Review: ‘Summer ’69’

Musical numbers: "Woodstock," "Summer in the City," "Goin' up the Country," "Mercedes Benz," "The Times They Are a Changin', " "Black Magic Woman," "Somebody to Love," "Teach Your Children Well," "Fixin' to Die Rag," "Find the Cost of Freedom," "For What It's Worth," "White Rabbit," "With a Little Help From My Friends," "The Weight," "Piece of My Heart," "Let's Get Together," "Star Spangled Banner," "Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There Is a Season)."

Musical numbers: “Woodstock,” “Summer in the City,” “Goin’ up the Country,” “Mercedes Benz,” “The Times They Are a Changin’, ” “Black Magic Woman,” “Somebody to Love,” “Teach Your Children Well,” “Fixin’ to Die Rag,” “Find the Cost of Freedom,” “For What It’s Worth,” “White Rabbit,” “With a Little Help From My Friends,” “The Weight,” “Piece of My Heart,” “Let’s Get Together,” “Star Spangled Banner,” “Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There Is a Season).”

Summer ’69,” a slapdash tribute to that famous countercultural moment, presents Woodstock as staged and interpreted by K-Tel. A greatest-hits-of-the-late-’60s rock revue clumsily hitched to a cliche-ridden tale of youngsters on a journey of self-discovery, this amateurish production has been unwisely moved from Off Off Broadway to Off on the strength of some indulgent reviews. It is now charging a larcenous $ 49.50 top for a bland trip down memory lane.

Bruce Lumpkin’s staging is borrowed wholesale from “Rent,” with the youthful cast sporting very un-’60s-like head mikes and often assembling at the lip of the stage to energetically sing one of the show’s obvious assortment of period tunes: “Summer in the City,” “With a Little Help From My Friends,” “Teach Your Children Well.” The songs are woven into an embarrassingly trite story of rebellious suburban high schoolers sneaking away from their confounded parents to attend the three-day concert that was to become such an oft-exploited cultural watershed.

The “book” by Bill Van Horn, Ellen Michaelmore and Leer Paul Leary is full of giggly jokes about pot smoking and sexual adventuring, with the requisite somber , self-righteous detour for the bad trip that was Vietnam. The physical production, with far-out costumes by Colleen McMillan and psychedelic projections from John Farrell, matches it cliche for cliche (although the projections of actual photos from Woodstock strike the only authentic note in the show).

Performances are undistinguished, although there’s little chance for the actors to make an impression in their brief scenes between songs. The characters are cardboard festooned with macrame and love beads.

The show’s saving graces are vocalists E. Alyssa Claar (lose the E., Alyssa) and Rachel Stern, a pair of powerhouse singers who tear into their songs with a ferocity that still can’t disguise the ersatz nature of the proceedings.

“Even if you’ve forgotten the words, it’s still OK to sing along,” urges an unwittingly revealing program note.

That’s what you think.

Summer '69



NEW YORK An Ira Shapiro, Robert E. Schneider and Stuart A. Ditsky presentation of a musical in two acts with book by Bill Van Horn, Ellen Michaelmore and Leer Paul Leary, music by various. Directed by Bruce Lumpkin. Music director and arrangements, Faser Hardin. Sets and projections, John Farrell; costumes, Colleen McMillan.


Lighting, Jeffrey S. Koger; sound, James Tomaselli; production stage manager, Patrick O'Leary. Opened Aug. 16, 1999. Reviewed Aug. 19. Running time: 1 HOUR, 50 MIN.


With: E. Alyssa Claar, Jamie Hurley, Brian Maillard, Ron McClary, Kirk McGee, Anne Moore, Rik Sansone, Rachel Stern, Christine M. Williamson.
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