Breaking Up is Hard to Do On Stage at Roger Rocka’s

Nov 29, 2017 | 2017 Articles, Terrance V. Mc Arthur, Theatre

by Terrance Mc Arthur

Remember Dirty Dancing, where it’s at a summer resort in the Catskills? This isn’t that. Remember Where the Boys Are, where Connie Francis is on Spring Break looking for fun and love, and she sings the title song? This isn’t that. Remember Neil Sedaka, who composed a bunch of songs in the ’50s and ’60s, and made a comeback in the ’70s? This isn’t that.

Take the Catskills resort, the title song, and Neil Sedaka’s music, and it’s this: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, a Good Company Players show at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theatre through January 14.

This jukebox musical takes songs from both eras of Sedaka’s career, written with several different lyricists, and works them into a story of Marge (Caitlyn Lopez), a bride left at the altar, who takes her best friend Lois (Kay Wilkins) with her to her “honeymoon” reservation in the Catskills. She falls for the resort’s performing star, Del Delmonico (Steven San Sebastian), but really belongs with the show’s gopher/aspiring songwriter, Gabe (Tim Smith). The place is in financial trouble, which the owner, Esther (Melanie Heyl) and the tummler/comedian Harvey (Nicholas Nunez) try to solve.

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Cast of GCP’s BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO

It’s a light, frothy plot, but it’s not the important part of the show, what draws in the audience. It’s all about the songs. The title song, “Where the Boys Are,” “Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen,” “Oh, Carol!” “Next Door to an Angel,” “Laughter in the Rain,” “Little Devil,” “Love Will Keep Us Together,” and more! It’s a romp down rock-and-roll’s Memory Lane, from bubble-gummish pop to soaring ballads.

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Caitlyn Lopez (Marge) & Gabe (Tim Smith)

The songs wouldn’t mean much if they didn’t have a strong presentation, and director Steve Souza has a cast that can deliver like an atomic-powered UPS truck. Lopez and Wilkins make “Where the Boys Are” explode with their power and harmonies. Lopez (Sue in the Selma Art Center’s Carrie: The Musical) is wistful and Wilkins is manic, a Lucy-Ethel pairing that finds the laughs and serves up an emotional resonance.

Smith, part of the newer generation of GCP stars, is an anchor for much of the action, pining away while San Sebastian is getting all the applause and girls. Mousily dressed, Smith eventually gets to show his chops and depth. San Sebastian struts and preens as a self-important entertainer, taking advantage of everybody to get his big break, an impressive GCP debut.

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Harvey Feldman (Nicholas Nunez)

Heyl brings a touch of Sophie Tucker to her portrayal of the resort owner who has spent enough time in mourning. Nunez has that brazen Borscht-Belt chutzpah down pat, with a winning insecurity.

The small chorus provides solid backup, and a few audience members may find themselves part of the action. It’s a lot of fun, so trundle down to the Tower District, or check out the GCP website to buy your tickets. For the pre-show, the Junior Company performs songs about staying together, which can be harder to do than breaking up.

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section.

Terrance V. Mc Arthur is a Librarian with the Fresno County Public Library and has published several short stories.

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