BWW Review: BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO brings simple musical fun to Centre Stage

BWW Review: BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO brings simple musical fun to Centre Stage

Midway through the song "Where the Boys Are" I physically felt my brain switch itself off as a giant grin erupted onto my face. And for the next hour and a half that grin never left me.

Breaking Up is Hard To Do, now playing at Centre Stage, obviously did not grab me right away. I was trying too hard, I suppose, trying to figure out what the show was really all about, if the plot was really going to be as predictable as it already seemed. In hindsight, I should have read director Reed Halvorson's notes in the program. "The story is sweet and light like a frozen limeade," he writes. "This show is all about relaxing and having a great time, so please, give yourself time to do just that."

When Joshua Thomason, playing the smarmy lounge singer Del Delmonaco, took his own sweet time to change shirts in the middle of a song, I finally got it. I laughed and my brain understood that there was nothing there to analyze, there was no overarching message being presented. Breaking Up is Hard To Do uses the songs of Neil Sedaka to tell a sweet, simple story using sweet, simple characters. And because the cast and crew bring sincerity and a lot of talent to the proceedings, it works like gangbusters.

The show takes place at Esther's Paradise, a small resort in the Catskills. The time is probably the early sixties, but that almost doesn't matter. Friends Marge (Mariel Zmarzly) and Lois (Charly Anne Roper) are visiting the resort for a weekend of fun, being entertained by a vain and shallow Elvis-wannabe (Joshua Thomason) as well as a Borscht Belt comic (Rod McClendon). Throw in a bumbling but earnest handyman (Sterling Street) and proprietress Esther herself (Arleen Black) and you've got two hours of carefree musical fun.

Mariel Zmarzly impresses as the frumpier friend, Marge. Zmarzly has solid comic timing and a lovely voice, especially when she gets to fully unleash it in songs like "Solitaire." As her dumb blonde friend, Lois, Charly Anne Roper also demonstrates a great voice as well as a wholesome, straightforward silliness that's perfect for the role.

I loved Joshua Thomason as the self-centered and shallow-hearted lounge singer, Del. This was the part his hair was born to play. Sterling Street also won me over as the good-hearted klutz, Gabe. Street brings a natural charisma to all his roles and it's not wasted here.

Arleen Black is terrific as the crusty, seen-it-all owner of the place, Esther. She also has great chemistry with Rod McClendon, who is absolutely top-notch as "comic" Harvey. Whether he's telling lame jokes or bringing his own Elvis swagger to the song "Breaking Up is Hard to Do," McClendon is both hilarious and surprisingly affecting. It's a wonderful, winning performance from one of my favorite local actors.

Director Reed Halvorson deserves a ton of credit for letting this simple, charming show just be itself. Music director Holly Caprell gets just the right vocals from the cast and Mary Evans Giles' choreography complements while never overwhelming the proceedings. Genesis Garza's set and lighting design are also just right as are Stacey Hawks' costumes. And the onstage band is balanced perfectly with the vocals. Stan Wietrzychowski conducts from the keyboards, with Kip Brock on drums, Johnny Culwell on guitar, and Jordan Hanner on bass.

This show is easy to watch, easy to enjoy, and blissfully forgettable. I had a great time watching it and I think you will, too.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Book by: Erik Jackson & Ben H. Winters
Music by: Neil Sedaka
Directed by: Reed Halvorson
Music Directed by: Holly Caprell
Show dates: July 26 - Aug. 18, 2018
Performances: Thursday - Saturday 8 pm, Sunday Matinees 3:00

Centre Stage is located at 501 River St in downtown Greenville, SC.

For tickets and additional information contact the box office at 864-233-6733 or visit

Photo credit: Escobar Photography

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From This Author Neil Shurley

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