REVIEW: All Praise Tryon Little Theater’s ‘Hallelujah Girls’

BY SANDY STAGGS
DRAMA CRITIC

Lori Lee and Brenda Craig in The Hallelujah Girls

It’s never too late, according to the ladies in The Hallelujah Girls, Tryon Little Theater’s follow up to Smoke on the Mountain, and another delightful comedy set in a church, or in this case a former church, which is a Godsend too for the scenic designer.

The Hallelujah Girls –written by that southern-fried trio of playwrights known as Jones Hope Wooten – is tenderly directed by Ben Chumley, who is usually music director for shows in Tryon, Spartanburg and Gaffney.

For fans of Jessie Jones, Nicholas Hope, and Jamie Wooten (formerly a scribe for The Golden Girls), this work lies more in tradition of the sweet, sentimental mature-women-bonding fare such as the popular The Sweet Delilah Swim Club (originally The Dixie Swim Club) and The Savannah Sipping Society, instead of the more low-brow – but also uber-popular – dysfunctional Southern family comedies like The Red Velvet Cake War or Doublewide, Texas.

The Hallelujah Girls live in Eden Falls, Georgia and after the sudden death of a dear friend, a feisty group of women decide that life is indeed short, and they vow to seize the day!

The leader of this new dawning is Sugar Lee Thompkins (a perfectly charming Donna Everett) as the entrepreneur who turns an old, decrepit church into The SPA-DEE-DAH day spa.

These Steel Magnolia gals gather every Friday afternoon for a bout of gossip and nail polish, relationship advice and face mask, and even a song or two in the sauna as these lovable characters (and actors) warm our hearts for 90 minutes of hilarity. And I might add these five seasoned actors are so darn talented that I could see easily see them swapping roles each performance with the same comedic impact.

A marvelously-sarcastic Brenda Craig plays Carlene who is out of Cupid’s line of fire after burying three husbands.

Karen Workman plays Nita, who’s always on edge dealing with her problematic son and his probation officer.

The always-wonderful Lori Lee delivers quips-galore as Mavis who is trapped in a crumbled marriage.

And then there’s Teena Greene-Porter whose voice and cheerful by-the-seasons getups, Christmas carols, and jingle pitches for the spa’s advertising campaign warrant her a one-woman show just as this zany character.

Hollie Swofford gives a suave and shrewd turn as the arch villain Bunny, who wants to seize the building, and Jim Powell pops in and out as another suitor, Porter the postal worker.

Ironically, for a female-driven vehicle in the Jones-Hope-Wooten canon, the scene stealer in this play is actually a male: Tryon’s planning and zoning director Tim Daniels. As a solid in-the-moment actor, he beams brightly here as the Testosterone tension for Sugar Lee in a role reminiscent of the UPS delivery man in Legally Blonde. And he’s not afraid to show a lot of leg.

No spoilers here, but Jones Hope Wooten know how to bring a story to a very satisfying – if not predictable – all’s well, end well conclusion.

Hallelujah! After all, “Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.”

The Hallelujah Girls continues through Sunday, May 15 at Tryon Little Theater Workshop, 516 N. Trade St. In Tryon. For tickets, visit tltinfo.org or call (864)

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