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Las Vegas gets its own Broadway-style extravaganza featuring songs of The Beach Boys
By Scott Roeben
It’s time to wax down your surfboard, slather on some sunscreen and catch the wave of excitement surrounding the newest addition to the Las Vegas Strip’s dynamic entertainment scene. It’s “Surf the Musical,” a Broadway-caliber stage show featuring the timeless music of The Beach Boys.
Unlike many productions in Sin City, “Surf the Musical” wasn’t imported to Las Vegas. The show’s debut at Planet Hollywood resort is the first time it’s been seen anywhere, a world premiere of an original show that’s determined to make a splash.
“Surf the Musical” might be entering unchartered waters, but Tony Award-nominated director Kristin Hanggi (best-known for directing the stage hit, “Rock of Ages”) is confident the feel-good show will get its sea legs quickly and win audiences over with its captivating music, explosive choreography and eye-popping visuals.
After all, it’s a show that was tailor-made for Las Vegas audiences.
“What I’ve found is that different towns can have different personalities,” says Hanggi. “New York has its own personality. Los Angeles has its own personality. It’s the same with audiences. Every city’s audiences are different. A Las Vegas audience is bringing a certain energy with them. But what every audience has in common is that they want to be entertained. They want energy right off the bat. They want something they can have fun with, and a show they can sing along with.” Mission accomplished!
“Surf the Musical” transports audiences back to California in the 1960s, and follows Tanner (played by Marshal Kennedy Carolan), a young man who leaves his sleepy, beachside hometown to pursue his dreams of being a rock star in the big city. When he returns home, he decides to recapture the love of his girlfriend Brooke (Lauren Zakrin), who’s moved on during his absence. The story of love lost, and found again, is expertly punctuated by some of the most memorable music ever to grace the radio.
Ultimately, the real star of “Surf the Musical” could be said to be the music of The Beach Boys. Most of the music is instantly recognizable: “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “In My Room,” “Surfin’ Safari,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Help Me Rhonda” and “Don’t Worry, Baby,” among them. And he hits just keep on coming, about 30 ongs in all.
The show provides a fair number of less well-known songs as well. Hanggi says, “We tried to do that on purpose, to give the hits, and then we tried to give, as some people call it, ‘deep cuts.’ So, some of my favorite moments in the show are songs like ‘Be Still’ or ‘I Know There’s An Answer.’ Deeper tracks that will really appeal to the Beach Boy lovers, in addition to all those great hits we all know and love.”
The Beach Boys music also serves as a springboard for some of the most dazzling choreography to find its way to a Vegas stage in recent memory.
The show’s choreographer RJ Durell comments, “What’s so fun about the show is I feel like all of us are taking the ‘60s and we’re shaking them up and turning them upside down, giving them a really modern, exciting twist.”
Durell and Hanggi have collaborated often, and he was the choreographer for “Rock of Ages.” Aside from his theatrical background, Durell is also a veteran of the pop world, having done the choreography for two of Madonna’s tours, as well as Katy Perry’s successful California Dreams Tour.
Durell adds, “Wait until you see these dancers. We went to L.A. and Vegas and New York and sought out the best talent in the country.”
Aside from the substantial onstage talent, including charismatic ‘80s icon and “TJ Hooker” alum Adrian Zmed, the show also boasts some impressive technology as well.
The show features a massive, flyable LED video wall made up of 136 60-inch backlight monitors, enveloping the stage in stunning color and animation to augment the performances of the singers and dancers. The wall of monitors weighs a whopping 11 tons.
Hanggi says, “One of my favorite parts has been working with Darrel Maloney (Projection & Video Design), and working with these large-scale screens. That’s been a fun new exercise for me. I did one show with wall-to-wall projection, but this takes it to a whole new level. This show is like a love letter to my family, because I grew up in Southern California’s beach communities, with a lot of Beach Boys fans, so it’s real close to my heart. It was really cool to be able to bring the beach, the sunsets and sunrises, all those elements, into the theater through these screens. It allows you to do so many things that you can’t do otherwise.”
The video displays are especially effective during a sequence where the young lovers take a Ferris wheel ride, blending a suspended, real-world seat with realistic animation that makes audiences feel as though they’re along for the ride. In another part of the show, the video displays are used to create suspense as Tanner and Rip drag race. While the cars are props, the video screens draw you into the action and simulate the sensation of movement and speed.
In “Surf the Musical,” technology and talent combine to create a one-of-a-kind theatrical experience. Broadway has come to Las Vegas, and just happens to be wearing an itty-bitty bikini.
“Surf the Musical” will perform nightly (dark Thursdays) with performances at 7:00 p.m. except Saturdays at 5:30 p.m., with additional performances on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are priced at $144, $104, $84 and $64 and can be purchased at the Planet Hollywood Showroom Box Office, online at SurftheMusical.com and Ticketmaster.com or by calling (800) 745-3000.
Brush Up On Your Surfer Slang
The program for “Surf The Musical” provides a helpful list of 1960s beach culture slang.
Barrel: The breaking motion of a perfect wave.
Big Gun: A nine-foot or longer surfboard.
Coffin: Riding a surfboard while lying stiffly on one’s back, arms folded.
Curl: The part of a wave that’s spilling over and breaking.
Face: The unbroken front of a wave.
Goofy-foot: Riding a surfboard with the right foot forward.
Heavies: Big waves, usually 12 feet or taller.
Hodad: A non-surfer.
Surfari: A surfing trip.
Taking gas: To wipe out.
The Wedge: A dangerous body surfing spot at the top of the Balboa peninsula in Newport Beach, California.
Woodie: A station wagon made in the ’40s and ’50s with wood paneling on the sides.