There is an appealing aura of nostalgia that permeates Off-Broadstreet Theater’s current offering. “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” with book by Ben H. Winters and Erik Jackson, music by Neil Sedaka, and lyrics by Sedaka, Howard Greenfield, and Philip Cody, goes back a ways. The title’s song was first recorded by Sedaka in 1962, and then recorded by him again in 1975. The show remains popular: at least five productions are scheduled in various parts of the country during the first six months of 2014.
“Breaking Up” takes place in Esther’s Paradise Resort, a small hotel in the Catskills — borscht belt as remembered by doo-wop ears. Lois has brought her friend Marge up for the weekend to take Marge’s mind off a recent disaster: she was stood up at the altar.
There they meet Esther Simowitz, a classic mother figure who runs the hotel. Her staff includes Harvey Feldman, Simowitz’s chief purveyor of classic shtick; Del Delmonaco, a smoothie charm boy and singer — with prentensions to greater success — of the latest romantic ballads; and Gabe Green, the colorless go-to lad, who seems to do nothing more than shine shoes, press pants, and pick up after his betters. As it happens, though, he is actually the person who writes those ballads.
You can probably imagine what develops next. By the end of the show — guess what — not only has Marge found a man, but Esther has too.
OBT regulars will recognize most of the cast members; only Kyle Geraghty, who plays Gabe Green, is new to the theater. He has a clear tenor voice that suggests he’s not quite grown up, a quality aided by his dark curly locks and cherubic face framed by horn-rimmed glasses.
This is the ninth OBT role for Wendy Yazujian, who takes on Esther Simowitz. Her rising inflections as she sings are pitch perfect for the stereotype of the Jewish mama. Marge Gelman is played by Maria Aromando, who has been seen at OBT as Marcy in “I Love You Because” and as Annie in “Leader of the Pack.” Marge is slight, but she can belt with the best of them. Even those who are not fond of belting will be pleased to see how well she can do it without losing her appeal. Tess Ammerman plays Lois Warner. She made her OBT debut in “Man of LaMancha,” and has also appeared in “Peg O’ My Heart,” “There’s a Burglar in My Bed,” and “The Wildest.” She sings persuasively and with her commanding presence has no need to belt.
The men, except of course for Kyle Geraghty, have equally long strings of OBT credits. Jerry Smith, here seen as Harvey Feldman, was Norman Schwarzkopf and Septimus Banks in “Violet Sharp,” a play about the Lindberg trial. He was also in OBT’s productions of “Peg O My Heart” and “Man of LaMancha.” Here, as a character who takes his job seriously, he is trying out shtick, not always successfully. John Bergeron, as Del Delmonaco, has 10 productions under his belt at OBT, last seen in “The Game’s Afoot.” This time around he sports a notable pompadour, and his asymmetrical smile turns charm into smarm.
The instrumental music for this production is provided by a first-rate band of four, which seems at all times to be playing at a level appropriate to the size of theater and the action of the play. Philip Orr is the pianist and leader, accompanied by Bob Garguillo bass; James Jarvie, drummer; and Jim Gieseke, guitarist. They not only provide the aura of nostalgia appropriate to the setting with some classy playing, they even do the doo-wop back-up singing.
Bob Thick directed the show and once again has brought clarity and charm to the production.
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, Off-Broadstreet Theater, 5 South Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell. Through Sunday, March 22 (no show on Saturday, March 15), Fridays and Saturdays, 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Desserts served an hour before show, $27 to $31.50. 609-466-2766 or www.off-broadstreet.com.