By Daniel Skora
It’s always a little stupefying when someone asks a question that contains within it the very answer to the question itself. Like, “Who’s buried in Grant’s tomb?” Or like “Why Do Fools Fall in Love”, the question posed by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers in the song that made a strong showing on the Billboard charts in 1956. Someone other than U.S. Grant may very well be buried in his tomb. But there can be no doubt as to the reason fools fall in love. Fools fall in love precisely because they’re foolish.
Dee Dee, Millie, Sally, and Florence may indeed be a bit foolish as they talk about guys and the tepid state of their love affairs, but they’re sure having a lot of fun doing so in “Why Do Fools Fall in Love, the season-closing production at Meadow Brook Theatre. The show is a jukebox musical written and created by Roger Bean, who likewise wrote and created “The Andrews Brothers” and “Life Could Be a Dream”, earlier presentations at MBT. The songs are mostly of 1960’s vintage, loosely tied around a plot that gives all four characters in the show plenty of opportunity to discuss life, love, and friendships.
Act One focuses on an impromptu bachelorette party being given for Millie (Allison Hunt-Kaufmann), who’d rather be alone as she contemplates her forthcoming marriage with a fiancé unable to let go of his cheating ways. Best friend Sally (Felicia Renae) is the sexy one of the group, but has developed a cynical attitude towards men because of a long string of failed relationships. Which is not, however, going to keep her from trying.
Florence (Renee Turner) is the quiet one, not aggressive in the game of love but still wanting to be a player. Dee Dee (Katie Hardy) is the ditsy one and has all the best funny lines. Though the other three would like nothing better than a man who would keep them happy giving sugar on the lips, Dee Dee has a penchant for the real stuff, and spends much of the show trolling for cookies and candy and lollipops. Fortunately, the party provides ample time for the three things that make up a great party: girl talk, snack foods, and alcohol.
Act Two moves ahead six months, this time to celebrate Dee Dee’s engagement. Though the focus of the ladies hasn’t changed much from the topic of boy/girl relationships, they seem to have developed a more realistic approach about them. And they’ve come to realize that their friendships may be more important to them than anything else.
The musical features almost a score of popular songs, many instantly familiar, some not so much. All of the songs mesh with and advance the plot. Besides the title tune, (reprised twice), the songs and the artists most associated with them include: “”It Hurts To Be In Love” (Gene Pitney); ”He’s a Rebel” (The Crystals); “Baby, I’m Yours” (Barbara Lewis); “I Will Follow Him” (Peggy March, back then known as “Little” Peggy March); and, proving that you can write a hit song about almost anything as long as it has a great melody, “A Little Bit of Soap” (The Jarmels). The show has several songs that are less familiar (by Diane Renay, Isaac Hayes, and Elvis…Elvis Costello that is) and whispers could be heard from some in the audience about never having heard some of the songs.
Many of the songs are accompanied by some great girl-group type choreography (Debbie Williams, choreographer, Renee Turner, Dance Captain). The entire show takes place in the living room/attached kitchen area of Millie’s nicely appointed home, design by Kristen Gribbin. The set is yet again a Meadow Brook beauty. While many theatres forego a detailed set because of either space or monetary reasons, MBT always creates environments that stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the content of the show.
“Why Do Fools Fall in Love” is directed by Travis W. Walter. The band consists of Stacy White, who also conducts, Cindy Pavelek, Sig Hepler, and Nick Matthews. Lighting design for the show is by Matthew J. Fick and sound is by Mike Duncan. Costumes are by Corey Collins and Terry W. Carpenter serves as the stage manager. The show is bright, bubbly and thoroughly enjoyable and the delightful and extremely talented cast provide plenty of smiles and laughs. The show runs through June 18th. Tickets are available by calling the Meadow Brook box office at 1.248.377.3300 or going online at www.ticketmaster.com. Meadow Brook Theatre is located on the campus of Oakland University in the city of Rochester.