Jukebox junkies celebrate Neil Sedaka

The time: Late summer, 1960. The place: Esther's Paradise Resort in New York's Catskill Mountains.

Do you remember that fateful Labor Day weekend when an unknown songwriter was discovered by American Bandstand producer Artie Shields and offered an incredibly lucrative contract by Silvertone Records? Probably not, but Saint Michael's Playhouse sure does.

Saint Michael's recreates the momentous occasion in the snazzy jukebox musical "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do".

The historic weekend does not begin well for Marge Gelman (played by Lucy Sorensen). Marge has just been dumped at the altar by her boorish boyfriend, and she comes to Esther's only at the urging of her bubbly, fun-loving friend Lois Warner (Michele Scully). They resolve to have a Borscht Belt blast-and they do!

When he was 19, singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka (now 70 years old) actually had a summer job playing piano at Esther's Manor, in the Catskills, so Marge and Lois's adventure in the Jewish Alps is appropriately packaged with over 15 of Sedaka's hits, including "Where the Boys Are," "Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen," "Stupid Cupid," "The Diary," "Oh Carol," "Solitaire," "Laughter in the Rain," "Calendar Girl," "Stairway to Heaven," "Little Devil," "Love Will Keep Us Together," and the title tune.

Entertained and wooed by ambitious Elvis-wannabe Del Delmonaco (Burlington native Thomas Cannizzaro) and amused by Henny-Youngman-like comedian Harvey Feldman (Bill Carmichael), Marge and Lois are soon part of Esther's sweet, schmaltzy show.

They certainly belong. Michele Scully recently earned rave reviews for her portrayal of Lois in the Alhambra Dinner Theatre (NE Florida) production of "Breaking Up," and Lucy Sorensen's voice was praised as "wonderful" in the Barrington Stage Company revival of "South Pacific."

In addition to enjoying the crooning, keep a close eye on the resort's Guy Friday and "pants-presser," Gabe Green (Brian Golub). He may surprise you.

If you just can't make the show but still want to savor some Sedaka, YouTube.com has him playing many of his songs at London's Royal Albert Hall.

The "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" cast will stay together at the McCarthy Arts Center until Aug 8. For tickets and other information, call 654-3281 or visit academics.smcvt.edu/playhouse.

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