'The Taffetas' take audiences back to the 1950s

Music fans who long for the days of tight multi-part harmonies and dramatic arrangements rendered by all-female vocal ensembles from the 1950s - known then, now and forever as "girls groups" - will need to look no farther than Olde Town Conyers in late January.

By arrangement with Columbus' Springer Opera House Theatre Company, the Conyers Rockdale Council for the Arts will present "The Taffetas," a wildly popular musical featuring more than 40 of the songs that defined a musical generation in the early 1950s, at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 27 at the Rockdale Auditorium.

"Our tour of 'The Taffetas' has been so successful that we can't get our own show back," said Scooter McMillan, marketing director for the Springer Opera House, the state theatre of Georgia. "Last year we decided to open our season with the play on our main stage and it was a huge hit for us - it's a big, fun show well suited to a big room."

Created by Rick Lewis and making its debut in April 1989 off Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theatre, "The Taffetas" relates the musical legend of the fictional Taffeta sisters - Kaye, Peggy, Cheryl and Donna - of Muncie, Ind., who hope that their national singing debut on the DuMont television network's "Spotlight on Music" will lead to an appearance on the "Ed Sullivan Show."

"The sisters are hoping for their big break and they're hoping Ed Sullivan will see them," said McMillan. "They're seeking fame, fortune and happily-ever-after lives."

Interspersed with brief commercials and dialogue, among the many 1950s-era songs featured in the production are "Volare," "The Tennessee Waltz," "I'm Sorry," "Mr. Sandman," "Tammy," "Where the Boys are" and "Sh-Boom," a respectful tribute to girl groups like the Maguire Sisters, the Fontaine Sisters and the Chordettes.

"All the songs are classic girl-group tunes performed and recorded right at the cusp before rock and roll," said McMillan. "They're songs we all know and love and it's really interesting to hear them all together. When you hear these four women singing, you began to realize that the Beatles were fans and had been listening closely to the girl groups and their harmonizing."

Through various national touring companies (like the Spring Opera House), "The Taffetas" has been enjoyed by many throughout North America and the musical has also been a hit in Ireland and Germany. "The Taffetas" has also spawned two sequels - "A Taffeta Christmas" and "Taffeta Memories: Senior Musical Moments."

"It's just good fun," said McMillan. "We have four great singers who are also four interesting and different characters. And the girls are phenomenal. You'll be blown away - hearing them sing these classic songs will put chill bumps on you."

McMillan pointed out that while many community theatres in Georgia are struggling these days, the Springer Opera House has actually seen an increase in attendance, thanks in no small part to creative programming and the development 11 years ago of the Springer Theatre Academy, which has caused many a young person to be bitten by the theatre bug.

"Theatres all over the state are facing declining sales and an overall graying of their audiences, but in the past three years we've had a 30 percent increase in season tickets and single-show tickets," he said. "And we haven't lost our longtime patrons, but we have seen a much younger audience.

"These kids love the theatre and they want to see every show, no matter what it is. So their parents buy tickets and they wind up loving the shows, too, especially ones like 'The Taffetas.'"