The newly formed Show Palace Entertainment company's first production, The All New Fabulous 50's & 60's Revue, opened Friday at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre for a five-week run, and it was a mixed bag of several individual hits and all too many missed opportunities.
In the past, the Show Palace has produced its shows in-house, most recently under the guidance of artistic director Matthew McGee. Since McGee's departure, the venue is buying shows independently put together, with in-house employees taking care of sets, lights, sounds, wigs and other details. Longtime designer Tom Hansen is in charge of those in-house elements, and, as always, he does a fine job, providing colorful backdrops for the first act's 50s music and a colorful, psychedelic setting for act two's 60s sounds.
It's director Jason Tucker's concept, casting and direction and Lacey Vazquez's choreography for the new production company that are disappointingly uneven.
The mature Dale Badway creates a Fred Willard-type emcee who seems out of place with the very youthful cast (Badway's Tony Award, by the way, was for producing, not acting or singing). Badway is most comfortable when he's singing, but his patter between segments of the show feels awkward and forced, and he connects with the audience only a couple of brief times during the two and half hour show.
Ms. Vasquez is herself a marvelous dancer (Swing!, 7 Brides for 7 Brothers), but her choreography is more pulled-in movement than dance, and she never really challenges her relatively inexperienced young charges.
It's the individual cast members who provide the moments of delight, particularly Nick Orfanella, who sings a lovely Maria from West Side Story and accompanies himself and the cast on guitar for the most enjoyable segments of the show — the Kingston Trio's The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh) and Bob Dylan's Blowing in the Wind, for example. Edwin Watson is an appealing singer, doing a neat falsetto on Wimoweh and a smooth delivery on The Great Pretender and the poignant Abraham, Martin and John. His duet with Jillian Prefach on Love Me Tender was indeed tender.
Justin Lore (he was Tommy in New York Nights) does several delightful comedy bits, mugging it up in Good Golly, Miss Molly, When I'm 64 and Hound Dog. Show Palace newcomer Bela Aquino has a most pleasing voice and is a charmer doing blues and rock.
Often the whole is better than its parts, as when the five female players harmonize in Sincerely and Teach Me Tonight and the five fellows zip through See Ya Later, Alligator, or when the entire ensemble whirls through Rockin' Robin, Rock 'n' Roll Is Here to Stay, Shout and Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In.
Overall, act two is much stronger than act one, mainly because the 60s were more interesting creatively than the 50s. Show creator Tucker provides a wide-ranging list of songs (this is strictly songs, with no story thread except the changing times shown through costumes and backdrops). Still, the show is rife with missed opportunities, such as dance sequences in the background during the many solos, or some high-energy jitterbugging to go with the dance songs.
The potential is touched during the beach scene, when the kids do the Monkey and a little Mashed Potato. The 50s and 60s songs are all about dance, but this show remains distressingly static, despite the obvious talent that the cast displays during the brief dance sequences.