Maumelle Players to present The Hallelujah Girls

Carol Rolf/Contributing Writer Published October 20, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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Carol Rolf/Contributing Photographer

Appearing in the Maumelle Players’ upcoming production of The Hallelujah Girls are, seated, Jeannie Belew as Sugar Lee Thompkins; and standing, from the left, Amanda Michels as Nita Mooney, Rachel McDonald as Bunny Sutherland, Mike Crosson as Bobby Dewayne Dillahunt, Chuck Starratt as Porter Padgett, Denise Loken as Mavis Flowers and Lynne Hicks as Carlene Travis. Not shown is Stefanie Johnston as Crystal Hart.

MAUMELLE — The Maumelle Players will present The Hallelujah Girls at 7 p.m. Friday and Nov. 2, and at 3 p.m. Oct. 27 and Nov. 3.

The local acting troupe has a new theater home — Little Scholars Academy, 10910 Maumelle Blvd. at the corner of Counts Massie Road.

“We have signed a two-year agreement to rent the academy’s event center,” said Victor Werner, president of the Maumelle Players Board of Directors and director of the upcoming play. “We’re also bringing along our children’s theater, the Maumelle Youth Theater, that will have at least one production a year in this space. It will be a summer production.”

Denise Loken, who has a role in The Hallelujah Girls, is director of the Maumelle Youth Theater.

“We had our first presentation here this past summer,” Loken said. “We’re hoping to expand and hope to get new members. Anyone in first through 12th grade is welcome to join us.”

The Hallelujah Girls is another Southern comedy from the trio of playwrights Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope and Jamie Wooten. The play does not revolve around a dysfunctional family, as did Dearly Departed, which the Maumelle Players produced in 2010. Rather it “revolves around five feisty females who live in Eden Falls, Ga.,” Werner said. “Their best friend has just died. As the play begins, it is the day of the funeral, and each of them is reflecting on her life, wondering what would have happened ‘if.’

“As Sugar Lee (one of the play’s characters) says, ‘I’ll get around to it.’”

The action takes place at SPA-DEE-DAH!, the abandoned church turned day spa where this group of friends gathers every Friday afternoon.

Cast members include the following:

• Lynne Hicks of Maumelle is Carlene Travis, the “black widow” of Eden Falls.

“Her three husbands have died under unusual circumstances,” Hicks said. “She’s having trouble finding anyone to go out with her.”

This marks the first time Hicks has performed with the Maumelle Players.

“I went to one of their shows and signed up to get more information, and when I got notice about this play, I decided to try out for it,” she said.

Hicks is a retired public-school music teacher from the Benton School District.

• Amanda Michels of Maumelle plays Nita Mooney, who tries to control her ne’er-do-well son.

This is also Michels’ debut with the Maumelle Players.

“My husband, Matthew, and I go to church with

Victor [Werner],” she said. “He invited us to the last production and asked us if we would volunteer with the concessions. He told us about this play, and I auditioned for it.

“I’m glad to have the opportunity to act again. I haven’t acted since I was in high school in Washington state.”

Michels, who is a soon-to-be stay-at-home mom, describes her character as “a single gal who spends her time reading romance novels and who loves her son a little too much.”

• Denise Loken of Maumelle portrays Mavis Flowers, whose marriage is stagnant.

“She’s a 65-year-old woman who is trying to find out why she’s still married to the same guy after 46 years,” Loken said.

Loken also does makeup and set design for the Maumelle Players.

• Stefanie Johnston of Little Rock is Crystal Hart, who celebrates all holidays with costumes and sings Christmas carols with her own lyrics.

Johnston, who is a social worker, is also making her debut with the Maumelle Players.

“I have a friend who mentioned the play to me, and I decided to audition,” Johnston said. “I got the part of Crystal, who is a very free spirit, a little goofy but lovable. She dresses up for every holiday and writes her own Christmas songs. She’s even written one about the spa.”

• Jeannie Belew of North Little Rock plays Sugar Lee Thompkins, owner of the spa.

“This is my life’s story,” Belew said. “I own a business, got divorced and got back with my high school sweetheart after 30 years, just like Sugar Lee did.

“It’s a really funny play,” said Belew, who owns Splashware Aquatics in Maumelle. “It has a lot of great lines.”

• Rachel McDonald of Little Rock is Bunny Sutherland, Sugar Lee’s nemesis.

“We’ve been enemies since she gave me the chicken pox,” said McDonald, who plays the nanny character. “Our rivalry really picked up in high school.

“I want to bulldoze the spa and turn it into the Bunny Sutherland Museum of Eden Falls.”

• Mike Crosson of Maumelle plays Bobby Dwayne Dillahunt, a handyman and Sugar Lee’s former high school sweetheart.

“My character is a little cocky, a good ol’ boy type,” said Crosson, who is retired from the Union Pacific Railroad. “He’s carried a torch for Sugar Lee for 30 years. His return sparks a flame and causes a little tension, but they work it out and get back together.”

• Chuck Starrett of Little Rock appears as Porter Padgett, Carlene’s boyfriend.

“My character works for the post office,” Starrett said. “His and Carlene’s love song is ‘Ring of Fire.’ There’s a pivotal moment when it comes into play.”

Starrett, who is a Little Rock police officer, said his last two roles with the Maumelle Players have been a policeman and a detective.

“I’m trying to break my mold,” he said. “I’m working my way up.”

Janell Rieske is once again the prompter for the play. Timothy Warner and Matthews Michels are the technical crew.

Tickets for The Hallelujah Girls are $15 for adults; and $12 for seniors 65 and older, students and children younger than 16. Tickets may be purchased at the Maumelle Senior Wellness Center, 550 Edgewood Drive, or online at www.maumelleplayers.org.

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