Jukebox photo

Pianist Kevin Latoz plays a song during a rehearsal with the cast members.

Some of the performers never even heard of the songs they’ll be singing in Beef House Dinner Theatre’s production of “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” but audience members will remember some of them well.

“Calendar Girl,” “Where the Boys Are,” “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen” — Neil Sedaka’s songs form the basis for this jukebox musical. It’s a relatively new genre that attracts people of all ages.

These shows weave a plot based on the songs of a particular artist or group — think “Mamma Mia!” featuring ABBA or Billy Joel’s songs in “Movin’ Out.”

“People, especially baby boomers, like to go and hear songs they recognize,” David Woodrow, who’s producing and directing the show with his wife, Jennifer, said. “The jukebox musical puts those songs in a dramatic context.”

According to Woodrow, this particular storyline takes place in 1960 at a resort in New York’s Catskills. Two girls looking for a wild weekend find that and more with the people they meet there.

Five of the show’s six performers have appeared with the dinner theater before: Carol Homann, Andrew Kunze, Jared Lutes, Krista Mathias and Cindy Nichols. Kurt Homann, a Crawfordsville attorney and Carol’s husband, makes his debut in the show.

This is the third show Mathias and Nichols have done together, starting with Danville Light Opera’s “Aladdin.”

“We both were kids then,” the 21-year-old Nichols said about the now 15-year-old Mathias.

Nichols finds a deeper meaning in what Mathias called “a fun show.” The older actress said she sees “lots of meaning in the story — there’s heartbreak and friendship.”

Both said they compared the show’s fictional resort, Esther’s Paradise, with the setting for one of their favorite movies, “Dirty Dancing.”

Jared Lutes, another of the younger actors in the show, remembered performing Sedaka’s “Calendar Girl” years ago.

“I sang it for karaoke at a hotel in Florida,” Lutes said. “I was around 13.”

This Beef House show brought Lutes back to the stage after a seven-year hiatus. He was active in community theater, especially Danville Light Opera, until he started high school at Schlarman. There, he shifted his focus from performance to athletics before he went on to college.

Unlike Lutes, Andrew Kunze sang and danced all through high school in show choir, Danville Light Opera productions and Beef House shows, including last year’s “All Shook Up.”

“But I didn’t know this music at all,” Kunze said about the Sedaka score.

Cast member Carol Homann called the younger actors “a great group of kids.

“It’s a great team,” she said.

A music and theater major in college, Homann now works as a school nurse.

“I love doing this, entertaining people,” she said. “It’s amazing.”

Her husband, Kurt, joins Carol onstage for the first time in “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do.”

Kurt said, “A lot of the music from that era is forgettable, but Sedaka is really different.”



IF YOU GO

Beef House Dinner Theatre will present “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” featuring the songs of Neil Sedaka. Doors open at 6 p.m. EDT July 25 and 26 and Aug. 1, 2 and 9 for evening performances at the Beef House Banquet Center, Covington, Ind., and at noon EDT July 27, 30 and 31 and Aug. 3 and 10 for matinee shows. Admission is $34 and includes a buffet dinner.

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