When Marilynn Wick, executive managing producer of her eponymous Boca Raton theater, pulled the plug on a planned mounting of the musical Damn Yankees for financial reasons, she went looking for a less expensive, easier-to-produce show.
And as the saying goes, “You get what you pay for,” in this case a piece of 1950s jukebox fluff called Sh-Boom! Life Could Be a Dream. That also happens to be the opening number, the first of some two dozen nostalgic artifacts from the Eisenhower era.
Conceived and written by Roger Bean, better known for the off-Broadway hit The Marvelous Wonderettes, Sh-Boom! follows the transformation of an inept fictional doo-wop singing group into a quartet of slick, low-rent Jersey Boys.
While a plotless revue would have sufficed, Bean spins a tale of Denny (Jeffrey Keller) and Eugene (Ricky Cona), a pair of former high school glee club pals, joined by church choir veteran Wally (Willie Clyde Beaton II) to compete as Denny and the Dreamers in a local radio station’s talent contest. Needing the $50 entry fee, they pull in Big Earl’s Auto Shop as their sponsor, which comes with Big Earl’s daughter Lois (Julia Rifino) as their quality control coach.
But Eugene hasn’t gotten over her high school rejection of him and the other two crooners are soon gaga over her as well. Matters only get messier when Big Earl’s head mechanic, a hunk named Duke (Dorian Quinn), joins the singing group and Lois falls hard for him.
All of this is a mere excuse for delivering the songs. Some are on the nose (“Duke of Earl,” for instance), while most of them have no narrative motivation. But why argue when we get such timeless tunes as “Unchained Melody,” “Runaround Sue.” “Fools Fall in Love” and “I Only Have Eyes for You.” Then again, those who insist that they don’t write ’em like they used to probably have not heard “Rama Lama Ding Dong” lately.
Director-choreographer Jonathan Van Dyke, who previously staged this show at California’s Laguna Playhouse, imports a couple of the performers from that cast – Beaton and Quinn – and complements them with several newbies to the show, all of whom have the vocal chops to sell the early rock ‘n’ roll score. Standouts include Cona’s comically geeky Eugene and Rifino’s pert Lois, who captures the sounds and the stylings of the ’50s expertly. Curiously, she gains a couple of female backup singers early in the second act, who then disappear until the finale. If Wick wanted to whittle down the payroll, they could be cut without much impact.
Costume designer Jim Buff has fun dressing Denny and the Dreamers in a succession of onstage performance outfits, resembling first bowling duds, then auto mechanic uniforms and, finally, red sequined dinner jackets. Buff also comes up with an amusing, period memorabilia-laden basement rec room in Denny’s house, where the group rehearses for the show’s climax – The Big Whopper Radio (WOPR) singing contest.
From the look of The Wick’s audience, Sh-Boom! may be an on-target recollection of the music of their high school days. If so, they are likely to find the show to be a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours, but nothing to get very excited about.
SH-BOOM! LIFE COULD BE A DREAM, The Wick Theatre, 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Through Sunday, April 3. $75-$115. 561-995-2333 or visit www.thewick.org.