So . . . with nary an actual grain of sand in sight (or shorts), The Great American Melodrama still manages to convince us that we are along for a sun-filled, fun-filled day at the beach—well, the Oceano Dunes, to be precise—with its latest offering, a grab-bag of comedy and song aptly titled Sand in Our Shorts.
If you are a Melodrama regular, you will note that this pastiche of songs, sketches, and truly funny parodies doesn’t fit its regular format of a two-act melodrama followed by a vaudeville review, which gives audiences two intermissions to enjoy snack-bar treats. This time around, the vaudeville review takes center stage, giving six super-talented and super-energetic cast members more than a dozen bits of comedic beach-front real estate to mine for laughs, admiring groans of recognition, and of course applause. Alas, only one intermission awaits those audience members who love to extend their Melodrama evenings to the max.
With this loose day-at-the-beach set-up, creators and directors Eric Hoit and Katie Worley Beck have assembled quite an assortment of skits, from tongue-twisting “she sells sea shells by the seashore” bits of business to hilarious song parodies (“I love my ATV” among the best, accompanied by riders on, well, ATVs—you have to see these vehicles to appreciate them). Then there are the interludes such as the mermaid-turned-princess (in full-on royal dress instead of swim togs) wishing she could go back to the sea, wittily advising appreciative audience members to “never trade your tail for a man.”
Some notable bits: seagulls hysterically scouting for snacks left unattended by sunbathers; a send-up of a beachside episode of “Survivor” with Dolly Parton, Jeff Goldblum, and Judy Garland—wait, isn’t she dead?—as contestants; a version of the Beach Boys’ “Surfin’” that artfully confuses the web and the waves; and a guy rapping a tune promoting Morro Rock as a tourist destination wearing, what else, a Morro Rock suit.
And that’s just the first act.
The second act brings a bit of an unexpected change of pace, featuring a beach-party movie vibe with straight-forward renditions of 1960s California tunes à la Frankie and Annette. But things get back on track, ending with the welcome return to the Melodrama of the infamous “Ghost Chickens in the Sky,” a bit so riotous that you will leave the theatre laughing all the way home.
With just a painted backdrop suggesting the Dunes, some appropriate costumes, and a minimum of props and accessories (swim fins, anyone?), this Melodrama family has created a delightful distraction that celebrates the beach, Oceano, and everything you could think of that happens next to the sea, including flying kites and—with a nod to new technology—drones (“Let’s go fly a drone. . .”).
It’s difficult to single out individual cast members for an excellent turn of phrase here, an insightful caricature there, the ability to fuse into an ensemble for an extended Melodrama parody of Oklahoma, which of course ends with a rousing full-cast singing and dancing version of “O-ce-an-o” that makes the audience want to sing along (if not leave their seats and head out to the Dunes right there and then). Sydni Abenido (a local favorite), Mike Fiore (with his smooth guitar), Natalie Mara (making her Melodrama debut), Jeff Salsbury (fresh from the Melodrama’s Butch Cassidy and the Sunburnt Kid), Meggie Siegrist (also memorable from Butch Cassidy), and Toby Tropper (a regional theatre veteran) do this meticulously-crafted material justice and then some.
Sand in Our Shorts is a silly, satisfying show you will remember with a smile the next time you are surfside—it might even be the excuse you need to create your own silly, satisfying, surfside sojourn.
Sand in Our Shorts continues through September 17 at The Great American Melodrama in Oceano. More Information.