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Review: Outrageously Camp SLOPPY BONNIE Trades on Stereotypes and Cliches

Original Musical by Krista Knight and Barry Brinegar Runs Through 6/5

Review: Outrageously Camp SLOPPY BONNIE Trades on Stereotypes and Cliches
James Rudolph II, Amanda Disney and Curtis Reed star in Sloppy Bonnie

Outrageously camp and deliriously fun - what more can you expect from a pandemic-shattering original musical called Sloppy Bonnie? - but are we so blinded by the pure joy of the return to live theater (albeit in a parking lot, however spacious it may be) that we are forgiving of the stereotypes and cliches that abound in Krista Knight's script and Barry Brinegar's music.

Whatever the case may be (and, trust me, I've been mulling these questions over for almost a week now and remain just as flummoxed today as I was at show's end), make absolutely no mistake about it, Sloppy Bonnie somehow seems highly original despite those nagging doubts. Maybe it's because the show comes to life thanks to a three-person cast who are flat-out amazing, thanks in large part to the confident direction of Leah Lowe.

Lowe provides the connecting glue, if you will, for the sometimes raucous, oftentimes confusing book provided by the ever-surprising Knight (writer in residence at Vanderbilt University), the new songs provided by Brinegar and the high-energy performances of her three-member troupe of actors, which includes Amanda Disney as the eponymous Bonnie (who, we are informed, is prone to sloppiness when she's had a tad too much to drink, which apparently happens most of the time) and her two superlative back-up boys - they dance, they cavort, they make merry and they play a plethora of wacky personalities along the way - aka James Rudolph and Curtis Reed - who keep the action moving along at a quick clip as Bonnie makes her way eastward to a church camp in the mountains, where her intended, youth pastor-in-training Jedediah (who is now ghosting her after making her his fiancée) is "sharing" his "gifts" with a gaggle of unsuspecting followers.

Review: Outrageously Camp SLOPPY BONNIE Trades on Stereotypes and Cliches
Amanda Disney

Along the way, Bonnie manages to lay waste to a seemingly endless cavalcade of "victims," the various personages who offer her help only to see their lives upended by tragedy. The plot is convoluted as all-get-out, but it manages to corral the aforementioned stereotypes and cliches (FYI: Bonnie is a special education teacher who loves her Starbucks almost as much as she loves Jesus - she also has a weird eating "affliction" that requires her food to me cut into tiny pieces prior to consumption, which makes her prone to spillage) just enough in order to keep audiences laughing and intrigued by what's to come.

What with Bonnie's various quirks and sometimes annoying habits (she never shuts the fuck up - so actual conversations are limited, even when Jesus is doing the chin-wag), she could be annoying as hell, but Disney is able to invest so much charm in the character that you cant help but fall in love with her. Disney's presence on the outdoor stage at OZ Arts Nashville ensures that all eyes are focused on her, no matter what ridiculous hijinks Bonnie puts her through.

Rudolph and Reed, longtime stalwarts of the Nashville theater scene, have never appeared more versatile or more in control of their talents than they do as characters ranging from Jesus and Lucifer himself, to a taciturn but helpful truck driver and an accident-prone puppeteer. The two actors ensure that even the most ridiculous moments are entertaining and more fun than the law allows.

Review: Outrageously Camp SLOPPY BONNIE Trades on Stereotypes and Cliches Sloppy Bonnie. Book by Krista Knight. Music by Barry Brinegar. Directed by Leah Lowe. Playing at OZ Arts Nashville, through Saturday, June 5. Tickets for Sloppy Bonnie range from $20-$30 and are on sale now at www.ozartsnashville.org/sloppy-bonnie/ Health and safety protocols will be enforced, including mandatory masks when audiences are not seated, limited capacities and social distancing. Running time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Regional Awards


From This Author - Jeffrey Ellis

Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 35 years. In 1989, Ellis and his partner l... (read more about this author)


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