Currently across the country in 2013 things are in turmoil, and scandal abounds, but at the Shawnee Theatre in the early 1950s, Eisenhower is securely in the White House. Vice President Nixon has managed to defuse a mini-scandal with a televised speech about his faithful dog Checkers and the willingness of his wife to wear cloth coats. And four singing sisters from Muncie, Indiana are doing a show on the old Dumont Nework, hoping to be picked up for a spot on The Ed Sullivan Show.
The Taffetas is the name of the group and of the show that’s filled with music and reminiscences from those days. Playing the girls are Heather Lawler as the personable red-headed Kaye, Kayleigh Greenwood as the strong singing Peggy, Melissa Griffith as the most vocally adept Cheryl, and Emily Lyons who sings just as well as any, but gets to play the slightly dim little sister for laughs.
Most of The Taffetas is one nicely sung and arranged standard from the period after another. Sometimes the show’s creator and arranger Rick Lewis has put together medleys to cover even more tunes. The songs came so quickly that I momentarily feared that they’d all be gone before the first act was over. Romance was the focus of much of the show, and its clichés made manifest: the birds who sang tweedle-dee-dee and mocked on the hill were there, as was a puppy for teen-age love, and the grown pooch for that doggie in the window. The girls swayed to the music and there was some dancing with the Lindy, the bunny hop, a cha-cha and even a bit of a Texas two-step.
The birds who sang tweedle-dee-dee were there, as was a puppy for teen-age love.
During the first act, the music paused as the girls did a pitch for their sponsor, Galaxy–the “out of this world” cosmetics that are “used by four out of five Hollywood stars”. They took a break in the second act for “Taffeta Chat” as they read questions from their collection of fan mail. Favorite hobbies included learning family recipes, keeping up with fan magazines and thinking about their boyfriends. Oh, and yes, their mother does make their dresses with patterns they pick out from The Ladies Home Journal.
Direction of The Taffetas is by veteran Shawnee costumer and first time director Gene Salgado. Music director Justin Adams did a smooth job leading the backing trio. Alexander LaFrance’s set was an effective three tiered design that actually changed color to fit the various moods.
Just as The Taffetas is winding up, a telegram arrives. Is it from Ed Sullivan? Did Ed like the girls? Will they be smiling after they open it? My lips are sealed.
The Shawnee Theatre’s production of The Taffetas has final performances June 20-23.
At the theatre for you, I’m George Walker