Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Honky Tonk Angels - Carousel Dinner Theater

'HONKY TONK ANGELS' at Carousel a country music fan's "thang"

Okay, I have to be honest. I am not a lover of review-type musicals, and I don't favor country music. With that said, for me to pronounce that 'THE HONKY TONK ANGELS,' now on stage at the Carousel Dinner Theatre is an "okay" evening, is taking a long step.

I have never figured out why reviews are called theatre. They are a series of songs, much like that presented in a cabaret or night club. Sometimes the songs are connected with some trite kind of plot. But, in general, that, in my opinion, is a concert, not musical theatre.

As for country music, after a while all the wallowing in self-pity, death, wife-beating and cheating husbands, and the near-same twanging sounds, just gets to me. (Okay, country music lovers, before you fill up my e-mail box, you have the right to listen and love anything you want. I'm sure that if I was brought up on The Grand Old Opera, Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton I'd probably be on your side, but I wasn't. I'm just not a fan.)

With that said....The slight plot unfolds with three woman from varying backgrounds developing a friendship on a Greyhound bus on their way to Nashville, the country music capital. As the "story" goes on we see their performances and how they handle the changes in their lives. In the process they sing some of the most recognized country-western songs, including "Harper Valley PTA," "Stand By Your Man," "Angels Among Us," "I Will Always Love You," and "Coal Miner's Daughter."

The three characters are Darlene (Elizabeth Stanley) who moved to the Mississippi delta before heading for Nashville. We are led to believe that she has been kind of stuck between being a child and an adult for a long time. The show is her journey into adulthood.

Angela (Trudi Posey) is a Texas housewife. Between her truck driving husband, repetitive daily life, and out-of-control kids, she needs to take a break, to try something different for a while.

Sue Ellen (Barbara Helms) is a native Texan, living in Los Angeles, who realizes that life is not turning out the way she wants it to.

'HONKY TONK ANGELS,' written by Ted Swindley, who also created 'ALWAYS PATSY CLINE,' gives each of the actresses a chance to shine in several solos as well as a number of medleys.

The show has a much stronger first than second act. The first segment is filled with some humor and allows the performers to show their acting as well as their singing abilities. The second act is a concert which often turns sappy and centers on how angels affect our lives (Angles Among Us," "The Circle is Unbroken," and "I'll Fly Away." (Don't blame me, I didn't write the so-called script!) A segment dedicated to the County Music "Hall of Fame" is pathetic.

All three of the Carousel performers are quite good. They are obviously soloists, for their individual efforts far outshine their blendings.

Of the three, Elizabeth Stanley stands out. She has a nice stage presence, interprets her spoken lines well, sings meanings rather than words to her songs, and has a nice voice. Her versions of "Fancy" and "I Believe in Music" were exceptionally fine.

Barbara Helms displays nice comic timing and has a fine voice, though her version of "These Boots Are Made For Walking" was given a poor vocal interpretation. She does a fun version of "Cornell Crawford" while gliding across the stage on roller skates.

After a while, Trudi Posey's speaking voice just becomes too raspy, too loud, too hard to listen too. She needs to tone down the screech. Her "Stand By Your Man" was nicely humorous and "The Pill" was fun.

While the show's costumes are wonderful, the wigs are awful. Many scenes found the wearers having to hold on the obviously fake pieces, which were often poorly coiffed.

Capsule Judgment If you love or even like country music and aren't put off by a flimsy plot, you'll be find Carousel's "HONKY TONK ANGELS a "Paradise Road" and have a "Fancy" for the goings-on. If not, "These Boots are Made for Walking" in another direction.