Honky Tonk Laundry
Reviewed by Neal Weaver
Through September 17
Roger Bean, who wrote and directed the hit musical The Marvelous Wonderettes and its various sequels, has done it again. He’s written another juke-box musical — but here the emphasis is on country and western songs.
The piece is set in the Wishy Washy Washateria run by Lana Mae Hopkins (Bets Malone). At one time Lana’s great ambition was to be a country singer, and she ran off to Nashville to pursue her dream. Somehow that never worked out, and she came back home to marry good old boy Earl and run the family laundry. But the job is running her ragged, particularly since her one employee has wound up in jail, which leads her to sing the opening number, “I Need a Vacation from My Life.” An equally fraught customer, Katie Lane Murphy (Misty Cotton), wanders in seeking a job, and she’s soon hired, despite her dubious qualifications.
The two women are very different. Lana Mae is rueful, laidback, tough and smart. Katie Lane is scattier, prone to anxiety attacks and stage fright, and requires frequent pharmaceutical relief. Their differences make them excellent foils for one another.
The plot is minimal, just enough to provide a framework for the 24 musical numbers energetically performed by the two ladies. Suffice it to say that both women have cheatin’ lovers, whom they’re eager to wreak revenge on. And Katie Lane is determined to persuade Lana Mae to resurrect her singing career. Eventually, in the spirit of “Hey, kids, let’s put on a show!” they decide to mount a concert in the Washateria, which includes a tribute to the divas of country music: Loretta Lynn, Patsy Kline, and Tammy Wynette.
Malone and Cotton are both stalwarts of the current musical theatre scene; strong actors as well as singers, they give it their considerable all in songs that range from standards like “I Go to Pieces,” “Stand By Your Man,” and “These Boots Were Made for Walking,” to novelty numbers like “Cleopatra, Queen of Denial,” and my own favorite, the rollicking “Yodeling at the Grand Old Opry,” which they turn into a virtuoso turn.
Bean’s direction is brisk and efficient, and Robert Marra’s choreography captures the honky- tonk spirit. Tom Buderwitz’s set, with its rows of washers and dryers, is so richly detailed you can almost smell the laundry detergent. And Renatta Lloyd’s costumes are both colorful and apt for the characters.
Hudson Mainstage, 6539 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 & 7 p.m. (323) 960-7773 or www.plays411.com/honkytonklaundry. Running time: Two hours and 5 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.