Nancy Sasso Janis
- OnStage Connecticut Critic / Connecticut Critics Circle
“You don’t have the skill set to be the next Pat Boone.” - Denny’s mother via intercom
Berlin, CT - The fabulous and fun ‘Life Could Be A Dream’ is bringing doo-wop to the Connecticut Cabaret Theatre and Performing Arts Center in Berlin. More than a (literal) jukebox musical, this musical comedy embeds the classic numbers from the fifties into the story of three teenaged members of the Crooning Crabcakes who prepare to enter the Big Whopper Radio (WOPR) singing contest so that they can hit the big time. A cast of five equally talented community theatre actors bring this nostalgic story to the CCT stage to the delight of packed audiences.
The doo-wop numbers on the song list say it all: “Get a Job,’” “Fools Fall in Love,” “Earth Angel,” “Runaround Sue,” “Stay,” “The Wanderer,” and many more.The comedy had me laughing out loud and those audience members just a little bit older than me were clapping and singing along with many of those numbers. I noticed several very young audience members who seemed to enjoy the music that was popular well before their time. I recognized almost all of the numbers and my favorite was a quartet of love songs with an angel theme because of the lovely staging.
I tried to figure out which of the cast members was a stand out and I was unable to do so. Every one of them sang in perfect harmony and were just as good when they stepped up for a solo. They all handled the choreography, presumably done by the director, in every one of the musical numbers most admirably and I didn’t spot a single misstep. None of the triple threats appeared to be in even their late teens, but it did not matter even a little bit. The mini-orchestra featured music director Nathaniel Baker on keyboard and Tim Urso on a drum kit seated next to the small stage.
Jayson Beaulieu played the first lead singer of the group and was a riot as he talked to his mother via an intercom system. Rick Bennett had perfect comic timing as the somewhat geeky Eugene in black eyeglasses. Jordan T. DuVall was convincing as the blonde church boy named Wally. Jon Escober (‘The Addams Family,’ ‘Miss Abigail’) was the car mechanic in a black leather jacket named Skip. Kaite Corda (‘Addams Family,’ ‘The Last Five Years’) was the lovely Lois in one round skirt after another.
‘Life Could Be A Dream’ was written by Roger Bean, the creator of ‘The Marvelous Wonderettes,’ with orchestrations by Jon Newton and additional arrangements by Steve Parsons. The CCT productions is ably directed and produced by owner/artistic director Kris McMurray with musical direction by Nathaniel Baker. Mr. McMurray mentioned in his always cheeky curtain speech that he had been waiting a long time to produce this musical on his stage, and I would say that it was worth the wait.
James J. Moran was in charge of technical design. While some of the pieces were made by hand, the set was decorated with marvelous period pieces like a bowling pin, vinyl records, and glass Coca Cola bottles. Costumes fit the period without teetering into cartoon territory. I thought that there were a few idioms in the script that probably weren’t used in the fifties, but I could be wrong.
The theatre’s motto is “BRING YOUR OWN”. Presented cabaret-style, patrons are welcome to bring whatever they like to eat or drink with them. They also can enjoy a dessert bar in the corner of the room that has a variety of treats to purchase. Just don’t drop anything on the newly laid carpeting.
Nancy Sasso Janis is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and continues to contribute theatre news to local Patch.com sites. Check out her new Facebook page Nancy Sasso Janis: Theatre Reviewer and follow her on Twitter @nancysjanis417.