Sh-Boom! Life Could Be a Dream

A Lite Musical, Heavy on Talent

Reviewed by Vicki Stokes

How do you finally emerge from your nagging mother’s basement without getting a job? You enter a talent contest and rehearse your heart out! Having a run at the Drayton Festival Theatre last year, Drayton Entertainment has brought Sh-Boom! to the South Huron Stage at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend as the opener of the 2024 season, with the same cast except for one.

You don’t see Sh-Boom! for the storyline. It’s a lite story (spelling it l-i-g-h-t would make it seem too heavy), a Roger Bean jukebox musical; you go for the music and the talent! Bean has written many other popular musicals, including The Marvelous Wonderettes and Route 66.

Denny, a frontman type and small-town high school Glee club alumnus, hears of a talent search on his portable radio. Only the audience sees DJ Bullseye Miller in person when the radio is on. Denny wants to start a group and his friend Eugene enthusiastically joins. Later, they allow a third, Wally, to become a member if he can nab them a sponsor. Expecting Big Al, the owner of the auto shop, to assess them, the head mechanic, who is packing a lot of talent himself, shows up instead. Denny’s nagging old mother also allows the daughter of Big Al, Lois, into the home to assess the group. When there are four guys and a gal in the basement with a bit of history between some of them, the tension begins!

The doo-wop songs that make up this musical weave the story with themes of loneliness, heartache and love. Hits such as “Get a Job,” “Runaround Sue,” “Lonely Teardrops,” and “Unchained Melody” will have you reminiscing old times. The finale includes a lively medley of hits such as “The Twist” and “Rama Lama Ding Dong.”

Though Sh-Boom! is the story of a fledgling singing group, Neil Aitchison as Bullseye makes the show. He was a radio personality in real life and is a master at telling jokes. Anyone can read jokes all day on the internet, but Aitchison delivers with a punch, sometimes two! Even a joke you’ve heard before, he can still make you laugh. While the four guys have the audience chuckling, Aitchison has everyone howling with laughter!

Jennifer Walls is another gem in this show. Her talent for voices is utilized well as the offstage nagging mother. I’ve been a fan of Walls since Dynamic Duos; her singing voice and stage presence are delightful.

Kaden Forsberg, who starred in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical last year, is a fantastic choice for Denny, who craves to lead the group and win the talent search. Connor Meek plays Eugene, whose character does seem to be a bit meek at times, but he proves he can be a lead singer if necessary. And this year, Joeme Frith, also of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, plays the lovable Wally, who can also carry a tune! These three fellows make a great trio.

Finally, there’s Michael Vanhevel, the “Duke of Earl” or Duke Henderson, a cool guy, a mechanic from the wrong part of town, a young man unsuitable for the boss’s daughter. Tall, handsome, with sizable biceps and a smooth crooning voice, Vanhevel starred as The Crooner last year. Having grown up in Grand Bend, Vanhevel is a favourite of the local audience.

The talent of this cast makes the show, and backing them up, you’ve got a heavily talented creative team. There’s David Rogers (director) and David Hogan (choreographer), both of Victoria Playhouse in Petrolia, with this musical being reminiscent of the type of work they are known for. The live band’s music was flawless under the direction of Melissa Morris.

The set is Denny’s basement, where Denny lives, the group rehearses, and his mother interferes through the intercom. Prominent on the wall is an Orange Crush sign, and there are signs on the wall for personalities such as Jerry Lee Lewis and Fats Domino, and a “Go Chipmunks” sign that you will come to appreciate partway through the show. Microphones for the group are whatever can be snatched quickly, such as pop bottle or a golf club, and the furniture takes a bit of abuse all for the sake of fame.

Sh-Boom is family-friendly, based on simpler times. It reminds me of That 70’s Show, only set in an earlier, more wholesome time: the basement, the nagging parent upstairs, ignored calls to fold the laundry. Ultimately, it’s a relief for them to emerge from that basement, where the costumes rise to another level. The music is enjoyable, the laughs are plentiful, and it’s a fun evening with friends and family.

Sh-Boom! continues until June 30 at Huron Country Playhouse, South Huron Stage. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office at 519-238-6000, Toll-Free at 1-855-372-9866, or by checking for availability.

Photo: Upper: Neil Aitchison as DJ Bullseye Miller. Lower: Connor Meek, Michael Vanhevel, Joema Frith, Jennifer Walls, Kaden Forsberg. Photos by Drayton Entertainment.

Sh-Boom! Life Could Be a Dream
Written and Created by Roger Bean
Directed by David Rogers
Choreography by David Hogan
Musical Director Melissa Morris
Performed by Neil Aitchison, Kaden Forsberg, Joema Frith, Connor Meek, Michael Vanhevel, Jennifer Walls
Produced by Drayton Entertainment
South Huron Stage, Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
June 12 to June 30, 2024
Reviewed by Vicki Stokes


Sign up here if you would like to receive notice when news, reviews, and musings are posted. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *