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North Coast’s “Romance/Romance”: Fluff and fun on the run and in the sun.

 Jill Townsend,Melissa Wolfklain, Lance Arthur Smith and Jeffrey Scott Parsons in Romance/Romance
Jill Townsend,Melissa Wolfklain, Lance Arthur Smith and Jeffrey Scott Parsons in Romance/Romance
Aaron Rumley

Romance/Romance

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Solana Beach, CA---North Coast Repertory Theatre is closing out its thirty-second season with a bit of fun and fluff. “Romance /Romance; Two Musicals with book and lyrics by Barry Harman and music by Keith Herrmann has the same cast all singing and dancing romance (well?). The show is now in production through Aug 3rd.

The musical was initially staged off-off Broadway in 1987 and moved to the Helen Hayes Theatre in 1988 where it ran for over 200 performances. The show got five Tony nominations and one Drama Desk Award nomination. It is currently being given a first class showing at North Coast Repertory Theatre.

Linked together by a very thinly veiled theme of ‘looking for love (?) in all the wrong places’, this two act musical shows each act taking place at different times with very different attitudes and mores. Act I, A Little Comedy is based on a short story by Arthur Schnitzler and takes place in 1900’s Vienna. Act II, is based on a short play by Jules Barnard’s 1898 play, Le pain de ménage and is translated by Max Gulack. “Summer Share” takes us to the Hamptons, present day cell phones et al.

Director Rick Simas and his most talented cast, starring Lance Arthur Smith, Melissa Wolfklain, Jeffrey Scott Parsons and Jill Townsend bring out the best of both worlds with the first Act, taking place in 19th century Vienna, being the most entertaining and charming, by far. Act II, while a little more serious, but still light, felt at odds with the first.

Dressed in Alina Bokovikova’s beautifully fitting and appropriately looking period pieces and set on Marty Burnett’s clever looking two sitting room spaces splashed in dark woods and a fittingly looking gentleman’s upper class digs and feminine dressing room table and wardrobe, “A little Comedy” is about upper class boredom and money…to much of it.

Just when one would think that money could buy anything, Alfred Von Wilmers (Lance Arthur Smith), a wealthy playboy, is bored with his superficial life of pretending to enjoy that life style and its romances. (“Goodbye, Emile”)

And just when you think that Josefine Weninger (Melissa Wolfklain) a high-class prostitute living the good and charmed life with lots of perks, lets boredom get in the way of her happiness as well (Can love be real without pretense?), change is in the air. The two decide, at about the same time, to readjust their modus operandi and pretend to be the opposite of what and who they actually are.

Both dress down, he in rumpled clothes acting the part of starving poet and she as a dressmaker, meet by chance on a walk. They are immediately attracted to one another and plan a less than extravagant weekend in the country posing as their aliases.

In Act II, “Summer Share”, based on Jules Renard’s 1898 play, Le pain de ménage, a turn about of situations takes place. Two couples, Lenny and Monica (Jeffrey Scott Parsons and Melissa Wolfklain) and Sam and Barb (Lance Arthur Smith and Jill Townsend) are vacationing in the Hamptons. Monica and Sam have been ‘best’ friends since their school days. Although together on many occasions, both Sam and Monica feel an unusual pull toward each other at their shared vacation cottage. Marty Burnett’s entire white summer look is beach appropriate.

Musical numbers like “Summer Share”, “Small Craft Warnings”, “It’s Not Too Late” ( a reprise from Act I) indicate a storm brewing along the way with Lenny asleep early every night, tired from work and Barb exhausted from tending to the twins. Lenny and Barb might be out of Sam and Monica’s view, the temperature that is rising between the two is not just beach weather, it’s also quite noticeable to their spouses.

Carrying the night, all four actors share a sprightliness and enthusiasm that top off their talents in singing and dancing. As Lance Arthur Smith and Melissa Wolfklain are the principals in each short story, Jill Townsend and Jeffrey Scott Parsons are the frosting on the cake. They sing they dance (as both butler and maid, Lina and Lars), in Act I and as the ‘other couple’ in Act II). They pretty much liven up the action with a bounce in their step and a smile from ear to ear. Jill Gorrie choreographed.

Their dancing numbers are the top of the line attraction as they skirt across the stage during several scene changes. They are especially fun to watch in the one tap number in Act II that had to put a smile on your face. Both Melissa and Lance are great together as well. Each has naturalness and charmed air about them that draws you right in to their world. Both have a sly comedic side that enchants.

Ron Councell, David Burnett and Stephen Solook provided the musical accompaniment for more than 22 musical numbers (split about evenly in each act). They could bee seen behind a scrim behind the scenes with the help of Matt Novotny’s lighting design.

Summer fun with smiles, overall “Romance /Romance” is a win/win.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through Aug. 3rd.

Organization: North Coast Repertory Theatre

Phone: 858-481-1055

Production Type: Musical Revue

Where: 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Suite D. Solana Beach

Ticket Prices: $44.00-$51.00

Web: northcoastrep.org