“Life Could Be a Dream,” but it feels like a rerun in the latest of Roger Bean’s jukebox revues to make its area debut at Stages Repertory Theatre.
In its quest for lightweight, crowd-pleasing summer fare, Stages has scored hits with Bean’s “The Andrews Brothers” and “The Marvelous Wonderettes.”
Bean hews to the same formula in all these shows. A slim story about friends forming a vocal group frames a slew of pop hits of whatever era.
“Life Could Be a Dream” returns to the same well, but the water is beginning to stagnate.
Where “Wonderettes” depicted the singing sweethearts of Springfield High, circa 1960, “Life” portrays their male counterparts, former members of the Crooning Crabcakes, recently graduated and uncertain of their future. Ringleader Denny wants to form Denny and the Dreamers, but he’s got only nerdy pals Eugene and Wally, and needs a fourth singer with some punch.
Enter cool guy Skip, a “grease monkey” at the local car repair shop. He visits the guys in the basement rec room of Denny’s home, sent there by his boss to check out the group. See, the guys have asked the garage owner to sponsor them for a radio contest, and the boss sends both his whip-smart daughter Lois and ace mechanic Skip to ensure the group deserves his support.
Quicker than you can say (or sing) “Runaround Sue,” Skip is recruited and proves himself a natural as lead singer. Lois, who’s sweet on Skip even though her father is dead set against her dating any “grease monkey,” proves the perfect coach to polish the guys’ dance moves and stage presence.
Is there any doubt that these Dreamers will wind up a winning team, or that Skip and Lois will end up together? Nope. The only question is how many oldies they can sing-and-swivel along the way.
“Life Could Be a Dream” is harmless and slickly realized, but as theater, so slight that it’s hardly there at all. With its cutesy horseplay and puppy-love heartache, the script plays at the level of an average episode of “Happy Days.”
The numbers are pleasant, though somewhat undercut by the sameness of the program. Most are offered as performance pieces, but even when used as “book” numbers, they suffer that inevitable drawback of jukebox shows, lack of specificity. “Unchained Melody,” for instance, is nicely utilized as the Act 1 finale — but still recalls the many other contexts in which the song has been used.
Beyond the fact that this period been revisited myriad times, the ne plus ultra of “guy group” nostalgia was already realized in the revue “Forever Plaid.”
But despite the built-in redundancy, Stages’ personable cast gives its all.
Cameron Bautsch bring a strong voice and easygoing charm to Skip. Mark Ivy makes Eugene the comic standout with his exaggerated awkwardness and falsetto stylings. Dylan Godwin’s big voice and hyperactive moves suit high-strung Wally. Adam Gibbs plays Denny half-cool, half-doofus, the clueless guy convinced he’s hot stuff. Rebekah Stevens lends needed warmth and sincerity as Lois, her period vocal style accurate right down to the nasality.
Director Mitchell Greco keeps it all bright and feather-light, if a tad obvious in some comic moments and those arch guy-group dance moves.
No doubt many will want to travel this road yet again. I just felt I’d been there too many times already.
‘Life Could Be a Dream’
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, through Sept. 2
Where: Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway