Having my roots in the study of theater and drama, it is hard to say anything disparaging about a show. This is especially true if it is done by Theatre Three, a regional theater that I have admired since the late 1970’s when, as a recent college graduate, I was awed by their production of Look Back in Anger. At that time, the plays were staged in the basement of the First United Methodist Church across the street from where the theater is today.
With that in mind, I must be honest and say that Saturday’s night performance (Feb. 18) of Breaking Up Is Hard to Do was for the most part, a disappointment. The music was somehow off beat from the opening number, Breaking Up is Hard to Do, to the finale, Love Will Keep US Together. As a whole, the production just did not work.
Individual performances were good at times. I was moved by Stephen Doone’s performance of Harvey, a comedian and M.C. working the at Esther’s Paradise Resort in the Catskills in 1960. His performance of Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, as he sang behind a scrim separating him from the action upstage, was a pleasure. I wished the action upstage was in the background and he was in the spotlight. His performance gave substance and backbone to the show with songs like King of Clowns and Happy Birthday Sweet 16.
Phyllis March as Ester Simowitz the resort owner was both convincing as refreshing in numbers like Next Door to an Angel sung with Stephen Doone in the second act. Jennifer Collester-Tully was upbeat and spirited as Lois. She has a strong voice and charming presence on stage. Ms. Tully's musical skills are particularly of note in the number Where the Boys in Act One. Her dancing, both upstage and in the background, add life and energy to a show that lacks the luster and spark needed to bring these classic Neil Sedaka songs to life once again.
Calendar Girl is my all time favorite song. It was my very first record purchase. I was in third grade. I almost wore out the grooves, playing it repeatedly on my record player. Unfortunately, Theater Three’s latest production is not a favorite of mine on this year’s calendar as it falls short of the mark.