By Elizabeth Maupin
Elizabeth Maupin on Theater
You can call yourself a child of the ‘60s and mean that you care about social justice, that you thrilled to the words of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King and that you sang along with Woody, Bob and Joan.
Or you can call yourself a child of the ‘60s and mean something entirely different – that you remember Mary Quant and Twiggy, that you wore your share of miniskirts and shiny vinyl boots, that you know all the words to “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” and that songs like “Wishin’ and Hopin’” and “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” were the anthems of your teenage years.
At Winter Park Playhouse, the current mood is decidedly in the second camp, where Shout! The Mod Musical reminds those of us who lived through them just how silly – and all the same how stirring – the years from 1964 to 1968 could be.
And even if you weren’t around in the heyday of Dusty Springfield and Cilla Black – or if you had already given up pop radio – Shout! has plenty of pleasures to share.
For someone like me, who was becoming a teenager when the Beatles first hit the American charts, this little musical revue is apt – well, you know – to make you want to shout.
Shout! is one of those New York shows you rarely hear about – one that ran off-Broadway for six months or so in 2006 but has spawned other productions all over the place. One of those is the current gem at Winter Park Playhouse, where director Roy Alan has gathered a terrific five-woman cast and, with the excellent backing of musical director Chris Leavy and his little band, has produced a show that captures all the ditsy joy that era produced.
The premise is that the songs that British girl singers sang (and they were definitely “girls” back then) reflected the way we females saw ourselves – and that maybe some of the power that emanated from those songs and those singers changed the way we thought.
I probably wouldn’t go that far, especially if you judge from the beginning of this little revue, which starts out with an overly lightweight medley of a couple of Petula Clark songs mixed with Roger Miller’s “England Swings.” (What’s Roger Miller doing in here?)
A couple of unattractive wigs and several unbecoming costumes don’t help – and for a minute I had a flashback to seeing a truncated version of this show on a cruise and thinking it was really off the mark.
But it doesn’t take long to fall for these songs – Heather Alexander’s all-out version of Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Want to Be With You” did it for me – and for the performers who sing them, along with the sappy jokes that hit more often than not. Every one of these women is charming, but what’s better is how well they sing together and how beautifully they deliver songs that, for the most part, are meant to swingy and light and sweet.
Each of the women has nice moments – the cool Alexander with the Springfield classics “Wishin’ and Hopin’” and “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me;” a vampy Natalie Cordone with Petula Clark’s “Don’t Sleep in the Subway” and Cilla Black’s “You’re My World;” a glamorous Sarah-Lee Dobbs as the perfect Bond girl singing a very funny version of Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger” and later with Clark’s “I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love.”
Candace Neal, as the lone American, made me laugh out loud when she said, “I came all the way from Cincinnati to get a look at Paul McCartney”: Did the writers know me so well at 16? And her verve serves her well throughout – in a nicely bluesy “Son of a Preacher Man” (Dusty Springfield again), a lovely version of the Springfield hit “I Just Don’t Know What to Do” and the infectious title tune.
And Kate Zaloumes is terrific as the youngest member of the crowd, who’s costumed as a schoolgirl and contributes a just-right version of Lulu’s “To Sir With Love” and, when the times are finally a-changing, Mary Hopkin’s “Those Were the Days.” Zaloumes has the British accent down pat (a couple of the other performers’ accents are somewhat less than that); she has a lovely voice, and she’s as cute as she can be.
Director Alan has the choreography just right, too – the James Bond poses, and all those dippy little dances – and John Valines’s sound design lends the show a crisp, clean air.
Maybe all the names of the original singers I’ve mentioned mean nothing to a good part of the Playhouse’s audiences, most of whom are older than I am by a long shot. And certainly most of them will mean little to younger folks – especially those whose idea of pop singing means belting everything that moves.
But there’s a lot to be said for capturing a moment in time, and Shout! does just that – a moment that didn’t last long, when you look back upon it, but one that was altogether captivating. Could be I was lucky to have been 13 when all this came along the first time: Growing up with Dusty Springfield on the radio still seems like a plus. If you weren’t as lucky as I was, though, Shout! serves the purpose just fine.
‘Shout! The Mod Musical’
- What: Winter Park Playhouse production of Phillip George-David Lowenstein musical revue.
- Where: Winter Park Playhouse, 711-C Orange Ave., Winter Park.
- When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through March 27.
- Running time: One hour 55 minutes, including one intermission.
- Cost: $26 and $35 general, $26 and $33 seniors, $20 students and entertainment-industry professionals.
- Call: 407-645-0145.
- Online: winterparkplayhouse.org.
Copyright 2011 by Elizabeth Maupin.