Written by Steve Gundersen, Bryan Scott, Melinda Gild & Javier Velasco
Directed by Brian McKay
Choreographed by Marc Richard
Musical direction by Alan Moon
Performed by Karen Coughlin, Michael Torontow, Shannon McCaig, Regan Thiel
Carousel Playhouse
Hiawatha Slots, Sarnia
March 1 to April 10, 2005
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Doin’ the laundry

Just down the 402 at Hiawatha Horse Park Slots, a new professional theatre has opened – which is really big news in the entertainment world. The Carousel Playhouse is using the grandstand at Hiawatha to present “Suds”, a comedy chock full of 60’s music.

“Suds” is the story of Cindy, who works at the local Laundromat in the early 1960’s. Her life takes a nasty turn when her cat dies and her pen-pal boyfriend dumps her for someone with better penmanship. So she tries to commit suicide by wrapping her dirty laundry around her neck and sticking her head in the washer. Fortunately, her guardian angels show up to save her – the brash Marge with big red hair, and the cutesy Dee Dee. Through a series of 60’s songs, Cindy’s life is saved: There’s Always Something There to Remind Me, Baby It’s You, Don’t Make Me Over, Say A Little Prayer, Do Wah Diddy, The Locomotion, The End of The World, Sweet Sixteen, I Will Follow Him, These Boots are Made for Walkin’, and more and more…..

A high energy, talented cast makes “Suds” fun. Michael Torontow, who plays all the male parts in “Suds”, is here after appearing as Link Larkin in the Toronto production of Hairspray. He was excellent in every role, from the Maytag repairman, to the nerd with excess saliva, to Johnny Angel.

The three female characters harmonized very well on the 60’s tunes – Karen Coughlin as Cindy, Shannon McCaig as Marge and Regan Thiel as Dee Dee. Ms. McCaig will be familiar from her roles in Soup du Jour and The Last Resort at Victoria Playhouse Playhouse Petrolia, and spent last summer at the Shaw Festival. Ms. Thiel was seen recently as Jo in Little Women at VPP.

The showstopper was Ms. McCaig’s rendition of “You don’t have to say you love me.” In her role as Marge she was slightly reminiscent of a brassy Bette Midler.

There may be problems for the fledgling Carousel Playhouse – the venue just isn’t conducive to professional shows. With tables for six set up perpendicular to the stage, half the audience has their backs to the performers. The space is crowded, so turning the chair is awkward, and heads can block the view. I know they’d lose some seating, but moving the tables parallel to the stage and having the chairs face the actors would be more comfortable.

And thank you for removing the TV monitors which are there for horseracing, but have been a hindrance when I’ve previously attended concerts. Please get rid of the Plexiglas shields, too – do they think the audience is going to fall over the rail?

The theatre is catering to the matinee crowd and offering buffet lunches, which should be a great way to attract tour buses. But, at the evening performance, they were providing popcorn. It’s a bit disconcerting to hear “crunch, crunch, crunch” all around, when a show is in progress. By contrast, at the Grand, artistic director Susan Ferley asks everyone to unwrap their cough candies prior to the start of the show so the crackling cellophane doesn’t cause distractions. Food & drink are generally a no-no when professionals are on stage.

There are other problems with the racetrack location – while “Suds” would be a great family show, no one under age 19 is admitted to the racetrack/casino. This means that the show is closed to school groups, too. Theatre backers are trying to find a way to rectify this.

Despite these problems, which we hope are just growing pains and will eventually be ironed out, it’s very exciting to have a new professional theatre in the area. Go see “Suds” for a good time.

My apologies to the excellent cast – I wanted to give you a standing ovation, but it’s difficult to stand when you’re seated at a table.

“Suds” continues at the Hiawatha Horse Park Slots at Sarnia’s east end until April 11, with five matinees and three evening shows per week. Call the box office at 1-866-827-1010.


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