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A CurtainUp Review
Trip of Love

There was a time when Broadway was filled with many revue-style shows like Bubblin; Brown Sugar, Sophisticated Ladies, Dancin', Sugar Babies, Ain't Misbehavin' and many more...Trip of Love is my way of reviving this trend in New York theater. —James Walski, creator, director and choreographer.
A scene from James Walski's Trip of Love (Matthew Murphy)
To put James Walski's Trip of Love in the same category as Dancin' and Sophisticated Ladies is like tasting a bad mushroom. This revue is all show and no go with its kaleidoscope decor of blues and greens wrapping around the entire theater and a large black hole in the backdrop. Young innocent Caroline (the "Alice" character in this wonderland), eats a magic mushroom and down she falls into that dreaded rabbit hole. And that's about it for the story line.

While folks in Osaka, Japan apparently loved Trip of Love when it opened in 2008, sparing no expense with extravagant sets, here at Stage 72, the show is pure fluff. There is little consideration of the counterculture importance of those later years. The decade is sketched through stereotypical song and dance routines with mere hints of the protest years, for example, a "Black Power" sign as the company rendered "California Dreamin'." In fact, during the battles for racial equality, Dionne Figgins is the only African-American face in the show, belting out "These Boots Were Made for Walking" with attitude.

As in any jukebox musical, the up side of the show is those catchy old tunes, a talented cast and some imaginative colorful comic book settings. One standout is "Wipe Out," with Caroline (Kelly Felthous) and the ensemble surfing and swimming on cardboard surf-themed cutouts. Tossed in are as many boogaloo, pony, and monkey moves as there are nubile Gidgets in teeny-weeny polka dot bikinis. It comes across with witty and eye-catching creativity by designers Walski and Robin Wagner.

There is no chronological or evident logic for the haphazard song placement. Unlike the vigorous dancing, vocal power is present but songs interpretations lack personality. The major recurrent character is Angela, sung by Laurie Wells, one example of a potent secure voice with little nuance of emotion. She obviously represents a guardian angel, appearing intermittently to dispense wisdom to Caroline, although one must question what lesson is learned by placing "Both Sides Now" between "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" and "Wipe Out." Always immaculate in formal wear, Angela's piece de resistance ends Act One when, seated on a swing and all puffed up in a bouffant white gown, she joins young lovers, Adam (Austin Miller) and Caroline for "Moon River."

Felthous plays a sweet Caroline, a limber dancer with a perky presence but her rendition of "Where the Boys Are" showcases a nasal voice. If Caroline is the ingénue, her leading man is Adam (Austin Miller), who ambles down the aisle strumming a guitar to "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"

Other segments showcase individual performers. In "The Girl from Ipanema," David Elder (George) joins an ensemble of samba dancers with dance variations from the Dancin' With the Stars school of ballroom dance. Playing artist and model, Tara Palsha poses as a skimpily-clad Crystal in "Venus," with Joey Calveri as the artist, embellishing her body with decorative streaks of color.

Sheer and sequins or cute minis is how costume designer Gregg Barnes dressed the well-toned performers with an exception for the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There," when he veered to go wild with fringes. For the men, it was often the shirtless-and-necklace look or suits in paisley prints and wide collars.

The overall ambiance of this Trip of Love is clichrd with the blah taste of Las Vegas Lite. One reason might be the lack of Motown, Sun and Atlantic Records, all indelible stamps of that diverse decade.

Trip of Love
Creator, Director and Choreographer: James Walski
Cast: Austin Miller, Laurie Wells, Kelly Felthous, Tara Palsha, David Elder, Dionne Figgins, Joey Calveri
Music Director, Orchestrations, Arrangements: Martyn Axe
Costume Design: Gregg Barnes
Set Design: James Walski and Robin Wagner
Lighting Design: Tamotsu Harado
Sound Design: Peter Fitzgerald and Domonic Sack
Hair Design: Josh Marquette
Production Stage Manager: Scott Taylor Rollison
Running Time: One hours, 50 minutes. One intermission
Theatre: Stage 42. 422 West 42nd St. New York, NY
Tickets: $109 to $35.
Performances: Tues. at 7pm. Wed.-Sat. at 8pm. Wed and Sat. matinees at 2pm. Sun. matinee at 3pm.
Previews: 9/26/15. Opened: 10/18/15. Open run
Review by Elizabeth Ahlfors based on 10/21/15
Musical Numbers
Act One
    Windmills of Your Mind
    White Rabbit
    In a Gadda-Da-Vida
    Both Sides Now
    Wipe Out
    Where the Boys Are
    It's Not Unusual
    These Boots Are Made For Walkin'
    Where Have All the Flowers Gone?
    Lover's Concerto
    The Girl From Ipanema
    Moon River
Act Two
    Let There Be Drums
    Up, Up and Away
    I Saw Her Standing There
    You Don't Own Me
    What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted?
    California Dreamin'
    Nowhere to Run
    If You Go Away
    Blowin' in the Wind
    Somebody to Love
    The Way of Love
    Sign of the Times/ Born to Be Wild/ Batmanv
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