Set in the "Fluff and Fold Laundromat," Suds - The Rocking 60's Musical Soap Opera, is the story of laundromat manager Cindy (Emily Senn) and her event-filled birthday. Cindy's sweet disposition quickly sours on the morning of her birthday when her pen pal boyfriend breaks up with her, and her cat dies. Her resulting attempts to take her own life are thwarted by the arrival of not one but two guardian angels. Though guardian angels DeeDee (Rebecca Cesario) and Marge (Marissa Rosen) are united in their goal to save Cindy and help her find true love, they are as different as night and day. DeeDee is perpetually sunny and perky, while Marge is sassy and brusque. Their styles clash with humorous results. Throughout the day, other visitors to the laundromat (all played by Justin Michael Lore) provide twists and turns along the way to the inevitable happy ending to this tale.
Using over fifty well known, chart-topping hit songs from the 1960s, such as "Where the Boys Are" (Connie Francis), "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" (Nancy Sinatra), "Respect" (Aretha Franklin), "I Feel Good" (James Brown) and "Do You Want to Know a Secret" (The Beatles), Suds can rightfully be called a jukebox musical akin to The Marvelous Wonderettes. Both capitalize on nostalgia and the popular tunes from a specific era released as successful singles. They both also have clear characters with conflicts and plot development, however lightly the subject matter is handled. Suds even makes fun of itself with lines leading directly into obvious songs being halted by other cast members placing their hand over the singer's mouth who dares to begin the predictable tune.
This production of Suds - The Rocking 60's Musical Soap Opera features live musicians ably led by music director David Nagy. The tunes from this time period benefit from the feel of live percussion, and it helps to frame the vocal blend of the three females whose ensemble sound is the star of the show. The key to this really is Marissa Rosen. It is formulaic for this sort of show to have a mezzo belter to carry the big, soulful numbers. Frequently, these are the singers who can't pull back their sound in group numbers, and whose heavy placement and vibrato prevent a smooth blend in tightly written harmonies. Though Rosen can carry the style of the soulful numbers as a soloist, she holds up the bottom end of the chords with as much vocal freedom as the higher voices of Senn and Cesario. Their blend is commendable throughout, particularly as the girls are often staged far apart or are in motion.
Justin Michael Lore shows his versatility in a myriad of roles. Though he spends the most time in his role as Johnny, it is his comic turn as the ultra nerdy mystery date, Milt Dudman, that is most memorable. His enjoyable performance is marred only by a vibrato that sometimes gets away from him, as it grows in rapidity along with volume. Emily Senn (Cindy) is tireless in a demanding role, and she has a nice singing voice. Rebecca Cesario is sweet as DeeDee, and plays well off of Marissa Rosen as Marge. Her voice is almost as pleasant to listen to as a soloist as Senn's, save a lackluster "Today I Met The Boy I'm Gonna Marry" in the second act. Marissa Rosen's voice is the most interesting, though her character is the least inviting. She does a great job in every song except "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" which sounds so vocally fragile one might expect her voice to crack.
From its cute and kitschy laundromat set to its feel good ending, complete with a finale containing "I Know a Place", "Color My World", "Do Wa Diddy" and "Shout," this is just the lighthearted show that will leave you smiling. One directorial choice I could have done without, however, is the repeated little punches and jabs on the shoulder administered to Cindy by Marge and DeeDee. Is there really nothing else you could think of for them to do?
Suds - The Rocking 60's Musical Soap Opera will be appearing through May 23, 2010, at the Stage Door Theatre. The theater is located at 8036 W. Sample Rd in Coral Springs, Florida. 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 are open year round. For tickets and information on their season, you may contact them by phone at 954-344-7765 or online at www.stagedoortheatre.com.