It’s everything you’d expect from a 60’s beach tale except the H2O. Even without actual waves, Surf the Musical rocks, rolls and swirls to the beat of the 28 Beach Boy tunes interwoven into its story.
What I really should say is that the story is interwoven between Beach Boy songs and if that means that Rhonda comes to life as a vivacious vixen (Help Me Rhonda) or that a father and daughter reassure each other over hard times (Don’t Worry Baby), then you just have to hang ten and ride out the action as it unfolds onstage.
High school sweethearts Tanner (Marshall Kennedy Carolan) and Brooke (Lauren Zakrin) part ways when he leaves for New York City to pursue his dreams of rock stardom. When he returns to his beach town, he finds Brooke in the arms of his rival Rip (Alex Ringler).
Brooke’s turned rebellious, worrying her father (Robert Torti) and younger brother Nelson (Riley Costello). Nick (Adrian Zmed) is the owner of the local hangout and tries to mentor Tanner in rekindling their relationship.
That makes Rip mad enough to race Tanner for pink slips (car ownership) and the whole beach community of surfer dudes and dudettes gets involved in the drama, well, at least as much drama as can be allowed in a song and dance-filled production full of Bermuda shorts and sandals.
You’ll hear car songs (Fun Fun Fun, Little Deuce Coup, 409) romantic songs (God Only Knows, Surfer Girl, Wouldn’t It Be Nice) thoughtful songs (In My Room, When I Grow Up to Be a Man), dance songs (Do You Want to Dance, Dance Dance Dance) and of course, surfin’ songs(Surfin’ Safari, Surfin’ USA).
Barbara Ann and Good Vibrations show up before the final curtain as well.
Large screen backdrops do a great job of projecting moonlit oceans, a drag race and perhaps the highlight of the entire show, a simulated ride on a Ferris wheel for the two leads. That’s because a wall installation made up of 136 of the world’s thinnest bezel 60-inch class monitors (courtesy of Sharp Electronics Corporation) delivers superb brightness and quality, allowing for high-tech set (and mood) changes. That’s where the water lives, along with the star-filled sky.
Director Kristin Hanggi (Rock of Ages) and choreographer RJ Durell keep the production fast paced, incorporating audience participation to volley beach balls and dance in the aisles during some numbers (just wait for a cast member to pull you out of your seat).
Standout performances include Nikki Tuazon as Rhonda, a woman who gives new meaning to the term “hang loose.” Riley Costello as Brooke’s younger brother Nelson is a real triple threat - acting, singing and - skateboarding; Marshal Kennedy Carolan as Tanner manages an evocative falsetto that speaks to the era with an authenticity that is gratifying.
Adrian Zmed (Grease 2, TJ Hooker) is a familiar, almost comforting presence as Nick, and Alex Ringler gives rebel Rip a sensibility that comes from the darker side of the beach.
Leading lady Lauren Zakrin entrances with her In My Room solo, but maintains a puzzling 80's presence (wearing a bustier and clingy denim skirt with a zipper that spans the length from waistband to hem). Her hair is long and puffy and blonde – not at all like a Gidget or Annette Funicello. The anachronistic hair and wardrobe distracts from the era and sometimes from the performance. The rest of the female ensemble seems to channel the early 60's era of cat's eye sunglasses, seersucker/terry cloth cover-ups and funky hats. Guys have an easier time of it, shirtless, with shorts, sandals or barefoot - and not one molecule of hair gel to be found.
Surf the Musical is alot of fun without requiring alot of thought. It runs on beach-powered nostalgia for a musical era that celebrated sand, sun, water, and fun, along with fast cars (and sometimes women). All you have to do is “catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world.” That’s one Beach Boy tune that’s NOT in the production but would certainly fit right in.
Ticket prices range from $64-$144 and Thursdays are dark, but the surfboards roll eight times every other night of the week. Way to Shoot the Curl without ever getting wet!