Weekender

Millbrook Playhouse launches summer season

Millbrook Playhouse’s “Life Could be a Dream” starts Friday.
Millbrook Playhouse’s “Life Could be a Dream” starts Friday. Photo provided

Millbrook Playhouse will launch its 54th summer season of plays on Friday with the premier of doo-wop era “Life Could be a Dream.”

Millbrook Playhouse Board of Directors and Artistic Director David Leidholdt said he’s excited about the upcoming season.

“I think we have a great variety of shows — something for everyone, comedy, family; and with the area premiere of the Tony Award-winning musical (‘Fun Home’) I think it’s the icing on the cake,” he said.

Winner of the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Best Musical Award, “Life Could be a Dream” is directed and choreographed by Dax Valdes.

The cast includes Millbrook newcomers Cam Cote as Denny Varney, Ricky Marchese as Wally Patton and returning for a second season is Jack Gerhard as Eugene Johnson, Alex Beard as Skip Henderson and Alex Frost, back for her third season, as Lois Franklin.

“Life Could be a Dream” introduces audiences to Denny and Eugene as Denny and the Dreamers, a fledgling doo-wop singing group rehearsing for the “Dream of a Lifetime” Talent Search. Their friend, Wally, joins in and suggests that Big Stuff Auto be their sponsor for the singing contest. Instead of the owner, “Big” Eddie, coming to the audition, he sends his head mechanic, Skip, in his place. Trouble comes in the form of “Big” Eddie’s daughter, Lois, who shows up soon after to help Skip evaluate whether they are ready. Lois thinks the trio needs to become a quartet, so Skip is added to the group. Denny falls in love, Wally falls in line, Eugene falls apart and along comes handsome heartthrob Skip to send the whole situation spinning.

“Trouble ensues when the boys fall for Lois, but she falls for Skip,” Valdes said. “Will the group survive and will they win the contest?”

Frost plays Lois Franklin, the typical “wholesome” dream girl of the 1960s, but she is a very strong-willed woman and is not afraid to voice her opinion.

“Her role in the show is to help the boys win a huge singing contest that can help launch their careers,” Frost said. “Her father’s auto shop has been asked to sponsor them, so she is there to make sure they are always at the top of their game.”

The story of “Life Could be a Dream” is told through the ’60s hits “Fools Fall in Love,” “Tears on My Pillow,” “Runaround Sue,” “Earth Angel,” “Stay,” “Unchained Melody,” “Lonely Teardrops” and “The Glory of Love.”

Valdes directed “The Marvelous Wonderettes” and “The Marvelous Wonderettes — Caps and Gowns” for the playhouse, so he was comfortable with the style of the show, as it is set in the same world along with some shared backstory.

“We only have 10 days to rehearse and mount a production, so you have to lay out a lot of groundwork before you come in,” he said. “However, once you meet the actors you are working with, a lot of my ideas get shaped and informed by what the individual actor contributes to the role.”

Valdes listened to music from the 1950s and ’60s to get a feel for the style of the show.

“That era of music was very different from what is popular today, so listening to the music helped me switch gears and grounded me in the world,” he said.

Frost thinks the musical is special because the style of the show is a crowd favorite.

“The music brings people together and carries memories with it,” she said. “I think the overall concept of the show is that when people work together and band together for one common goal, great things can happen.”

IF YOU GO

  • What: Millbrook Playhouse’s “Life Could be a Dream”
  • When: Friday-June 18
  • Where: Millbrook Playhouse, 258 Country Club Lane, Mill Hall
  • Info: www.millbrook playhouse.net
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