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Sweet Serenade

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How about an intellectually nutritious drama mirroring a current socio-political event? Or a well-balanced comedic docu-drama reflecting a local social issue? Or, maybe you like to eat dessert before your meal, and your theatrical palate is craving something on the sweeter side. Let's say you're in the mood for a lighthearted, grocery-store ready-made cupcake with 2-inch thick, sugar-whipped frosting, complete with sprinkles and a Valentine candy heart saying: I doo-wop dee-bop love musical melodramas.

In that case, an outing to go see The Taffetas at the Fine Arts Center should be on your to-do list, right along with a trip to the dentist, because it's so sweet, you'll come careening out of the theater clutching your jaw from a throbbing toothache and a slew of cavities. (My metaphoric theatrical toothache was pulsing so intensely by the end of Act I, I wished I had brought along some fluoride-rich, pocket-size Sartre to cleanse my saccharin-afflicted palate.)

At least The Taffetas doesn't pretend to be anything it is not. It's simply a musical lover's musical. If you were a teenager in the 1950s, the songs will pleasantly walkie-doobie-do you down memory lane.

The '50s -- a time of teen-age innocent puppy love, Chevy convertibles, and rock 'n' roll. Kaye, Donna, Cheryl and Peggy are four talented sisters from Munsee, Indiana who are the premier guest singers on the TV show Spotlight on Music. How cute they are, four rosy-cheeked sisters singing Sh-Boomsey songs in perfect harmony. They smiled so big, my cheeks hurt in empathy!

Although The Taffetas lacks substance, that isn't to say it lacks talent. All four of the female singing stars have big, big, beautiful voices -- "Gorgeous voices," I overheard one audience member comment during intermission. Each singer had her special moment under the spotlight to shine her pearly whites, flash her sparkly eyes, and flaunt her coquettish airs. But if you closed your eyes and just listened, the sounds were buttery-rich, phonic molasses to your ears.

The Taffetas is even witty at times, in its occasional self-parodies, and I wanted more. But those meaty self-parodies turned out to be only taunting morsels, thrown in for sheer comic relief. "If beauty is only skin deep -- well, why not pamper it with our special line of cosmetic products?" The sisters also endorsed a line of cosmetic products throughout the show to reinforce the 1950s' superficial climate.

One actress in particular, Audra Decker, throws herself full-force like a sacrificial lamb into her portrayal of the ditzy beauty queen Donna to fulfill the play's comic highlights.

The musical production was tightly orchestrated by music director David H. Corder. The timing of the songs, strung together in themed medleys, was deft and occasionally aroused applause from a delighted, reminiscing audience.

If a long day at work has rendered you brain-dead, if your heart harbors a sacred affinity for the sweet resonance of a young female quartet singing '50s music, then going to see The Taffetas will be ... a piece of cake.

-- Brooke Robb

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