By Dale King
Breaking up is hard to do, opined pop music legend Neil Sedaka in a hit tune he released in 1962, then re-issued in slower ballad style in 1975.
The Broward Stage Door Theatre is not breaking up, but it is breaking away from the cement-walled, bunker-style, two-stage, former movie house behind a shopping plaza on West Sample Road in Margate that it has called home for 25 years. It will open its 2018-2019 season Aug. 31 as the resident theatre company at the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center.
In the meantime, the jukebox musical Breaking up Is Hard to Do is entertaining sold-out audiences with a mix of 18 Sedaka songs. The show looks, sounds and plays very much like one of director/choreographer Kevin Black’s many musical revues for Stage Door. But unlike Black’s shows, Breaking Up includes a plot. Actually, two.
The show features a six-person cast with music provided by a live, three-piece band under the guidance of adept music director Caryl Fantel.
And the songs definitely embrace some of Sedaka’s finest — including “Where the Boys Are,” “Sweet Sixteen,” “Calendar Girl,” “Love Will Keep Us Together,” “Next Door to an Angel” and, of course, the title song. A personal favorite, “King of Clowns,” is on the show’s hit list, but is clipped to a single verse.
Sedaka is listed as creative consultant for the show which, despite its schmaltz, is still a fun experience – particularly if you’re a fan of the Juilliard-educated piano and vocal phenom whose musical influence easily spans a half-century. He is still touring at age 79 and occasionally visits South Florida.
Erik Jackson and Ben H. Winters wrote the book that inspired this show, a semi-sweet comic story focusing on two friends, Marge and Lois, who arrive at Esther’s Paradise Resort in the Catskills for Labor Day weekend 1960. The holiday visit was intended to be Marge’s honeymoon — until the groom left her at the altar.
As Breaking Up unfolds, Lois (Leigh Green) attempts to console Marge (Molly Anne Ross) by setting her up with the resort’s suave, self-obsessed lounge singer Del Delmonaco (Bruno Faria). Unfortunately, as her plan begins to gather steam, it falls apart when Del realizes that Marge’s father is not a music mogul, as Lois purported, and cannot land him a gig on American Bandstand.
Gazing forlornly at Marge from the wings – and everywhere else – is geeky cabana boy and aspiring songwriter Gabe Green (excellently portrayed by Trenton Bainbridge), whose secret dilemma may be Marge’s ticket to happiness.
And when he isn’t entertaining guests with his comical Borscht Belt shtick, house comedian Harvey Feldman (Michael H. Small) is secretly carrying a torch for widowed resort owner Esther Simowitz (Gail Byer), who is more preoccupied with keeping her hotel open.
The finale brings both plots to a head and also unravels Gabe’s predicament.
“‘Breaking up Is Hard to Do’ has plenty of laughs,” said director Jonathan Van Dyke. “But it has its share of poignancy too, as Mr. Sedaka seems to have a song for every emotion.”
Case in point. Marge sings “Lonely Nights” when she arrives, downtrodden, at the resort. She and Lois combine for “Where the Boys Are” as they hope to find guys to help soothe their woes.
As Gabe notices Marge writing notes in her diary, he is moved, naturally, to sing Sedaka’s “The Diary,” with its lyric: “Am I the boy that you care for? / The boy who’s in your diary.”
The scene switches to Harvey, who is singing “King of Clowns,” revealing his sadness deep inside that Esther thinks of him only as a comedian. For a gift, she presents him with a rubber chicken.
Act II is a Sedaka free-for all, with Del and company offering up “Calendar Girl” and Esther and Harvey combining on “Next Door to an Angel,” a tune that finally lets him reveal his true feelings.
The last song is one you may not know Neil wrote. It’s part of a festive conclusion that earns the entire cast a full-house standing ovation. It underscores a great performance from everyone on the stage.
Van Dyke, as both director and choreographer, is responsible for the impressive dancing. Costumes are by Jerry Sturdefant, whose designs range from full 1960s-style skirts and petticoats to fancy suits, elegant gowns and even a tuxedo or two.
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do runs through Aug. 12 at Broward Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Road, Margate. Tickets are $48 and may be purchased at the box office, by calling 954-344-7765 or going online to www.stagedoorfl.org.