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Vintage Variety: The Taffetas rides into the 2nd Street on a wave of nostalgia 

click to enlarge The best thing about the '50s had to be the hair...or the fallout shelters.
  • The best thing about the '50s had to be the hair...or the fallout shelters.
The best thing about the '50s had to be the hair...or the fallout shelters.
Arrival time of intermission is the true test of any stage production. Either it can't come fast enough as in, "Please, no more" or, if its expediency catches you completely by surprise, it either means you (A) fell asleep; (B) the cast forgot what to do, say, or sing; or (C) the production is actually good and at the same time, entertaining.

The Taffetas, Rick Lewis' hit Off-Broadway musical tribute to the girl groups of the 1950s, which opened last weekend at 2nd Street Theater here, garnered, you guessed it, choice (c). Good. And entertaining.

The time: 1950s. The place: sound stage at the Dumont Television Network in New York City. Four sisters, a.k.a. The Taffetas, who hail from Muncie, Indiana and like boys (really like boys), convertible Chevys, their mother, and who beam with a wholesomeness that has, in today's culture, all been forgotten, offer the audience 90 minutes of well-delivered classic 1950s songs, and a little bit of "Taffeta chatter." The purpose: give a great variety show performance because you-know-who, the man with the golden touch, that swell Ed Sullivan, will be watching. Pause. (Imagine four girls shrieking.)

The foursome, clad in vintage sherbet-colored satin halter dresses that they just can't help but sashay in, and donning red lipstick as well as perfectly I-did-it-myself "coiffed" hairdos, are played by Jennifer Copsey as Peggy; Vanessa Farnsworth as Donna, Holly Hamilton as Cheryl, and Jolie Miller as Kaye. Keeping it all in the Taffeta family, "Cousin Dottie," their accompanying pianist, is played by the talented Constance Gordy.

The cast, none of them strangers to the stage, deliver a solid performance, always hitting their chords in chorus or nailing a solo riff in such classics as "Johnny Angel," and "Where the Boys Are."

The song arrangements, performed under the direction of music coach Anne de Fresne and consulting director Craig Richards, are taken from both film and top-20 hit charts. Sung with seamless timing, the melodies trigger sentimental sighs from those in the audience who remember "when," but the songs' clever grouping within the topics of romance, prosperity and angst also remind us how the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Perhaps the most compelling song collection - steeped in nostalgia and delivered within the framework of that iconic jingle, "Buy a Chevrolet, see the USA"- is a grouping of cuts such as "California Here I Come," and "Carolina in the Morning" performed with such energetic tempo by our foursome as to let you linger for a moment in a time long gone, of promise, national innocence and a little bit of eerie irony.

Moments after the lights go up on the cast, it's immediately obvious that the cast, including Gordy as Cousin Dottie and her amazing stamina and control on the ivories, are in-synch and ready to give an equally skilled performance. It's also obvious that Jennifer Copsey, Vanessa Farnsworth, Holly Hamilton and Jolie Miller are all capable of doing justice to stand-alone roles.

And for one cast member in particular, Jolie Miller, that's the whole idea. Get those stand-alone roles. Come September, Miller will be off to New York with son, Carter. Hers is a career to follow.

The Taffetas
8pm Wednesday - Saturday, 3pm Sundays through May 23. 2nd Street Theater, 220 NE Lafayette Ave, 312-9626. $20/adults $18/students and seniors (62 and up).


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