HONKY TONK ANGELS

DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM [email protected]

ALHAMBRA THEATRE & DINING REVIEW

Jacksonville’s Alhambra Theatre opened its 2016 schedule with the first of a number of trips down theatre’s memory lane. Ted Swindley, author of “Always . . . Patsy Cline,” created “Honky Tonk Angels” which is similar to “Always” in that it is filled with country music. And since Jacksonville is filled with audiences who love country music, we know this show, which will be on stage until February 7th, is going to be a big hit. Call 904-641-1212 or visit alhambrajax.com for reservations.

The tale is that of three young women who go to Nashville to become country music singers. The songs you will hear were written by some of the greats of country music and include Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Kitty Wells, and Dolly Parton.

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During Act I, the aspiring future stars, who come from different parts of the country (Texas, Mississippi, and California), provide the audience with a look at their prior home life and the circumstances that led to pursuing a stage career elsewhere during brief vignettes. Angela (Amy Burgmaier) left her husband Bubba and six kids behind, but made sure she did the ironing first. Darlene (Erica Lustig) left her elderly widowed daddy back on the farm. Sue Ellen (Zoe Kassay) walked out on her licentious boss and an unrewarding secretarial job. The three women, thrown together while traveling on a Greyhound bus, decide to form a group called The Honky Tonk Angels.

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Act II is set at the Honky Tonk Heaven night club and features the fabulous Double Trouble Show Band (Gary Hicks, Guitar; Jimmy Slade, Bass; John Cochran, Drums; Joel Hursey, Keyboard; and Rick Pope, Piano). The music was outstanding, and additionally, Guitarist Gary Hicks delighted the audience with a novelty song, “I like My Women a Little Bit Trashy.”

The Dual Critics must admit that we are not real big country music fans, but as we have been exposed to a number of great shows here at the Alhambra featuring the music of Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and Elvis, we are familiar with the genre, Of the thirty or so songs in “Angels,” we knew about twenty of them. We knew the words to songs like “Ode to Billy Joe,” “These Boots were Made for Walking, “ “Harper Valley PTA,” “Delta Dawn,” and “Rocky Top,” the famous football song that the University of Tennessee plays incessantly at their games. The gala audience sang and clapped along to many of the songs without any prompting.

Less familiar songs were “Cornell Crawford” and “Cleopatra, Queen of Denial” but by golly they were so well done, we will certainly add them to our list of country favorites.

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Director/Producer Tod Booth could not have cast this show any better. Amy Burgmaier made her Alhambra debut as Angela but is no stranger to this city, having appeared here in the national tour of “Annie.” Erica Lustig is at the Alhambra for the first time, and comes straight from New York; she has toured internationally with “Hair.” Zoe Kassay is fast becoming an Alhambra regular, having been in the musicals “9 to 5” and “Seussical” on this stage.

This splendidly matched acting and singing trio is a superb theatrical and musical team. They bring vibrancy and intensity to their performances and really sell those songs that shine through time and time again. Besides that they are side-splitting funny!

The Production Staff included: Tod Booth, Director; Jason Nettle, Stage Manager; Shain Stroff Choreographer; Camala Pitts and Dorinda Quiles, Costume Designs; and Dave Dionne Set Designer.

As we exited the theatre, we overheard many comments on how much everyone enjoyed he show. And of note, of the four entrees on the menu, Chef DeJuan Roy’s fried chicken also received rave notices from the departing audience. This is a fun musical with a happy ending and a great way to start the year 2016. It has an outstanding cast and memorable performances. Don’t miss it.

The Production Staff included: Tod Booth, Director; Jason Nettle, Stage Manager; Shain Stroff Choreographer; Camala Pitts and Dorinda Quiles, Costume Designs; and Dave Dionne Set Designer.

About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.

october, 2021

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