WINTER PARK — It’s 1960, a time when radio was king, rock & roll was starting to rev up, and everything felt much simpler.
Well, some things did. In Roger Bean’s jukebox musical Sh-Boom! Life Could Be a Dream, teen Denny Harney nurses grand ambitions to become a doo wop singer. What he doesn’t have is a job, so he sleeps in his mother’s basement. Mom is a constant presence in his life: she’s always calling him on the intercom, nagging him to find work, pestering him that it’s time to fly from the nest. Denny, though, is on a mission: to get the world to recognize his vocal talent.
Sh-Boom! Life Could Be a Dream, a very funny musical, expertly features some soaring 4-part harmonies, and it’s making a return to the Winter Park Playhouse. Now in its opening weekend, the show continues through Oct. 16. Beautifully performed by a first-rate cast that excels at both singing and comedy, it’s a fun feel-good musical.
What is Sh-Boom: Life Could Be a Dream?
When mom isn’t checking to see if the boys need sandwiches or complaining for the umpteenth time about Denny’s job prospects, Denny jumps at the chance to take part in an upcoming singing contest and enlists his buddy Eugene, who may have his photo in the dictionary next to the word “nerd.” Next they bring on their buddy Wally, another mega-geek and son of the local preacher, to form Denny & The Dreamers. Once they start crooning those 1950s pop hits so beautifully, you start to think Denny is on to something here.
But they have challenges. The boys are amateurs and their dance moves leave a lot to be desired. Plus, nobody has the $50 for the entry fee — not exactly small change in those days — so they need a sponsor. As hilarious as their goofy dance moves are, you know the boys are not ready for prime time.
It’s Wally who comes up with the idea of asking one of the parishioners at his father’s church, who owns an auto repair shop, if he’d sponsor them. The owner is interested, but sends his chief mechanic Duke and teen daughter Lois to check them out. That proves to be a godsend, since Duke turns out to be the best singer of the group, and Lois takes an interest in managing them and getting their dance moves in order.
Problems arise when Skip and Lois’ relationship gets romantic, which causes trouble.
Is Sh-Boom! an Entertaining Production?
This is a high-energy show that reminds you of how appealing the doo wop era was, and the play revives some true classics from the 1950s, including “Tears On My Pillow,” “(Just Like) Romero And Juliet,” “Fools Fall In Love” and two very different versions of “Unchained Melody.” Those songs are put in capable hands with this terrific cast.
Ryan Matthew Petty and Chase Williams deliver plenty of nyuck nyucks as Eugene and Wally, doing their geeky best and providing some of the play’s funniest moments. As Denny, Adam Fields has a grand time suffering mom’s cranky tirades while insisting that practicing to be a singer beats working for a living, and Russell Stephens and Olivia LeBarge make a delightful couple as Duke and Lois, particularly when they envision impending disaster every time they see the boys roll out their latest dance moves.
The show also gets numerous laughs from a line about imagining the audience in their underwear.
One of the play’s true delights, though, is when the cast is singing up a storm. That’s particularly true by the end, as all four enter that singing contest and demonstrate what a pure joy a 4-part harmonies can be. Kudos as well to director Tay Anderson, who provides some eye-popping choreography for this one. This is thoroughly enjoyable escapist fun.
Where Can You See Sh-Boom! Life Could Be a Dream?
Sh-Boom! Life Could Be a Dream will be performed at the musical theater at 711 Orange Ave. Suite C in Winter Park, with performances on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. and some Wednesday and Sunday 2 p.m. matinees.
To purchase tickets, call the box office at 407-645-0145 or log on to www.winterparkplayhouse.org.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.