February 11, 2010 at 10:59 a.m.
Masquers Theatre tries its hand at it in their newest musical production.
The musical was first created for the Milwaukee Repertory Theater by Roger Bean, and the Masquer's crew, led by director Janice Murphy, has brought the act to Forest Lake.
Murphy directed last summer's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, but this is her first small cast show. Although the program lists five actors, there are actually only four characters in the musical, as the fifth one only appears in a picture during the whole production.
The musical follows the bumpy road to love taken by four girls in the 1960s. The main focus is Millie, who in the first act is a few days away from getting married to a man who has disappeared and been seen around town with other girls.
She is joined by three friends, Sally, who is a confident, strong-willed maneater who doesn't mind being called "trampy" at times. Also among her friends is Florence, a bumbling, shy girl who obsesses over guys, but refuses to ever talk to them due to her timidness. And to complete the quartet is Dee Dee, Florence's young cousin who is ditzy, naive and full of energy. She is convinced her boyfriend is going to be all dreamy and will propose to her in a romantic way at some point.
The first act takes time in building up the characters, as they all develop their stories through their songs and dialogue -- and plenty of booze drinking. It's in the first act that Sally, who is played by Stephanie Johnson, really builds up her cold, heartless persona. However, towards the end of it, you can see the shell slowly start to crumble around her as she has more and more bad luck with men.
Meanwhile, Millie, played by Laura Langreck, and Flo, played by Emily Temple, both struggle in different ways with their relationships. Millie's soon-to-be-husband is nowhere to be found just days before their wedding, but, Millie is convinced she can find him and persuade him to marry her. The first act even ends with Millie singing "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me", which is directed towards her missing fiance.
Flo, on the other hand, tries to rationalize being with a "rebel", even though Sally doesn't believe Flo has even been in the same room as her crush, Bobby.
However, the scene-stealer in the first act is Dee Dee, played by Lauren Cain. It helped that she is cast in the most humorous role, but Cain was really a spot on choice for the role. Her blonde pig tails, high voice and ditzy mannerisms fit the Dee Dee character perfectly. When drawing up a performer to play Dee Dee, I don't know if there could be a better choice than Cain.
Some of the songs in the first scene are familiar even to people who haven't been to many musicals or know much about them. The title song, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" is very catchy, and was a hit song. Also, "I Will Follow You" is a tune that has been around since the 50s also.
The second act brings the crowd forward six months, and now Dee Dee is the one getting married.
The group of girls has grown up some since the last act. Although Sally shows up in a very "fashion forward" outfit that is questioned by all the girls, she is beginning to realize she doesn't want just brief, choppy relationships with men, but she just can't find the right one.
She proceeds to start shooting massive loads of tequila to calm her worries.
Flo has moved beyond her "rebel" boyfriend Bobby, but is now enamored with a guy at work. Although she has pictures of him, she tells her friends she won't be talking to him. She then joins Sally in her tequila shooting, and suddenly, Flo decides she will talk to the guy.
Dee Dee and Millie's relationships go in opposite directions, and both Langreck and Cain do a great job in capturing the stark contrasts between one character's happiness and the other's despair with love.
The cast was drawn from all over the area as Langreck hails from Scandia, while both Johnson and Cain come from Centennial High School in Lino Lakes. Temple is a sophomore at the University of St. Thomas. Temple, Langreck and Cain make their Masquer's debuts in this production, and Johnson makes her second appearance, after debuting in Joseph last summer.
Tickets for the dinner theatre are $30, and include your choice of dinner; tortellini, chicken parmesan, coconut crusted tilapia, Stella cut sirloin. You can also get tickets for $18 without the meal. Seniors (60+) and children under 12 get in for a $25 ticket.
The chicken parmesan was a wonderfully baked meal that included a side of pasta with red sauce. It was a benefit to get it along with the musical, but it's also something I would absolutely order again if I was just enjoying a night out for dinner at Stella's on 97.
The production is playing at Stella's on 97 in Forest Lake, and runs Fridays and Saturdays, through Feb. 27 with dinner at 6 p.m. and the production at 7:30, and Sundays through Feb. 21, with lunch at 12:30 p.m. and the production at 2 p.m.