- Surf: The Musical
Surf: The Musical, now playing at Planet Hollywood, is less a jukebox musical than a simple revue of Beach Boys songs. The wisp of a story has surfer and musician Tanner (Marshal Kennedy Carolan) returning to California after souring on New York City’s rock ’n’ roll scene. But his girl, the formerly perk and pink Brooke (Lauren Zakrin) now wears black bustiers and hangs out with his rival Rip (Alex Ringler), who’s not a surfer at all … but a greaser! Oh noes! This story idea was cliché before Annette Funicello filled out her bikini, and Burton Young’s script is so full of clunky exposition, bad jokes and on-the-nose dialogue that you begin to appreciate just how little story there really is.
The show is practically nonstop Beach Boys songs, in their original keys and arrangements (as near as I could tell), which means the only new exploration of the music is seeing which characters sing which songs (or lines of songs). The performers try gamely, but all too often end up off-key, trying to contort their voices into ranges they weren’t meant for.
The show could be saved by the dancing, which has its moments. Even in ridiculous numbers the dancers are explosive and charismatic, and the “Do You Wanna Dance?” number is a joy to behold, its melding of period styles and current moves performed with exuberance and humor. But R.J. Durell’s choreography is too often wrongheaded (“California Girls” as a strip tease?) to supply an emotional through line.
Kristin Hanggi’s direction similarly flips between pedestrian and ingenious. The huge video walls (with beautiful video design by Darrel Maloney) are primarily the world’s most expensive backdrop, except for a couple numbers. And while the staging for the “409” road race is silly and inert, the entire audience gasps, for good reason, when the video wall is used (along with a quick bit of flying) to mimic the action of a Ferris wheel. It’s a transportive moment—but the only one here