In 2006, Roger Bean opened "The Marvelous Wonderettes" at the El Portal Theatre and the show took on a life that the author couldn't have imagined. It received the 2007 Los Angeles Ovation Award for best musical and eventually to an off Broadway run.
"Life Could Be a Dream" is a companion piece of sorts, imagining what happened to the boy band that was barred from the prom gig that led to the Wonderettes' success. Bean was on hand to watch the International City Theatre production Friday, opening night.
A true Jukebox musical, Dream weaves a tale that feels pulled straight from a 1960s Disney Frankie Avalon movie. In fact, it could have starred Avalon and his often co-star Annette Funicello. The plot is all innocence and froth with not a hint of irony. There is no tongue in cheek, nudge, nudge, wink, wink here. Dream is full of a kind of puerile exuberance that at first contact feels out of place in 2019.
The story of the “Crooning Crabcakes," that rightfully change their name to “Denny and the Dreamers”, follows Denny and his friends as they struggle with putting together and holding together a boy band. Ultimately, a story of boy meets girl, loses girl to other boy and eventually is okay with that, is filled with loveable golden oldies and squeaky clean whimsy.
The cast is solid vocally and takes on the simple plot with speed and camp. Josey Montana McCoy as Denny is every bit the adorable dork who dreams of stardom. J. Thomas Miller is probably the one actor who found something a little deeper in his character, Wally, his ability to communicate the character's internal life during musical numbers was engaging. Trevor Shor as Skip, the grease monkey from the wrong side of the tracks, charmed in a Conrad Birdy way. Hunter Berecochea as Eugene has a Frankie Valli-like falsetto that brought a sense of authenticity to the songs. Marissa Matthews, the sole female in the ensemble, brought the kind of glow to the stage that Connie Francis used to bring to the screen.
All of the cast blends vocally beautifully. I do wish that the vocal mix had been more forward. It felt as if they had been coached to undersing a bit and the mix generally felt muffled. During the finale, this effect was replaced with the kind of strong solid sound I had expected from the beginning.
"Life Could Be a Dream" takes you back, if back there is where you came from. So, if you happen to have lived in the day and long for a moment to return to the idealized world of the Kennedy era, you will find it here. For me, just born on the other side of the decade, the era was like a fairy tale world, that never really resonated with me.
Life Could Be a Dream continues through March 10 at the Beverly O'Neill Theatre, part of the Long Beach Performing Arts Center.
Tickets start at $35 and are available through www.internationalcitytheatre.org or by calling (562) 436-4610.