Solana Beach: Restaurants set scene for music, laughter in ‘Five Course Love’
By Diana Saenger
The zany, romantic comedy “Five Course Love,” written by Gregg Coffin, has received glowing reviews in cities where it’s been staged. Rick Simas, a North Coast Repertory Theatre occasional director, returns to helm the show. He took time to talk about the summer production.
How did this play end up in the season line-up?
I found out about it through one of my students at San Diego State, Omri Schein, who has a role in the play. He told me to get the CD, and that it was a new musical. I got it, loved the songs and the story. Then another alum of mine, Kristen Mengelkoch, appeared in a production and mentioned it. When David Ellenstein (NCRT artistic director) asked for a recommendation for the season, I suggested “Five Course Love.”
It’s a love story that takes place in five different themed restaurants, correct?
Yes. The first scene takes place at Dean’s Old-Fashioned All-American Down-Home Barbecue Texas Eats. The next stop is Trattoria Pericolo, an Italian restaurant in New Jersey where characters, like a mob boss and his dizzy girlfriend, speak with an Italian accent or sound like mobsters.
In the third place, Der Schlumpfwinkel Speiseplatz, all speak with a course and demanding German accent. Ernesto’s Cantina is the forth stop, and where the actors speak with an Hispanic accent. The dessert stop is at the Starlite Diner, a kind of Happy Days-like malt shop, and the characters are bubble-gumish.
Describe the show’s style.
It reminds me of Sid Caesar’s “Show of Shows,” and later the “Carol Burnett Show,” where Harvey Korman and Tim Conway would do these outrageous sketches in different styles, and sing, as well. This show has country, operatic, German cabaret-style music, and the Mexican restaurant character is a take off on Zorro. The 1950’s diner has characters like in “Grease.”
Is comedy hard to pull off when it relies on the audience getting the joke at just the right moment?
Absolutely. When you start working on a piece like this, that is very much about the comedy and physical timing and doing vaudeville turns, it’s funny to everyone as you’re reading through it the first time. But after two weeks of working to make it crisp and clean, it’s not funny to us anymore. I’ve directed more than 100 musicals and these shows depend on the audience and what they find funny. So those first few preview shows are critical to getting a sense of how the audience responds and the changes we need to make.
Tell us about the cast.
I have terrific actors. Omri Schein (Dean, Carlo, Heimlich, Ernesto) just did a European tour of “Grease,” and was in my shows at NCRT of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and “The Big Bang.” Kristen Mengelkoch (Barbie, Sofia, Gretchen, Rosalinda, Kitty) is a New York-actor who came to the Rep to do “I Love You Because,” and she’s done this show before. Those two referred me to Kevin B. McGlynn (Matt, Gino, Klaus, Guillermo, Clutch), our third actor, because he’s done a lot of “Forbidden Broadway.” “Five Course Love” requires people who can do lots of different accents, sing in different styles, and move a lot. It’s demanding for the actors.
What will audiences like about this show?
It’s very entertaining, fast-paced and only 80-minutes with no intermission, however, due to some material, I would recommend it for mature teens and older. There is a connection between the first scene and the last restaurant that I think will surprise the audience. The show has great music, a nice romantic feeling, lots of laughs, and is just great for a fun night out. Laughter is important for all of us.
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