Las Vegas. As The Beach Boys travel the world on their 50th anniversary reunion tour, a musical about a surfer’s adventures featuring the band’s hit songs is hoping to catch a wave in the desert casino city of Las Vegas.
“Surf the Musical,” a 90-minute production showcasing 35 Beach Boys songs that embody the essence of California’s surf culture, begins previews on Friday at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino before opening on July 17 for an indefinite run.
The show, featuring a live band and hit songs like “Good Vibrations” and “Surfin’ USA”, revolves around a surfer who leaves his California beach town for the big city, regrets his choice, and returns home to what he loves the most: waves, boards, and of course, a woman.
“Surf the Musical” is the fruition of a dream for producer J. Burton Gold, 69, a California businessman who has been a fan of the band since he was a teenager in the 1960s, and saw them live on their reunion tour in May.
Gold licensed the stage rights for dozens of Beach Boys songs for the show and brought in Kristin Hanggi, the Tony-nominated director of the hit Broadway musical “Rock of Ages,” to bring it to the theater.
It’s not the first time the Beach Boys have inspired a musical. “Good Vibrations,” which followed three high school friends who drive to California, had a short-lived run on Broadway in 2005 after being savaged by New York theater critics.
But Gold said he wanted “Surf the Musical” to “honor and deliver the music,” without embedding it in an overly stylized production.
“I didn’t want to ‘Broadway-ize’ it. I wanted to keep it Hawthorne,” he said, referring to the Southern California city where The Beach Boys was founded in 1961 by Brian Wilson, his late brothers Dennis and Carl, cousin Mike Love and their friend Al Jardine.
Scenes, Sounds of The 60s
“Surf the Musical” uses giant digital screens to project brightly colored backdrops of boardwalks, sunsets and 60′s-era advertising.
Hanggi grew up in Huntington Beach – one of California’s prime surfing spots – and when she was seven years old, she “wore out” a cassette with the Beach Boys hit, “Surfer Girl,” she said.
The new show was “a homage to my family,” she said.
“I’m a So Cal girl and want to make a connection with people about what a real beach experience is like,” she said.
Hanggi said that the Las Vegas Strip was a natural choice for the show, especially given the brightly colored sets, which chime with the glare of the casinos and their glossy stage shows and larger-than-life musical arenas.
But Hanggi is nervous about one small group of spectators – the Beach Boys themselves.
The Beach Boys have had no practical involvement in the show and haven’t been to rehearsals. Instead Brian Wilson, Love, Jardine and early band members Bruce Johnston and David Marks are busy on the US leg of their 50th anniversary reunion world tour and have just released their first album of new material since 1989.
The album, “That’s Why God Made the Radio,” debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard chart last week, the highest-charting Beach Boys album in 37 years.
“They captured the optimism and heart of the beach, and the love and the fun,” said Hanggi. “Wouldn’t it be scary if they didn’t like it?” she said.