BEHIND THE CURTAIN: Director Reed Halvorson on ‘Breaking Up Is Hard To Do’

Mariel Zmarzly, and Carly Anne Roper star n “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” at Centre Stage.  Photo by ESCOBAR PHOTOGRAPHY, LLC

BEHIND THE CURTAIN: Director Reed Halverson on ‘Breaking Up Is Hard To Do’
Centre Stage Ends Season with Comedy, Pop Songs & Romance

BY STEVE WONG
ARTS WRITER

With its current production of the jukebox musical “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,” Greenville’s Centre Stage is stepping back in time to a place and era when the feel-good music of Neil Sedaka made even the most daunting of problems seem like “Laughter In The Rain.”

The time: 1960, Labor Day weekend. The place: Esther’s Paradise Resort in the Catskills. The situation: Girl gets left at the altar and her best friend tries to cheer her up and maybe even hook her up with a dashing – although somewhat vain – crooner. The result: a romantic comedy that showcases the most memorable songs by one of America’s most productive and popular composers.

“The music is iconic. The story accessible and the characters lovable,” Director Reed Halverson said. “Past experience with similar shows informs us that this is right in our audience’s wheelhouse, and the creativity of the story combined with the music will certainly lead to a memorable evening and the addition to everyone’s playlist of Neil Sedaka songs.”

The show was originally produced at Capital Repertory Theater in Albany, NY in 2005 and has gone on to be performed in regional and dinner theaters in the United States, Canada, and abroad. The jilted Marge and girlfriend Lois head to the Catskills, where Marge would have honeymooned. It is a resort area famously kitschy for its seemingly innocent entertainment. There they encounter Del Delmonaco, the resort’s handsome and self-obsessed singer. Lois thinks Del and Marge might have chemistry, but in reality Del is only trying to further his career because he thinks Marge’s dad is a path to stardom.

Then things get a little complicated. The geeky cabana boy Gabe, who is actually a wonderful songwriter, is secretly love struck with Marge. Adding to the romance is Harvey, the not-very-funny house comedian who is carrying a touch for the resort’s owner Esther, who is more concerned with keeping the failing resort open than the advances of a comic past his prime. This all adds up to a weekend of miscues, longings, laughs, and pop songs that link the situations of comedy together.

“This wraps up the current season with the kind of show ideal for summer,” Halverson said. “Neil Sedaka is an ideal soundtrack to the relaxing summer days and the story will leave the audience smiling from beginning to end. No matter one’s troubles, this show is ideal entertainment for taking a mental vacation for a couple hours.”

Marge is played by Mariel Zmarzly, who is making her Centre Stage debut. Originally from Hilton Head Island, she is currently a senior theatre major at Anderson University’s South Carolina School of the Arts. Her past shows  include “Merrily We Roll Along,” “White Christmas,” and “Big Fish.”

The role of best friend Lois is played by Carly Anne Roper, a Greenville native who currently resides in Jacksonville, FL. Roper recently sang the role of “Peaseblossom” in Benjamin Britten’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Brevard Music Center.

Joshua Thomason (“Rockin’ The Keys,” “Ghost: The Musical” and “Jekyll & Hyde” takes on the role of Del Delmonaco.

Sterling Street, former resident actor at Greenville Little Theatre plays Gabe in his Centre Stage debut. A diehard fan of Sedaka, Arleen Black plays Esther. And Rod McClendon takes on the role of Harvey.

“Every show is treated special with the unique quality of the thrust stage and audience seating,” Halvorson said. “That creates a visual experience that is unique to any other performance space.

Additionally, the scenic and lighting design by Genesis Garza is transforming the space to accommodate the look and feel of both the 1950s and the Catskills from the moment you walk into the theater. This show is given a boost of energy by the choreography of Mary Evan Giles, and the vocal direction of Holly Caprell has everyone hitting all the right notes. The four-piece band is ideal for not only hearing but feeling Neil Sedaka’s music all through your body.”

Among the pop tunes in this two-act show are “Lonely Nights,” “Where the Boys Are,” “Stupid Cupid,” “Calendar Girl,” “Love Will Keep Us Together,” and, of course, “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.” In all, there are 18 Sedaka hits.

“The songs are familiar, the story and characters charming, and the talent onstage is top notch,” Halvorson said. “The story is accessible while also being entertaining and fresh with romance and laughs they will be entertained from opening song all the way through the curtain call.”

“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: The Musical” plays at Greenville’s Centre Stage July 26-Aug. 18, Thursday-Sunday. Tickets are available online at CentreStage.org.

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