BWW Reviews: THE HONKY TONK ANGELS Takes Us To Country Music Heaven
THE HONKY TONK ANGELS is running at Stages Repertory Theatre through September 6, 2015. The show is written by Ted Swindley, the playwright best known for the musical ALWAYS... PATSY CLINE.
I attended a performance of THE HONKY TONK ANGELS on opening weekend, and it sure made for a fun evening of entertainment, upholding the reputation of high quality productions that Stages Repertory Theatre has always been known for.
The show, directed by Mitchell Greco, serves as a nostalgic piece of musical theatre that leaves the audience with something special to talk about long after the stage goes dark.
Ted Swindley's musical begins at an effective slow pace, methodically allowing the audience to soak in the environment of the play and become acquainted with the characters. He drives us through to Nashville, and shifts the show into full gear by Act II.
The lights come up and we find ourselves transported to a world about three aspiring music stars who leave home to fulfill their dreams of performing in Nashville. The show begins with the band's rendition of "Soldier's Joy" and the cast's brief performance of "I'll Fly Away". The trio meet each other on a bus on their way to Nashville, and from there, they establish their group as the Honky Tonk Angels. They make Nashville their home for performing and call their stage Honkey Tonk Heaven.
Chelsea Ryan McCurdy plays the strong matriarchal singer who temporarily leaves behind her family life to pursue her dream. McCurdy sets the story in motion with an effectively interactive monologue and a hilarious performance of "Stand By Your Man". Her comedic timing is on point. With an iron in one hand, she carries the song with a myriad of emotions that begin with love and pride and end in a deliberate burning of her husband's shirt with an imprint from the iron. Her energy and humor set the tone of the show, carried through the entire performance, and yielded equally strong laughs from the audience during Act II's "Harper Valley PTA".
Kelley Peters plays the innocent Darlene, who feels guilty for leaving her father behind, especially after the passing of her mother. Peters leads us off with "Coal Miner's Daughter", and it seems that she's got the most to lose, only because of her overriding sense of guilt. Despite the character being exaggeratingly feeble at times, like when she shudders and shakes at the sight of lightning, Peters gave a noteworthy performance of Darlene. Her innocence is what keeps the trio in check after they've made a name for themselves at the expense of losing some innocence.
Holland Vavra played the career-oriented independent woman named Sue Ellen. She had the audience in stitches! Vavra started her role off with "9 to 5", and graced the audience with subtle line deliveries resulting in uproarious laughter from the crowd. With a fresh and powerful voice, she carried songs like the unforgettable "These Boots Are Made For Walking". During Act II, she roller-skates out on stage garbed in a Hooters outfit, and expertly carries her songs with both grace and comedy.
The lighting was effective and moved parallel with the story. The lighting came to life along with the characters on stage. We are shown the perceptions of each character with their own light in a corner of the stage, positioning them in a triangle, and unifying them despite their different backgrounds and experiences. Downstage of the band, and on the ground, we see a magnificent LED star carved out, and changing colors throughout the show. The lighting subtly washed the stage and helped carry us along for the ride from beginning to end.
This was a fun musical with a stellar cast and memorable performances. Be sure to catch it for an entertaining evening. You won't be disappointed.
THE HONKY TONK ANGELS
Written by Ted Swindley
Directed by Mitchell Greco
Musical Direction by Steven Jones
Runs through September 6, 2015, Wednesdays & Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays & Saturdays 8:00 p.m. & Sundays 3:00 p.m. at Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway Houston, TX 77019.
For more information or to purchase tickets, please call 713-527-0123 or visit www.stagestheatre.com.