My Very Own British Invasion – Paper Mill Playhouse

Conor Ryan, Erika Olson, Jonny Aimes

Bows

by Adam Cohen

 

My Very Own British Invasion, a new rock and roll jukebox musical, has taken over the Paper Mill Playhouse.  This is a slick, well-designed production that is visually rich and musically richer.  Check your brain at the door and enjoy well-sung classics like “Born to Be Wild,” “I’m Into Something Good, ” and “In My Life.”  It’s spirited fun, glorious to look at, and highly enjoyable.

The plot – suggested by the life of lead singer for Herman’s Hermits Peter Noone – is pretty simple…a love triangle.  Peter is a star on the British television soap opera “Coronation Street” and he’s whisked into the Bag o’ Nails rock club by John Lennon.  It’s love at first sight as Peter spies the pretty Pamela who alas is pre-occupied with the Mick Jagger-esque rocker Trip.

 

Emma Degerstedt

Daniel Stewart Sherman-Conor Ryan-Erika Olson

 

Rick Elice’s (The Cher Show, Jersey Boys) book sets up some perfunctory blockades to the romance between Peter and Pamela. There’s the nefarious manager Fallon (John Sanders) who speaks in acronyms (“I need you to respect your PUSSSY . . . Your Power to Uniquely Sell-Sell-Sell Yourself”or example “love stands for loss of valuable energy.”) Trip is an egomaniac with a romantic bent but he convinces Fallon to send Pamela off on a U.S. tour.

In the States, Pamela misses home, quickly develops a drug habit, gets mad at Peter for impregnating someone else, and gets love letters from Trip.  In the meantime, Peter is rocketing to fame as the singer of “I’m Henry the Eighth, I am.” Elice’s book is perfunctory, there’s some one-liners, little in the way of fully developed characters but absolutely has underlying potential.  Peter’s knocking of the single verse of “I’m Henry the Eighth, I am” and his self-deprecating comments in Act 2 indicate a potentially snarky direction for the character. Sanders’ Fallon is a definite highlight as he’s charming with a devilish glee.

Jonny Aimes

Jen Perry

Jonny Aimes, Peter Noone

As Peter, Jonny Amies sings well.  His Peter has the perfect puppy dog innocence and teeny-bopper good looks.  It’s apt casting.  Erika Olson’s Pamela is given some feminist lines while also quickly falling into narcissistic tones with having two men chase her.  It’s not the most compelling female character in theater but Olson hits her marks in a confident performance.  Conor Ryan’s Trip is third side of this love triangle and he gives a rich, delicious take on the rocker with a romantic heart.  His “Can’t You See That She’s Mine” is lascivious fun and his characterization is pitch perfect.  Geno (Kyle Taylor Parker) serves as M.C. and carries much of the first act’s emotional heart with his amazing singing.

 

Jonny Aimes, Erika Olson, Conor Ryan

 

Director/Choreographer Jerry Mitchell keeps things moving along.  His choreography involves a fair amount of guitarists running in circles. But the cast fully captures the 60s moves nicely.   And the ensembles singing, while also playing the guitar and dancing is innovative and glorious.  David Rockwell’s set is beautiful.  It’s a multi-level rock club with brick walls and oak.  Time and places shift with Andrew Lazarow’s ingenious projections and Kenneth Posner’s excellent lighting.

 

Mark S. Hoebee-Erika Olson-Peter Noone-Jonny Amies-Conor Ryan-Michael Stotts

 

My Very Own British Invasion has a lot going for it especially the musical performances and fine musicality – music supervision and arrangements by Lon Hoyt, and orchestrations by Hoyt, Francisco Centeno, Clint de Ganon, and John Putnam.  It’s a fun evening with pert musical performances, zippy dancing, devilish villain types and lovely sets, lighting, and projections.

Photos: Maryann Lopinto

 

My Very Own British Invasion plays through Sunday, March 3, 2019, at Paper Mill Playhouse – 22 Brookside Drive, Millburn, NJ. To purchase tickets, call (973) 376-4343, or go online.

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