Columbus State summer theater launches with swinging '60s musical

acarlson@ledger-enquirer.comMay 21, 2014 

Columbus State University theatre professor Tim McGraw has wanted to mount a production of “Suds!” for so long that, when he finally was able to this summer, he joked that the permission was more like surrender.

“I’ve been trying to get us to do this for summer for a long time,” McGraw said. “The first time I saw this show was 20-25 years ago and it just really stuck with me just because I had such a good time at it.”

McGraw thought it would be a natural fit for CSU’s summer reportery company — that “Suds!” could be a great example of a new kind of show.

“When we (first started the company), one of the questions was, ‘What makes us different from, say, the Springer or some place like that?’” McGraw said. “And I said, ‘Why don’t we do a dinner theatre?’ We could do ‘Suds.’”

So for the first time the CSU summer rep company will stage a “bring your own dinner” dinner theatre. Seating is all tables and booths and counter-side seats.

Set in a laundromat, the show includes only four actors and more than 50 songs from the pop cannon: The Beatles, Dusty Springfield, Aretha Franklin and more. The set’s pastel colors wrap around much of the seating area.

The story follows Cindy (Emily Parrish), who is down on her luck, and two guardian angels (Brittany Douyon and Kirin Wilson), who are trying to buck her back up.

Mickey Cole, the only man, plays “everybody else,” McGraw said — a repairman and a housewife. That kind of thing.

"Suds" recreates the period, embracing it, without crossing over into satire or mockery.

"We do that a little bit, but it's more of an homage. Particularly the songs — they fit the story, we sing 'em straight," McGraw said.

Though the show is much in the manner of classic jukebox musicals, it takes a lot of work. The show went up in less than three weeks, with eight-hour daily rehearsals.

“The whole show, we don’t stop moving — we don’t stop moving ... and when we really get into it, it’s a blast,” said Douyon, who plays the brassy angel, Marge.

At least two-thirds of its 110 minutes is song and dance, what McGraw called "the best of both worlds": the music is familiar, but the story and production are new.

“The choreography by (CSU professor) Brenda May Ito is just stellar,” McGraw said. “The first time I saw some of the choreography that they’d done, the stage manager, she’s turns to me and she goes, ‘It’s really good.’”

With alcoholic beverages for sale, as well as a smattering of appetizers and desserts, McGraw encourages anyone to bring any kind of dinner to the BYOD dinner theatre. Reserving a table or booth is as easy as buying your ticket at the box office (you'll do both simultaneously).

If “Suds!” is successful, the thought is that CSU will continue to mount three shows each summer.

“People need to come down and see what we’ve got going on down here,” McGraw said.

IF YOU GO

7:30 p.m. each night, May 22-24 and 29-31; June 5-7, 19 and 26

Riverside Theatre Complex, 6 West 10th Street.

$12-$20. 706-507-8444.

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