HONKY TONK LAUNDRY's Bets Malone & Misty Cotton Just Shootin' The Breeze

Gil Kaan

Writer, Registered Critic

Roger Bean, creator of the popular THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES and its subsequent sequels, will be directing the Los Angeles premiere of his HONKY TONK LAUNDRY, beginning August 5 at the Hudson Mainstage Theatre.
We had the fine opportunity to chat with the two lovely ladies starring in Roger’s latest –  Bets Malone and Misty Cotton.
Thank Y’all for letting me intrude on your down time.
This is not your first rodeo with Roger Bean. Although placing THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES in a rodeo might not be quite the accurate analogy.
Any challenges in adapting singing styles from Motown to Nashville?
Misty Cotton: These songs are mostly motivated by a situation the character is in, and so they are really colored by that character, as opposed to singing them like you personally might on a recording or in your own voice, so to speak. At least that’s the way I approach them as they are theatrical songs to me really. So I’ve never really thought of the differences in singing in a Motown or Nashville style. I sing them in the character’s style with a little of my own, of course. 
Bets Malone: In a lot of ways, Nashville suits me better. Country music is full of storytelling, so it’s very theatrical. Although, I haven’t sung a whole lot of country, I believe I’m hooked.
There’s been three sequels to THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES. How many of these shows have y’all worked together?
BM: Misty and I have done three of the four WONDERETTES shows together. WINTER WONDERETTES and CAPS AND GOWNS we both originated.
MC: We have known each other since we were kids and I did my first musical with her down at the Moonlight Amphitheatre way back when. So what fun to be doing this show together! 

Misty, would your character Katie Lane Murphy give us a one-or-two-line plot description of HONKY TONK LAUNDRY?
MC: Two women at a crossroads in their lives find heartache, friendship, strength and healing in a laundramat, with a lot of help from laughter and country music. 
Bets, how would your character Lana Mae Hopkins describe HONKY TONK LAUNDRY in a one or two lines?
BM: Two gals from two different places come together and find common ground on love, heartache and the importance of a great friendship.
Describe your Wishy Washy Washateria, if ya Ladies would.

BM: I guess you might call it, “Retro.” Nana built it up with her own two hands and I just spruced it up a little. Nana would be proud.
MC: Lana Mae’s Washateria is described by Katie in the show as “a cute, little place. Kind of old-fashioned., Like from another place and time.”

When did y’all first get involved with HONKY TONK LAUNDRY?
MC: After having done WINTER WONDERETTES at the Milwaukee Repertory, a long while back, Bets and I expressed to Roger that we loved working together and would love to do a two-person show. Low and behold, about a year later, we mounted a version of HONKY TONK at the Milwaukee Rep and had a blast.
BM: I think it was 12 years ago now.
MC: We loved doing it. I know Roger did, too. But he really got busy with the success of THE MARVELOUS WONDERETTES, as well as other shows. This project, I believe, just sat on the back burner for a while.
BM: The show has gone through a whole lotta changes. But our characters have remained with their hearts intact.
MC: I feel so grateful to be able to be working on this at this time. 
How long has your rehearsal period for this Los Angeles premiere of HONKY TONK LAUNDRY been?
BM: This one is going up fast. One week of rehearsal, one week of tech.
MC: We did mount it for an out-of-town engagement at the beginning of this year, so we had learned most of it, and now we can work on any changes. 
BM: And then, we get to share it with the world.
How much input did y’all have in creating the distinct onstage look of your two characters? Or did y’all just come in and slap your wigs, denim and fringes on without question?

