Many so-called “oldies” shows that come crammed with nostalgic songs from the 1950s and ‘60s, but which offer little diversity otherwise, run a pretty tight gamut – from “so-so” to “just OK.”
Thankfully, Wick Theatre boss Marilynn Wick has discovered a song-filled ‘50s romp that’s delightfully different. It has a charming backstory, tunes that don’t normally show up in usual oldies gigs and a cast of talented, young folks packing lots of oomph and vocal capability.
From left, Ricky Cona, Jeffrey Keller and Willie Clyde Beaton II in ‘Sh-Boom! Life Could be a Dream,’ now at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton. (Photo by Amy Pasquantonio)
The show, Sh-Boom! Life Could Be a Dream, playing through April 3 at the North Federal Highway venue in Boca Raton, stands its ground pretty darn well after the previously scheduled performance of Damn Yankees was pushed to next season due to the potential impact of COVID-19 on a 32-person cast.
“Sh-boom! is the jukebox musical we need right now!” said Wick, who has managed to keep her showplace open during much of the COVID chaos.
From left, Dorian Quinn, Willie Clyde Beaton II, Ricky Cona, Jeffrey Keller and Julia Rifino in ‘Sh-Boom! Life Could be a Dream,’ now at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton. (Photo by Amy Pasquantonio)
“Expect pristine harmonies, peppy dance steps, and, of course, our signature period-perfect costumes and sets that will transport you directly to this beloved era,” she said. “We dare you not to grin and sing along to classic hits like ‘Unchained Melody,’ ‘Runaround Sue,’ ‘Duke of Earl,’ and more.”
Actually, in this writer’s view, the presence of two specific songs boosts this production to a level higher than most retrospectives. Virtually no show I’ve seen includes “Easier Said than Done,” the 1963, Number 1 hit for the Essex, a unique group of three guys and a girl – all active-duty Marines who normally performed while in uniform. This show includes it.
Another tune that’s in this show, one considered a bit too late for a strict ‘50s production, is “(Just like) Romeo and Juliet,” a 1964 song, perhaps the only big hit for the Reflections, a group that apparently disbanded a while later.
Julia Rifino and Dorian Quinn in ‘Sh-Boom! Life Could be a Dream,’ now at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton. (Photo by Amy Pasquantonio)
Sh-Boom features a lot of other stellar melodies from the era, such as “Stay” and
“Tears on my Pillow.” The second act is skewed a bit more toward Motown, offering such songs as “(You’ve Got) The Magic Touch,” “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” and “Do You Love Me?”
The show’s frothy plot centers on Denny and the Dreamers, an amateur doo-wop group consisting of Denny (Jeffrey Keller), Wally (Willie Clyde Beaton II) and Eugene (Ricky Cona), a trio of kinda-nerdy friends who gather at Denny’s “place” – the basement of his mother’s house – to create a musical group with the capacity to win the Big Whooper Radio contest.
They manage to nail the sound – particularly the harmonies, which excel throughout the show. But their efforts to coordinate dance moves fall short.
Front, Julia Rifino and Dorian Quinn; rear, from left, Willie Clyde Beaton II, Ricky Cona and Jeffrey Keller in ‘Sh-Boom! Life Could be a Dream,’ now at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton. (Photo by Amy Pasquantonio)
They enlist former classmate Lois (Julia Rifino) to provide much needed polish. But complications ensue when Duke (Dorian Quinn), the handsome, rugged head mechanic at Lois’ father’s swanky car dealership, steps in as the new and accomplished front man.
Complications follow. Lois starts to fall in love with Duke. Denny is miffed that Duke is taking over his apparently pre-determined lead spot. And the diminutive, bespectacled Eugene still bears a grudge against Lois from when she spurned him in fifth grade.
When Duke gets sick of the bull and beats an angry retreat, Lois falls deeply into a lovelorn funk. The future seems pretty bleak for her and the doo-wop boys. But this is the ‘50s, friends, a decade when we didn’t know failure.
Just as Duke, attired in a leather jacket and jeans, appears ready to hop on his motorcycle and make a Fonzie-style exit, he suddenly realizes…. well, he realizes something that makes him go back, rejoin the singers and renew his feelings for Lois. Basically, he saves the day for all.
The finale is pretty predictable, but that doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining. In fact, the ending is really a show-within-a-show with the performers shimmering and singing on stage wearing sparkling red tuxedos.
From left, Jeffrey Keller, Willie Clyde Beaton II, Ricky Cona and Dorian Quinn in ‘Sh-Boom! Life Could be a Dream,’ now at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton. (Photo by Amy Pasquantonio)