By Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
Jesus Limon (with microphone) as the Big Kahuna keeps the chaos under control while dancers limbo.
There's some cross-pollination in the air at the Gaslight Music Hall up on the northwest side, with the start of its summer run of “Beach Blanket Be-Bop” every Thursday night through Aug. 25. This 95 percent music, five percent dialogue musical comedy with tons of one-liner jokes expands on the traditional olio segment that comes with every show at Gaslight Theater out on the eastside.
Robert Shaw, the Gaslight Music Hall's artistic director, says the show is “kind of like the olio on steroids, with all the bad jokes you can handle.”
He's got that right, especially the last part. Corny humor is as high as an elephant's eye, and just as shameless. Of course, that is also my favorite part of the other Gaslight's melodramas that have been a mainstay of Tucson entertainment for more than 35 years.
So here's my favorite.
What do you call a waffle on the beach?
A sandy Eggo (say it out loud, quickly....a San Diego....get it?)
Well, it's my favorite, anyway. Many of the jokes had a connection to the beach, particularly to the surf as celebrated in the songs of the Beach Boys.
A cast of five was eager to pump up the enthusiasm for such favorites as “Surf City,” “Surfin' Safari,” “Surfin' USA” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.” Sneaking in on a dune buggy were other favorites like “Under the Boardwalk,” “One Fine Day,” “Do the Locomotion” and a funny spoof on the Supremes with “Stop! In the Name of Love.”
Samantha Cormier (Bonnie) and Brittany Mazur (Rhonda) play a couple of teens who just want to have fun. Brian Paradis (Glen) and Mickey (Jeremy Vega) are a couple of boys who want to be sure the girls get what they want.
Making sure nothing untoward happens on his beach to these kids is Jesus Limon as the Big Kahuna. He gets to tell most of the jokes, too.
Also on stage is a surf band quintet called the Wave Riders with exactly the right kind of spontaneous garage sound you would expect from guys who spend a lot of time in the sun. They are Rob Resetar, piano, Stewart Oliver, bass, Fred Hayes, drums, Ed Delucia, guitar, and Brian Hicks, sax.
The whole show directed by Katherine Byrnes has an airy, natural, unrehearsed feel of a bunch of kids singing and having a good time.
There is a little bit of a plot when Mickey and Rhonda, the cutest couple on the beach, have a big argument over a simple misunderstanding. But everything gets patched up in time for them to sing some songs together at the end.
Giving a nice twist to this sunny show are a couple of participation numbers just for youngsters in the audience – a hula hoop spinning competition and a limbo dance. In both contests, audience applause decides the winner but all participants receive a prize.
While the Gaslight Music Hall continues its regular entertainment format of themed shows and celebrations of famous singers the rest of the week, Thursday evenings will be set aside for this nostalgic romp with “Beach Blanket Be-Bop” where every family member from grandparents to toddlers gets to sing along and feel silly about something.
What: “Beach Blanket Be-Bop”
When: 7 p.m. every Thursday to Aug. 25; doors open at 6:15 p.m.
Where: Gaslight Music Hall, 13005 N. Oracle Road
How Much: $18.95 adults; $16.95 seniors, students and military; $8.95 children age 2-12. Tax is additional.
Reservations required: 520-529-1000,www.thegaslightmusichall.com or visit the Gaslight Music Hall office, open 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday