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April 15, 2010 - Image 51

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2010-04-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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MEDITERRANEAN

41 • 410

Catchy Catskills

Music of Neil Sedaka fuels jukebox
musical at Meadow Brook Theatre.

Suzanne Chessler

Special to the Jewish News

T

he musical Breaking Up Is
Hard to Do brought together
a writing team — Ben H.
Winters and Erik Jackson.
The two were introduced by a
producer and director, both intent
on developing a jukebox play with a
plot based on the songs
of Neil Sedaka and each
having a favorite writer
in mind before deciding
to establish a team.
The show, running
April 21-May 16 at the
Meadow Brook Theatre,
captures the popularity
of Catskill resorts of the
1960s. The dialogue is
enhanced by 18 songs,
including "Love Will
Keep Us Together':
"Stupid Cupid" and
"Laughter in the Rain."
"The play evokes
a wonderful era in
American cultural histo-
ry, American Jewish his-
tory and American musi-
cal history," says Winters,
33, who has written plays
with original music as
well as books.
"We started with the
time, place and songs and thought
about how we could create a plot
around the songs, which are not par-
ticularly narrative. They're sweet songs
about love and heartache — being in
love, being out of love or wishing to be
in love.
"We crafted a story with a lot of
people falling in and out of love and
being deceived and undeceived, using
songs [to project the emotions]."
Set over a Labor Day weekend, the
action takes place at Esther's Paradise
Resort. The cast includes Mary Robin
Roth (Esther Simowitz), Billy Konsoer
(Del Delmonaco), Tobin Hissong
(Harvey Feldman), Jamie Kolacki (Gabe
Green), Andrea Mellos (Lois Warner)
and Katie Hardy (Marge Gelman).
"The specific comedy style of the
Catskills flavors the show',' Winters
says. "The character of Harvey is the
comedian who gets off a lot of the

really good lines."
The Catskills, a vacation spot for
Jewish New Yorkers starting at the
turn of the 20th century, actually was
the setting for Sedaka's career launch
and the place where he met his wife.
"Neil was involved in and out over
the creation of the show',' says Winters,
who did theater and comedy impro-
visation while attending Washington
University in St. Louis and
worked as a journalist
before moving to New York
in 2001 and changing his
focus to stage and fiction.
"Neil gave a lot of ter-
rific feedback and encour-
aged us to use some of his
lesser-known songs. He
helped shape the feel of
the piece."
Winters, married to
a lawyer and the father
of two preschoolers,
has written plays for
children's theater and
will have a new young
readers' book, The Secret
Life of Ms. Finkleman,
released in September.
"I stole the character
name from my kids'
pediatrician because
I think it's evocative-
sounding': he says. "The
book is about a middle-
school band teacher, who is rumored
to be a former rock singer."
Winters is trying to market a
Chanukah play, The Great Big Miracle,
as an annual production.
"It makes me so happy that
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do is being
regularly produced around the coun-
try," Winters says. "Although it's set
in a specific time and place, there are
themes and music appealing to people
of all times and places."

"The play
evokes a
wonderful era
in American
Jewish
history."

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do will be

performed Wednesdays-Sundays,
April 21-May 16, at the Meadow
Brook Theatre on the campus of
Oakland University in Rochester.
$24-$39. For performance times
and tickets, call (248) 377-3300.
or visit www.mbtheatre.com .

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April 15 • 2010

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