TR Robertson …If your musical theatre interests leans toward the kick-up your heels, light-hearted and funny variety you will want to put Broadway Vista’s “Honky Tonk Laundry” on your must see list for the month of March. Written and directed by Roger Bean, this musical, known as a Jukebox musical, a musical built around previously released popular songs as its musical score, uses some of the classic country songs written and sung by popular women country western singers. Mr. Bean also created the off-Broadway hit “The Marvelous Wonderettes”. The story of the musical is a simple one. Lana Mar Hopkins, played by Bets Malone, owns the Wishy-Washy Washateria, in a small Tennessee town. One day, her normal day is interrupted by Katie Lane Murphy, played by Misty Cotton, a woman who has just had a fight with her boyfriend and has a shirt in her possession covered in what looks like blood. The two women meet, share details about their relationships with men, both spoken and with memorable country songs, and help one another try to reach different dreams they have. Act II is the culmination of one the dreams, turning the Washateria into the Honky Tonk Laundry lounge show, as well as ridding themselves of their “varmints”, a cheating husband and boyfriend.
The Broadway Vista production of “Honky Tonk Laundry” brings back Bets Malone and Misty Cotton to perform in the musical once again, in roles created for them by Roger Bean in the first version of “Honky Tonk Laundry” at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. Bets Malone, from Vista, last performed at Broadway Vista in “Tell Me on a Sunday” and has performed in “The Marvelous Wonderettes” in New York as well as numerous productions on San Diego stages, including many roles at Moonlight Amphitheatre. Misty Cotton was last seen in Vista on the Moonlight stage in the production of “Peter Pan”, as Peter Pan. She has performed throughout the United States, including Broadway and National tours with “Miss Saigon”, “Les Miserables” and others. Both of these actresses were wonderful as forlorn, down on their luck ladies dealing with hard times, just trying to get by. Bets had a Dolly Parton appearance and Misty also kept the big hair look with long flowing black curls. Both Bets and Misty have powerful voices as they sang their interpretations of a multitude of country songs, including yodeling. Along the way the two women will become best friends and the audience will be taken on a very funny, song filled journey.
We never meet Lana Mae’s husband Earl, Katie Lane’s boyfriend Danny, Rayleen – referred to as the town whore or Uber Jerry, but we find out plenty about them. They are shiftless, lying, good-for-nothings that drive the ladies insane, well maybe not Uber Jerry. The opening number, “I Need a Vacation”, sets the tone for Lana Mae. She loves the Washateria, operating it since it was passed down to her, but she also loves singing and reminisces about her missed Nashville singing chance. When Katie Lane enters her life, their discussions of their relationships with men leads Lana Mae to reflect that she must “Stand by Your Man”, from Tammy Wynette. Bets provides hilarious witticisms throughout the play at just the right moment; such as – “As useful as a steering wheel on a mule”, “Busier than a dollar store on a ½ price day”, “Put that man in a rear view mirror and keep on driving”, “Ain’t nothing wrong in the whole wide world that can’t be fixed with chocolate”, “My cow died last night so I don’t need your bull”, “I do not claim to understand your kind of crazy, but I admire your commitment to it” and “If it wasn’t weepy and tragic it wouldn’t be country”. These and many more left the audience on the edge of their seats for what she might next add to the conversation.
Roger Bean selected songs made popular by famous country female singers, to fit the situations of the musical. When Lana Mae was reflecting on her grandmother beginning the washateria, she sang Sara Evans “Rosemary’s Granddaughter”, when Katie Lane was talking about being free from her relationship with Danny, she sang Martina McBride’s “Independence Day”. Katie tells Lana she has seen Earl dancing with another woman, and when Lana doesn’t believe her, Katie sings Pam Tillis’s “Cleopatra, Queen of Denial”. The ladies kick up their heels, with some country dancing after Lana purchases red boots for their lounge show, to Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are made for Walking”. The ladies will have several other dance routines in the musical, all choreographed by James Vasquez, who directed Bets in “Tell Me on a Sunday”.
In Act II, the audience is treated to a mini-Grand Old Opera, this time a Grand Ol Laundry as we are introduced to the Honky Tony Laundry. In a tribute to famous female country singers, each actress performs a variety of numbers. We hear Loretta Lyn’s “I’m a Little Bit Country”, Patsy Cline’s “I Fall to Pieces” and “Tammy Wynette’s “D-I-V-O-R-C-E”. Both Katie and Lana have fun with the audience, specifically a couple of the male members, as the men “become” Danny and Earl, with a funny, upbeat version of the Dixie Chicks “Good-bye Earl”.
This is an entertaining trip down memory lane, especially if you like classic country songs and will have you singing along if you know the songs. The country humor will leave you laughing and I imagine more than one or two of the audience members will use the “country words of wisdom” in conversation. As Lana Mae sums up, “Everyone’s got a good story. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t have country music”.
“Honky Tonk Laundry” will run until March 26th. Tickets can be purchased at 760-806-7905 or go to www.broadwayvista.com . Tickets are $25.50. Next up for Broadway Vista will the “The Man Who Came to Dinner”, featuring Randall Hickman, April 7-30 at the Welk Resort Theater. Tickets for this show are $39.00 and can be purchased at 888-802-7469.