The jukebox musical, Breaking Up is Hard to Do, now playing at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton, offers the audience a double shot of nostalgia. Not only does it feature 18 terrific tunes written and/or sung by Juilliard-trained ‘50s and ‘60s rock star Neil Sedaka, but it also revisits the era of Catskills comedy with a couple of romantic love stories that blossom at Esther’s Paradise, a Borscht Belt hostelry about to wrap up its summer of fun with a tune-filled Labor Day spectacle.
From left, Dorian Quinn, Christine Pedi and Barry Pearl in Breaking up is Hard to Do, now playing at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton. (Amatista Photography)
The light, airy plot of this Sedaka-driven production, written by Erik Jackson and Ben H. Winters, transports audiences to the upstate New York resort region during the final days of summer 1960. Best friends Marge (Meg Frost) and Lois (Leigh Green) hightail it out of Brooklyn for a much-needed, season-ending vacation at Esther’s.
Actually, it’s more than just a vacay. It’s an escape for Marge, who’s just been dumped at the altar by her would-be husband, Leonard. She flees north to the Catskills to try and forget the rat, with help from her red-haired buddy, Lois, who hopes to whip up a new romance for Marge in a place “where the boys are.”
Romance does indeed flourish — in the most unusual of ways, for several folks in this talented cast.
Meg Frost and Dominique Scott in Breaking up is Hard to Do, now playing at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton. (Amatista Photography)
A plot that’s a little weak gets some necessary oomph from a bevy of Grammy Award winner Sedaka’s most popular songs, including the bouncy “Oh Carol,” “Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen,” “Calendar Girl” and “Little Devil,” as well as his more ballad-style “Laughter in the Rain,” “Solitaire” and “King of Clowns,” a less-popular Sedaka piece that happens to be one of this writer’s favorites.
The show – which results in at least three happy endings – also wraps up the 2021-22 season for the Boca theatrical playhouse.
Leigh Green and Dorian Quinn in Breaking up is Hard to Do, now playing at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton. (Amatista Photography)
“This season’s shows at The Wick Theatre have all had one thing in common – they saluted classic songs and legendary songwriters,” said Marilynn Wick, owner and managing executive director of the venue that marks the conclusion of its eighth season.
“Mamma Mia celebrated songs by the musical group ABBA; the Winter Spectacular with Marilyn Maye honored the Great American Songbook; Gypsy showcased the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim and the music of Jule Styne and Sh-Boom! Life Could Be a Dream reveled in the wonderful doo-wop music of the 1950s.”
Christine Pedi and Barry Pearl in Breaking up is Hard to Do, now playing at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton. (Amatista Photography)
Breaking up also brings two significant talents to the Wick stage – Barry Pearl and Christine Pedi. Pearl portrayed Doody in the classic 1978 film, “Grease,” that starred John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Now just a tad older, the 61-year veteran of stage, screen and TV plays Harvey, the comedian at Esther’s Paradise, who is secretly in love with “the boss.”
Pedi appears as Esther herself, the hotel owner and the object of Harvey’s affection. Boasting a powerful voice, the actress has appeared on Broadway as Mama Morton in Chicago; in Little Me with Martin Short and Faith Prince and in Talk Radio with Liev Schreiber. Known as “The Lady of 1000 Voices,” her vocal impressions can be seen and heard on YouTube, the Howard Stern Show and in various commercials and cartoons. She is also the Sirius XM Radio host of “On Broadway.”
From left, Leigh Green, Meg Frost, Dominique Scott, Christine Pedi and Barry Pearl in Breaking up is Hard to Do, now playing at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton. (Amatista Photography)
In this show, whose title is also a Sedaka song which he originally recorded as a rock tune and re-released later as a ballad, Lois attempts to console Marge by setting her up with the resort’s handsome, self-obsessed singer Del Delmonaco (Dorian Quinn). But her plans backfire when Del admits he mistakenly assumed that Marge’s father could further his ambitions of becoming a teen heartthrob on “American Bandstand.” So, he drops her like a rock.
Gazing forlornly at Marge from the wings is geekish cabana boy and aspiring songwriter Gabe (Dominique Scott), an initially wishy-washy character who, it turns out, holds the key to major successes for the folks at Esther’s – and the resort itself.
From left, Meg Frost, Leigh and Dominique Scott in Breaking up is Hard to Do, now playing at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton. (Amatista Photography)
Jonathan Van Dyke, who just directed Sh-Boom! Life can be a Dream, returns to helm and choreograph this Sedaka-strong musical piece whose songs get new energy from some fine vocalists. Credit Ms. Frost for her emotional rendition of “Solitaire,” perhaps the best in show, and Pearl’s performance of “King of Clowns” cleanly taps into what is perhaps closest to a Sedaka torch song.
The show wraps with strong workings of “Stairway to Heaven/Little Devil” by Frost and Green, and a full-cast performance of “Love will Keep us Together,” a gift from Sedaka and co-writer Howard Greenfield that brought stardom to The Captain & Tennille.
Barry Pearl portrays Harvey in Breaking up is Hard to Do, now playing at the Wick Theatre in Boca Raton. (Amatista Photography)