It's fitting that the Broward Stage Door launched its new Miami home at the Byron Carlyle with the musical Suds. The old theatre is a monolith of nostalgia. It's a large block of granite with tight theatre seating and pseudo art deco architecture that once served as a movie house decades ago. Inside the newly renovated theatre, the Baby Boomers that comprised the small audience bobbed their heads and happily sang along for most of the show. The air was filled with JC Penny bought perfume and wistfulness.
Suds is a jukebox with a pulse. It's nostalgia bubble gum of a play. If wall-to-wall hits from the '50s and '60s being belted out with nary a break in moving the story along is your thing, then Suds is the play for you!
Suds falls into the long list of musicals (Rock of Ages, Jersey Boys, etc.) that use popular
songs to hash out its plot. It's one of those productions where one character begins to cry, and then another character tells them not to, and then the crying character responds by suddenly bursting out with, "IT'S MY PARTY AND I'LL CRY IF I WANT TO!" while the audience nods its approval and starts to clap and sing along.
The plot is simple: A young girl named Cindy (Colleen Gallagher) is slighted by a boy she likes and becomes suicidal (hold on, that's as dark as it gets). Two guardian angels, Marge (Amanda Kuchinski) and Dee Dee (Katie Riggs) are sent from heaven to help her get back on track, find true love and, well, sing her ass off. All of this takes place inside the Laundromat she works in. Because, why not?
It's a fun premise, simply because something like this shouldn't be too complicated. And mainly because Suds is just an excuse to crank out American Bandstand hits like "Respect," "Chapel of Love," "The Locomotion," and many more, for two whole hours.
Gallagher wins you over as the sweet and amiable Cindy, with her dimples and her aw shucks personality. She conveys Cindy's naiveté with charm and affability. And she can belt out a tune. When she sings, "I Don't Wanna Be A Loser," you can't help but hope her angels come through for her in the end.
Kuchinski as the smart-ass veteran angel is the perfect foil to Riggs' novice guardian angel that means well but harms Cindy more than helps. Like their co-star, Kuchinski and Riggs have voices made for a stage bigger than the Byron Carlyle. Justin Michael Lore, who was in Stage Door's original Broward production, turns the ham up to eleven, reprising several roles that range from a washing machine repairman, to an angel, to the handsome man. The cast's talent is enhanced thanks to a live-band accompaniment led by musical director Dave Nagy.
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Suds is a bubbly musical drenched in camp, oldies, and sequined dance numbers. It's lighthearted and fun, and the performers were actually quite amazing.
It was a small audience at last night's show, which is a shame because these actors deserve a bigger crowd. Suds may not be the boldest way for Stage Door to announce its arrival to Miami. And it might be a tad long, and lay the cheese on pretty thick. But it's a nice opening act for what hopes to be a long and successful run for them in their new Miami digs.
Suds runs through September 4 at Byron Carlyle (500 71st St., Miami Beach). Tickets range from $30-$42. Call 305-397-8977 or visit stagedoortheatre.com.