In the words of The Taffetas: "If you wish to hear about weighty topical things like Sputnik or Checkers [the Vice President's dog], you've tuned into the wrong program." But if you wish to hear some sentimental songs about love and fun - swing songs and slow songs from the 1950s - then don't touch that dial!
Set in a 1950s TV studio, The Taffetas is the story of the four singing Taffeta sisters (Kaye, Peggy, Cheryl and Donna) who are making their national debut appearance on "Spotlight On Music," a fictitious weekly program on the real-life Dumont Television Network. Prior to "Spotlight On Music," the Taffetas' most notable appearance has been at the Moose Hall in their home town of Muncie, Indiana. The Taffetas' entire professional future seems to ride on their "Spotlight On Music" performance, as they await a possible offer from Ed Sullivan. Will these pretty and poised young ladies remember all the right words, notes and steps well enough to be worthy of their Dumont Television Network debut and maybe the great Ed Sullivan himself?
The audience never fears that the lovely Kaye, Peggy, Cheryl and Donna will miss their mark. The show has just enough dialogue - such as in "Taffeta Chatter," where the girls answer questions via letters from the studio audience - to help us think of each of them as our friend, sister, daughter or sweetheart. We know that Donna has a thing for Chevy convertibles. Peggy spends her time perfecting her mother's recipes. Kaye seems to be the levelheaded leader of the group, and Cheryl is the budding sex kitten.
The Stage Door Theatre has wonderful production values for their version of The Taffetas. Each of the sisters has her own signature color that prevails in all her accessories, whether in day or formal wear. The various color-coded props provide a few chuckles as well. Director Dan Kelley has infused a genuine charm in the feel of the show from costuming to choreography. The three-piece band, led by pianist Phil Hinton, plays the show well. The sound design/system came off without a hitch at the performance I attended, which is so important to a show built on four part harmony.
Katherine Amadeo is Cheryl, the youngest sister. She is both sexy and simple. The actress heavily channels a young Marilyn Monroe in her look, mannerisms and facial expressions. She defines her character more strongly than the other cast members and is a treat to watch. While fine in the four-part numbers, Katherine has the voice least lovely to listen to as a soloist. She sounds her best in "Johnny Angel" and in her duet with Kaye, "Mockingbird Hill."
Joanna Levin is Donna, our car enthusiast. She has a perky almost tomboy quality that could have been explored more to make her funnier. Her smile is nearly infectious, and she has a rich and smooth solo voice well demonstrated in "I Cried" and "Tennessee Waltz."
Kimberly Xavier Martins is Peggy, future homemaker. She seems the most ladylike of the four girls, and is the strongest on stage in the first act. She sounds the most proficient of the quartet in blending in the four-part vocal sections, and she sings well as a soloist in "Fly me To The Moon" and in her duet with Donna, "Tonight you Belong To Me."
Emilie Henry is Kaye, the oldest sister. She may have overshot her goal of appearing the most serious, as she rarely smiles throughout the show. One wonders if she is enjoying it as much as the other three actresses. She sings astoundingly well in "Where the Boys Are." It is the best number in the show, and deservedly receives the most applause. Oddly enough, however, Emilie is the weakest vocalist in the harmony sections. While she was to be on the bottom vocal line, she sometimes sings the same notes as the line above her, sings the melody an octave lower, or makes up notes not in the chord structure. Her harmonic shortcomings are the only weak link in this endearingly enjoyable show.
The Taffetas was conceived by Rick Lewis in 1988 as a nostalgic nod to the girl groups of the 1950s such as The Maguire Sisters, The Fontaine Sisters and The Chordettes. The name of the group is actually based on a real group called The Chiffons. The show began as a specialty cabaret act before evolving to its final version which had its Off-Broadway Premiere in April of 1989 at the Cherry Lane Theatre, where it ran for 165 performances. It features songs by various artists of the time period, with vocal arrangements by Rick Lewis, and additional material by Arthur Whitelaw.
The Taffetas will be appearing at the 26th Street Theatre through August 26, 2007. The theatre is located at 1444 N.E. 26th Street in Wilton Manors. The Stage Door Theatre is a not-for-profit professional theatre company hiring local and non-local nonunion actors and actresses. Their two stages in Coral Springs as well as their 26th Street Theatre location are open year round. For tickets and information on their season, you may contact them by phone at 954-344-7765 or on line at www.stagedoortheatre.com.