By Randy Vancourt
Performed by Stephen Sparks, Randy Vancourt and Brendan Wall
Director / Musical Director – Randy Vancourt
Victoria Playhouse Production
Victoria Playhouse Petrolia
August 14 to September 1, 2007
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
Nostalgia Trip on the Boardwalk
Anyone who’s a fan of fifties doo-wop music will love Boardwalk, which just opened at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia. Randy Vancourt, who will be remembered as Sophie Tucker’s pianist in last season’s hit The Last of the Red Hot Mamas, is behind Boardwalk. He conceived and wrote it, then directed and performed in it.
Boardwalk is set in 1976, as three men meet on the beach and reminisce about 20 years earlier when, in their teens, they sang the doo-wop hits on the boardwalk, in a fictitious Ontario resort. While Chuck (Stephen Sparks) and Owen (Brendan Wall) have left town and moved on with their lives, Ron (Randy Vancourt) still lives there, and apparently dwells on the good old days. He calls them together when he learns that the Crystal Ballroom on the beach is being torn down, and predictably, they sneak in to perform.
All three performers are wonderful singers, their voices blending in harmony in the a cappella numbers, and they also show their talent with keyboards and guitars. Vancourt has done a great job of pulling together a wide assortment of songs from that era, but unfortunately, the plot doesn’t stand up to the music. In the first act, the songs need to be better tied to the story and the dialogue slows down in places. There should be more visible action on stage, not just three fellows talking about the action.
Fortunately, things pick up in the second act with the addition of humour. Vancourt does some magic tricks, (or as Ron stresses “illusions”) and on opening night showed off his improv skills as a Second City alumnus with some hilarious audience interaction. The cast offers a long list of hit song titles, such as “I’ll never get over you, Darling, so get up and answer the phone” which is greeted with great laughter. There is also some black humour, when the typical old car crash songs of the fifties are mocked in a number about organ donation.
While all the doo-wop songs are good, two standouts deviate from the doo-wop theme. Peace in the Valley, a number the characters recall from singing in the church choir, is very well done, as is the old war song Nightingales in Barkley Square.
The set is good, with a beautiful beach scene in the background and a boardwalk across the stage. The music excellent and overall, Boardwalk offers a pleasant evening of light entertainment. But with some further re-writing of the script – improving dialogue, and filling some holes in the plot – this could be a really good show.
Boardwalk ~ The Doo Wop Musical continues with eight shows a week at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until September 1. Call the box office at 1-800-717-7694 or (519) 882-1221 for tickets.