The death of a longtime friend can cause us to reflect on our lives and remind us of the importance of choosing not to put off our dreams for someday. This is exactly the situation for Sugar Lee, who takes the death of her dear friend quite hard, but then decides to use this tragedy as a spur to fulfill her dream to own her own business. And she decides she is going to bring her best friends Carlene, Nita, Crystal, and Mavis along with her in her attempt to convert an old dangerously decrepit church into the Spa-Dee-Dah, in the hilarious, heartfelt comedy, The Hallelujah Girls, produced by The Actors Guild of Parkersburg.
The cast, under the strong direction of Jean Newton, are all just plain wonderful. Susan Courtney is perfect as the kind, determined, slightly sad heroine of the adventure, Sugar Lee Thompkins. We learn shortly after the show starts the source of that sadness, when Bobby Dwayne Dillahunt, portrayed terrifically by Danny Bayer, walks through the door of the still-under-construction spa. It seems Sugar Lee and Bobby Dwayne have a history. This being a comedy, the audience can guess what will come of the tension between the two characters. The chemistry between Bayer and Newton is perfection.
Adding great flavor to the story are Tara Kniffin Polan as Carlene and Jane Mancini as Nita. Polan’s Carlene is a sweet, grounded woman who has had the bad luck of burying three husbands, giving her an undeserved reputation in their small town of Eden Falls, Georgia. When things go wrong, as they will, Sugar Lee can count on Carlene for strength. Mancini’s Nita has had a hard-knock life, almost all those knocks having been provided by her hooligan son, who has been in and out of jail more times than Nita can count. Those knocks have made Nita a little punch-drunk and Mancini portrays this fantastically.
Kathy Mulinex Frederick as Mavis, and Betty Dotson as Crystal are also a scream, though in two very different ways. Frederick’s Mavis is a brassy, straightforward woman who has a smart remark about everything, especially her dunderheaded husband. Betty Dotson’s Crystal, on the other hand, is simply delightful as the daffy eternal optimist of the group, who celebrates every single holiday, no matter how small, with costumes, carols, and baked goods.
No play is complete without a villain, and Mary Lou Adams as Bunny Sutherland is a doozy. Bunny seems to have been cruel since birth and may the good Lord have mercy on the soul of anyone who gets on her bad side. Sadly, Sugar Lee has been solidly in her crosshairs ever since she beat out Bunny for most popular girl way back in high school. Adams is gleefully evil as the woman who might just have a coat made of puppies in her closet.
This show is sweet and sassy and laugh-out-loud funny. You need to see it. Your first opportunity is Friday, September 17 at 8pm. Subsequent evening performances will be September 18, 24, and 25 and October 1 and 2. A matinee performance will take place at 2:30pm on September 26. You can get tickets by going to the Guild’s website, or by calling the box office at 304-485-1300. Get your tickets soon. You’ll be glad you did.