BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DOBook by Ben H. Winters and Erik Jackson
Music by Neil Sedaka
Lyrics by Neil Sedaka, Howard Greenfield and Phillip Cody
Plaza Theatre Company
Director – G. Aaron Siler
Music Director – Doug Henry
Set Design – JaceSon P. Barrus
Lighting Design – G. Aaron Siler
Sound Design - G. Aaron Siler
Costume Design – Stefanie Glenn
Properties – Tammie Phillips
Stage Management – Dana Siler
David Goza – Del Delmonaco
Doug Henry – Harvey Feldman
Josh Leblo – Gabe
Carlee Cagle – Lois Warner
Caitlan Leblo – Marge
Kathy Lemons – Esther Simowitz
Robert Antonio El Pollo – himself
Reviewed Performance: 8/15/2014
Reviewed by Eric Bird, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Neil Sedaka rose to early fame during the late 1950’s when he left The Tokens, the band formed by Sedaka and a few of his classmates. Following those early years of success Sedaka went through almost sixty years of ups and downs, ranging from great success to a decline in popularity. Breaking Up Is Hard to Do showcases nineteen Sedaka songs, including “Where the Boys Are”, “Sweet Sixteen”, “Betty Grable”, “Stupid Cupid”, and of course the song from which the show’s title comes, “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do”.
The musical is a comedy that follows six characters at Esther’s Paradise Resort during the Summer of 1960. The two young women head there for the Labor Day weekend to escape from their lives and also to meet some boys, as we see in the song “Where the Boys Are”. While at the Catskills they meet Del Delmonaco, a talented singer and lead performer at Esther’s Paradise.
JaceSon P. Barrus designed the set which worked well for the story of the musical. I especially enjoyed the black record disk painted in the center of the floor to set the mood and establish the time period of the show. Most of the physical set was in one corner of the theatre space where the actors had a backstage area to get ready for the shows. The main stage within the musical was set in another corner, with a sign for Esther’s Paradise and curtains to establish the stage within a stage.
G. Aaron Siler did an extraordinary job designing the sound for the musical. There was never a time where I could not hear the actors, though there were a few instances where the microphones were a second late being switched on. The music, of course, added to the show, keeping me involved in what the characters were doing onstage, and setting the mood. While the musical did not require many sound effects, the ones used were clear and timed well, such as the buzzing of a neon sign dying out.
The lighting, also designed by G. Aaron Siler, kept all the action clear, changing the mood of the scene where it was needed. I especially enjoyed the feel created with the song “The Diary”, using a disco light during a dream sequence to highlight the change from reality to dream.
Costume design by Stefanie Glenn fit perfectly within the realm of the 1960’s setting. I especially liked that the costumes showed the personalities of the different actors. Marge and Gabe are extremely shy, conservative types so Glenn dresses him as the shy nerd with the pants that were just a little too short, nerdy glasses, and a shirt buttoned up to his chin. Marge wore long skirts with large glasses that added to the image of her character. Del and Lois are flamboyant, night club performers so their colors were equally as bright. Glenn also did very well coordinating for the show performances within the musical. “Calendar Girl” had all female characters (and Harvey) on the stage in similar costumes of long-sleeved button-up blouses and very full, floral print skirts. This helped to visually link the characters without distracting from the action on the stage. The costumes also suggested each character’s personality while still flowing within the show.
Properties were designed by Tammie Phillips and all reflected the 1960’s well. The standing microphone used during the “show” took the audience back to a time before head mics. The mannequin head used in the beginning added a comedic tone to the songs “Lonely Night” and “I Ain’t Hurtin' No More”. The props used during the song, “The Diary”, kept me wondering what would come out next since they were hilarious and fun to see (I don’t want to spoil it, see the show to know what I mean). Of course, Roberto Antonio El Pollo, the rubber chicken, can’t be left out since he was very prominent during several parts of the show.
