Writer-creator Roger Bean’s Life Could Be a Dream, a musical about young hopefuls aiming high, aims ironically low. Uninterested in being confined to a single artist or composer, but also unwilling to bend song selections to the complexities of plot or character, this jukebox musical uses a hackneyed high school–level problem as a thinly veiled excuse to lob close to two dozen 1960s hits at its audience. Now in its Michigan premiere at Meadow Brook Theatre, director Travis W. Walter’s catchy nostalgia vehicle answers Bean’s empty vessel for harmless, escapist entertainment the only way it can: with dueling pep and banality.
The show takes place where so many dreams begin: Mom’s basement. Recent high school grad Denny (Lucas Wells) is resisting all demands to get a job, instead scheming for stardom. His big break appears to be an upcoming local contest with a recording contract as the prize, but since singing groups are the trend, he needs help from reluctant Eugene (Mathew Schwartz) and goody-two-shoes Wally (Joe Lehman) to be saleable. The instant trio of “loser doozer” nerds, in need of sponsorship, reaches out to a local auto garage, which brings heartthrob mechanic/ringer Skip (Sam Perwin) and the boss’s daughter, Lois (Allison Hunt), into the story’s orbit. The introduction of A Girl means that only one type of plot can follow, and indeed, an early lopsided love pentagon gives way to a standard wrong-side-of-the-tracks tale of woe. If only the guys can reunite in time for the big contest, which the show never doubts they’ll win, despite their inexperience, insufficient rehearsal time, and incessant quibbling over who should have the most solos.