St. Vincent Summer Theatre's trip down 'Route 66' taps into nostalgia
A high-energy musical romp through the 1950s and '60s kicks off St. Vincent Summer Theatre's 48th season.
“Route 66” follows the adventures of four young gas station attendants as they leave 1950s Chicago and head out to California on the iconic Route 66. Along the way they sing, dance and meet colorful characters including a “Truck Stop Cutie” and “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena.”
The show is packed with 34 popular road tunes of the era, including “King of the Road,” “Little GTO,” “On the Road Again,” “Truck Drivin' Man” and of course, “Route 66.”
“With the energy of the music, you can't help but tap your toes and hum along,” says director Greggory Brandt. He describes the show as similar in style to “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” which was a hit at St. Vincent last year.
Brandt auditioned more than 300 people to find the four 20-something actors who play “gas jockeys” Michael, Scot, Andy and Brandon. Nick Ziobro, David M. Toole, Ryan Patrick Kearney and Eddie Brandt were chosen for their superb vocal qualities as well as their acting skills.
“The show is really focused on the singing,” Toole says. “It's music from beginning to end.”
All the actors except Eddie Brandt are new to the St. Vincent stage. Brandt, who is the director's son, appeared with Ziobro last season on “America's Got Talent.”
Music is the centerpiece of the show, but there are plenty of opportunities for the actors to ham it up. Toole enjoys the mini-storylines built around the musical numbers.
“Each song is almost a show within itself,” he says. He particularly enjoys the scene surrounding “Hot Rod Queen,” a song with a strong rock vibe. “The choreography is absolutely incredible.”
New arrangements have reshaped the music to suit the tight harmonizing of a quartet.
“The songs are all recognizable, but they've been re-created for this show to highlight four-part harmony,” Toole says. “It puts a new spin on old favorites.”
His castmate Ziobro looks forward to playing Michael largely because of the songs he sings. “Michael's a lot of fun to play,” Ziobro says. “He sings a lot of cool songs — ‘Bring My Cadillac Back' and trucker songs.”
He hopes that audiences will enjoy the songs as much as he does. “A lot of our audience members grew up with this music,” he says. “I'm excited for people to hear us.”
After each performance other than the Thursday preview and the matinees, a Cabaret will be open for patrons to enjoy snacks, hot dogs, drinks and entertainment. There is no charge for the Cabaret, but donations are encouraged.
Free shuttle van service will be provided to and from the theater. Patrons may park in the main parking areas near St. Vincent Basilica to board the shuttle.
If history is any indication, audiences will love the nostalgic fun of “Route 66.”
“They'll leave toe-tapping and with a smile on their faces,” Greggory Brandt says. “They're in for a treat.”
Cynthia Helzel is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.