Caitlan Leblo played the part of Marge, the shy, socially awkward young woman who was abandoned at the altar. Caitlan portrayed Marge with comedic timing and incredible vocal talent, especially noticeable during “Lonely Night”, “I Ain’t Hurtin’ No More” and “Laughter in the Rain”. Her awkward mannerisms also helped establish her character’s shy ways and nerdiness. Caitlan used a hunched posture and intensity when Marge spoke of orthodontia, but when other characters were on stage she would be quiet and still, letting them dominate the conversation. Caitlan brought Marge to life and created a character that I wanted to see become happy.
Slightly nerdy young handyman Gabe was played by Josh Leblo. I enjoyed how he portrayed Gabe and how believable he was onstage. Josh would walk with his shoulders stooped and his eyes down, indicating Gabe’s awkwardness and lack of confidence. Josh had a pleasant singing voice that was especially noticeable during “The Diary” and “The Other Side of Me”. His interactions with Marge were comical in how awkward they both were towards each other, making his character even more real. Josh made good acting choices in developing his character and bringing him to life onstage.
David Goza played the part of the talented, strong-willed and arrogant Del Delmonaco. He was fun to watch as he portrayed Goza’s high ego and confident presence onstage Goza would smirk and nod his head as his character got a compliment, showing how arrogant Delmonaco was, which made him a joy to watch throughout the show. He did have a bit of a rocky start during the first song, “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do”, but recovered and went on to give a very enjoyable performance. I especially enjoyed his singing during “Oh, Carol!” and “Calendar Girl”. Goza showed good acting skills in playing a complete jerk who has no thoughts but for himself that we wanted to watch even more.
Lois Warner was portrayed by Carlee Cagle. Lois is the kind of character with a big heart yet is not able to reason through things completely. Cagle was masterful in portraying this role, keeping her eyes wide to show her character’s innocence and simple-mindedness. Her singing was great throughout, especially during “Stupid Cupid”, “My Friend” and “Stairway to Heaven/Little Devil”. I was impressed with her accent, which never faltered, and with her dancing, especially during “Stupid Cupid”. Cagle was a joy to see onstage, having believable interactions with the other characters and showing strong acting skills.
Doug Henry played the part of Harvey Feldman, the resident career bachelor that spends his life cracking jokes about life and everyone around him. Henry had a good voice that was especially noticeable during his solo, “King of Clowns”. His interactions with Esther were also enjoyable to see. There was a scene where Feldman is backstage, coming up with new jokes to use in his act. It really impressed me how Henry played this so realistically, looking up at the ceiling while he thought about his jokes and changed the inflection of his voice as he worked on new punch lines. Henry’s acting accelerated throughout the show, creating a fun dynamic in how his character is perceived and how that character manages to grow.
Kathy Lemons played the part of Esther Simowitz, the owner of Esther’s Paradise, who lost her husband several years before. Lemons portrayed her as very dynamic, personable woman yet managed to keep the tone light, while also keeping things moving at the hotel. Though Lemons had very few songs, she sang them well. There were also several times when Simowitz was making an announcement over the intercom and Lemons inflected her voice so well that you could understand what her character was feeling even though she was offstage. Lemons interactions with the other actors was where her character’s true self emerged, showing a dynamic and enjoyable personality.
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do is an enjoyable musical that will have you wanting more. With a very talented cast and friendly atmosphere, Plaza Theatre brings this musical comedy to life, showcasing Neil Sedaka’s great songs. And with ticket prices is low, I highly recommend this show for an enjoyable evening of music.
Plaza Theatre Company
111 S Main St.
Cleburne, TX 76033
Performances run through September 13rd
Thursday - Saturday at 7:30 pm and Saturday at 3:00 pm.
Ticket prices are $15.00, $14.00 for seniors and HS/college students, and $13.00 for children 12 and under.
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.plaza-theatre.com or call their box office at 817-202-0600.