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BroadHollow’s jukebox musical exudes retro ’60s charm

I’ve rarely heard a musical referred to as “cute,” but Roger Bean’s “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” now at the Broadhollow Theatre in Elmont, fits the bill nicely.

The plot, what there is of it, concerns four friends who meet in 1966 for the bridal shower of Millie, then, six months later, for the bridal shower of Dee Dee. The other girls are the flighty Sally and Dee Dee’s insecure cousin Flo, and their coming together is just a happy excuse for a string of lovelorn songs from the ’60s, from “He’s A Rebel” to “Hey There Lonely Boy,” which the girls perform with joy, tenderness and a bit of pre-women’s-lib defiance.

Besides the singing, the play is made by its ambiance. Millie’s apartment, which she later shares with her no-good husband, is so delightfully kitschy´╗┐ that it makes one nostalgic. She has a pink rotary phone and a magic 8 ball, and I really want to know where scenic designer Nicholas Schwartz got those old-fashioned Coke bottles. Millie’s barstools are awful, one of her chairs is draped with some dreadful polka-dot fabric and her walls are painted with a row of pink tulips. All she needs is a lava lamp, though one suspects the unlucky-in-love Sally already has one.

The only things worse than Millie’s pad are the girls’ wigs and, sometimes, their costumes, though Millie appears in a beautiful green silk sheath and opens Act Two in floaty, pleated pink chiffon. Indeed, Millie, with her flip, her awful, sweet little apartment, and her pluckiness, evokes Marlo Thomas as “That Girl.” It’s just that the boyfriend she doesn’t dare shack up with is named Jimmy, not Donald. Nicole Nevermann is wonderful in the role.

All of the actresses, who together put one in mind of a more chaste and retro “Sex and the City,” are quite good. Heather Gilchrist’s Dee Dee is a flibbertigibbet who goes nuts when she eats sugar, and one is astonished that she’s the next one to be engaged. Devin Raye Gruner’s Sally is not as hard as she wants to be, and Jennifer Hope, once again disappearing so thoroughly into a character that she’s unrecognizable, makes us feel Flo’s essentially tender heart.

All of them are wonderful singers who didn’t really need to be miked — I know this because the microphones went out a couple of times. The only false note was their rendition of “A Fool In Love.” Nobody can do that song like Tina Turner, and I wouldn’t have tried.

The show is directed by Glen J. Beck and the reviewer can only imagine that he has a great good time doing it. Also, praise must go to Jason Allyn for his costumes, terrible as most of them were, and especially his Ronette-style choreography.

Nevermann does a stellar job as musical director and Meghan Santelli knows when to bathe the stage in good, variety-show lighting during the musical numbers. Gary Haglich provides the excellent sound design and of course, props go to Schwartz for that scenery. I want those little Coke bottles, and I want that pink phone.

“Why Do Fools Fall In Love?” is dopey and lovable, and if you’re of a certain age it’ll make you giggle and sing along.

If You Go

Why Do Fools Fall in Love?

When: Through March 28; Wednesdays, Fridays & Satudays 8 p.m., Wednesdays and Sundays 2 p.m.

Where: BroadHollow Theatre, 700 Hempstead Turnpike, Elmont

Cost: $25, seniors $23, students $18, youth $14

Contact: (516) 775-4420

Web site: www.broadhollow.org

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