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Making musicals based on the life's work of a musician or band is the new black, and here is the entry for the great Neil Sedaka. In his prolific (and ongoing) career, Sedaka has written approximately four hundred million songs, so the catalog from which Breaking Up Is Hard to Do is assembled makes for an impressive and instantly recognizable score. On the script side (concept by Marsh Hanson and Gordon Greenberg; book by Erik Jackson and Ben H. Winters), the play has in its favor a show-within-a-show framework that opens up song possibilities as well as a kicky premise that practically owes royalties to Dirty Dancing.

To be clear, this musical is more Mamma Mia! than Spring Awakening; there is not a single element as untoward as much of the plot of the above-mentioned Patrick Swayze film. Yet the parallels are myriad, most notably the Catskills resort setting, guests fraternizing with employees and becoming part of the floor show, and a hunky headliner whose attractiveness nearly demands its own byline. The story is peripheral: a jilted fiancĂ©e and her friend turn her honeymoon that wasn't into a girl's weekend at Esther's Paradise, and a bit of cunning lands them roles as backup singers for the house entertainment, upon which the resort's future hopes seem to rest. Given a cast of three men and three women, the viewer can gather sufficient evidence within ten minutes to solve that particular math problem. A limp, tacked-on conflict leads to a resolution that defies adjectives in its immense lack of importance. But no matter — happily, this Meadow Brook Theatre production, directed by Travis W. Walter, gamely shoves the story to the wayside in favor of stronger focal points like singing, dancing, comedy, and light 1960s camp.

Performances are sharp across the board. Poor dumped, dumpy Marge (Katie Hardy) makes a fine display of her emerging exuberance and confidence as she comes out of her shell. Her friend Lois (Andrea Mellos) requires a range from dumb to unbelievably dumb, yet also occasionally shrewd, and Mellos plunges into the role with gusto. Both women delight in the attentions of the aggressively dim and narcissistic Del Delmonaco (Billy Konsoer), a compelling presence and outstanding singer and dancer. Jamie Kolacki has more of a straight man role as all-purpose staff member Gabe, but his droopy asides attesting to his loserdom are hilarious. The token funny older pair is composed of brassy boss Esther (Mary Robin Roth) and take-my-wife-please emcee Harvey (Tobin Hissong), the former constantly broadcasting her every thought, the latter irrepressibly hammy and loving it.

Designer Vince Mountain's clever set has two faces (onstage and backstage); combined with lights by Reid G. Johnson, the overall sparkling tiki-fabulous effect is a fine complement to big performances and big sounds. Led by music director Stacy White, the band resides right on the stage and provides peppy accompaniment to the actors' amplified, high-powered voices (part of sound designer Mike Duncan's contribution to the over-the-top presentation). Choreography by Jennifer George-Consiglio is at its best for Konsoer and Mellos's dance to "Stupid Cupid" as well as in the big finale. Many of the costumes by Corey T. Globke are larger than life and entertainingly garish; however, I did subtract points for two of the wigs. It's never thrilling to see the ultimate female character shortcut played out in follical form (blonde equals hot/stupid, brunette equals ugly/smart), especially when the choice actually reverses the actors' usual hair color and makes the stereotype perpetuation seem all the more overt.

Running at a crisp two hours, the show's high energy thrives well enough on most of its songs being solos or duets, but there is even more joy in the few larger-scope numbers, in particular the close of each act. This cast obviously enjoys performing together, and their infectious vibe only grows when there are more of them on stage. In all, Breaking Up Is Hard to Do focuses on strong comedic and musical performances, encouraging the audience to pay little mind to its so-so story. Interestingly, this means there is very little actual breaking up, which is just fine because it might get in the way of the fun.


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