You just know a show that opens with Nathan Bostick Jr.'s mellow Earthangel and ends with Laura Lynn Tapper's heart-stopping Since I Don't Have You isn't going to be your run-of-the-mill, '50s and '60s show.
This Magic Moment may have been written by a couple of kids in their 30s — Michael Ursua and Matthew McGee — but, take it from an oldie but goodie (me), they know the songs that really, really mean something to people who lived those 1950s and '60s.
At first, This Magic Moment it looks like a remix of Back to the Future, Peggy Sue Got Married and Forever Plaid. But only at first.
It's 1980, and the class of 1955 is celebrating — actually, mourning — its 25th reunion. Former football captain Eric and prom queen Laura (Eric Jon Mahlum and Ms. Tapper, both at their peak) have been married for 25 years; he's a drunken failure, and she's a bitter housewife who wishes she'd done something else with her life.
Laura's BFF, Patti (Patti Eyler) is the stereotypical "old maid school teacher," philosophically resigned to her dull fate, and Allan (Allan Baker), whose nerdy mugging gives the show its best comedy moments, has become an innovative electronics inventor, but is still a lonely boy.
Then lightning strikes, and they're transported back to 1955, to the edge of a parallel universe, where they get a second chance.
In most instances, writers go for the feel-good, "oh, it would have turned out much worse, so it's a good thing I made all the choices I did."
Ursua and McGee's script, however, takes the road not traveled, with insightful character development and simply terrific song choices, some advancing the story like a Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, some there just for pleasure, and others, like Laura and Eric doing Ursua's gorgeous blending of Unchained Melody and Roy Orbison's Crying, doing both.
Derek Baxter, a favorite for 15 or more years at other area venues, makes his Show Palace debut as the judgmental Principal Nelson one to happily remember.
And you can hear a pin drop during Melissa Nay's rendition of the Joni Mitchell classic, Both Sides Now (Clouds), the verbalization of the show's theme.
The stellar chorus (Tim Olivar, Casey Shea, Elissa Stone) establishes the time with snippets of Leader of the Pack and Big Girls Don't Cry. Laura gets back to the story, longing to go Where the Boys Are, then a wistful Que Sera Sera — whatever will be, will be.
In this show, maybe, maybe not.
Angela Hoerner's evocative costumes, Tom Hansen's unobtrusive lights and sets, Ursua's magical piano, Katie Kerwin's spot-on choreography and McGee's intelligent script really do make This Magic Moment magic.