NEW PORT RICHEY — What's the old saying? "Where were you in '62?"
If you were like most American teens, you were at the movies watching American sweethearts Sandra Dee and Bobby Darin in the romantic comedy If a Man Answers, the tale of how sophisticated French mother Germaine teaches her American daughter Chantal how to catch a man, train him how to behave, then keep him true and faithful by good, old-fashioned fibbing and manipulation.
Just treat him like a dog, Mama advises — no, really, treat him like a dog.
The stage version of this lighthearted movie opens Thursday at Richey Suncoast Theatre and continues for three weekends.
In it, fashion photographer Eugene "Gene" Wright (Jason Hoolihan, Gordon in Key for Two), spots adorable young Chantal Stacey (Paige Buffy Cetnor, chorus, Young Frankenstein) and recruits her as a model. They fall in love, marry and live happily ever … uh, well, after having a few bumps along the way, namely the gorgeous models who stroll in and out of Gene's studio, driving Chantal up a wall.
That's when Chantal's mom, Germaine (Diane Sloan-Ramos, Doris in Bye Bye Birdie), gives her daughter some sage advice: Treat your husband like a dog and he's yours forever. "Praise him when he is learning to fetch and carry." "Make the words 'come here' mean something pleasurable." "Be sure to frolic with your pet a part of every day."
This works like magic until Chantal's college pal Tina (Ali Peterson, Tina in Whose Wives Are They Anyway?) shows up, tells Eugene what's going on, and the game appears to be up. That is, until Mama reveals her second marital tip: Always keep him guessing. Mama calls daughter, and if a man answers, she hangs up — implying that the bride has a secret lover. She even gives this imaginary lover a name — Robert Swan, the same name she used to make Chantal's father, John (Doug Ronk), jealous back in their early romance.
And that works until the real Robert Swan (Roger Keemichen) shows up.
At that point, everything blows up — until it somehow works out.
But not before a string of lovely models vamp their way through Eugene's studio, a party turns a little too lively, and Chantal goes bonkers trying to figure out how to deal with all of it.
Chantal's devious ways may seem dated to some and be ever-so-slightly offensive to others, but playwright David Rogers makes it all seem cute and innocent, just like Sandra and Bobby seemed back in 1962.