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A fresh start in tough times

"A Fresh Start at the Sunrise Laundromat" debuted the weekend of July 20. (From left to right, Ben Saylor, Ben Merold, and Susan Wagner) (Photo courtesy of Mark Little)

Meagan Steed

North Olmsted

The weekend of July 14 marked the debut of the political satire, “A Fresh Start at the Sunrise Laundromat,” a musical performed by the Dover Players in North Olmsted. The musical was written and directed by Gregory Lavelle of North Olmsted and focuses on the struggles citizens of the middle class are currently facing due to the tough economic times.

This musical is the fifth work that Lavelle has written, and the third that has been produced by the Dover Players. The show is performed free of charge at North Olmsted’s Old Town Hall, which has been designated a historic building by the city of North Olmsted.

“I got the idea for ‘A Fresh Start at the Sunrise Laundromat’ by having unmatched socks,” said Lavelle. “I knew there was no possible explanation, and it drove me crazy. I originally wrote a short story. I then turned it into a play, and then I turned it into the current musical.”

Many of the characters are facing the realities of the tough economic times, such as homelessness and unemployment. The musical takes place in a laundromat, where customers chat about the woes of unemployment and the lack of supplied Cheer detergent, which is a pun on the absence of cheer in their lives. Lavelle cast himself as the villain, Fresco, who owns and operates Sunrise Laundromat.

Bob, played by Ben Saylor, and Emily (Susan Wagner) meet and fall in love in the laundromat and are also introduced to Wendel (Ben Merold). Wendel is a homeless man who believes mismatched socks are aliens from a faraway planet. The sock aliens speak through Wendel and he is able to solve the world’s problems through time travel with the sock aliens’ powers. Eventually, Bob and Emily become convinced of Wendel’s claims of the faraway planet, and they also travel to the planet for a fresh start.

“If somebody laughs or claps, that’s all I need,” said Lavelle.

Lavelle cast the 20 actors himself nine weeks ago, and they have been practicing in both the Old Town Hall and in the North Olmsted Public Library. Dover Players is a community theater group, which means that everyone involved is a volunteer and is not required to make every practice and show – which can make for a challenge when practicing and performing.

“In professional theater, everyone has all the skills, but with Dover Players not everyone has all the skills, such as acting and singing,” said Lavelle. “We have to work with what we have and work around everyone’s schedules. It’s extremely challenging.”

The Dover Players was founded in 1983 by Beverle Martindale, who remains the president of the organization and who crafted the faces of the sock aliens for the production, using feathers, thread and buttons. Many of the costumes were purchased at Goodwill, or were articles of clothing the actors already owned. Steve Vazquez constructed the two washing machines and the vending machine, and Mark Little designed the signs for the stage.

Lavelle’s “Jake’s Dilemna” and “A Question of Guilt” have previously been produced by the Dover Players, and Lavelle hopes to continue writing productions. He is currently focusing on marketing his plays centered on educational topics to local school systems.

Admission to the play is free, but reserved seating is available for $5. The show will run Friday through Sunday. Performances will be held at the Old Town Hall at 5186 Dover Center Road in North Olmsted, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.

 

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