Beach Boys' vibes echo on Broadway
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"This music is transgenerational, which is one of the appeals of the show," says David Larsen, who leads the cast and is in his 20s. "If you're a fan of hip-hop, you have an appreciation for the lyric, and if you listen to Brian Wilson's music, the emotional depth of the lyrics as well as the melodic changes are something people should be able to appreciate," no matter what kind of music they listen to.Skip to next paragraph
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Costar Jessica-Snow Wilson agrees. "I mean, who's not going to want to see a bunch of teenagers running around on stage in bikinis having an amazing time?"
The show is not a biography of Wilson or any of the surviving members of the Beach Boys, but the narrative does try to personify the tone and message of the band's canon.
"Everyone - at any age - can identify with the insanity of high school and its social groups," says Richard Dresser, who wrote the musical's book. "The sense of place for California and the sun and the surf and the sand made you want to go there. So those were the big elements of the story we had to include. For me, the music doesn't tell a literal story but an emotional one, because of the sense of yearning that's so strong in the songs."
Liberties were taken with some numbers in "Good Vibrations," Mr. Dresser says. "Die-hard fans may not hear the songs exactly as they were on the albums, but they're going to hear them reinvented in an exciting way."
The costumes, ethnic mix, and dance numbers in "Good Vibrations" are about as racy as Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon in Beach Blanket Bingo (1965), a comparison Dresser dismisses.
"A lot of people think of The Beach Boys as white-bread, bubble-gum music, but there are darker elements in the music and darker elements in our story," he says. "Some of the reference points are very '60s-ish, but that's only because it's when the music came out. You don't ever know exactly [what period you're in] because every time they're about to say the year there's feedback on the mike."
Since the Beach Boys inspired countless "good time" bands from the Go-Gos to Smashmouth to Offspring, the show's creators hope the songs will also inspire theater audiences in an increasingly tough financial climate for Broadway shows.
"It's about how contemporary kids take this music and make it their own, and in so doing show us that this music is timeless - that everybody has a piece of it and that everybody can make it theirs," says Carrafa. "Each kid who does a song in the show does it their way so there's a country version of one song, and we do David Larsen's own version of 'Fun, Fun, Fun.' It's really about kids in 2005 reinterpreting the Beach Boys' music for themselves, and it's all about being accessible."
• 'Good Vibrations,' which has begun previews, opens at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre on Jan. 27.