SoCal musical theater stars Bets Malone and Misty Cotton bring their considerable comedic gifts and some of the best pipes in town to Honky Tonk Laundry, the latest jukebox-musical treat from Roger Bean, the Marvelous Wonderettes creator in down-home country music mode this time round.

Overworked small-town Tennessee laundromat owner Lana Mae Hopkins (Malone), once again left high and dry by flighty Wishy Washy Washeteria employee Janelle, is finding inspiration this morning in Rebecca Lynn Howard’s “I Need A Vacation” when who should walk in but Katie Lane Murphy (Cotton), fresh from a breakup with her no-good boyfriend Danny The Dipshit and more than willing to take Lana Mae up, not just on her offer of a Xanax and a Valium, but also on the job that’s just become available.

Could this just be the start of a beautiful friendship?

Like Bean’s ‘50s/‘60s-nostalgia-packed Wonderettes franchise and his other Greatest Hits smashes, Honky Tonk Laundry finds ingenious ways to weave a couple dozen hit singles into its characters’ lives.

Martina McBride’s “Independence Day” sets Katie Lane to remembering the look on her Mama’s face “the last time Daddy came home from drinkin’ all night.”

The Dixie Chicks’ “Long Time Gone” has Lana Mae recalling Possum Flats, the small town named after roadkill” she once called home, her failed attempt at a Nashville career, inheriting the Wishy Washy from her Nana, and marriage to the cheatin’ lyin’ Earl .

Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” lets Katie Lane imagine revenge on Dumbshit Danny after spotting him at the local Krispy Kreme with a bleach-blonde tramp on his arm.

And this is just the start of a best-friendship to do Thelma and Louise proud, though in Lana Mae and Katie Lane’s case, success proves the ultimate revenge when Act Two transforms the Wishy Washy into a freshly named Honky Tonk Laundry, and lord help Earl, Danny, and that floozy “Whorelene” should they happen to show up for the gals’ humdinger of a country music cabaret.

Pam Tillis’s “Cleopatra, Queen Of Denial,” Chely Wright’s “Jezebel,” Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” and my own personal favorite, Dolly Parton’s “Potential New Boyfriend,” reveal Malone and Cotton every bit as fabulous at Country-Western as they are at Broadway-Eastern, and just wait till Lana Mae and Katie Lane launch into their Honky Tonk tribute to the legendary Loretta Lynn (“You’re Lookin’ At Country”), Patsy Cline (“I Fall To Pieces”), and Tammy Wynette (“D-I-V-O-R-C-E”).

No one does Roger Bean better than his Honky Tonk Laundry stars (reprising the roles they originated at Milwaukee Rep a dozen years back), and speaking of comparisons, nobody is cleverer at them than Lana Mae, from whose mouth emerge such Southern colloquial gems as “plum hotter than a billy goat’s butt in a pepper patch,” “busier than a whore on half-price day,” and “crazier than a half bag of raccoons,” and that’s just for starters.

Under Bean’s effervescent direction, Malone’s old-fashioned, big-hearted Lana Mae and Cotton’s straight-laced, high-strung Katie Lane (at least till some of Lana Mae’s prescription meds and a few chugs of good old Tennessee whisky kick in) are two of the Southland treasures’ most delicious creations.

Add to this choreographer James Vásquez’s choreography and you’ve got not only terrific vocals (musical directed by Lyndon Pugeda and expertly amped and mixed by sound designer Cricket S. Myers and sound engineer Kelly Aburto to prerecorded tracks orchestrated by Jon Newton) but plenty of toe-tapping two-steps (and some hieroglypheriffic Egyptian arm moves for “Cleopatra Queen Of Denial”) to spice up the evening.

The gals look pretty as a picture on Tom Buderwitz’s terrifically run-down launderette (snaps too to Adam McPherson’s heaping helping of small-town props), sporting Renetta Lloyd’s costumes (from trailer-trashy to Grand Ol’ Opry fabulous) and Byron Batista’s Southern glam makeup and high-teased wigs, all of the above lit with abundant pizzazz by Steven Young, particularly when Act Two’s show-within-a-show takes flight.

Robert Marra is assistant director/choreographer. Dale Alan Cooke is stage manager. Roles are understudied by Shayna Gabrielle, Lesley McKinnell, Erin Rye, and Erin Stoddard,

With its dynamic-duo stars, some of the liveliest country music you’ll hear this side of Nashville, and a female-empowering message snuck in for good measure, Honky Tonk Laundry adds up to yet another crowd-pleasing (and I’m guessing long-running) Roger Bean hit.

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The Hudson Mainstage, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood.

–Steven Stanley
August 11, 2017
Photos: Michael Lamont


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