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'The Taffetas' charms

by Sandra Hosking
| June 11, 2010 9:00 PM

Lake City Playhouse is ending its season with "The Taffetas," a charming and amusing musical review by Rick Lewis containing popular tunes from the 1950s and '60s.

In "Taffetas," four singing sisters from Muncie, Ind.-Kaye, Peggy, Cheryl, and Donna-are making their TV debut on a fictional show called "Spotlight on Music."

The cast, which includes Emily Cleveland, Breanna Duffy, Kylene Peden and Sarah Briggs, gives a sweet and consistent performance. Each of the women's voices is distinct yet blends well, and the group moves seamlessly from song to song.

Even though the show-within-a-show takes place in a spotlit TV studio with a pink background, the characters remind us of the context of the era - the conflict in Korea and Sputnik. But if it was a debate on social issues the audience was looking for, as one of the sisters says, that's a different program.

Cleveland, as Kaye, gives the strongest performance of the quartet, showing her abilities with a particularly heartfelt rendition of "Where the Boys Are." She had a smiling persona and great comic timing, letting her character's personality shine through.

Briggs subtly played the flirty Donna, the kind of girl who likes to ride in a convertible Chevrolet with the top down. Her deeper voice befits "Mr. Lee." While Duffy's and Peden's vocal performances showed skill, their characters were less defined and fell a little flat.

Briane Green's choreography added to the charm, mimicking hand movements and steps of the groups of the time and adding to the humor. For instance, as Cheryl sang "Three Bells," her three sisters chimed "bum, bum, bum," tipping their upper bodies like bells - a delightedly comic effect.

The nostalgic score sometimes spurred the audience to sing along and prompted conversations of "Do you remember that band?" in the lobby at intermission. The show's songs included highlights from "Mr. Sandman," "I'm Sorry," "Fly Me to the Moon," "Johnny Angel." They paid tribute to such bands as The Maguire Sisters, The Fontaine Sisters and The Chordettes, as well as Pat Boone, Nat King Cole and Brenda Lee.

Director Marina Kalani delivered what the show promised, a charming yet sometimes humorous and nostalgic visit to a simpler time. Nothing was overplayed, keeping the characters from becoming caricatures. Music direction was by Carolyn Jess.

The costumes by Maria Caprile were simple yet elegant. In gold and earth-toned satin dresses with detailed touches, the Taffetas looked like four flavors of caramel on a bed of cotton candy that was the set.

The performers even involved the audience, at one point asking a patron to snap a photo for their scrapbook. Peggy, in turn, snapped a picture of the audience, asking them to say, "Cream cheese."

While moments of the show were just that, cheesy, it was a soft and sweet spreadable kind.

The Taffetas plays through June 20.

Sandra Hosking, a Spokane-Coeur d'Alene area college instructor and freelance journalist, is a longtime member of the theater community and playwright whose works have been performed across the U.S. and internationally.

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