BWW Review: GUITAR GIRLS at Florida Studio Theatre
On stage through March 31, 2019 at Florida Studio Theatre's Goldstein Cabaret is a little gem called Guitar Girls. Go see it!
FST's original music revue is billed as a tribute to some of the greatest female singer-songwriters in the past century, featuring such hits as "Coal Miners Daughter", "Jolene", "Big Yellow Taxi", and "I Will Always Love You". It follows the careers, personal journeys, and impact of female music icons from Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton to Joni Mitchell and the Dixie Chicks. It's a lovely walk down Memory Lane for everyone. Audience members soon found themselves singing, toe tapping, and clapping along.
The girls on guitar, as well as several other instruments, are Tamra Hayden, Cat Greenfield, Jannie Jones and Anna Stefanic. They even let a boy in the band, Joe Casey! And what a band they make. Tight harmonies, impeccable solos and instrument diversification are what this show highlights. Mr. Casey and Miss Jones return after last year's record smashing cabaret Blue Suede Shoes. You may remember Miss Jones in the Westcoast Black Theater Troup's production of Raisin. Miss Greenfield, Miss Hayden and Miss Stefanic are making their FST debuts in style.
Guitar Girls by Richard Hopkins, Rebecca Hopkins, and Catherine Randazzo with arrangements by Jim Prosser is such a treat. I like the way they wove some story telling and factual history between the songs. That makes for a lot of great interaction with the audience. That is one of the things I like most about cabaret style performances - the intimacy and interaction between the audience and performer. Miss Randazzo, FST Associate Artist and Show Director, says it best, "Every song had a reason to be written and many told details about the artists' own humble upbringings". That is so true, especially about country music. It always tells a story, paints a picture, and draws you in.
I don't want to give too much of the show and set list away. You should go and be surprised as I was and settle in to enjoy some fine entertainment. I do want to point out a few things that stood out. Loved the way "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" easily slides into "Amazing Grace". Jannie sings a capella at first then the rest of the band joins in and builds this lovely rendition. Tamra is on the guitar in "If I Had A Hammer" and welcomes the crowd to Guitar Girls, or "chicks with picks". You will learn a little bit of history about the humble beginnings of Carter Family, (Maybelle and June), Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton. Mr. Casey offers some very fine bass as Johnny Cash and is a wonderful balance throughout many songs. This cast is very versatile, not only in their vocals, but in their guitar, banjo, fiddle, and keyboard playing. I particularly enjoyed "Coat of Many Colors" and "Jolene".
The crowd came to life even more when "9 to 5" was performed. The band held nothing back on Janis Joplin's "Bobby McGee". There wasn't a dry eye in the place when Miss Jannie poured her heart and soul into Whiney Houston & Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You". So powerful. Tribute was paid to Carole King, "You've Got A Friend", Joni Mitchell, "Big Yellow Taxi", and in closing, Mary Chapin Carpenter, "Girls With Guitars".
I lived in Nashville for many years prior to moving to Sarasota. I gotta tell y'all, these folks did Nashville proud. It's good singing, good playing and a good night out to enjoy some Chicks With Picks (and one guy).