An old man sings of life's lessons with the ancient sea turtle he rescued as a boy. True love melts the Grinch-like heart of a greedy man. Local historical societies have the resources to save our heritage from development.
And seagulls breakdance.
is a fairytale, but instead of heading to Never Never Land, the show transports us to the Redondo Beach that might have been. Once there, we're invited to settle in for a feel-good, whimsical story.
The action starts on the sand as a baby sea turtle (well played by Jessica Spotts, who at 7 years old is the youngest member of the cast) is nearly eaten by a hungry seagull. A young boy named Willy rescues her, talks to her, and brings her to the ocean, then goes into the Hotel Redondo to learn that surfer George Freeth has arrived.
Soon, a set of talented teenage dancers tap, Charlston, jitterbug and disco their way to an era much like our own—with a few exceptions. In this alternate future, the Hotel Redondo still exists and sea turtles still breed on South Bay beaches. The backdrops that set each scene contribute to the illusion by showing a coastline devoid of condos and high rises.
Love stories and youthful shenanigans ensue, of course.
The play, originally written by Susan Schuchert Brown as a musical for kids, is upbeat and clear, and all is accompanied by the kind of music that makes old and young want to get up and dance.
When The Strand: A Beach Musical was first staged several years ago, Beach Boys music and other familiar tunes were used. There are still fun pieces that boomers will remember fondly, like "The In Crowd" and a few bars of "Pipeline."
Mostly, though, songwriter John Brown has produced new tunes that carry on that early sixties beat. Since that era is midway between the beginning of the play (around 1907) and the end, it seems fitting—and more importantly, it's fun to listen to.
The duet "Standing Right in Front of Me," which Brown co-wrote with Paul Johnson, is lovely. Sung by Meghan Mahowald as Angeline (the sweet daughter of the villain) and Evan Brown as Kai (surfer and grandson of Willy), it says more than their dialogue ever could.
"So Untrue," had the audience laughing as the father-and-son baddies (played with exuberance and charm by Joe Stehney and Corey Jones) described their foul deeds. "Just Go Through It," reprised a couple of times during the play, offered timeless advice at the right moments.
These are songs I wouldn’t mind hearing on the radio. An early problem—the musicians overpowering the vocalists—was ironed out by the second half.
Susan Schuchert Brown and John Brown have been staging plays and musicals for a dozen years in the South Bay through their company Fantasia Family Music. Most of their shows are set in smaller venues and with casts made up of children.
For the production at the large , Susan said, "We tried to go for a little bit more mature cast this time so that we could get a little bit stronger vocals and acting."
"Mature," in this case, means actors over 13, though there are four grammar-schoolers and even a couple of adults. Some—like 13-year-old Gabby Allen as Leia—have the polish and presence to appear much older, but all them are talented and just plain cute.
Standouts in the cast include college students Mahowald, whose powerful voice brought poignancy to several songs, and Hunter Krikac, who played the seagull Aberdeen. Krikac, in fact, stole the show. As well he should—how many breakdancing seagulls have you seen recently?
At $18 a ticket—$12 for children—this is the perfect musical to take the family to. Talking sea turtles and dancing gulls, surfers, villains and even a movie star, with a sprinkling of history and a dash of fantasy—what better way to spend a summer evening?
The Strand: A Beach Musical has at 7 p.m. at the , located at 1935 Manhattan Beach Blvd. Tickets can be purchased online at Brownpapertickets.com or at the theater.