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“Suds, The Rocking ’60s Musical Soap Opera” at the Cosmopolitan Cabaret

Cindy starts her work day at the laundromat. It’s her birthday. It’s going to be a great day. Then the mailman arrives. Letter one is from the IRS. Her aunt has died, and somehow Cindy is on the hook for back taxes. Letter two is from her pen pal boyfriend saying he has fallen in love with someone with better handwriting and is leaving her. Letter three informs her that her cat is sick. Cindy’s response: tie one leg of a pair of leggings to her neck and the other around an agitator. Suicide by washing machine.

So begins “Suds, The Rocking ’60s Musical Soap Opera.”

The play is well into its run at California Musical Theater’s Cosmopolitan Cabaret. As with most Cosmo Cabaret productions, the show is built around as specific music genre or period. With “Suds,” it is girl groups of the ’60s.

Who comes to save Cindy? A pair of bickering guardian angels named Dee Dee and Marge. Why are they bickering? The rule is that there can only be one guardian angel per case, so why are they both here, and who should leave?

A few other characters, “Everybody Else,” wander in and out to move the plot along.

What little plot there is though is just there to be a setup for the musical numbers, of which there are a lot. Forty-nine, in fact. Some of the numbers one can see coming. Others incite a chuckle for their surprise. Some are individual songs. Some are part of a melody that connects them together.

Melissa Wolfklain plays the innocent Cindy. Wolfklain has appeared in leading roles at the Fullerton Civic Light Opera and Broadway by the Bay. She is believable as the innocent Cindy who grows into the wiser Cindy by the end of the show. She has power in her solos while blending with the others in group numbers.

Eydie Alyson (Dee Dee) has appeared in numerous revivals and national tours of Broadway shows, including “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Les Miserables” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” She has recorded four CDs, and her television credits include ABC’s “All My Children.” All this experience shows in her performance of Dee Dee, the less-experienced guardian angel.

Marge, the guardian angel with a past, is played by Nanci Zoppi. While Zoppi has a strong training and performing background in New York City, she is also very well-known to local audiences.

She is probably best-known for her work at New Helvetia appearing in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” “Tic, Tic, … Boom,” “Rocky Horror Show” and several other productions.

Zoppi has also toured with B Street’s Fantasy Theatre and often appears at the very popular Graham-A-Rama cabaret series. She is a great comic talent and has a beautiful voice. She is very good at making use of her “talents” for comic effect.

“Everybody Else” is played by Music Circus veteran Michael Dotson. Dotson has appeared in 30 productions over 11 years at the Music Circus, including this season’s “Spamalot.” As one would expect of a Music Circus vet, Dotson is a great dancer. He can also more than hold his own vocally with the rest of the cast.

Speaking of the Music Circus, everyone else involved with the production of “Suds” is a Music Circus veteran.

This truly applies to “Suds” director Glenn Casale.

Casale is an icon in Sacramento and around the world for his work in musical theater. He has worked with many of the biggest stars in Broadway musicals on Broadway and overseas. This has included Cathy Rigby (“Peter Pan”), Carol Burnett (“From the Top”), Tyne Daly and Charles Durning (“Ballroom”), and Mark Harmon and George Clooney in “Wrestlers.” Casale’s direction keeps the action moving to the pace of the music. He makes good use of the set design for the actors’ movements.

Joann Lewis has been involved with California Musical Theatre and the Music Circus for 27 years. For the last 15 years, she has been heavily involved with the CMT educational department, including as a dance instructor/choreographer for programs for children to seniors. Lewis’ vast knowledge of popular dance styles is evident in her choreography of these ’60s dance songs. 

Music director Michael Paternostro’s only Music Circus connection so far has been playing Eddie Ryan in this season’s “Funny Girl.” He has appeared in more than 10 musicals on Broadway and other venues from “A Chorus Line,” the Broadway revival, to “Beauty and the Beast.” He was the musical director for several regional productions and has performed both as an actor and the piano player in a couple of productions, and he has even composed a musical: “Scary Musical-A New Musical.”

Marcy Froehlich (costume design), Michael Peters (scenic designer), Steve Odehnal (lighting designer), Robert Sereno (sound designer) and Judi Lewin (hair, wig and makeup) are also all veterans of California Musical Theatre/Music Circus productions. Each design element captures the bright colors and patterns of the early ’60s. All come together to create a wonderful look feel and sound of the ’60s.

Production Stage Manager Katherine Cannon has been with the Cosmopolitan Cabaret since the inaugural production of “Forever Plaid.” She has kept everything moving smoothly.

“Suds is a bright, bubbly production. There is nothing dark or heavy…even with an attempted suicide. The music of the early ’60s still retained the postwar giddiness with a pop beat. For boomers, they can be taken back to their happy teen years and young adulthood. For children of boomer parents who listened to ’60s oldie radio, they can go back to their childhood.

“Suds, The Rocking ’60s Musical Soap Opera.”  Cosmopolitan Cabaret  1000 K Street at 10th. Through January 9, 2011 More information and tickets.

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