BM: I actually think Mr. Bean develops the look of the world and his characters through the rehearsal process, collaborating with what we bring to the table. The moment I stepped into my costume, I said, “Yes, there she is!”
MC: It really was/is the designers who have created the looks with the costumes and wigs. And, of course, Roger knows what he likes and has his ideas as well. We get new wigs for this one, so I’m dying to see what Katie will look like this time. 
Bets, how would ya describe Misty’s character Katie Lane Murphy?
BM: Katie Lane is dramatic, passionate, and a bit dangerous. She acts on her feelings. The opposite of Lana, who is much more resigned.
Misty, how would ya describe Bets’ character Lana Mae Hopkins?
MC: A strong, no-nonsense, big-hearted woman who takes care of everyone else, and is learning how to do that for herself. She’s also got an arsenal of amazing southern one-liners that are constantly coming out of her mouth, which is fun. 
Bets, do ya think your character of Suzy in WONDERETTES has enough interests in common to be galfriends with Lana Mae?
BM: I think Lana and Katie would think Suzy is very simple. But innocent in a likable way. The HONKY TONK gals sure have lived a more dementia life.
Misty, do ya think your character of Missy in WONDERETTES has enough interests in common to be galfriends with Katie Lane?
MC: Well, I think Missy would think Katie was a little crazy, but they both are good souls at heart and I think would get along. 
Besides all the wonderful country classics y’all sing, did y’all write a few numbers yourselves?
MC: Nope. These are all written by writers that have had them recorded. Roger’s great at finding gems that people don’t know, and fall in love with. 
BM: I think that’s next for them. Stay tuned for some future shit-kickin’ classics!
Can you Ladies name your favorite song to perform? Or is that a too Meryl Streep/Sophie’s Choice question to ask?
MC: I honestly could never answer that. It’s usually a song I might be doing at the time I’m doing the show. There is so much good music, it’s hard to choose. Those questions are hard for me. 
BM: I think it would be between “Born To Fly” and “Who I Am.” But “Born To Fly” probably wins out ’cause I get to sing it with my great friend Misty.
Did ya have to learn how to yodel? Or is that a natural hidden talent of yours?
BM: I actually already knew how. I have done the SOUND OF MUSIC a few times and learned for “The Lonely Goatherd.”
MC: Had to learn. You work most of your life as a singer to have a seamless voice and to sing seamlessly over your break. So when you are asked to yodel, it’s the exact opposite of that. You want to emphasize that break and it’s totally different muscles and technique. 

 If y’all were to pick one song from HONKY TONK LAUNDRY to perform in a benefit or include in your cabaret act, which song would that be?
MC: I think the song “One Good Friend” would be good. I think it’s a song that we both sing like a duet more than others. I love the song.
BM: Probably “Who I Am” or “Smile.”
What can the Hudson audiences expect to leave with after your curtain calls? Clean clothes? A hankering for Nashville fried steak or hot chicken?
MC: I hope they leave having had a really good time and laughing a lot. As well as maybe falling in love with some of the music, if they hadn’t already.
BM: I think they leave with the thought – I need to gather up a few of my gal pals, grab a brew and go back to the HONKY TONK again.

MC: And isn’t everyone always in the mood for fried chicken!

Thank y’all again, Ma’ams! I look forward to checking out your Washateria.
BM: Can’t wait to see ya. We’ll keep a seat warm for ya!
For a knee-slapping, foot-stomping good ol’ time; go check out Lana Mae’s Wishy Washy Washateria (a.k.a. HONKY TONK LAUNDRY) at the Hudson Mainstage Theatre. Log onto www.honkytonklaundry.com for available tickets and schedule through September 17, 2017.

Gil Kaan, a former Managing Editor of the now-defunct Genre magazine, has had the privilege of photographing and interviewing some major divas in his career, including Ann-Margret, Diana Ross, Faye Dunaway, Carol Channing, Shirley MacLaine, Catherine Deneuve, Liza Minnelli, Sandra Bernhard, Anna Nicole Smith, Margaret Cho, and three Catwomen—Eartha Kitt, Lee Meriwether and Julie Newmar. He had the fortuitous opportunity to conduct Lily Tomlin’s coming out interview. Gil has since reviewed movies and theatre for a number of local and national outlets.
A photo montage of Gil’s Halloween Carnavale photos through the last decade was recently included in the WeHo@ 25 juried exhibition.