Vienna Theatre Company The Hallelujah GirlsBy Michael Clark • Apr 25th, 2013 • Category: Reviews
Vienna Theatre Company: (Info) (Web)
Vienna Community Center, Vienna, VA
Through May 5th
2:05 with one intermission
$13/$11 Seniors, Students
Reviewed April 19th, 2013
Vienna Theatre Company closes its season with the comedy The Hallelujah Girls. A close-knit group of friends decides to support their friend’s dream of opening a day spa. They convert a former church into “Spa-Dee-Dah!” and hijinks and friendships bloom. And there is the pesky problem of their frenemy who had her own plans for the church building.
While The Hallelujah Girls (by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten) was a lighthearted show, it never quite found its own footing as a comedy. At times, the characters and situations were reminiscent of other shows, such as “Golden Girls,” Steel Magnolias and “Designing Women.” There were quite a few zingers that were tossed out (“She was fat last week when I saw her.” or “That seals it, we are adding exorcism to our list of services.”) which brought a good reaction from the crowded audience, but it wasn’t able to maintain a stream of humor.
The women were a good bunch of friends, and were very accepting of each other’s foibles and eccentricities. The ringleader, no-nonsense Sugar Lee, played with strength by Edye Smith, was the dreamer who also had her own unhappy past to overcome. Meg Hoover as ditzy Nita (think Betty White), was very funny despite her depressing home life. Carole Preston as Mavis (think Ouiser from Steel Magnolias) had a great attitude and was a force to be reckoned with. Janice Zucker was the good-meaning, slightly kooky Crystal, whose frequent costume changes were always good for a chuckle. Tina Anderson as Carlene “Black Widow” Travis had the widest emotional arc to traverse, and jumped it successfully. Barbara Hayes as snobby Bunny was the nice-or-nasty friend that we were all hoping would fail at her endeavors, even as she was scheming a way through her “friend’s” plans. Nick Matich played contractor Bobby Dwayne as a good ol’ boy, very likeable and charming to the ladies. James Ginther was Porter, love interest to one of the ladies, and the mama’s boy who was still learning how to deal with his mama.
Director Adriana Hardy set a nice pace for the show, but unfortunately it still seemed to drag a bit at random spots. There were a few minor line problems that marred the second act, maybe the actors were simply having opening night jitters causing the sluggishness? It’s also quite possible, the problem was with the script itself. John Vasko’s set was functional, with an attractive stained glass window the only hint that the spa was a former church. The cast used the space well, although a couple of times the actors were spread from the upstage piano to the downstage makeup table, causing some awkward blocking. Farrell Ann M. Hatigan’s costumes were attractive, with lots of details paid to the Crystal’s seasonal outfits and the final scene’s colorful and tasteful costumes.
In general, Vienna Community’s Hallelujah Girls will give you something to smile about, but there’s not necessarily enough there to shout about.
The first thing that drew me to wanting to direct Hallelujah Girls was its cast of 6 women and 2 men all over the age of 50, instead of another heavily male-dominated cast about male bonding. The second thing was that the characters, for the most part, had lived in the same town and had known each other since grade school. Having grown up in a small town myself, I felt I was in familiar territory and even though I left that town after high school, I am still in touch with some of the female and male friends I went to high school with from grade school through high school. The third thing was the writing itself. At first glance you can say this is just a joyful comedy designed to provide an evening’s entertainment. Then I started to think, “What is this play really about?”
When I started to write my director’s notes I started listing words that I thought described the essence of the play besides the obvious “friendships.” I then decided to ask my cast to contribute their choices as well. Here are just a few choices we came up with: change, taking responsibility, growing up, small pleasures, moving on, empowerment, optimism, forgiveness, acceptance, and, of course, LOVE. All this AND presented as light-hearted comedy?!
Many thanks to my cast for their willingness to discover new ideas or improve upon what they already brought with hem as actors. It has been work, but I also think it has been fun bringing these characters to life. What a journey we have been taking as we moved from winter into spring.
Now it is time to sit back and experience this joyful comedy that we hope will make you want to laugh and shout “Hallelujah.”
Photos by Harold Bonacquist
- Charlene Travis: Tina Anderson
- Nita Mooney: Meg Hoover
- Mavis Flowers: Carole Preston
- Crystal Hart: Janice Zucker
- Sugar Lee Thompkins: Edye Smith
- Bunny Sutherland: Barbara Hayes
- Bobby Dwayne Dillahunt: Nick Matich
- Porter Padgett: James Ginther
- Producer: Bill Mullins
- Director: Adriana Hardy
- Stage Manager: Shayne Gardner
- Assistant Stage Manager: Kelly Thompson
- Costume Designer: Farrell Ann M. Hartigan
- Lighting Designer: Chris Hardy
- Sound Designer: Jon Roberts
- Assistant Sound Design: Rachel Cherdak
- Set Designer/Master Carpenter: John Vasko
- Scenic Artist/Set Painting: Leta Fitzhugh
- Properties: Laura Ann Mullins and Cast
- Set Dressing: Laura Ann Mullins, Leta FitzHugh, Bill Mullins, Adriana Hardy, Perry Mullins and Cast
- Hair and Make-up Designer: Tabitha Briggs
- Set Construction Crew: John Vasko, Bill Mullins, Will Henry Mullins, John Bottimore, Andy Schoka, and Bill Blankenship
- Set Painting Crew: Leta FitzHugh, Woody FitzHugh, and Laura Ann Mullins
- Photographer/Graphic: Harold Bonacquist
- Sound Board Operator: Jessie Roberts, Rachel Cherdak
- Light Board Operator: Bill Mullins, Rachel Cherdak
Disclaimer: Vienna Theatre Company provided a complimentary media ticket to ShowBizRadio for this review. VTC also purchased advertising on the ShowBizRadio web site, which did not influence this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/9410.