Summer of 42 is touching at Bucks County Playhouse

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show review. 

The musical version of the 1971 film is not what you might expect. It is a cheery, bright and breezy evening where the three protagonists rejoin on an island off the coast of Maine in the summer of 1942. Two of the teens are from New York, while the bookish, geeky lad says he’s from New Jersey, where the air is better. This line received no laughs at the performance I attended. Comparisons can be made to two other works which popped into my mind early on in the show.

As a dramma giocoso, literally, a jocular drama, it made me think of both Cosi fan Tutte by Mozart and Picnic by William Inge. All three works deal with the subjects of love, innocence, experience, and of being the outsider. Here, we have Hermie (Chris McCarrell), Oscy (F. Michael Haynie) and Benji (Joey Dippel), as the three protagonists who we are privileged to see as they progress through their summer of lost innocence. As Oscy sings at one point, he’s fifteen and ready for love. Chelsea Packard is Dorothy, the “old lady” Oscy refers to often, whose beauty transfixes the three boys when they first see her in her newly-purchased house with her soldier husband. Dorothy is probably no older than twenty, which adds to the poignancy of the relationship which evolves between Hermie and Dorothy.

Hunter Foster is the director. He also wrote the book. Mr. Foster’s most interesting stage credit is his appearance in The Full Monty in Ogunquit with Sally Struthers in 2007. They worked together in the Broadway revival of Grease. Perhaps Mr. Foster will appear in The Full Monty at Bucks County Playhouse next year? We can only hope.

In addition to the three male leads, we have the three girls who are the objects of their summer flirtations: Alyssa Gagarin, Betsy Hogg and Bailey Buntain. William Youmans plays multiple characters, notably Walter Winchell, whose narration of the war and comic advertisements of the day (Lucky Strike cigarettes are the cigarettes most preferred by doctors) serves to bring the outside world and World War II into the vacationers’ hermetically sealed world. Other members are the play’s creative team: Paul Masse (Music Director), Wilson Chin and David Arsenault (Scenic Design), Nicole V. Moody (Costume Design), Travis McHale (Lighting Design) and Ed Chapman (Sound Design).

Today, we might wince at seeing and hearing Walter Winchell as a character in a musical, since he was a notorious gossip columnist who saw Communists under every rock and tree, and who could ruin any celebrity’s career through his influential column. Wince we also might over the storyline of a beautiful young woman having sex with a fifteen-year-old boy. Or even over the fact that the owner of the general store, a kindly old man, sold condoms to an underage boy. This is, however, a story firmly rooted in nostalgia, where everything is rosy, and even tragedy results in something good.

The musical numbers are pleasant and funny, and also touching and serious when they need to be. Summer of ’42 is a fast- paced, lively, and touching musical.

For more information, visit: www.bcptheater.org/.

show review. 

The musical version of the 1971 film is not what you might expect. It is a cheery, bright and breezy evening where the three protagonists rejoin on an island off the coast of Maine in the summer of 1942. Two of the teens are from New York, while the bookish, geeky lad says he’s from New Jersey, where the air is better. This line received no laughs at the performance I attended. Comparisons can be made to two other works which popped into my mind early on in the show.