‘Goin’ to the Chapel’ at the Chestnut Fine Arts Center
by B. Evans
Remember how much fun the TV series, “Happy Days,” always brought to Tuesday nights? Well, the new show at the Chestnut Fine Arts Center in Olathe, Kansas, “Goin’ to the Chapel,” brings back those days with a plethora of musical numbers spun around a story line of three couples in their dating years as they march toward matrimonial bliss and happily-ever-after-land.
The show opened Thursday evening, Oct. 30, at the Chestnut Fine Arts Center in Olathe, Kansas and continues through Dec. 14. Ticket sales are brisk, director, Brad Zimmerman said. He predicts this show to be among the strongest sellers of the year because of the 1950s and 1960s music.
Always expect Brad Zimmerman to select good pieces to present to his audience. In this case, the story was written by Kansas City native Val Fagan, a frequent performer at the Chestnut. She penned a simple story about three couples in the 1950s and early 60s whose story unfolds through the bebop times of that era, before the British invasion. The happy sounds of the 50s music highlights the show, and the costumes bring fond memories of the stereotypes still associated with the 50s.
Do you want to see Fonzie? That type is there in the character of Eddie. Do you like poodles skirts and remember them? They are in the show. How about bobby socks and ponytails? They are there, too. How about the tragic breakups and drama of high school age students? Yep, that’s there, too.
Take a stroll through the 1950s with such memorable songs as “Rock ‘n Roll Is Here to Stay,” Rock Around the Clock,” “Splish Splash,” “Johnny Angel,” Hey, Baby,” “He’s a Rebel,” “Teddy Bear,” “Runaround Sue,” “Love Potion Number Nine,” “All Shook Up,” A Teenager in Love,” “Personality,” “Great Balls of Fire,” and the classic, “Wipeout.” And that’s only some of the music in the first act.
Megahits continue and Act II with such songs as “Fever,” The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss),” “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Duke of Earl,” “Rockin’ Robin,” “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” “Stand by Me,” “The Glory of Love,” “I Will Follow Him,” Why Do the Fools Fall in Love?,” “Going to the Chapel,” and more.
It’s easy to see why audiences smiled throughout the performance. These are the songs many grew up with and know by heart. Almost every song in the show could be sung by the entire audience. It is such recollection and fond remembrances that make the this music so special, so meaningful, and so memorable. It represents a happy and simpler time in our history.
Brad Zimmerman directed the show that stars Beth Benedict as Judy, Jamie Lin as Robin, Eric Morris as Johnny, Christian Thomas as Kenny, Celia Thompson as Susie, and David Thompson as Eddie. With sharp choreography from Beth Benedict, the show moves and remains lively throughout.
A trip to the Chestnut theatre guarantees two hours of entertainment. It’s not just the current show, it’s every show that is produced at the Chestnut. Count on a beautiful backdrop. Count on a production that has been carefully selected to please the audience. Expect great accompaniment from the band (in this case Zimmerman and the husband/wife team of Lenore and Ken Remmert). Count on a warm and pleasant greeting by executive artistic director Brad Zimmerman as you enter the theatre. Expect a smile and a handshake also from Zimmerman as you leave. Each attendee feels like a guest in Zimmerman’s house. It’s a warm feeling, unique to the Chestnut Fine Arts Center. It’s no wonder the audiences continue to grow and continue to subscribe season after season.
For this particular show, the standout performer, Beth Benedict, absolutely shines with her vocal performance combined with her choreography skills. It is obvious that Benedict is a seasoned performer and has much dance background. Most notably, her toes are pointed with every step; her hands all the way through her fingers are extended; her movements and turns are sharp, crisp, and clean. She has an extra bounce to her steps. She obviously knows the music and the choreography well since she developed a choreography.
Each of the other performers shines in his or her specific character. Jamie Lin is mostly a backup singer in Act I, but really lets loose when she performs “Rockin’ Robin” in Act II. She has a captivating smile that beams throughout that particular number. Her perky character shines through Act i and blossoms in Act II.
Eric Morris is the perfect nerd of the 50s. He brings lots of comedy and smiles as he wins and loses the girl of his dreams, Susie. The audience can’t help but feel each of his highs and lows as the show progresses. He’s got a great voice and great comedic timing. He’s fun to watch.
Christian Thomas explodes from nerd to super cool as he performs, “Love Potion Number 9.” His transformation is funny and he delivers the song with confidence. He follows that number with an Elvis Presley classic, “All Shook Up.” He even does a few of the Elvis hip swivels to bring more laughs.
As Susie, Celia Thompson portrays the flighty teenager who can’t decide between Johnny for Eddie. Her plight brings a lot of laughter and fun to the show. She is both a comic and a vocalists. She is the typical teenage girl who only thinks she knows what she wants at any given time…but that changes.
Not to be outdone by any of the other cast members, David Thompson, brings fond remembrances of the Fonz to his role as Eddie, a leather jacketed, motorcycle riding, Brylcreemed, rebel. His vocals are strong throughout both acts, and his comedy is the strongest of the sextet. He dances well and his blend of Elvis/Fonzie/James Dean brings lots of smiles.
The show comes with the absolute highest recommendations. People who enjoyed a musical production are bound to enjoy this one. It’s fun. It engages the audience from the onset. It captivates the audience from the very first notes. The entire show builds toward the title song, “Goin’ to the Chapel.”