What the critics are saying:

'Life Could Be a Dream' is a smash hit at Center REP.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Posted:   09/04/2014

In reference to musical genres it seems that a generational gap is de-rigor. In Life Could be a Dream the time is the 60s and the place is Springfield, a middle-class America town where the Democrats sit in the back pews at church. That dichotomy is suggested when the unseen mother yells down to the cellar playroom (fantastic set by Michael Carnahan), “you’re not going to play doo-wop in this house” or something to that effect.  Never fear, the fantastic five cast members rock the auditorium with an exuberant musical tribute to that era that eventually morphed into rock-n-roll.

Along with the superb cast Center REP has brought along the multitalented Roger Bean from New York to direct his opus glorifying the doo-wop era. Yes, it is that Roger Bean who wrote the fantastically successful The Marvelous Wonderettes, and its sequels, that are still playing in theaters across the country. His methodology is deceptively simple by taking an elementary plot, adorn it with songs that forward the action gradually working in conflict and ending on a happy note. He has selected a plethora of doo-wop songs to die for starting with “Sh-Boom [Life Could be a Dream] working in the famous ones “Tears on My Pillow”, “Fools Fall in Love”, “Only You”, “I Only Have Eyes for You”, “Sunday Kind of Love of Love”, “Unchained Melody”, “The Magic Touch” along other lesser known ones to keep everyone dancing and singing through this ‘must see’ 2 hour and 10 minute (including an intermission) show.

Four of the characters are Springfield High School grads and former members of the Glee Club “Crooning Cupcakes.” That signifies that they all have singing talent. Unemployed Denny is putting together a doo-wop group to compete in a talent show with the winner getting a one year world tour gig. Initially it is a two man group, Denny and inexperienced Eugene (Tim Homsley). Enter fellow Glee Club member Wally (Jerry Lee) who joins the group suggesting they get “Big” Earl owner of Big Stuff Auto to sponsor them and pay the $50 entrance fee.

It seems that “Big “ Earl can’t make their audition and his daughter Lois (Sharon Retkerk) is sent to check them out.  As one would expect when a beautiful girl enters into a male bastion there is going to be conflict and there is. That conflict escalates when she suggests her father’s head mechanic Skip, raised on the wrong side of town, with his talent for singing, dancing and guitar playing be brought in making the group a quartet. How about a name? Ok, let’s be “Denny and the Dreamers.”

Early on you can guess the rest of the story but before the end you will be entertained with terrific doo-wop numbers, charming humor and fine acting by all who are members of Equity. One local favorite is Ryan Drummond who has an enviable CV, fine singing voice, is a great dancer and shares a role in the ensemble numbers. Beautiful Sharon Rietkerk's name appears as lead actor throughout the bay Area and is a dream in the eye-popping dresses (Costume Design by Bobby Pearce ) created for her. Did I mention she is a whirlwind of a singer and dancer?

Most of the humor is divided between Tim Homsley and Jerry Lee with Homsley the audience favorite who grows from an insecure, inexperienced nice guy who had been rejected by Lois in the 4th grade into an integral group member. Both Lee and Homsley have their individual share of the spotlight in solo numbers. Last but hardly least is hunky Derek Keeling, imported from New York to play the role Skip who is Lois’ love interest.  The stage radiates sex during some of his numbers. He like Drummond fit in the ensemble mode when required.

The total production is enhanced by the artistic crew’s efforts with spot-on direction by Roger Bean, choreography by Lee Martino and the unseen band led by musical director Brandon Adams.

Recommendations taken from previous reviews that fit this production to a T: Spectacular, affectionate, high-flying, fabulous, delightful, idiotically infectious etc. and is pure nostalgia.

Roger Bean's 'Life Could Be a Dream' is a gas.

Richard Connema

Roger Bean has retooled his doo-wop laced 2009 jukebox musical Life Could Be a Dream, and it is now playing at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. Bean is also directing the premiere of the show which is hoped to return to Off-Broadway in the future. Life Could Be a Dream is a clever and rousing good-time musical that features 23 seasoned songs.

Set in 1963 in Springfield U.S.A. and employing the familiar "Let's put on a show" theme, Denny and the Dreamers, a fledging doo-wop singing group, are preparing to enter the Big Whopper Radio contest with dreams of making it to the big time. Lois, the daughter of the wealthy sponsor of the radio show, gives some polish to the songs of the trio. Of course, Denny, followed by Wally and Eugene, falls in love with her. Entering the picture is Skip, a hunk who looks like Elvis. Not only is he sexy but he can sing, too. Needless to say, he joins the Dreamers. It all ends well for everyone in this two hour song fest. You can guess who gets the girl at the end.

The group is really a blast singing such songs as "Fools Fall in Love," "Tears on My Pillow," "Runaround Sue," "Earth Angel," "Stay," "Unchained Melody," "Lonely Teardrops" and "The Glory of Love."

Derek Keeling (star of Broadway's Grease and NBC's "You're the One I Want!") is terrific in his leather jacket as the grease monkey from the wrong side of the tracks. His voice and dance moves rival Elvis and his baritone range is great.

Sharon Rietkerk (Center REP's Xanadu and Rumors) is entrancing as Lois. She has dynamic vocal chops singing the songs. She shines as the good girl with a heart of gold. Ryan Drummond (Diablo Theatre Company's Singin' in the Rain) as college-age Denny is perfect in the role with his lively, big vocal cords. Jerry Lee (DTC's Shrek) is impressive as the preacher's son Wally, and rounding out the original trio is Tim Homsley (SF Playhouse production of Into the Woods) as goofy Eugene, giving a crowd pleasing performance with his pitch perfect voice.

Roger Bean has staged his own work with help from Brandon Adams with the terrific musical arrangements, and Michael Carnahan's delightful basement set that is perfectly in the period of the '60s, as are Bobby Pearce's costumes. Jeff Mockus' sound is inconspicuously precise while Kurt Landisman's lighting is bright and cheery.

Life Could Be a Dream is a musical trip down memory lane that will leave you laughing, singing and cheering. This is s unashamedly relaxing entertainment beautifully rendered in every particular.