Presented by NCJ Productions/Michael Watt and Dodger Theatricals with SEL & GFO, TheatreDreams/Shamrock Partners, Stage Holding/Joop van den Ende, casting by Tara Rubin Casting, at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre, 230 W. 49 St., NYC. Opened Feb. 2 for an open run.
Whether you feel good vibrations—or some other kind—from this Beach Boys musical will depend on three things: your tolerance for pop hits masquerading as a musical, your fondness for Brian Wilson, and whether your idea of theatre is something more challenging than the tinny sound of an AM radio at Coney Island.
In truth, the most damaging aspect of the show is its sound (Tom Moore). It's so nondirectional and anonymous that everyone might as well be lip-synching.
The year is coyly announced as "19—something" in an effort to suggest timelessness. Indeed, the plot seems as old as the hills: It's the last day of high school, and Bobby (David Larsen) and two friends, Eddie and Dave (Tituss Burgess and Brandon Wardell), dreading a grim future, dream of the girls and surf of California, so they trick the studious Caroline (Kate Reinders), who loves Bobby, into driving them in her car.
It's one thing to recycle theatre tunes in a new book; it's another when you take pop songs with little dramatic arc and position them in utterly illogical fashion. (Richard Dresser's script makes "Mamma Mia!" look like Chekhov.)
Larsen and Reinders, along with Jessica-Snow Wilson, Milena Govich, Sebastian Arcelus, and David Reiser, are decent, but no one really shines. Only Burgess breaks through, briefly, with "Sail on Sailor" (sung with Reiser). Otherwise, the songs come in quick succession with barely a smidgen of dialogue.
Heidi Ettinger's stylized Act II surf setting captures the ambience. Director John Carrafa has provided choreography of the "Hullabaloo" variety. The Brian Wilson songs (arrangements by David Holcenberg) make pleasant listening, but they can't compare with the real McCoy.
The show ends with a "greatest hits" reprise during which beach balls are hurled into the audience—a fun touch but, sadly, the only real audience involvement of this misguided evening.