Georgia Ensemble’s ‘Surf Party’ offers summer fun

The cast of Georgia Ensemble Theatre's outdoor concert performance of "Summer Surf Party!" includes co-director Jeremy Wood (from left), Christopher Kent, Zion Glenn, co-director Chris Damiano and Dolph Amick.
Courtesy of Mary Saville
Caption
The cast of Georgia Ensemble Theatre's outdoor concert performance of "Summer Surf Party!" includes co-director Jeremy Wood (from left), Christopher Kent, Zion Glenn, co-director Chris Damiano and Dolph Amick. Courtesy of Mary Saville

Credit: Mary Saville

Credit: Mary Saville

Live performances return in the form of Beach Boys, early rock and R&B tunes

Let the good times roll — again.

To a list of popular Georgia Ensemble Theatre collaborations that already includes other nostalgic jukebox revues like “Almost Heaven” (John Denver), “Ring of Fire” (Johnny Cash) and “Million Dollar Quartet” (Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins), Atlanta actor-musicians Jeremy Wood and Chris Damiano can now add “Summer Surf Party!”

Presented as an outdoor concert at Roswell’s Chattahoochee Nature Center — and also featuring the musical talents of Christopher Kent, Dolph Amick and Zion Glenn — the new show primarily pays tribute to the iconic 1960s band The Beach Boys, with performances of nearly 20 of the group’s greatest hits: “Good Vibrations,” “I Get Around,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Surfin’ USA,” “California Girls,” “Help Me Rhonda” and “Barbara Ann” among them.

Wood and Damiano, who share directing and script credit on “Surf Party,” both recall it was several years ago when an impromptu rendition of that last song first gave them the idea of developing a Beach Boys revue “from the ground up,” as Wood describes it. At the time, the two of them (along with Kent) were working on “Million Dollar Quartet.”

“We were goofing around backstage one night, and the three of us suddenly started in on ‘Barbara Ann,’ and I have to admit it sounded pretty good,” Wood notes.

“It was neat, just singing harmony like that, and it sort of planted the thought in our heads about putting this together,” Damiano adds. “The Beach Boys have so many cool songs, and we’re playing them with such a great group of musicians, so it’s been a lot of fun.”

Both performers also remember defining moments from their childhoods when they first became Beach Boys fans. In Wood’s case, it might have been a bit more indirect. As he puts it with a laugh, “I had to be like 5 or 6, when a friend of my dad’s gave me a cassette tape with Alvin and the Chipmunks singing ‘Surfin’ USA,’ and I wore that thing out listening to it so much.”

For Damiano, his awareness of and appreciation for the band’s music was a little more, uh, mature. “My dad bought a convertible when he was in his 40s, and I used to ride around with him listening to the Beach Boys all the time,” he replies.

“I recognized one of their songs from a cover version David Lee Roth had done of it,” Damiano continues, after a pause, referring to Roth’s rendition of “California Girls.” “And I remember thinking about how cool it was that their music seemed able to bridge different generations like that, so that my dad and I could essentially dig each other’s music.”

In addition to the Beach Boys tunes, “Summer Surf Party!” also highlights songs originally immortalized by Jan & Dean (“Surf City”), the Surfaris (“Wipeout”), the Drifters (“Under the Boardwalk”), Santo and Johnny (“Sleepwalk”), Sam Cooke (“Twistin’ the Night Away”) and Chuck Berry (“Johnny B. Goode”).

Some 50 years after the peak of the “surf rock” movement, Wood and Damiano agree that the music continues to entertain audiences of all ages. And almost 16 months after Atlanta theater companies were forced to suspend regular programming due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they say the “good vibrations” of a live, in-person performance could be more important than ever.

“Summer Surf Party!” may not be important in the sense of having anything serious or profound to impart, exactly. But, sometimes, Wood suggests, “It’s more about just having fun and enjoying yourself. It’s been that way for us playing and singing this music, and hopefully it’ll leave the audience with that same kind of feeling.”

THEATER PREVIEW

“Summer Surf Party!”

Through July 25. 8 p.m. Fridays-Sundays (excluding July 11), 8 p.m. July 15. $300 for a large table (seating up to 8 people); $150 for a small table (seating up to 4); $20 for single lawn tickets (bring your own chair or blanket). Georgia Ensemble Theatre, Ben Brady Pavilion at the Chattahoochee Nature Center, 9135 Willeo Road, Roswell. 404-614-1260, www.get.org.