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Photos courtesy of SVSU Theater Dept.
Review by Lisa Purchase

From the minute doe-eyed Millie, played by Amanda Mueller, flounced onto the stage, flashing her Pepsodent smile while she mugged and shrugged her way through the opening number, I was hooked on the vibe of SVSU's Why Do Fools Fall in Love?. The four actresses, Amanda Mueller, Ellie Frazier, Portia Brown, and Tami Snyder, were picture-perfect in this fluffy fast-paced musical romp through the Sixties.

In this summer's jukebox musical Why Do Fools Fall in Love?, written by Roger Bean, and directed by Ric Roberts, it's Girls Night In as the four friends talk and sing their way through their takes on love and life—poking at each others' flaws, soothing each others' broken hearts, and challenging each other to take charge of their lives. The music is great and the story moves fast, but it’s the portrayals of the four characters that really put the zing in this production.

Ellie Frazier's DeeDee ("I’m DeeDee, but my friends all call me DeeDee") is an absolute riot as the Snoball junkie who lapses into sugar-induced mania any time she gets near candy. Her interpretation of "My Boy Lollipop" was hysterical as she wielded her lollipop around the room, and ended to big applause from the laughing audience. Frazier's timing and comedic instincts were a treat throughout the whole show.

Tami Snyder's Sally comes across as a bit of a floozy, and plays it up as a tough-talking street-wise modern girl who has no use for love: "Men are like puppies; you work so hard to train them and they still piddle on the floor." She pours the shots and sings her first number, "It Hurts to be in Love," with drink in hand. But a softer character peeks out as she sings from her soul, as Snyder puts an edge on her story-telling vocals and shows her character letting down her guard.

The cry-baby catch in Portia Brown's voice—playing Flo—was distinctive and completely enthralling. I am not exaggerating here…I literally sat there open-mouthed through most of her numbers. (Once as she sang right in front of me, she must have wondered what the heck was wrong with me.) She sounds like a magical mix of Diana Ross, Ella Fitzgerald, and Martha Reeves: familiar and nostalgic, smoky and smooth. Her character Flo keeps the TV dinners organized and tries to keep things straight-laced, but toward the end, during "A Fool in Love," she busts out with a brilliant James Brown move that put the perfect button on that song.

Amanda Mueller's Millie brought the look and feel of the whole thing together. As she glides in like a chiffon and floral-mini-skirted dream, stopping to adjust the bounce in her bouffant, her bouncy energy, animated gestures, and physical comedy keep the audience solidly engaged throughout the show. She is a treat to watch, and with more than twenty SVSU productions under her belt she is a polished expert at this sort of melodrama.

There was a lot to love about this production: the singing was wonderful (as was the 5-piece combo backing the girls), the choreography—a throwback to the Supremes and other group acts of the time—was a ton of fun, the Snoball-and-lollipop bouquets at their mock wedding were adorable, and the car scene in "Watch Out Sally!" was a hoot.

The simple '60s apartment kitsch was a pleasing backdrop for the girls' animated performance, and made good use of a screen as psychedelic artwork, shadow screen, and informative signage. The lighting also enhanced the show in subtle ways—too often a one-set show is an excuse to set the lighting as a general wash and leave it at that, but this director used his lighting to highlight individual performances, emphasize flashbacks, and isolate areas of the single room to keep the audience's attention active and focused. And of course the judicious use of a disco-ball cannot be overlooked.

Shakespeare it ain’t; this is a fluffy little confection of summer theater (and therefore NOT to be fed to DeeDee) and is a tasty summer treat.

SVSU's production of Why Do Fools Fall in Love? runs now through Sunday August 8; performances are at 7:30p.m. Friday and Saturday, with 3:00pm. matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Ticket prices are $15.00 ($10.00 for Students and Seniors). Call the box office at (989) 964-4261 for further information and to reserve tickets.

© Lisa Purchase, 2010