Let me start this review a little differently, last paragraph first:

So, do not wait another minute. Call for tickets to this great show NOW or there likely will not be any left! (I am not kidding or exaggerating here). Limited tickets are available online now at www.carmelplayers.org or by calling 317-815-9387 (or maybe they are gone!)

Alright – have you done it? Have you made reservations? Again, these are rare seats…the show is so good and so entertaining – do not even read the rest of this page.

I’ll  wait…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Okay, if you haven’t called and you want to see this show – do not blame me if there are no seats left.  Now, on with the review:

The cast of CCP's production of "Suds"

Carmel Community Player’s production of  “Suds”, created and written by Melinda Gilb, Steve Gunderson and Bryan Scott, and directed by Rich Baker is a 60’s music romp on stage. With right around 50 songs, a cute storyline and 4 tremendously talented local performers, we are treated to community theatre as good as it can be. I have written before how: “every week in the Indianapolis area, there are various community theatre offerings and they achieve many different levels of competence. Most are indeed very good, many are just good in parts, and some few are incredible.” We are definitely into “very incredible” when we consider what Mr. Baker has put together at CCP.

To briefly outline the story for you: Laudromat attendant Cindy is so happy…it is her birthday, she is in love (with her penpal/boyfriend that she has never met) and she looks forward to getting a letter today when the postman comes. The postman arrives (you can imagine what song is presented here) but with bad news: news so bad, including that her penpal/boyfriend has broken up with her, Cindy tries to do herself in and winds up with her neck attached to a washer agitator. Enter two guardian angels, Dee Dee and Marge, who try to set Cindy straight about life and love. Add various male characters with various intentions and you have just the framework needed to be fleshed out with great 60’s tunes.

Cindy is sparklingly played by Jenny Mermelstein,  and a peppy portrayal it is. This gifted songstress has a flair for “playing” her songs, with facial expressions that often reminded me of a Gilda Radner character. Dee Dee is a, well – a Sandra Dee-ish angel, played with just-right sweetness by Carolyn Rae. Ms. Rae is angelic indeed, with a voice to match. Angel Marge is played with a playful hardness (or is it a hard playfulness?) by Alexandra Stewart. Tough and experienced, her Marge is not one to be pushed around, and boy can she belt a tune. Rounding out the sterling cast is Darrin Gowan, who is assigned all the male and some unmale characters that surround the scene at the laundromat. Gowan shows a gift for comedy with great timing and expressions and he is never left behind in the quality of his songs. Great stuff.

 

The cast operates mostly as an ensemble, but there are breakout songs by each of it’s members. And we hear them masterly handle everything from soulful ballads to peppy spirituals with aplomb, talent and pizazz. It is a truly amazing set of performances – from the sweet and funny “Please Mr. Postman” to the rousing and spirited “Shout” at the end.

Oh, how the crowd loved it. And it was the biggest crowd I have ever seen at CCP’s playhouse.  To me the audience looked mostly as if we were all there for our 1960’s decade high school reunion party. And I was very surprised that in the crowd of some 160 happy folks – was no one I knew. Hey, Indy theatre people – this is a show to see. You’ll be hearing about it – so you may want to come see it while you can.

The cast of "Suds" runs through their paces

Finally, the set by Lori Raffel is designed to be part of the playful fun with  pink, yellow, green and turquois walls and floor. Lights by Aaron Seeling set the moods from joyful to dramatic. And one of the best community theatre bands ever assembled, led by Linda Terrel, played every note of the 4 dozen plus songs with clarity and (thank you) no squeals or squawks. Rich Phipps directed the vocals, an unimaginable task with undeniably great results.

Thank you, Rich Baker for bringing us this awesome display of talents. Your penchant for creative expression and finesse showed in all that was seen.

“Suds” runs one more weekend, unless a miracle happens and they extend, on June 16, 17, 18 Thurs-Sat at 8pm and the closing is Sun June 19 at 2:30pm.

(See final paragraph at the top.)

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