In a Lather

Big hair, ponytails and full skirts with bobby socks may sound like the Fifties, but the bubblegum in Suds has a definite Sixties flavor. The compilation musical at the Vogue Theatre is one of those nostalgia trips meant to tickle the boomers--and their grown-up babies who grew up hearing replays of "Respect" and "The Loco-Motion." Polished slick, the show offers good voices, inventive musical arrangements, campy dancing and a really boss plot--all the ingredients of perfect "date theater."

Cindy is having her sweet-sixteenth birthday--and birthdays are the one day when everything goes right, she tells us. But Cindy's dreary little world at Suds, the local laundromat, soon gets much drearier when she learns that her only relatives have been killed in a car crash with a Corvair, her cat has been run over by a Corvair, and her pen-pal boyfriend has dumped her for another girl because he got a Corvair. Poor Cindy--she tries to kill herself with a washing machine (don't ask).

But just then, two rather unobservant guardian angels arrive to save her from herself and give her something to live for--and heaven knows there's plenty to live for in songs like "Hit the Road, Jack," "Anyone Who Had a Heart," "I Will Follow Him" and "Easier Said Than Done."

Marge and DeeDee aren't your typical angels--even for someone with celestial powers, Marge has been around a lot, while DeeDee hasn't been around enough. In place of halos, both cherubs sport bouffant hairdos, and their idea of Cindy's salvation inevitably revolves around finding her just the right guy. Various dweeby prospects come and go, including a third, dashing angel (all played by the liquid, lanky Anthony D. Choice). But none seem quite right for Cindy.

As it turns out, Choice's Johnny Angel is just right for DeeDee, and very soon they will be going to the "Chapel of Love." Somehow, DeeDee and Johnny's decision to exchange rings cheers Cindy up no end, so that when Milt Dudman returns to ask Cindy out, she's permanently over her depression. And while "You Can't Hurry Love," Cindy is ready to negotiate a relationship.

As lame as the plot sounds, it's tailored to incorporate the music in neat little ways that keep the viewer laughing--and guessing. There really is a silly song to address every kind of lovelorn situation and celebrate every raunchy impulse. And part of the fun of a show like this is laughing at all the musical answers to life's little woes.

But the other big part lies in sharp ensemble performance: Suds cleans up because the performers are pros who appear to love being on stage and nudging the audience with light satire. They're making fun of the music, but it's clear that they also really enjoy it.

Mary Louise Lee has the most powerful voice and the earthiest, most stylish delivery of the group--maybe she ought to do a demo. But Choice is a close second; his "Secret Agent Man" is too cool, while his James Brown rendition is a genuine kick. Choice is a terrific comic, too--his variety of nerdy guys, an old lady and a debonair angel prove him an elastic performer. Angi Hanan plays the wide-eyed DeeDee with little-girl energies perfect for the part. She is continually pleasant to watch, as is Brenda Faatz, who makes Cindy a dynamic innocent with a heart of gold.

The music here is pretty sappy (except, of course, for the James Brown tunes). Nevertheless, there's a genuine vitality that has survived rock and roll's inexorable aging process darn well. It even kinda makes you wanna "Shout."

Suds, through May 19 at the Vogue Theatre, 1465 South Pearl Street, 765-2771.


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