If within the first few minutes of The Gaslight Theatre’s new show, “Beach Blanket Bee-Bop”, your eyes aren’t transfixed on the stage, you’re not laughing, and your foot isn’t tapping along to the musical beat, you may want to check your pulse.
But chances are that if you’ve selected The Gaslight Theatre for your entertainment destination, you’re functioning just fine.
In the wake of the compelling show, “The Belle of Tombstone,” the crew at Gaslight set the bar high for any subsequent performances, and in impressive fashion, “Beach Blanket Bee-Bop” leaps over that bar with room to spare.
After the always-captivating intro from the Gaslight Band, the curtain draws to the side, and we find ourselves smack in the middle of the 1960s in Surfside, Calif. – a place known for its sunny days, beaches, boardwalk, and, you guessed it – surfing.
We soon meet the very likeable protagonist, Moondoggie (Jake Chapman), a fun-spirited, curly-haired high schooler who is looking to better the city’s popular boardwalk by fixing the Tornado, a roller coaster that is experiencing technical difficulty.
With the help of his nerd-genius sidekick Melvin (Mike Yarema), the two successfully repair the ride, only to have it sabotaged soon thereafter by a couple of boardwalk bullies known as Moose (Todd Thompson) and Lunkhead (Seth Fowler).
Reveling in their own undeserved egos, and seeking to maintain control over the boardwalk, Moose, with his deep, mischievous laugh (which quickly becomes a character in itself), and Lunkhead, Moose’s dimwitted sidekick, are encouraged to keep up their evil deeds by corrupt businessman, Mr. Fogbottom, who, with greedy intentions, wants to take over ownership of the boardwalk.
The tension puts a strain on the would-be relationship of Moondoggie and his love interest Barbara Ann (Seonaid Barngrover), and equally distracts from the building romance between Melvin and Francine (Tarreyn Van Slyke).
Those tensions only rise when Moose frames Moondoggie with the Tornado’s sabotage, prompting Barbara Ann not only to abandon him, but subsequently accept Moose’s invitation to the high school dance.
Sticking to his core values, Moondoggie vows to get Barbara Ann back by proving his innocence, and in turn recapture his power to ensure the boardwalk stays in the right hands.
With neither side budging, Moondoggie and Moose decide to settle things once and for all in a surfing competition – a fitting and hilarious conclusion to a show that is riddled with laughs, audience interaction, hilariously corny props, and over-the-top performances that at times have even the actors muffling their own chuckles.
And while the on-stage performances deserve all due credit, what shouldn’t be overlooked is the creativity that goes on behind the scenes, including eye-catching choreography from Katherine Byrnes, on-point musical direction from Linda Ackermann, and the creativity of playwright and director Peter Van Slyke, who always manages to effectively string together some absurdly unlikely scenarios into a comedically effective and unpredictable style.
Everything about this show sets the stage for a play that is a fitting seasonal play, but which would be enjoyable any time of the year.
For more information on “Beach Blanket Bee-Bop,” including show times and ticket prices, visit www.thegaslighttheatre.com or call 886-9428.