Forever My Darlin’, ETA Creative Arts Foundation. We know right off that teen heartthrob Johnny Ace is going to die. Not just because director Runako Jahi notes in the program that the real Johnny Ace died young but because hooded figures of Death dance along with Ace on the stage of the Apollo.
Unfortunately the rest of Forever My Darlin’ fails to maintain this dark humor. Daniel W. Owens’s meandering script, centered on a 1950s girl group in Boston, tries to be too many things at once–a bubblegum musical comedy, a tangled romance, and a troubled-teen expose. Francine, the lead singer, is determined that her group will sing at a Christmas dance to be attended by a talent scout. She’s hindered by her aunt, who wants her to cook and clean for Christmas; the other two band members (we’re never sure why); her idol, Johnny Ace, who shows up in her dreams to warn her away from fame; and her boyfriend, who tells her that if she performs he’ll join the marines. Sitcom acting fails to deepen Owens’s soap opera subplots, which involve sexual abuse, unplanned pregnancy, and family scandal.
The production is most successful when the girl group–played by Sonya T. Evans, Donica L. Thornton, and Sa’rah Hines–are vamping it up to Bobby Andrews’s snappy choreography. The final two numbers–a zippy version of “Tequila” danced by all seven ensemble members and “Goodnight, Sweetheart” sung in soaring harmony–are gratuitous but provide a taste of the energy the show could have had.