‘Dennis Wilson Forevermore: A Beach Boy’s Fable’ at the Promenade Playhouse

dwf31I was immediately intrigued when I heard about this exciting new musical about Dennis Wilson at the Promenade Playhouse in Santa Monica. I attended the packed theater on opening night with high hopes. Like many other Beach Boys fans, I was really looking forward to some good vibrations, and I got them–along with some sad ones too.

“Dennis Wilson Forevermore: A Beach Boy’s Fable” really is a great piece, blending music, pop culture, music history and theater. The play could also be titled “The Rise And Fall of Beach Boy Drummer Dennis Wilson” or “The Rock & Roll History Of A Tortured Man.” “Dennis Wilson Forevermore: A Beach Boys Fable” powerfully delivers the compelling, poignant and heartbreaking story of the unsung drummer of The Beach Boys, who rode many highs and endured many lows during his short life.

Promenade Playhouse favorite Ryan Boone triumphantly returns to the stage as musician Dennis Wilson in this original and partially fictionalized biographical story. The show is written with insight and gusto by Eric O’Meara and developed and directed with care and flare by the talented Natalia Lazarus, whose work I have enjoyed at the Promenade Playhouse before. Ryan Moore does a very admirable job as the drug and alcohol-abusing, womanizing musician. Along with his fellow family and band members, Dennis was the victim of extreme domestic violence at the hands of their tyrant father/manager Murry Wilson, well played by Glenn Ratcliffe. Ratcliffe is so good at being bad, that you really have to hate his character and sympathize with the band members, especially sensitive, good guy Dennis, who tried so hard to make his life and career work.

Kudos to innovative set designer Argent Lloyd, whose set is really original and amazing.  John Staley is great as brother and fellow musician Brian Wilson, as is Mark Casamento as a totally creepy and strung out Charles Manson. The rest of the band are well-played by Christian Velky as the kind hearted Carl Wilson, Justin Baltz as the mean-spirited competitive cousin Mike Love, and Bear Manescalchi as good guy Al Jardine. Dennis Wilson enjoyed a steady stream of beautiful sexy women in his life – in this production some of them are portrayed by three talented ladies– Yvonne Sayers as Barbara Charren, Jasmine Demain as Diana and Amy Lucas as Karen Lamm.  Rounding out the fine production are Dennis Frederick as Marina Manager, and Ralph Radebaugh doing double duty as Gregg Jakobson and as a TV Reporter.

“Dennis Wilson Forevermore: A Beach Boy’s Fable” plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm through December 17th. For more information, visit the website. Thanks to Sandra Kuker PR for the invitation.

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