Meadow Brook asks age-old question: ‘Why Do Fools Fall in Love?’
ROCHESTER, MICH. – Meadow Brook Theatre chose a real crowd-pleaser to end its season with–Why Do Fools Fall In Love? It was impossible for audience members to not tap their toes to such infectious songs as “He’s a Rebel” and “I Will Follow Him,” along with the show’s title tune.
The premise is pretty straightforward. Millie is getting married and her friends–Sally, Florence and Dee Dee–are throwing her an impromptu bachelorette party. It’s the ‘60s, and in between talk of love and marriage, the girls get carried away with the music of the day. The songs follow the context of the play, with songs of romantic strife wound around Millie’s philandering boyfriend and then husband, as well as Sally’s inability to choose a boyfriend who doesn’t turn out to be a louse.
Plot turns serve as lead-ins to the songs, some of which celebrate the joys of romantic love while others recount its sorrows. There’s a good bit of choreography as the characters hand off solos to each other while the rest readily join to sing background.
Felicia Renae, who plays Sally, is a standout with the strongest voice of the ensemble. Her sassy character is in stark contrast to the more traditional Millie (Allison Hunt-Kaufmann). All four women do a fine job singing their solos as well as in ensemble. Flo (Renee Turner), who is bubbly but tends to love from afar, gives a heartfelt performance with songs like “Goin’ Out of My Head.” Katie Hardy plays the daffy Dee Dee, who is Flo’s cousin and quickly endears herself to Millie and Sally. The second act of the musical opens several months after Millie’s party with it now being Dee Dee’s turn for a bachelorette party.
Why Do Fools Fall In Love? was created by Roger Bean, whose previous hits staged at MBT include Life Could Be a Dream and The Andrews Brothers. It is directed by MBT Artistic Director Travis Walter. Debbie Williams is the choreographer and Stacy White is the musical director. Terry Carpenter is the stage manager, with set design by Kristen Gribbin, costumes by Corey Collins, lighting by Matthew J. Fick and sound by Mike Duncan.
Set in Millie’s living room, Gribbin does a nice job capturing the ‘60s feel, including cool midcentury modern furniture. The lighting includes a retro rectangle pattern that is overlaid on the backdrop during the musical numbers. Another lightning overlay on the floor is more ‘60s abstract design with hearts, arrows and asterisks.
Besides directing the band, White plays synthesizer. The remainder of the band, which plays backstage, comprises Cindy Pavelek on synthesizer, Sig Hepler on guitar and Nick Matthews on percussion.
While there is a backstory, the songs are key in this performance. And that’s just fine, because sometimes music tells as good a story as words.