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Beach Boys' vibes echo on Broadway

By Reed MartinCorrespondent of The Christian Science Monitor / December 31, 2004


Driftwood fires, first kisses, and young love are sure to come to mind with the new Beach Boys-driven musical "Good Vibrations."

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The show harks back to a time when the most soul-searching anyone had to do was about whom to take to the prom.

"What I said to our cast on the first day is 'If we can make people happy for a couple of hours then we're doing a great thing, because things are so serious in the world right now,'" says director John Carrafa. "I can't go fight in Iraq. I feel my talents are best used at making people happy, and I feel like we have a chance to do that here."

Amid a growing number of nostalgic retrospectives aimed at baby boomers, such as the Billy Joel-fueled "Movin' Out," the upcoming Elvis musical "All Shook Up," and a play featuring John Lennon's post-Beatles oeuvre "Lennon," Broadway is quickly becoming a stronghold of family-safe, feel-good entertainment.

Some say it's about time.

After years of accidentally buying tickets to edgy tales of the Lower East Side such as "Avenue Q" and "Rent," tourists visiting Manhattan won't have to worry about explicit lyrics, sexuality, or political discourse packaged as entertainment.

"I think the Republicans are going to love it," says Mr. Carrafa, whose previous credits include "Urinetown" - the antithesis of "Good Vibrations." "They won't have another convention for a while but I could imagine 'Good Vibrations' being a show they would love. The Beach Boys and 'California Girls' are classic Americana."

While a Broadway revue featuring some of the most popular songs of all time would seem like a no-brainer, the challenge was coming up with a compelling yarn that would connect the dots between songs.

"We're telling a story about some kids who buy into the dream of what the music is about, that California dream," Carrafa says. "As the character Bobby says at the beginning: 'Once upon a time there was a place called California ... we all wanted to go there,' and this play is about what happens when you get your dream."

The handsome cast of teeny boppers want to go to the dance, fall in love, and borrow the car, a catalogue of longing nearly every American can identify with.

"The Beach Boys songs are really carefree but there are two sides to the music," explains Carrafa. "There's 'Fun, Fun, Fun,' and 'Be True To Your School,' 'Deuce Coupe,' and 'I Get Around,' but then three or four years later Brian Wilson wrote the album 'Pet Sounds,' which had 'I Just Wasn't Made For These Times,' and a lot of much deeper, emotionally resonant songs, so our story does go to a really deep and heartfelt place by the end."

The question is, will "Good Vibrations" play to the cynical iPod generation tagging along on the family's trip to Manhattan? After all, most successful entertainments for teens and preteens - such as the film "Shrek 2" and TV shows such as "The O.C." and "Life As We Know It" - seem to include a healthy dose of self-awareness and irony.