Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Life Could Be a Dream
Hale Centre Theatre
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's reviews of Show Boat, Erma Bombeck: At Wit's End, Gore Vidal's The Best Man, and Man of La Mancha


Micah Jondel DeShazer, Kale Burr, Angela Kriese,
Vinny Chavez, and Danny Karapetian

Photo by Nick Woodward-Shaw / Hale Centre Theatre
Roger Bean can pretty much be given the title of "King of the Jukebox Musical." The creator of the hit revue The Marvelous Wonderettes, along with its numerous sequels, Bean has also crafted over half a dozen other shows that feature familiar tunes from the 1950s, '60s and '70s. Hale Centre Theatre is currently presenting one of his latest creations, Life Could Be a Dream, and though it isn't quite on the same level as Wonderettes, which Hale presented last year at this time, it still makes for a fun, charming and heartwarming journey back in time with a cast who deliver two dozen well-known tunes with an infectious glee.

Bean sets his show in the fictional city of Springfield, U.S.A. in 1963 where Denny, Wally and Eugene, a group of socially awkward high school friends, decide to enter the Big Whopper Radio contest with the winner receiving a recording contract. But, since they don't have the cash for the contest's entry fee, they decide to ask "Big" Earl, the owner of Big Stuff Auto, to sponsor them. Earl sends his daughter Lois and head mechanic Skip to evaluate the group to see if they are worthy of his sponsorship. Together, with Lois' input, and the addition of Skip to the trio, the group becomes a quartet with harmonies that blend and voices that soar on such hits as "Fools Fall in Love," "Tears on My Pillow," "Runaround Sue," "Earth Angel," and "Unchained Melody."

Hale's cast features five performers who all have numerous previous credits appearing on the Hale stage. Vinny Chavez, Kale Burr and Danny Karapetian make a winning threesome as the school friends Denny, Eugene and Wally, respectively, while Micah Jondel DeShazer does well as the quiet loner Skip and Angela Kriese is charming as Lois. All five create unique individuals while providing a good mix of vocal contributions from solos to harmonies that blend beautifully under Lincoln Wright's astute music direction.

DeShazer is featured on many of the songs, providing warm, rich renditions of "Runaround Sue" and "The Wanderer" and other familiar tunes. Burr's geeky, overly nervous and humorous portrayal, which includes plenty of spastic, frenetic dancing, creates a hilarious, crowd-pleasing character. His version of "Only You" is superb. Chavez is perfect as the slightly domineering, cocky and opinionated leader of the group, while Karapetian is charming as the hopeful, slightly goofy and optimistic preacher's son. Kriese adds a nice amount of sass as the good girl with romance on her mind who falls for one of the boys and has to deal with all four of them falling for her.

Cambrian James' direction and choreography infuse the entire production with a wealth of fun moments, with plenty of humor and always changing dance moves that feature synchronized period moves delivered well by the cast. Brian Daily's simple basement set works well without an overabundance of set pieces to get in the way, while Mary Atkinson's costumes are both period and character specific. The lighting design from Tim Dietlein provides an appropriate brightness during the basement scenes and the visual idea of a concert setting during the finale.

Life Could Be a Dream is a slight show with a minimal plot, but Hale's production features a cast who is having a blast singing these well-known songs. It may be a lightweight musical but it still results in a fun trip down memory lane that is filled with laughs and over two dozen tunes of yesteryear.

The Hale Centre Theatre production of Life Could Be a Dream runs through April 17th, 2018, with performances on Monday and Tuesday evenings at 50 W. Page Avenue in Gilbert AZ. Tickets can be ordered at www.haletheatrearizona.com or by calling (480) 497-1181

Directed and Choreographed by Cambrian James
Music Director: Lincoln Wright
Set Technical Director: Brian Daily
Costume Designer: Mary Atkinson
Lighting Designer: Tim Dietlein
Wigs & Make-Up: Cambrian James
Props: McKenna Carpenter & Monica Christiansen
Sound Design: Danny Karapetian
Stage Manager: Justin Peterson

Cast:
Denny Varney: Vinny Chavez
Eugene Johnson: Kale Burr
Wally Patton: Danny Karapetian
Skip Henderson: Micah Jondel DeShazer
Lois Franklin: Angela Kriese


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