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STAGE REVIEW TNT visits the '50s with 'The Taffetas'



Published: Sun, May 13, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



An air of nostalgia filled the theater for an evening of light music and close harmonies.

By GARRY L. CLARK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

NILES -- The stage at Trumbull New Theatre was transformed Friday night to a TV studio from the 1950s as the theater's final production of the season, "The Taffetas," filled the room with an air of nostalgia.

A female version of "Forever Plaid," "The Taffetas" takes you on a warm-hearted musical journey through the '50s through the harmonic stylings of the Taffeta sisters, Kaye, Peggy, Cheryl and Donna, in their television debut on "Spotlight on Music."

Word has it that even Ed Sullivan is tuning in to hear the popular girl group with possible plans to feature them on his own show.

Ball Jar festival: The sisters hail from Muncie, Ind., where they are shortly to return to have the honor of being the Ball Jar Queens for the big Ball Jar festival. They travel with their keyboard player, Ricky, and bass player, Alan.

There is no real conflict in the plot as it easily ambles through favorite songs of the era complete with close harmonies and, of course, those "heartfelt" bits of choreography that made the groups what they were.

Bits of chatter are interspersed between the numbers as the girls talk about their life growing up in Muncie and the history of their musical career. A humorous highlight was the girls' "commercial" for "Galaxy Costmetics," used by "four out of five Hollywood starlets."

Cast members: Portraying the four sisters were Crystal Niemi as Kaye, Kathy Purdum as Peggy, Jill Kuszmaul Sakonyi as Cheryl and Peg Parker as Donna.

All four gave terrific performances, lending an authentic air to such standards as "Sh-Boom," "Love is a Two-Way Street," "Mr. Sandman," "Three Bells," "Tonight You Belong to Me," "Mockin' Bird Hill," "Sincerely," and more, including a few medleys.

The women's voices, though not very loud, blended well for the close harmonies required. Standing out in a few solo moments was Ms. Parker, whose strong voice could belt out the lyrics most amusingly when called upon, but was equally able to join the others with no hint of overpowering them.

At the keyboard as Ricky was Paul Frabutt, and performing on bass as Alan was Alan Purdum. Both kept the volume of their accompaniments just that -- accompaniments -- never once drowning out the singing, but always lending support.

Portraying the television announcer with his own inimitable style was Brian Lee.

Terri Gilbert's excellent direction combined with superb period choreography by Sandra Saluga to make for a charming evening of entertainment. Costumes by Diane Butler were perfect for the era, as was the set design by Jack Simpson.




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