Poor Cindy, she just can't get a break. She has a dead-end job in a laundromat, her pen-pal boyfriend has dumped her because of her poor penmanship, her aunt and uncle have just been wiped out in a car wreck and left her with a $10,000 bill from the IRS, and someone just ran over her beloved cat … all this on her birthday, which everyone seems to have forgotten.
That's the setup in Suds, the Rockin' '60s Musical Soap Opera, a cute and lively jukebox musical. Writers Melinda Gilb, Bryan Scott and Steve Gunderson strung together everybody's favorite tunes from the late 1950s and late into the 1960s and added a lighthearted story to make a show that had everybody on opening night at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre tapping their toes and singing along.
Indeed, it's a fast-paced, two-hour good time, thanks to director Steven Flaa's spunky four-member cast, which kept things moving along, right up to the grand finale that had young and not-so-young on their feet, hands in the air, singing Shout with as much gusto as the Delta Tau Chis at a toga party.
Show Palace newcomer Melissa Whitworth is sweet and innocent as Cindy, her long, carefully ironed ponytail, stretchy pink cinch belt and multiple petticoats immediately identifying the era as '50s and early '60s. Stage veteran/Show Palace newbie Kevin Kelly is a master of multiple roles, going from zany physical humor as a postman or dorky date to a suave crooner as a pseudo secret agent to handsome romantic prospect. And Show Palace veteran Ellie Pattison is a doll as rookie guardian angel DeeDee, who has come down from heaven to help Cindy find true love — by midnight, when she has to go back.
But it's vocal powerhouse Heather Krueger, as longtime guardian angel Marge, who grabs the audience's heart. Krueger, with her big red hair and tight capris, belts like Bette Midler, talks like Sarah Jessica Parker and sports an attitude like Aretha Franklin in Blues Brothers, a new brand of triple threat, you might say. The segments she does of Franklin's signature song, Respect, are all too short (blame the music arranger), leaving many of us in the audience wanting more and hoping to see this multitalented young woman in a lead role sometime soon.
Anyone who lived in the '50s and '60s will hear their favorite tune, or snippets of it, somewhere in the 51 songs in the show. The three female singers' close harmonies are true to the memories of the Supremes' You Can't Hurry Love and the Dixie Cups' Chapel of Love, but they do equal justice harmonizing on solo hits like Little Eva's The Loco-Motion, Connie Francis' Where the Boys Are, Dusty Springfield's Wishin' and Hopin' or Dionne Warwick's I Say a Little Prayer — or even Elvis' Are You Lonesome Tonight?
Set builder Todd Everest's simply, stylized laundromat, props master Gina Carr's attention to detail and costume coordinator Pat Werner's mix of clunky '50s and trampy '60s costumes add to the atmosphere and set the tone right from the first chord.