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A CurtainUp Review

Café a Go Go
By David Lohrey

South Side Cafe in the Theater District

Baby boomers are really the core audience for theater these days, and I think they are looking for shows that bring back the music they grew up with and the clothes they used to dress in.
---Co-producer Joe Corcoran

For me and my generation, the '60s evokes images of controversy and pain. A slide show of that period played in our minds would have to include pictures of violence and near social anarchy. It is very clear, however, that for those slightly older, the '60s remain an innocent era of love fests, groovy music, and go-go boots. For my generation, the '60s mean 1968-1972, while for boomers they remain firmly behind a firewall placed more or less at 1967. It is, then, this world of boomer nostalgia that Café A Go Go seeks to celebrate and is set as far away from Selma, Berkeley, and Kent State as it can get. We go to London, 1966, and Twiggy reigns supreme.

The production has found a marvelous venue for itself in the basement club of the Café A Go Go. Some of the rather hefty boomers may have trouble descending the steep staircase, but once there, seated around club tables, they will have no trouble identifying with the young cast members who represent their former and perhaps better selves. Written, directed and staged by the Heather Brothers, this musical review captures the spirit of those heady days by having their spunky cast members sing original songs that gently parody the sounds of the Beach Boys, Sonny and Cher, and the Beatles. The audience instantly sees (and hears) itself and laughs along at lyrics that both imitate and mock the sexual awakening of an entire generation.

The large cast of ten shares the postage-size stage with a full rock band. Especially winning are the five females who have no trouble capturing the playful sexual innocence of the era. Jessica Cannon (Sue), Jessica Aquino (Dusty), and Stacie May Hassler (Bridget) are more than competent. Stephanie St. Hilaire (Penny) succeeds in capturing that "look" peculiar to English blondes. The standout, however, is Jasika Nicole Pruit (Sharon), who has that rare gift of stage presence we are all looking for. She's got lovely features, including eyes the size of a giraffe's. She moves well and sings like a lark. In short, she has pizzazz. She and the other girls are helped along by Brian Giacchetto's perfect costumes.

The guys, on the other hand, don't quite have what it takes. But then again, maybe it's the era. Is there a male equivalent of Twiggy? John-Mark McGaha (Eddie) certainly shows promise. Perhaps if he were asked to do more, he would deliver the goods. Wade Fisher (Gary), Zachary Gilman (Rick), Matthew Knowland (Chazz), and Vin Adinolfi (Erica) don't know how to be anything more than nice. Even in an era of innocence (real or imagined) guys had sex appeal and knew how to show it. These guys don't.

Café a Go Go is a crowd pleaser. Boomers seem ready to be celebrated, or is it that they are merely ready to celebrate? Either way, things get rowdy real fast, so order your drinks before curtain and settle back.

Café a Go Go
Written and Directed by: The Heather Brothers.
Musical Direction by: Gigi Hageman-Teeley & Tom Teeley.

Cast: Stephanie St. Hilaire, Matthew Knowland, Jessica Aquino, Wade Fisher, Vin Adinolfi, John-Mark McGaha, Stacie May Hassler, Jasika Nicole Pruitt, Zachary Gilman, Jessica Cannon.
Scenic Design: Cameron Anderson.
Lighting Design: Rick Sands.
Costume Design: Brian Giacchetto.
Running Time: 2 Hours one 15-minute intermission
The Café A Go Go, 221 W. 46 th St. 212/ 352-3101 &
Opens 07/13/03. Wed.-Fri. at 7:30, Sat at 3 & 7:30, Sun. at 3 & 7pm.
Reviewed by David Lohrey based on performance of 07/12/03.
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