The Desert Rose Playhouse has launched its second Palm Springs centric new musical this season, MID-CENTURY MODERNS and with far better results. The year is 1966. Maryann (Christine Tringali Nunes) whose much older husband, Ernie (Gary Powers) dies, leaving her with enough money to pack it all up and head to the place of her dreams, Santa Monica, with the goal of landing her ideal job….a secretary. She packs her old life up and hops in her car to start anew. Joining her is an attractive but low-life stud, Tom (James Owens) who keeps his eyes firmly on the cash, even while having wild sex with Maryann (in one of the funniest scenes in the show.) As fate would have it, the car breaks down just outside of Palm Springs.
Luckily, they meet a local earth mother resident, Mrs. Honeyhouse (Dana Adkins). She offers them a place to stay until the car is repaired. No sooner does it get returned than Tom grabs the keys and the money and heads off to Vegas, never to be heard from again. But this is a musical comedy, so, thanks to the fairy-godmotheresque help from Mrs. Honeyhouse who lets Maryann move into a vacant place she owns for free and from a gay couple, Michael (again James Owens) and Ricky (Carlos Garcia), who gives her a fabulous new look right out of HULLABALOO (kids, look it up, it’s a 60’s reference), everything works out well. Despite the fact that she never makes it to Santa Monica, she does get that dream job, well almost anyway, as a file clerk. She also meets the dashingly suave, handsome and rich architect Brewster (Robbie Wayne), who falls madly in love with her and together they ride off into the figurative sunset.
All the songs, there are 20 of them, are hits from 1966 or thereabouts and have been woven fairly well into the plot with the exception of a couple of songs which, although fun, felt shoehorned in. The cast does a good job with most of the songs. Ms. Nunes has the lion’s share of stage time and musical numbers and does a good job, especially with the Act One closer, “You Don’t Own Me.” Mr. Garcia has a beautiful voice and is an excellent dancer, so I am sure we will be seeing him onstage often until he is lured away by the big city lights! Ms. Adkins’ rich strong voice and warm appeal make her two big numbers score and she solidly lands her laugh lines with flawless timing. Robbie Wayne’s strong voice and comedic talents gives the second act a boost, especially with his seductive performance of Tom Jones’ “Help Yourself.” The energetic and fun choreography by Miss DD Starr brings a perfect period look to the numbers.
The minimalist set works, thanks to the excellent video and graphics designs by Nick Wass. One little bone to pick is that while driving and later while walking the video is running in the wrong direction, but that truly is nit picking, as they are highly effective.
The show, under the direction of its playwright Mark Christopher, is fast paced, generously peppered with sitcom sharp zingers and was a real crowd pleaser.
MID-CENTURY MODERNS is at the Desert Rose Playhouse now through May 8. For tickets or further information visit their website at DesertRosePlayhouse.org or call 760-202-3000.