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A CurtainUp Review
Trip of Love
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.