Chasing Your Dreams in Honky Tonk Laundry

WINTER PARK — As a theme in literature and theater, the underdog who dreams of something better, of finally fulfilling their lifelong ambitions, is always pure catnip for audiences, and the concept is played to perfection in Honky Tonk Laundry, the new musical comedy now being performed at Winter Park Playhouse.

This comedy-meets-country-music saga features two women, both very flawed and instantly likable, with humble lives and, for at least one of them, dreams that go beyond her rather ordinary existence. Since the vast majority of us have nursed similar ambitions, both Lana Mae and Katie Lane have a story that’s great fun to follow.

Honky Tonk Laundry is being performed now through Aug. 27 at the Playhouse, and it’s a marvelous way to beat the summer heat inside their cool theater.

What is the Musical Honky Tony Laundry?

This comedy by Roger Bean employs classic country tunes (“Stand By Your Man,” “These Boots Were Made For Walkin'”) to tell the story of Lana Mae Hopkins, who runs a laundromat in a small southern town. Lana Mae stays busy enough that she needs a helper, but when her employee phones her from jail, Lana Mae knows she needs a new sidekick.

Into her life comes Katie Lane, a problem child who needs to remove a nasty stain from her work shirt before her shift starts. But Katie Lane hates her job and has persistent problems with her boyfriend, and in no time at all, Lana Mae is nursing the gal with pills and confessional talk. Since Katie Lane dreads going to her job, she calls up and quits and insists that Lana Mae hire her at the laundry. Lana Mae sees trouble ahead, but reluctantly goes along with the idea. Soon the two are either gossiping like crazy or ready to kill one another.

The story then shifts to Lana Mae’s lost dreams. Once upon a time she wanted to be a singer, and even went to Nashville hoping to hit it big. She didn’t, so she took over her mom’s old laundromat and has been content ever since. Well, sort of. Katie Lane can see that Lana Mae still nurses some of her cherished ambitions, and makes it her mission to get her to fulfill them.

Part of the pleasure of watching this show is how common, even ordinary these two women are; they hardly seem like they’re destined to become country music superstars.

But stardom isn’t the point here: finding happiness by taking chances is. By the second act, it’s clear Lana Mae has found her own unique personal formula for success.

How is The Winter Park Playhouse Production?

In addition to an excellent set design inside that laundromat with its creaky old dryers, one of the play’s greatest attributes is the acting and vocal talents of Heather Alexander as Lana Mae and Tay Anderson as Katie Lane.

Alexander, the Playhouse’s artistic director, makes a rare stage appearance here and is a hoot as the motherly Lana Mae, eager to dish out advance but a bit too reliant on pills like Xanax and Valium to calm and sooth. Watching her at the end in a Dolly Parton wig is a moment of pure comedic joy.

Anderson has some golden comical moments too as the easily distracted, often lazy Katie Lane, clumsily burning shirts with the iron and living in dread of getting assigned to sock duty. Like Lana Mae, she sure knows how to belt out a country tune.

Roy Alan’s breezy direction captures just the right tone and keeps us well invested in the women behind this hilarious Laundromat. After singing one downbeat song, Lana Mae asks out loud why country songs always seem so sad and mournful. The play, as it turns out, it the exact opposite.

Where Can I See Honky Tonk Laundry?

Honky Tonk Laundry is being performed at the Winter Park Playhouse, 711 Orange Ave. in Winter Park, now through Aug. 27, and is the opening show to the theater’s 21st Season.

Ticket prices are $46 for evening shows, $43 for seniors during evening shows, $39 for afternoon matinees, and $20 for students and theatrical industry professionals.

Group discount rates for 10 people or more are available. Student rush “$10@10” offers enable students to get $10 tickets 10 minutes prior to a performance if seats are available.

To purchase tickets, call the box office at 407-645-0145 or visit online at  

Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book A Christmas Eve Story. Contact him at

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