Saturday, December 16, 2017
Stage

Review: Show Palace delivers dreamy doo-wop in 'Book of Love'

Okay. Let's just say that all the Show Palace Dinner Theatre's Book of Love, Doo Wop Dreams needs to be super terrific is Larry Alexander singing I Only Have Eyes for You in that dreamlike Flamingos style halfway through Act 2. Backed by the sweetest, smoothest stacked harmonizers you ever heard — bass Timothy Springs, baritone/tenor Anthony Fett, high tenor Brian Graziani (in his Buddy Holly glasses) and Matty Colona as the Doo Wop Boys — it takes you right back to 1959 (or 1989, or 2009) when life itself was sweet and smooth and dancing close to the one you loved (at the moment) was all that mattered.

Icing on the cake is tall, handsome Anthony Nuccio and the Doo Wop Boys doing a smashing rendition of Leiber and Stoller's hit, On Broadway, that lights a fire under the show midway through Act 1.

Or it could be the tall, lovely, Jennifer Harris doing a mellow, poignant Maybe all by herself. Wow. Or dance captain Megan Morgan burning up the floor and the fellows standing on it in a hot, hot, hot Barbara Anne. And it could be Brandon Michael Fleming and those incredible Doo Wop Boys revving it up with a just-right version of Speedo. Or the Doo Wop Boys doing Book of Love a cappella to kick off Act 2.

Whatever it is, show writers/directors Larry Alexander and doo-wop legend Tommy Mara have put together a night that doo-wop, R & B and pop tune lovers will never forget. Sure, it starts out a little iffy, not making clear that the Soldier Boys are coming home from the Korean War in the mid 50s, though the racially integrated combat unit should give a hint that this isn't World War II. And, at first, the story line seems to get in the way of the songs, with a clumsily comic, melodramatic rendition of Earth Angel by Bill (Justin Lore) that doesn't bode well for what's coming — hey, that song is a classic that deserves respect, not pratfalls. But, thanks be, that's just about the only misstep in the show and the rest of the time those songs are treated right.

Indeed, Alexander and Mara's loosely connected vignettes between songs add just enough threads and wisecracks to keep the action going and the laughs coming, but in the end, those incredible songs and voices and choreographer Morgan's starry-eyed dancers are what make this show ripple and flow.

Kudos, too, to Gabrielle Mirabella as Phyllis, the love interest for Alexander's Walter. Ms. Mirabella's Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is more a Broadway belt than a doo-wop dream, but it works and works well, as does her soprano when she chimes in to do what is usually the falsetto line in Tonight I Fell in Love. Val Roche as Betty is sassy and streetwise in her tight capris, leopard print tops and blood-red lipstick, with just the right mix of floozie and sweetheart to melt the heart. Kara Konken is all innocence and naivety as Paula; Ashley Rubin's nasal Brooklynese adds that street corner doo-wop touch.

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