Paper Mill Playhouse: “My Very Own British Invasion” Wins Your Heart with Vintage Pop

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If you love British pop music from the sixties, you’ll find “My Very Own British Invasion,” playing at the Paper Mill Playhouse through March 3, to be ab fab.

The jukebox musical pulls its soundtrack from the mid 1960s, a time when bands from Britain ruled the U.S. pop music charts. It includes songs by the Beatles, Animals, Rolling Stones, Yardbirds and Zombies (spiced up with some Little Richard). but it’s really focused on those catchy tunes from Herman’s Hermits (“There’s a Kind of Hush,” “I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am” and “I’m into Something Good”). Which makes perfect sense since the show was “based on an idea” from that band’s frontman Peter Noone.

My Very Own British Invasion at Paper Mill Playhouse; Jonny Amies (Peter) and the company of
My Very Own British Invasion; photo by Jerry Dalia

The show, set around 1966, is a love story between the up-and-coming Peter (British newcomer Johnny Amies) of Herman’s Hermits and the spunky Pamela (Erika Olson, sporting a Dusty Springfield/Marianne Faithfull look), a fashion model who later embarks on her own singing career. Peter looks so young, he can’t get into the rock club, A Bag of Nails, without the help of John Lennon (Bryan Fenkart), who drifts in and out of the show as Peter’s big brother figure. Geno (Kyle Taylor Parker) is the musical’s narrator and secret weapon. He keeps the plot moving and kicks up the show’s energy level.

CENTER: Erika Olson (Pamela) and
Conor Ryan (Trip) with the company of My Very Own British Invasion; photo by Jerry Dalia

Pamela is torn between the boyish, but sincere Peter and her current boyfriend, the smarmy Trip, a bad boy rocker. Trip and his manager, Fallon, a sinister bloke with a penchant for talking in acronyms spelled out — “It’ll be LAME: lustful and magnificently entertaining” — plot to break up the budding romance between Pamela and Peter. The music and plot explore themes such as the price of fame, what people sacrifice for love, and drug addiction.

Jerry Mitchell directed and choreographed “My Very Own British Invasion” and infuses it with a sense of charm and fun that worked so well in his “Kinky Boots.” The stage design and costumes are well done, kudos to David Rockwell and Gregg Barnes, putting us in a British pop music club; a honky tonk New Orleans club Pamela performs in; and a San Francisco club where Peter searches for Pamela.

Does Peter find Pamela? How far will Peter and Trip go to win her over? Will Pamela choose Peter or Trip? Take a whimsical two-hour trip back to the shagadelic sixties.

“My Very Own British Invasion” now through March 3 at the Paper Mill Playhouse, 22 Brookside Drive, Millburn, NJ. For ticket information visit www.PaperMill.org or call 973-376-4343.

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