Moonlight’s latest effort, a new musical comedy about a guitar-playing, hip-swiveling roustabout, makes the stage come alive with songs that Elvis Presley made famous. Conceived by Joe DiPietro, the man partially responsible for the musical hit, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, it has a slapdash script that has some good zingers as well as some cheesy jokes, and a plot that strains credulity, but it does deliver huge doses of pure entertainment.
The songs and dances give this production its undeniable punch. Di Pietro has worked overtime to try and cleverly (and sometimes not so) work famous numbers such as “Jailhouse Rock,” “Heartbreak Hotel,” and “It’s Now or Never” into the rickety storyline.
Director/Choreographer Charlie Williams delivers a highly accomplished, theatrical show — and has done it in true Broadway style. The lighting design by Jean-Yves Tessier is unique and stunning. Carlotta Malone’s costumes are a beautiful satire on the getups of the '50s.
Heading the strong cast is Michael James Byrne as Chad, the motorcycle-riding roustabout. This young man is destined to be a star, and he proves it with amazing gusto, verve, and a bold vitality that is fascinating to watch.
Vonetta Mixson, a powerhouse actress, captivates as Sylvia, the African-American owner of the local saloon. Her voice is a thing of beauty that resonates with the soul of a professional.
Katharine McDonough, as Natalie, the girl mechanic with a yearning for romance, sings with a clear voice that is a joy to hear. The performer known simply as Yvonne makes Lorraine a pure ingénue with a sweet tone.
Todd Neilsen stands out as the widower, Jim. His transformation to a cool cat is very funny. Nick Eiter is the perfect type for Dean Hyde, but his singing voice is somewhat thin.
Tracy Lore gives us a big, brassy, over-the-top performance as Mayor Matilda Hyde — but it fits this play that is heavily reminiscent of Footloose. Jakes Saenz is fresh and charming as the lovesick Dennis, while Christine Hewitt gives a lovely portrayal of Miss Sandra, a sexy museum curator with a yen for Shakespeare. Bob Himlin scores big in the final scene as his character, Sheriff Earl, finally opens his mouth and speaks — eloquently.
A highlight: the scene in the sculpture garden (although why a backward town in the ‘50s would have a museum with a sculpture garden is not explained), where the sculptures come to life in the “Let Yourself Go” number.
Another highlight: the “Can’t Help Falling in Love” number that ends Act one was powerful with the yearning for love and done with precision.
Though one may carp about inconsistencies in the script and the split second decisions to go to the altar at the end, this is a show that will make you smile — all the way home.