When Jacob Cozzi was 8 years old, he had a crush on a girl who lived down the street.
Which explains why his favorite song in the Neil Sedaka jukebox musical “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” now in its opening weekend at Good Company Players, is the tune “Next Door to An Angel.”
“I don’t really know what she’s up to now,” says Cozzi, who in the overall scheme of things wasn’t 8 that long ago — he’s worked his way up through the GCP’s demanding Junior Company program — but is now nabbing roles in mainstage productions.
Wouldn’t it be cute if his crush showed up for a performance and recognized him?
The last time Fresno got a glimpse of Neil Sedaka was just a month or so ago, when the character shimmied out for brief role in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” Sedaka and King were contemporaries at the famed Brill Building “songwriting factory” in lower Manhattan, and they even dated for a time — the inspiration for his hit “Oh, Carol.”
Now Sedaka’s legacy gets a starring role.
A synopsis of the show:
Set at a Catskills resort in 1960, this is the sweetly comic story of Lois and Marge, two friends from Brooklyn in search of good times and romance over one wild Labor Day weekend. Marge has just been jilted at the altar and doesn’t want to be “Solitaire,” so Lois convinces Marge that the two of them should use her honeymoon reservations at Esther’s Paradise Resort Hotel, because that is “Where The Boys Are”. When they meet a handsome crooner and geeky cabana boy who secretly writes songs, their search for romance becomes even more bewildering.
To preview the show, I checked in with cast members to find out their favorite Sedaka tunes — and why.
Tim Smith is partial to “Solitaire” for two reasons.
“One, it’s beautiful and heart wrenching and kind of ironic that such a beautiful song would have such a depressing message,” he says. “And, two, I love the fact that though the character singing it is at her lowest point, something good is just around the corner and even though she doesn’t think it’s possible to find love, she does.”
For Melanie Torrey Heyl, “Calendar Girl” appeals to her sense of, well, calendars.
“When I was a little girl, I loved to sing it and act out all the months,” she says.
Two cast members like “Stupid Cupid.”
“I love a lot of Sedaka’s songs that are in ‘Breaking Up’ but I would have to say ‘Stupid Cupid’ is my favorite,” says Rebecca Packard. “I used to get really excited when that song would be in a movie or would be playing at an event. The lyrics take you on a little journey through a relationship in an upbeat and playful way. The lyrical analogies are really creative.”
Caitlyn Lopez is also a “Cupid” fan.
“I remember dancing around my room to it when I was younger,” she says. “It is such a fun song, and listening to it every night is a delight.”
Martin Vincent Martinez’s pick is “Lonely Nights.” He always liked the change from slow to fast tempo.
“It also brings back great memories of my teenage years,” he says.
Kay Wilkins agrees, even though it takes her back to one of her first heartbreaks.
“I love the song on its own because it has a funky feel to it, but the adaptation of the song in the show is so much more specific to the musical theatre genre, which is even better,” she says. “This one is my favorite because the character who sings it is in a bad place and I feel that it sort of introduces you to her and where she is emotionally.”
When asked his favorite song, Liam Olson gets downright specific. “It would have to be ‘Laughter in the Rain.’ I just love the scent of wet asphalt and I can smell it everytime I hear the song!”
And then there’s Jeff Gwin, who has a shocking admission that will no doubt resonate with some music listeners.
“I was never a fan of Neil Sedaka,” he says. “His music never moved me and I thought his lyrics were trite.”
But wait: Is there a chance he could become a convert? If even non-Sedaka fans can find something to like in this show, it suggests a broad audience appeal.
“However, after six weeks of rehearsal, I may be having a change of heart,” Gwin adds. “It’s either that or Stockholm Syndrome. Ask me again on Jan. 14.”
“Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” opens Thursday, Nov. 16, and runs through Jan. 14, Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater, 1226 N. Wishon Ave. Tickets range from $32-$60 depending on dinner packages.
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