Life Could Be a Dream from Stages: A Fun Jukebox Musical -- with a Plot!

The setup:

Life Could be a Dream from Stages Repertory Theatre, another jukebox musical -- the time is the '60s and the music is doo-wop -- brings nostalgia, charm and warm good feelings, as usual, but this time it has a plot as well.

The execution:

If you've seen "Wayne's World" on SNL, you'll recognize the setting: a basement rec room where the slacker kids hang out instead of getting a job, and, yes, an early song is "Get a Job," amusingly staged, with the unseen mother chiming in on an intercom system. Denny (Adam Gibbs) is leader of the singing group -- well, a duo, actually -- but he is the one with a touch of professionalism and some show-business polish. Enter Eugene (Mark Ivy), a stereotypical nerd complete with horn-rimmed glasses, and you have met the very unprepossessing duet...but wait, there's more! Friend Wally (Dylan Godwin) drops in and joins the Denny and the Dreamers group, and his trademark signature is enthusiasm. Each character is branded early and stays well within his range.

Soon the group expands to include Skip, even though he is a mechanic from the wrong part of town and is described as "a grease monkey with a strong voice and a firm handshake." The script looks askance at such suburban snobbery, but at the same time makes Skip largely inarticulate; his trademark is to look hunky, and Cameron Bautsch does that, which doesn't go unnoticed by Lois (Rebekah Stevens), whose stern dad owns the shop where Skip works and doesn't want her consorting with (gasp!) blue-collar workers. With all these problems, Lois has little reason to smile, so young love doesn't seem like much fun. The ensuing plot events are predictable and not to be taken seriously; the suspense is in whether the group can get its act together to win a local contest being held the coming Saturday.

The good news is that director and choreographer Mitchell Greco keeps the pace clipping along and the voices are pleasant enough to carry the 20-plus songs -- some are brief, but others get fuller treatment, such as "A Sunday Kind of Love" and "Unchained Melody." Dylan Godwin -- he's the enthusiastic one, remember? -- has the greatest range and most intelligent rendition, and his phrasing is impeccable; it's a pleasure to hear him.

There is a lot of physical comedy and broad reactions, and these are appropriate and work well -- this is not an ambitious work, but it's meant to entertain and succeeds in that. I was wondering why it comes garlanded with awards, but the answer came at the end, as we enter into a Chorus Line moment that pays off wonderfully and lets us escape the basement and the irritating mother on the intercom.

The scenic design is by Kevin Holden and the properties design by Jodi Bobrovsky, and they are interesting and subtle and deliver a surprise that awed the audience. The costumes are by Tiffani Fuller, who doesn't have much of a challenge with the street clothes worn for most of the show, but comes through with wit and style where it counts: the big finale. The musical direction is by Steven Jones, there is a five-piece band, and the sound and lighting are excellent. This musical is written and created by Roger Bean, who also created the long-running hit The Marvelous Wonderettes and other musicals.

The verdict:

A musical intended for light summer fare delivers on its promise, providing humor and nostalgia and letting us relive again the tuneful melodies of the '60s.

Life Could Be a Dream continues through September 2 at Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway. For information or ticketing, call 713-527-0123 or visit the company Web site.

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Jim Tommaney