Archikulture Digest

Joyce Jackson’s Guide to Dating

Joyce Jackson’s Guide to Dating

Book and Lyrics by Scott Logsdon

Music by Steve Mazzullo

Directed by Kenny Howard

Starring Alexa Neilen and Bobby Hogan

Florida Theatrical Association

The Abbey, Orlando FL </strong>

In 1950, teenagers officially discovered hormones. Sure, hormones have been around since Adam and Eve, but 1950 teens had fast cars and high school letters and good rock and roll. And there’s always a pecking order; That’s a law or something. Here at good old Helen Keller High (Motto: “Where the future looks great!”) Mix Lawrence (Hogan) majors in spoonerisms with a minor in football. His notional girlfriend, the chaste yet bitchy Joyce (Neilen) won’t put out, and plans to tell her fellow students about the joy of abstinence. Dating is hard for both parties, and Joyce decided to obsessively write a book to help her less able co-students. She drafts the rest of the girls into editing and typesetting, but fails to conceal real names. Musical theater ensues, and then the most horrible tragedies befall Joyce: she blows a date and Mix dances with Louise. Horror compounds on horror, now uncool Louise is Queen of the prom, and worst of all, Joyce discovers she’s no longer the coolest of the cool. I think she’s a strong candidate for high office later in life….

The show flies along fast and sweet. The songs are a bit flat but “ R-E-S-T-R-A-I-N-T!” and “Just a Guy” did stand out. Neilen was in charge, bossy and on a mission; its exactly where she needed to be to make her fall effective. Hogan’s football star was sweet and inoffensive; he gets just enough mispronunciations to give him a character without pushing him over the top. His wingman Ricky (Ted Cook) was the most likeable actor up there; with his earnest and un-calculated approach, he got farther than Mix ever did by going for the low hanging fruit. In the case of the wannabe queen bees, all the girls were likeable with earthy Louise making the best sense of all this lot of muddled priories and incorrect assumptions. Nancy (Eva Gluck), the geekiest of girls, comes across happiest, better adjusted than frenchified Frieda (Amelia Bryant). Frieda doesn’t fit into the cliques either, but I suspect she’ll go the farthest – all the way to Paris.

All this floats across a busy but well-conceived set by Bonnie Sprung. There’s a cool car on stage, and clever lighting makes the backdrop a color wheel of tones. Tons of furniture gets moved but in never slows thing down, and while this might be a little racy for actual high school students, anyone who’s ever worried about who might be prom queen will find their Happy Days in this zippy production.

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