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‘Hallelujah Girls’ through Oct. 13 at Playhouse

Gypsy Theatre show packs in the laughs

POSTED: September 22, 2013 12:24 a.m.
Crystal Ledford/

Danielle Gustaveson, right, portrays the wacky Crystal Hart during a dress rehearsal of “The Hallelujah Girls.”

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Plenty of Southern-style laughs are being served up during the Cumming Playhouse’s current production.

Gypsy Theatre Company began a four-week run of “The Hallelujah Girls” on Thursday. The show is at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday through Oct. 13.

Set in the fictional town of Eden Falls, Ga., the show centers around a group of five female friends, all 50 or older, and their adventures after the death of another friend.

Moved by the passing of her friend, Sugar Lee, the group’s unofficial leader, is motivated to turn an abandoned church into a day spa, which she names “SPA-DEE-DAH!”

Sugar Lee encourages her friends to embrace their dreams, but soon finds them not as motivated as she due to various complications in their lives.

Carlene’s given up on romance, after having buried three husbands. Nita’s a nervous wreck after running interference between her son and his probation officer.

Mavis’ marriage is so stagnant she’s wondering how she can fake her own death to get out of it, and wacky Crystal is busy baking and singing Christmas carols with her own made-up lyrics.

“Sugar Lee drags the others kicking and screaming through it all and it’s very funny,” said the show’s director, who goes by just Mercury.

Comic tensions mount when Sugar Lee’s ex-boyfriend, Bobby Dwayne Dillahunt, shows up unexpectedly and her archrival, Bunny Sutherland, vows to steal the spa from her.

According to Mercury, Gypsy wanted to bring “The Hallelujah Girls” to the local stage after the success of two other shows by the same writers.

“We did ‘Dearly Beloved’ and ‘Dixie Swim Club,’ which were both very well-liked, so we thought we’d bring in another,” he said.

“[The writers] are very well-liked comedic authors who are from the South and write plays about the South and the people in it.”

That’s something that always resonates with Cumming Playhouse audiences.

“Since we’re in the South, everyone can relate to Southern shows,” Mercury said.

Even if they’re not Southern, everyone can find something relatable in the characters and their interactions, he added.

“These women have strong relationships and they’re dear friends. They can say anything to one another. It’s beyond family and that’s pretty universal,” he said.

In addition, the on-stage chemistry between Sugar Lee and Bobby Dwayne didn’t have to be faked, as the actors who portray them — Jan and Rich Grimshaw — are married in real life.

While the Grimshaws have performed together in several other north Georgia productions, this is the first time they have portrayed a leading couple. That’s been interesting for both of them.

“He’s my love-hate interest in the show, just like in real life,” Jan Grimshaw joked. “I’ve used a lot of the lines from the show at home, I think.”

She said in previous productions they haven’t been in many scenes together, so it has been nice having so many with her husband in this show.

“It’s nice to be able to get that extra practice with him at home,” she said. Richard Grimshaw agreed.

“It makes it easier to work out some of the differences in the parts,” he said. “We’ve rehearsed at home a lot.”

Jan Grimshaw said the show is perfect for couples to enjoy together or a girls’ night out.

“It’s just a genuinely funny show,” she said. “Anyone looking for a fun night, should come check it out.”

 

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