A DREAM at The Winter Park Playhouse Director Tay Anderson has done a great job first with the casting of the five actors who inhabit the stage for SH-BOOM! LIFE COULD BE A DREAM, but from there she has captured the energy, optimism and joy of the era, all with solid pacing and staging. Ms. Anderson also serves as choreographer and gives the audience all the snaps, slides and spins they expect from a show like this. For a show that is all about the music, Christopher Leavy's music direction is once again, essential and solid. CJ Sikorski provides a simple yet visually stimulating scenic design, infusing Denny's basement with early 60's touches and a giant radio proscenium that frames the action well. Sarah Griffin's lighting design punctuates the more dramatic and exciting moments and J. Adam Smith's sound design is equally solid. Monica Titus' costumes are colorful, fun and period-perfect.

What else can I say? SH-BOOM! LIFE COULD BE A DREAM at the Winter Park Playhouse is just that, a dream. It is a highly entertaining production, delivered by some amazingly talented actors, performing some the most wholesome and fun music to come out of the era. So, if you are looking for an enjoyable night (or day) with some old favorites, head down to the Winter Park Playhouse or you else you may end up crying "Lonely Teardrops".

SH-BOOM! LIFE COULD BE A DREAM, presented by The Winter Park Playhouse, runs through October 16th. Tickets range from $39 to $46 ($20 for Industry, Student and Active Military). Performances take place at The Winter Park Playhouse which is located at 711 Orange Avenue Suite C Winter Park, FL 32789. Tickets can be purchased by visiting https://winterparkplayhouse.org/ or calling (407) 645-0145.

Photo Credit: All photos Courtesy of The Winter Park Playhouse




From This Author - Joseph Harrison

Joseph Harrison has been involved with the theatre in some form or fashion all his life. He holds a Journalism degree from the University of Georgia, but his true love is the theatre which he has b... (read more about this author)


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