Stage Door Theater
Created by Michael Leeds
Directed by Michael Leeds and Kevin Black
Hitting Just the Right Notes
Confession: I never expected to enjoy the musical revue Pompadour nearly as much as I did. In fact, when I overheard a member of the audience state, “That was even better than the Jersey Boys,” I nodded in agreement.
What makes this revue so exceptional? We could start with the voices, but good singers are expected. These five — Brandon Godfrey, Preston Grover, Anthony Massarotto, Stephen Millett, and Jay Wilkinson — provide additional versatility as talented dancers, tappers, musicians (on piano, sax, acoustic guitar and conga drums) and actors whose body language and snappy choreography consistently support their lyrics. It took over a year of auditioning to find this very special five-man ensemble. It was certainly well worth the effort.
Many of these songs have stood the test of time. More important is the skill in making old words ring with additional meaning. The familiar becomes new. This is especially true in the love ballads. In spite of the fact that this is a male quintet, you can feel the presence of the invisible women they are serenading. Now that is talent!
Then, there is the staging! The first floor level is painted with piano keys. Two additional stories rise from the back creating another multi-level stage built upon the base. On the top, a huge LED screen, framed by theater drapes, presents an amazing variety of backgrounds providing ever changing, mesmerizing views of kaleidoscopic colored lights and geometric designs, seascapes, silhouettes of cartoon musicians, individual pictures of famous singers which morph into collages, all in addition to the sky, sun, moon, and stars — all enhancing the musical themes. It is amazing what can be done in a small theater, where the intimate connection makes the music came alive.
One vivid moment occurs when stormy waves roll in as background to “Surfin Safari.” Suddenly, a giant shark appears and opens its gaping jaws to swallow the soloist — leading right into the opening lines of “Mack the Knife.”
Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear
And it shows them pearly white…
What a fantastic segue!
The structure is also praiseworthy. Rather than creating a journey through time, Pompadour moves through different musical styles from Pop to Latin, to Country and R&B, reflecting the music of such famous (“pompadoured”) stars as Sinatra, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and groups such as the Righteous Brothers, the Everly Brothers, the Temptations, the Beach Boys and many more.
Everything is colorful and color-coded. No matter what the costume — shiny suit, beachwear, and striped prison T-shirt (for Jailhouse Rock, of course), or ruffled Latin (for songs like “Babalu”) — each performer had his own color, sometimes in a small touch, sometimes as the whole outfit: red, green, purple, blue or yellow. The whole experience is as exciting to the eye as to the ear — providing a riot of sensations.
Kudos to creator and co director Michael Leeds and to co director/choreographer Kevin Black, who brought their wide experiences in costume design, choreography, production and direction to many cruise lines, corporate events, resorts and musical theater productions and tours and Broadway productions.
Beverly Friend, PhD
Member American Theater Critics Assn.
Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Rd., Margate, Fl 33065. http://stagedoortheatre.com 954-344-7765 .Tickets $38-42 ($16 for students), 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, through Jan 31.