An excerpt from my May 30 Daytripper column in EMC News.
Combine angels, a laundromat and predominantly perky 1960s tunes and you have a bubbly musical called, appropriately, Suds, The Rocking 60’s Musical Soap Opera, now playing at the Thousand Islands Playhouse (May 24—June 22).
Imagine losing a lover because your tweets or Facebook posts aren’t up to snuff. Now go back several decades and transpose this scene of loss to the world of Cindy (Alison MacDonald), who works in a Laundromat. Cindy receives a letter from her pen-pal boyfriend dumping her in favor of someone with better penmanship.
The devastating breakup news is delivered to Cindy by, of course, Mr. Postman (Daniel Falk). Falk plays several roles in Suds. He masters each of the diverse characters.
To make matters worse, it’s Cindy’s birthday. And her cat has just died. The poor girl is having the worst day of her life.
It’s so bad that she decides to end it all. And how else would a Laundromat attendant do the fatal deed but by tying a sweater around her neck and letting it get caught inside a washing machine? Head first she goes.
Help arrives in the form of two angels: Dee Dee (Tracy Michailidis) and Marge (Kristin Galer ). You can already guess that the song “Johnny Angel” is likely to be sung sometime before the curtain falls.
These aren’t your average angels bedecked with wings. Dee Dee and Marge don’t get along. At times it’s an open feud that looks like a fight between high school rivals. Despite their ongoing disagreements, they get the job done.
This is the premise for Suds. It’s full of some of the most memorable 60’s tunes. It’s a rock ‘n’ roll fairy tale come to life as Cindy does more than just “wishin’ and hopin’.”
Positive messages lurk below the surface.
“I wanted a piece that has a narrative and isn’t just a revue,” said Ashlie Corcoran, Artistic Director of the Thousand Islands Playhouse. “It’s a sweet story about a girl whose day starts off great. It’s her birthday, but within five minutes we find out her boyfriend has dumped her and her world is falling apart. Through the help of guardian angels, her day improves and she gains some self-confidence. It’s not just a quick fix of finding another man. That’s the deep reading of it.”
This is Corcoran’s first season selecting productions.
“It was really important to me that the audience starts the season with a fun, frothy, joyful experience, so when I was looking for a piece for the program I was trying to find something with music people would recognize.”
She’s succeeded. She noted that even Playhouse staff members in their early 20s recognize the songs. While watching the play you’ll find yourself humming along and tapping your toes to the tunes. You’ll probably be smiling.
Fun is a key element of this production, directed by Greg Wanless, the Playhouse’s Founding Artistic Director (1982—2012).
There are some tough musical compositions in this show, tunes like Dusty Springfield’s “The Look of Love” and “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me”. Not many people can pull off songs like that. Cindy and her two angelic helpers can.
Two of the cast members, Tracy Michailidis and Cindy MacDonald have worked together in Winter Wonderettes (Grand Theatre, 2012) and The Marvelous Wonderettes (Thousand Islands Playhouse, 2011 ). Add Kristin Galer and in this Playhouse spring production you’ll hear the same high quality vocals featured in the Wonderettes.
“I love being back in Gan,” said Canadian actor Tracy Michailidis, who resides in New York City. “It’s nice to see the stars and breathe fresh air. I love New York City, but it’s nice to come closer to home for this very special show. It feels like everything is new in an old environment. There are lots of firsts. It’s Ashlie’s first season, it’s the first show of the season, and it’s the first time I’ve worked with Greg (Wanless). I’d also heard of the music director’s work but never had an opportunity until now to work with Sandy Thorburn.”
She said she loves that the show takes place in the early 1960s.
“The script says ‘Anywhere, USA,’ and the setting is ‘One Fine Day’,” said Michailidis. “There’s something touching about the plot. A young woman has decided to end her life. There is divine intervention, of which I am part. We rally to get this young woman to turn her life around. Our therapy is songs from the Sixties. There’s something about the simplicity of the lyrics. There’s something very healing about this music. It’s a joy to perform something I love listening to, and to sing it in three part harmony.”
She said the musical offers a great way to escape from one’s daily life for a couple of hours.
“It’s a lovely story with great universal themes,” she said.
Some of the humour in this production requires impeccable timing. The harmonies are challenging. The set is designed perfectly and the associated lighting adds to the silliness.
Suds is a musical that could look like corny community theatre, if not done well. Fortunately, the professional cast and creative team at the Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque do it justice, and then some. It’s well worth your time to take in this show. Suds offers a theatrical experience that’s fun for all ages.
SUDS, cast and creative:
The Man: Daniel Falk
Dee Dee: Tracy Michailidis
Marge: Kristin Galer
Cindy: Alison MacDonald
Direction: Greg Wanless
Music Director: Sandy Thorburn
Choreographer: Ramona Gilmour-Darling
Set & Costume Design: Sean Mulcahy
Lighting Design: Tim Fort
Sound Design: Larry Stafford
Stage Management: Jessica Severin
Assistant Stage Management: Monika Seiler
For tickets or more information: http://www.1000islandsplayhouse.com