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1000 Islands Playhouse cast photo from <em>Suds</em>. Photo: Mark Bergin
1000 Islands Playhouse cast photo from Suds. Photo: Mark Bergin

Theatre review: "Suds" at the 1000 Islands Playhouse

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The 60s musical soap opera "Suds" opens the season at the 1000 Islands Playhouse in Gananoque, running through June 22. It's a treat for any pop music lover.

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Reported by

Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

There’s something to be said for light entertainment, especially when it’s well done and SUDS, the season opener at the 1000 Islands Playhouse is very well done.  It’s an enjoyable piece of fluff that draws on 60s nostalgia using 47 hit songs of the period, (I counted), to tie together a totally improbably plot.  Set in a laundromat, it concerns young Cindy’s lack of a love life and the attempts by not one, not two, but three guardian angels to help her out.

The script is really just an excuse to tie together the terrific songs.  Unlike so many later juke-box musicals, writers Melina Gilb, Steve Gunderson and Bryan Scott got permission to use the cream of the 60s crop.  The script, though funny, is kept to a minimum and the concentration is on the almost non-stop music.

Veteran Music Director Sandy Thorburn has a cast of four powerful singers to work with and makes the most of their talents.  The group vocals on “Town Without Pity,” “These Boots Are Made for Walking,” “Secret Agent Man” and “Always Something There to Remind Me” are tight with a great blend.  For me one of the stand-outs is “How Can I Be Sure” that features a seamless duet between Marge, (Kristin Galer), and Dee Dee, (Tracy Michailidis), over a driving jazz waltz accompaniment provided by Mr. Thorburn on keyboard, Greg Runions on drums and Paul Barton on guitar.

Alison MacDonald is an appealing Cindy.  Her initial response to the back-up vocals and moves by Marge and Dee Dee is subtle and very funny.  I loved her reprise of “I Feel Good.”  Sweet and naïve Dee Dee gets to cut loose on “Today I Met the Boy I’m Going to Marry,” while Marge delivers a powerhouse version of “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.”  All three ladies are terrific singers and accomplished comediennes.

Daniel Falk, listed only as “Man,” is excellent in multiple roles.  He has a nice comic flair, evident in “Are You Lonesome Tonight” and I loved the way he blasted into “I Feel Good.”  He also provides a nice moment of reality with a sincere and believable version of “Wonderful, Wonderful.”

Sean Mulcahy’s colorful laundromat set works well, especially with stowing props and set dressing inside a washer or two.  His costumes are good, especially Cindy’s fancy drawers and Marge’s red shoes.  Tim Fort’s lighting is just fine and the lights behind the walls of dryers are very effective.  Sound Designer Larry Stafford has done a fine job and the balance is excellent.

Choreographer Ramona Gilmour-Darling obviously had fun with the material, especially with “I Feel Good” and the balletic upside-down leg work in “Loco-Motion.”  Director Greg Wanless has also done an excellent job of directing and staging the material.  He’s helped his cast make the characters a bit more than cartoons without losing any of the humor.

SUDS, though, is mostly about fun and the songs.  They’re top-level hits for a reason.  Even if you weren’t around in the 60s you’ll know most of them.  If you were, you’ll remember them all.  SUDS is an entertaining, tuneful and audience-pleasing way to open a summer season.

On a scale of one to five the 1000 Islands Playhouse production of SUDS gets four and two-thirds fish.  For North Country Public Radio I’m Connie Meng.

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