This event was scheduled May 26-July 15, 2023.

So . . . The Great American Melodrama is offering us “a close-up look at life” (at least the life of some really cute birds and bivalve mollusks) in its current production, Under the Boardwalk. What you might not realize is that it’s a very specific boardwalk they are talking about . . . our very own Pismo Beach.

This is a home-grown production written and directed by South County resident Erik Stein, a Renaissance man if there ever was one. So while the talented cast and crew of Under the Boardwalk make this day at the beach a buoyant one for everyone, it’s especially intriguing to locals when references are made in dialog and song to the Oceano Dunes, to the tourists we (sometimes reluctantly) welcome every summer, and to Pismo Beach as the one-time Clam Capital of the World.

But the show itself—full of clever song parodies, roller-skating seagulls, and clams who decide to come out of their shells to organize for “clam rights”—takes an unexpected turn into Romeo and Juliet territory: the unthinkable happens when a clam and a gull fall in love (gasp!). It’s a funny and surprisingly touching premise that Stein and his talented crew excavate to highly entertaining effect.

The confused clam in this case is Glenn (a charming Michael Wells, who owns the show’s parody of Queen’s “Somebody to Love” with his cry “I’ve gotta break out of my shell,” as well as his startling crisis moment: “I kissed a gull”). His rapping clam buddies, the versatile Toby Tropper and the agile Noah Esquival (whose character name is MC Clammer) make their hilarious way through songs like “You Can’t Touch This,” which wittily gives us the rules of clamming season. These boys have as many slick moves rapping as the girl gulls do with wheels at their disposal.

The confused girl gull in this case is Daria (a charming Ekaterina Bouras) who along with her feathered friends Rita and Flo (Sydni Ramirez and Meggie Siegrist, singing and skating their hearts out) normally breakfast on clams and beachgoer leftovers like popcorn kernels and hot dogs, and herald the early morning fog with great melodies like (sing it now) “Mama said there’d be haze like this.”

In fact, you can’t go wrong with a show that hooks you with witty words, ditzy dancing, and tasty tunes imitating oldies but goodies from Abba, Queen, and even Michael Jackson (to name just a few). To top it off, there’s a truly amusing sort-of-ballet between the clams and gulls, and everything adds up to a happy ending (no spoilers here—it’s the Melodrama, after all).

Under the Boardwalk is a fun, frenzied, farcical piece that you can bring your visiting relatives and friends to this summer for a good laugh and a good time. It is of course accompanied by one of the Melodrama’s famed vaudeville reviews—this time a lively litany of senior moments called “The Young at Heart” directed and choreographed by John Keating (who if he has any writing ambitions in addition to directing and choreography could give Erik Stein a run for his money).

The Melodrama’s behind-the-scenes crew has worked overtime to bring us a delightful summer show. Musical director Joseph Ivan (who actually steps into the spotlight here and there in the show as “DJ Jazzy Starfish”), scenic designer Ian Peggs, costume designer Renee Van Niel, and lighting designer Cody Soper deserve shout-outs for bringing the beach and its denizens to life.

But in the end, it’s Stein who deserves the biggest applause for Under the Boardwalk. He has written a charming, clever, comical show. It’s evident that he is an actor’s director, giving his players what they need to enhance their performances while giving Melodrama audiences what they want: a really, really good time.

:: Charlotte Alexander