Review: Doo-wop fans, dare to 'Dream' at Old Log

  • Article by: LISA BROCK , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 25, 2014 - 3:08 PM

Review: Old Log jukebox musical “Life Could Be a Dream” threads scant plot with plenty of great songs.

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L-R Brian Pekol, John Jeffords, Stephanie Cousins, Lucas Wells, Brian Winter star in "Life Could Be a Dream" at Old Log Theatre. Photo credit: Old Log Theatre

Beautiful girls, unrequited love and teenage angst reign supreme in the world of doo-wop music. This mystical place, where triumph jostles with tragedy and the earthbound sometimes become angels, makes a melodious setting for Old Log Theatre’s production of “Life Could Be a Dream.”

Written and created by Roger Bean, “Dream” follows in the footsteps of his earlier jukebox musical “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” which played off-Broadway in 2008. The slender plot revolves around Denny and the Dreamers, a trio of teenaged former glee clubbers with big ambitions. They’ve set their sights on winning a radio-station contest, if they can only come up with the $50 entry fee.

When they ask a local businessman to sponsor them, his daughter Lois (Stephanie Cousins) agrees to help them polish their act. Her only stipulation is they become a quartet with the addition of Skip, her father’s head mechanic.

Surprise, surprise, Lois is as lovely as an angel, while Skip has the brooding persona and powerful vocals of a lead singer. Heartbreak and happiness ensue.

This improbable plot is really just an excuse to string together about two dozen doo-wop standards, ranging from a dreamy “I Only Have Eyes For You” to an energetic “(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet,” but the set-up works in this context. When Skip (John Jeffords) auditions, his stagily dramatic rendition of “Runaround Sue,” complete with strutting posture, perfectly mussed hair and special lighting effects, is as much sendup as celebration of the genre. Similarly, Brian Winter’s “Tears on My Pillow” becomes a broadly comedic vehicle to express his awkward character’s crush on Lois.

Director R. Kent Knutson’s able cast tackles this work with zest. Lucas Wells is cockily insouciant as wannabe front man Denny, alternately preening before his friends and sparring with his mother (voiced by Cousins) over an intercom. Winter turns doo-wop’s signature falsetto phrasing into a hilarious expression of his character’s anxieties, while Brian Pekol’s earnest choirboy, Wally, delivers one of the evening’s loveliest numbers in “Only You.” James Denton brings a touch of period authenticity as the voice of radio DJ “Bullseye” Miller; Cousins and Jeffords offer a meltingly powerful “Unchained Melody.”

The piece is buoyed by Erik Paulson’s perfectly realized early 1960s rec-room decor, cleverly framed by jukebox lights, and a four-piece band.

Old Log’s “Life Could Be a Dream” doesn’t pretend to be more than the fluffiest of entertainment, but man, oh man, is that doo-wop sound contagious.

Lisa Brock writes about theater.

  • LIFE COULD

    BE A DREAM

    What: By Roger Bean, directed by R. Kent Knutson. Musical direction by Brian Pekol.

    When: 1:30 p.m. Wed, 1:30 & 7:30 p.m. Thu.-Fri., 7:30 p.m. Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. Ends Jan. 3.

    Where: Old Log Theatre, 5185 Meadville St., Excelsior.

    Tickets: $16-$35. 952-474-5951, oldlog.com.

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