Hallelujah Girls (2015)

Hallelujah Girls

Directed By: Lunn Rouyer

“Hallelujah Girls“ is directed by Lynn Rouyer who brought us “Bells are Ringing” in the 2013 Season. After the sudden death of a dear friend, a feisty group of women from the town of Eden Falls, Georgia, decide that life is indeed short, and they vow to change their lives and achieve their dreams.  Sugar Lee Thompkins decides to reach for her elusive star by converting an abandoned church into a day spa.   The SPA-DEE-DAH is born, and the fun begins thanks to Sugar Lee’s dear friends Carlene, Nita, Mavis and Crystal.  The comic tension mounts when Sugar Lee’s old high school boyfriend (Bobby Dwayne) shows up, and Sugar Lee’s life-long rival (Bunny) vows she’ll stop at nothing to steal the spa building, (which may house a surprising secret), away from Sugar Lee.  “The Hallelujah Girls” is one of those silly, rollicking shows that audiences love.  It reminds us of the importance of good friends, and of not taking life so seriously that we forget to laugh and love. It’s a joyful comedy that will make you laugh out loud and shout “Hallelujah”.

Review by Clyde Morrison

In Hallelujah Girls Pinewood Players has shown again that it is among the best community theaters in Arizona. I had read this play and had seen it performed down in Phoenix, but I had never seen it the way Pinewood Players put it on. Wow! The director, Lynn Rouyer, added a few special touches that helped the audience’s enjoyment. When scenes changed and the stage crew came onto change the set, the stage was not dark but strongly lit with even a little impromptu conversation between two of the crew’s members, Pam Uveges and Sunnie Saperstein. This was much more enjoyable for the audience than sitting in the dark and trying to see on stage what the director did not want you to see. Another of the director’s tricks was to have a window a few feet from the door leading onto the set. This permitted the audience to see who was going to come in next and let us anticipate, worry, or look forward to what was going to happen. Pinewood is fortunate to have some of the finest directors in the state and Lynn Rouyer is one of these.

The director had an excellent cast of experienced actors and actresses. Melanie Westmark had the lead as Sugar Lee Thomkins, who was starting a beauty spa out of an old, former church. She certainly showed us again why she was chosen as the outstanding actress in a contest of plays by community theaters in the state. She has continually given us fine performances and this is another excellent job. Other actresses who beautifully aided Sugar Lee in her attempt to open up a spa were Carol Jones as the caustic Mavis Flowers, Nancy Del Duca as Nita whose son was controlling her, and Gina Burton as Carlene Travis whose husbands had died and had left her falsely known as a “black widow.” Each of these women played her part as though she was the character and not an actress playing a role.

One of these Hallelujah girls just has to be singled out. Whenever Lori Prescott, as Crystal Hart, came on stage in one of her many special day costumes, she brought the house down. When she first came on she was dressed as the Statue of Liberty with a torch. Then, as the different holidays went by during the year, she was a witch on Halloween, an elf at Christmas, a geisha girl for Chinese New Year, Cupid for Valentines Day, etc. For many of these she had an advertising song for the spa. These were based on Christmas carols with advertising words being substituted for the original words. I have been told that Lori made he own costumes. What a talent.   She is a very funny girl, and her character really added to the hilarity of the play. It might be noted here that she and Gina Burton are both former reader’s theater cabaret performers. This was Lori’s second time on the main stage and Gina’s first acting on the main stage. Reader’s Theater is really adding strong performers for the main stage. Congratulations, Gina and Lori.

Bill Spain, with his rich baritone speaking voice and his “cute” legs made an ideal foil and love interest to Sugar Lee Thomkins. Last year Bill was excellent in Cactus Flowers as Igor Sullivan . This year he did another outstanding job a Bobby Dwayne Dillahunt. This guy is a very good actor no matter what role he is playing.

Another of my favorite characters was Porter Padgett, played by Ron Young. Porter was a shy mailman who had a lot of trouble professing his love for a girl. However, when he heard Johnny Cash’s rendition of Ring of Fire several times, he got his courage up to profess his love for Carlene Travis. He even asked her to marry him, contingent upon his mother’s approval. Since mom didn’t approve, the engagement was called off. Ron has a background in theater, and it really comes out in his characters.

Darvin Bussey had just a small part as the wishy-washy Billy Bob. At the beginning he was the chauffeur and henchman of the villainess Bunny Sutherland. But as the play progressed he changed sides and followed Bobby Dwayne and Sugar Lee Tompkins. Darwin was not a bad person, he just was not very strong willed.

That leads us to another of my favorite characters, the villainess Bunny Sutherland. Cheryl Parker played this antagonist in a real switch from the parts she usually plays. She usually plays an attractive, but not very bright girl. In this role, Cheryl really stretched to be a scheming, back-biting, vicious antagonist to our sweet and lovable Hallelujah girls who were trying their best to help one another. Bunny was doing everything she could to rain on their parade, or even, destroy them. She was just plain nasty and Cheryl was every bit of that. Well done, Cheryl.

As usual, everyone involved in this production did a top notch job. The set construction crew led by David Westmark and Stewart Lanier came up with a very realistic beauty spa How many hours must have been spent by these two and their crew of Al Bagley, Harold Withers, Jim Schurz, Frank Uveges, Bernie Verhoven, and Melanie Westmark. All of the actors and crews are volunteers so the only pay they get is a thank you from those of us who enjoy good theater. So – Thanks from all of us. Another great evening treat.

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