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Theater Review: “33 1/3 House of Dreams”

Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm
Photo credit:
Jim Carmody

Are you old enough to remember the Wall of Sound? Would you even recognize a 33 1/3 long-playing vinyl record if you saw one?

Whether the answer is yes or no, San Diego Repertory Theatre has a treat in store: a whiz-bang new musical depicting the rise and fall of one of the great recording studios of the 1950s-’80s. It’s a California story about a recording studio that released such favorites as Sonny & Cher, the Beach Boys, the Righteous Brothers and Ritchie Valens.

Stan Rosenthal (Nicholas Mangiardo-Cooper) started in the business as a high school student, working four years for Bert Gottschalk. When Gottschalk refused him a raise, Stan and his friend, tech genius Dave Goldstein (Jacob Caltrider) changed their names to Ross and Gold and started their own recording studio in 1950. They called it Gold Star. Stan was the guiding light; Dave could build or fix anything, and when word got out, they got lots of business. In 33-plus years, Gold Star brought us songs like “Summertime Blues,” “La Bamba,” “Good Vibrations,” “Unchained Melody,” and “This Guy’s In Love With You.”

Stan narrates the story, which is peppered with dance numbers, people rushing in and out, songs and phone calls, even arguments. It’s a bit frantic, but that’s part of the charm: this is probably what it was like, on the way to producing 120 Top-40 hits between 1950 and 1984.

This is a huge undertaking, with a cast of 26 and a boffo band of 21, conducted by Tamara Paige. The Rep gets plenty of help from 32 students of the San Diego School for Creative and Performing Arts, who sing, dance and make up the bulk of the band.

Stan’s son Brad Ross and playwright/musician Jonathan Rosenberg wrote the book for the show. Additional material was added by Rep veterans Javier Velasco (who also directs and choreographs) and Steve Gunderson, who serves as musical director and arranger.

Mongiardo-Cooper and Caltrider are great collaborators: Mongiardo-Cooper the charming and hopeful Ross, Caltrider the affable but driven geek who wants to make sure everything works.

We’ll also meet the duo’s wives. Unfortunately, they get somewhat short shrift here. Both are relatively incidental in the first act, though Stan’s girl Vera (Aviva Pressman) gets more to do in the second act. But Dave’s girl Mitzi (Bethany Slomka) remains an unexplored mystery throughout.

The acting and singing are terrific all around, from professionals and students alike. Kudos also to Blake McCarty for the projections that set each song in political time and place.

The story jumps around in time, which can get a bit exhausting, but let it pass.

You’re there for the chance to hear these 32 historic tunes and learn how Gold Star became a huge player in the music business of its time. This show will both enlighten and entertain you.

The details

“33 1/3 House of Dreams” plays through Sept. 1, 2019 at San Diego Repertory Theatre, 79 Horton Plaza, Downtown

Wednesday at 7 pm; Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 and 7 pm