The Grand Theatre’s production of “Dream A Little Dream: The nearly true story of The Mamas and The Papas” follows the story of the quick rise and fall of the iconic 60’s band The Mamas and The Papas. The musical, written by late band member Denny Doherty and playwright Paul Ledoux, began as a monologue performance, before turning into the full production it is now. It tells the story of how four downtrodden, broke, musical artists hit the big time and all the problems that came along with it. It is a light hearted story with sharp wit that had the audience burst into laughter on various occasions. It also kept in mind the harsh political situations of the time such as the assassination of JFK and war protests. The music, directed by Marek Norman, included numbers from other famous bands of the 1960’s including The Beatles, The Big 3, The Lovin’ Spoonful and many others. On opening night you could sense the excitement in the air, with a full theatre of an eager crowd that included two of Denny Doherty’s children.
The set, designed by Cameron Porteous, was somewhat simple. There was a balcony connected by stairs to two platforms on either side of the stage for the entire show, along with three screens above each of the pieces for image and video projection. The platforms were used incredibly well, having different scenes acted at the same time, showing the differences with spotlights and backgrounds of differing cities on each screen. The screens were also used to express what year it was, allowing for smooth chronological changes.
What blew me away was the eight-member cast. The Mamas and The Papas are a group well known for their folk rock sound and their vocal ability, specifically their extremely difficult harmonies. As a fan of the band who has heard their music long before this show, the cast definitely lived up to my expectations. The group was led by John Phillips, played by Isaac Bell, his wife, Michelle Phillips (Katie Ryerson), along with longtime friends Cass Elliott, played by Lili Connor, and Denny Doherty, played by Robert Markus. Each of the actors had incredible voices, blending together and sounding like they could’ve been the original Mamas and Papas themselves. Standout musical numbers include the beautiful compilation of Nora’s Dove and 500 Miles, sung by the entire cast, as well as the chart topper California Dreamin’, and a heart wrenching performance of Dream A Little Dream of Me by Lili Connor that made me want to leap out of my seat and applause through my tears for a good five minutes.
It wasn’t until around half way through the first act that I realized that other than the four core members, there were only four other actors, Alexander Baerg, Chelsey Duplak, Greg Gale and Geoffrey Tyler, who played a string of other characters, including Scott McKenzie, Jill Gibson, Lou Adler, Zal Yanovsky, and notable hilarious and spot on renditions of the famous John Lennon from The Beatles and Ed Sullivan from the well known Ed Sullivan Show.
There were few technical issues. The only two cases were that a microphone stopped working for a second or two, but they were pretty much unnoticeable. The balance of music and voices worked well, with neither one ever overpowering the other.
Robin Fisher, the costume designer, did an equally fabulous job of showing the style of the 60s, having the actors wear exact replica outfits of what The Mamas and The Papas wore when they performed on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1967. The entire creative team, led by director Lezlie Wade, created such a life like atmosphere, that it truly felt like I had been transported back to the 60s, making me want to go out and buy my own pair of knee high boots like Mama Cass’.
Overall, I would definitely recommend going to see this show. Whether or not you are a fan of the band, many can relate to the overall story of the struggle to reach what you’ve always dreamed. This production, with its music, love triangles, and LSD trips will leave you dreamin’ of the sixties for weeks to come.
Dream A Little Dream runs until Saturday April 11th at The Grand Theatre. Tickets can be bought in person at the Box Office, or online at www.grandtheatre.com