A great 'Dream'

Oregon Cabaret Theatre has a long tradition of presenting big, joyful, easy-listening musical revues for its summer productions. This year, it is "Life Could Be a Dream." And it simply doesn't get any better than this one.

"Dream" was written by Roger Bean, who wrote last summer's Cabaret production, "The Marvelous Wonderettes." Like "Wonderettes," "Dream" is a musical revue of '50s and '60s pop music. This time around, the focus is on the doo-wop sound of guy groups, with their close harmonies and a beat straight from rhythm and blues by way of the big-band era.

The simple plot revolves around four guys, a song contest and love for a girl.

It is the early '60s, and Denny (Kyle Smith) and Eugene (Garrett Deagon), out of high school and out of work, daydream about being a successful vocal group while hanging out in Denny's mother's basement rec room. When the boys hear about a talent contest sponsored by a local radio disc jockey, they see a way out of geekiness and into lucrative popularity.

Only, you can't be a guy group with only two guys. They solve that problem by recruiting their preacher-son friend Wally (Chris Chiles).

Hmm. Now they need a sponsor. Wally suggests Big Eddie of Big Stuff Auto because he knows Big Eddie's daughter from church. But before Big Eddie agrees to sign on, he sends his daughter, Lois (Heather Gault), and auto mechanic, Skip (Devon Stone), to check out the guys' routine. All the guys develop a crush on the lovely, perky Lois.

Lois and Skip see the guys are a disaster — and suggest adding Skip to the group to whip them into shape. Lois conveniently has a crush on Skip, who is young, hip, sexy and clad in leather pants and motorcycle boots.

The rest is history — and music. And what great music it is: the early days of rock 'n' roll.

Starting with, of course, "Sh-Boom," also known as "Life Could Be a Dream," and "Get a Job" to set the scene, we learn of Eugene's scorned love ("Tears on My Pillow") and Lois' crush ("Fools Fall in Love"). As the plot — sort of — thickens, we get "I Only Have Eyes for You" and the lovely ballad "Sunday Kind of Love." We even finish the first act with the tried-and-true "Unchained Melody."

The second act, with conflicts resolved, is free to bounce and rock with numbers such as "Lonely Teardrops," "Duke of Earl" and a rousing finale of "Rama Lama Ding Dong."

"Life Could Be a Dream" is directed and choreographed by Christopher George Patterson, the talented dancer who directed last year's hit, "What a Glorious Feeling." Patterson has found five gifted, young performers with astonishing vocal range, a knack for close harmony and the skill to stay in character — keeping it all, somehow, immensely believable. With the able music direction of Erik Daniells (and an orchestral-music soundtrack by John Taylor), the musical numbers nicely mesh with the plot action onstage.

The two "heartthrobs" — Smith and Stone — deftly convey humor and warmth beyond their obvious, smooth, good looks. Smith's Denny, with a crooked grin, is adorable without being cloying. Stone gives Skip just enough of a hard edge to be believable as a rebel hiding a broken heart.

Chiles gives the slightly prim Wally warmth and depth. You can almost see his character mature, vocally and emotionally, as the musical numbers become tighter and more intricate.

Gault's Lois is both endearing and sexy with an amazing voice and vocal range.

But the unexpected find in this show has got to be Deagon as Eugene. Tall and skinny, with a face that manages to reflect an entire spectrum of emotions that range through geeky, leering and benign, Deagon reveals an incredible vocal versatility.

Craig Hudson designed the authentically tacky rec-room set. Resident costume designer Kerri Lea Robbins has provided '50s clothing — including matching bowling shirts for the guys as well as Cabaret staff. Tom Freeman deserves a special mention for the excellent sound design.

"Life Could Be a Dream" plays at Cabaret through Aug. 26. Call 541-488-2902 for tickets and showtimes.

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