Whether or not you were there in the 60's and early 70's (I was) to groove to tunes such as "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" and "Son of a Preacher Man," you'll love Enlightened Theatrics' Shout! The Mod Musical at the Grand Theatre in downtown Salem.
I saw Shout! last night at a preview performance where the five women who sing, dance, and act with marvelous professionalism came back on stage after the show in street clothes to respond to questions from the audience, along with other members of the production.
What blew my mind further, which was already pleasantly blown by the musical, was how fortunate we in Salem are to have cast members and supporting staff with such amazing credentials.
For example, several of the women in the cast said they have a background in opera, so they observed that it was a bit of a stretch for them to get used to dancing while singing (well, not much of a stretch, given how at ease they looked on stage).
I got to ask a question of the costume and wig designer, Shelbi Wilkin, regarding how she was able to come up with the outfits worn by the "Mod 5," who are known as Blue Girl, Green Girl, Orange Girl, Red Girl, and Yellow Girl. Wilkin said that it took a lot of research, mentioning as an aside that she is finishing up a MFA in Costume Design.
I was impressed. I didn't even know there was such a thing as a Master's Degree in Costume Design.
But now that I know, that explains why the women's clothes looked so spot-on for the times -- the first act is set in 1966, my high school graduation year, and the second act took place in 1968 and 1970, as I recall.
Since I was coming of age in the Shout! era, I can testify that the musical is an accurate reflection of the cultural changes that took place in the few years between 1966 and 1970.
The first act is frothy and fun.
I and other gray-haired members of the audience were treated to a time-machine ride back to Beatlemania, epitomized by Yellow Girl's ecstatic acquisition of Paul McCartney's comb after his trash was ransacked by smitten girls (even some dandruff on it was cause for joy).
And when the theme song from Goldfinger was performed, I recollected that I saw that 1964 James Bond movie four freaking times, I loved it so much as a geeky teenager.
Somewhat disturbing to me, though, and this feeling foreshadowed the second act, was how sexist some of the lyrics to 60's songs performed in Shout! sounded to my 69-year-old ears. Naturally I didn't think that at the time, because it was taken for granted back then that, for example... (from "Wishin' and Hopin')
All you gotta do is hold him and kiss him and squeeze him and love him
Yeah, just do it
And after you do, you will be his
You gotta show him that you care just for him
Do the things he likes to do
Wear your hair just for him, 'cause
You won't get him
Thinkin' and a-prayin', wishin' and a-hopin'
Indeed, in the first act the five women are inundated with admonitions from an advice columnist in issues of Shout! magazine that basically reduce every problem a Mod Girl might have to a bad hair style, lack of a moisturizer, and such. These are light-hearted moments in the musical, yet point to the fact that though the sixties were swinging, feminism wasn't much on display.
This began to change in 1970, as do the women in the second act. The musical's mood becomes a bit more somber, though by no means serious. Talk of domestic violence makes an appearance. The carefree girls in the first act have learned some life lessons, which mirrors my memory of the times.
I went to college in the San Francisco Bay area. It was the Summer of Love in 1967. Just two years later, the 1969 Altamont Free Concert was a mayhem-filled nightmare (I was there; not part of the violence, thankfully).
So Shout! shows both how wonderful the 60's were, along with some of the dark side of those sunny times. Go see the show! You'll love it.