"When I first heard about it, I assumed it would be a silly story," said Chad Gifford, director of the next offering of the Minot State University Summer Theatre, "Breaking up is Hard to Do," which runs Saturday through Wednesday, July 11.
"But there really is a story in it. A woman is jilted, left at the altar, and her best friend says 'let's take the honeymoon anyway,'" Gifford said. "So they go to the Catskills, where the emcee pauses the show to introduce the newlyweds in the audience. It begins at that point."
What follows are mistaken identities, colorful characters and romance. The show has a small cast, especially for a musical, consisting of Brittany Armstrong and Sarah Forbes as the 'honeymooners' and Daniel Johnson as the headliner at "Esther's Paradise Resort." It also features Claire Hoselton as Esther, Jason Gaarder as the "man behind the man," and C.J. Leigh as the old comedian with his Catskills' shtick.
Sarah Forbes as Lois, Daniel Johnson as Del, and Brittany Armstrong as Marge all sing at “Esther’s Paradise” during a recent rehearsal of “Breaking Up is Hard to Do.”
"The writers (Erik Jackson and Ben H. Winters) stole from everyone," said Gifford. "Everything that was cool in the '60s is on stage. The set looks like a '50s diner/resort in jukebox colors. Very eye-catching."
Brett Olson designed the set with a section that opens to reveal part of the backstage area to the audience. This way the trio that represents The Band, a girl group concept consisting of Maren Livingston, Ashley Nilsen and Cassie Toavs, can continue to perform as we follow the story in the background.
"Neil Sedaka not only wrote all the music, which makes it easy for this great cast of singers to perform, he also took a hand in the writing of this show, so he could tweak the lyrics to fit the plot," said Gifford. "And since (the cast) mostly all know the music so well, it gave us time in the short rehearsal time to work on other aspects, like characters."
Nineteen Sedaka numbers are featured, with some of them medleys, so it's a good portion of the repertoire. It includes chart-toppers like "Calendar Girl," "Where the Boys Are," "Oh, Carol!" and of course the title song.
Briana Schwan is the music director and pianist, with a four-piece combo center stage. Matt Dempsey designed the costumes to keep in the '60s theme and Cherie Collins is the choreographer.
All performances begin at 8:30 p.m., with the doors opening an hour earlier. Cost is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and students, $5 for children 12 and under, and $3 for MSU faculty, staff and summer students with current ID. There is also premier seating on the deck for $10. Saturday is military night, with a discount for active duty and dependents.
Gifford recommends bringing blankets, warm jackets and bug spray, and reservations are encouraged by calling 858-3228. In the event of rain, if the cast gets 1/2 hour into the show, no refunds will be given; otherwise patrons will be issued a rain check for a later performance of this show.