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Under the Boardwalk tops on local boards

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Under the Boardwalk

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ou cross equal parts of the Beach Boys, the Four Seasons, the Motown sound and Doo Wop? Well, if you work very hard, create spectacular costumes and add well-devised choreography, you'll probably end up with something very close to "Under the Boardwalk," now playing at the Rivertown Theaters for the Performing Arts in Kenner.

It was only a few years ago that Rich Arnold was involved with a couple of cruise ship shows that showcased the music of the Four Seasons and, later, the Beach Boys. Arnold saw the potential to put these two together and to produce a show he could literally take on the road or on the high seas. With the prospect of being booked at a casino as well, he set out finding other talented individuals who were up to the challenge. The result at first was the Beach Buddies, a group that played to packed houses at the Mid City Theater last year. That group has since incorporated a wider repertoire and now are billed as the Big Easy Buddies.

The Big Easy Buddies are in fact a troupe of seven performers, four of whom perform each night or matinee performance. This means that a weekend of shows could yield three different performances on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoon. The Big Easy Buddies are Arnold, Jonathan Brannan, Peter Elliott, Marc Fouchi, Frank von Hoven III, Scott Sauber and Michael Taravella.

The show is outstanding. The four part harmonies are beautiful and the charismatic outreach of the buddies to the audience makes the show very interactive and fun.

Divided into two acts, "Under the Boardwalk" begins with an homage to the Doo Wop singers of the Fifties and early Sixties like the Drifters, the Marcels, the Crew Cuts and Dion and the Belmonts. Then, the buddies move into a Motown groove with two medleys featuring the hits of the Temptations and the Four Tops. They even manage to give a shout out to Marvin Gaye before ending with a crowd pleaser by the Turtles: "Happy Together."

Act II starts with a tribute to the Beach Boys with songs like "I Get Around," "Surfer Girl" and "Good Vibrations." The set even features a beach scene with surfboards displayed prominently. A girl group takes over for a short period while the buddies don new costumes for their final transformation into Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

Designed by Kelly Fouchi and Linda Fried, the costumes are are fantastic as is the superb lighting design by Sauber. Arnold and Kellen Taravella turned out truly great choreography that works with the show so that the buddies are almost continuously moving at any one time. Also, kudos to conductor Alan Payne for his work and to Kyle Aucoin for truly moving orchestral arrangements.

Shows are selling out and three additional performances have been added to the schedule. For more information call 504-461-9675 or check out the website here.

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