Event: 3 Redneck Tenors’ Christmas Spec-Tac-Yule-Ar
Venue: Thrasher-Horne Center for the Performing Arts
Date/Time: December 10, 3pm
What began as a performance to benefit a children’s theatre has now evolved into a successful collaboration of comedy and music. Modeled after the operatic trio the Three Tenors, 3 Redneck Tenors is the perfect marriage of humor, audience participation, and the brilliant vocal stylings of founder Matt Lord with Blake Davidson and Jonathan Fruge. All three members have extensive experience in opera, choral and solo performance, and they are funny to boot.
“It was never supposed to be anything beyond a one-night thing,” says Davidson, the group’s only baritone, who refers to himself as a “tenor without the high notes.” “An agent was in the audience, and he said, ‘I could put you in 35 cities right now.’ Here we are 12 years later. Everything that has transpired is all by happenstance.”
Described as ‘Duck Dynasty meets Carnegie Hall,’ the 3 Redneck Tenors will perform its Christmas Spec-Tac-Yule-Ar featuring special guest Heather Shore December 10th at the Thrasher-Horne Center for the Performing Arts (www.thcenter.org).
The first half of the special tells the original story of Edna May who lost her Christmas spirit after her “cusband” – her cousin and husband – dies in a tragic wood-chipping accident. As their alter egos Billy Bob, Billy Joe and Billy Billee, the 3 Redneck Tenors set off to help Edna May rekindle the magic of the season.
“It’s a cute, funny story Matt wrote in 2006,” says Davidson. “Heather Shore has played the role of Edna May for the last four years, and she is just amazing.”
The show’s second half features a country-fried collection of holiday favorites including ‘Sleigh Ride,’ ‘White Christmas,’ ‘I’ll be Home for Christmas,’ ‘Santa Baby,’ ‘Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,’ ‘Blue Christmas,’ ‘Winter Wonderland,’ ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Silent Night.’ The performance will also feature classic Christmas spoofs like ‘Grandma Got Runover by a Reindeer’ and ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.’
“We run the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous,” says Davidson. “Where else can you hear ‘Grandma Got Runover by a Reindeer’ and ‘O! Holy Night’ in English and French?”
The 3 Redneck Tenors are all classically-trained and accomplished vocalists that turn the role of the stuffy opera singer on its ear. They were top finalists on “America’s Got Talent” where they performed an a cappella rendition of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. The original show features everything from classical, gospel, Broadway, pop and country.
As the founder and only original cast member, Lord is a graduate of the famed Julliard Opera Center and a stage veteran with a repertoire ranging from 18th century to contemporary compositions. His performances have graced the halls of nearly all of the most prestigious opera houses in the United States including New York’s Metropolitan Opera where he made his 2005 debut in Boris Godunov. Lord also performed in the Hamburg, Germany production of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera. Other credentials include performances with the Julliard Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony and the Detroit Symphony.
According to Davidson, Lord needed a change of pace after the rigorous demands of the opera world. “Opera is just a snake pit. It’s gratifying because you work so hard, but he got tired of it. This is a lot more fun and allowed him to hire people he wanted to work with,” Davidson says of Lord, who writes the music arranged by award-winning composer Craig Bohmler. “He does most of the talking, onstage and off. He’s literally one of the funniest human beings I’ve ever met with serious opera credit. That opens a lot of doors.”
Creating the 3 Redneck Tenors concentrated on Lord’s talents as an opera singer and stand-up comic with a penchant for “very inappropriate jokes that did not go over well in the opera world,” laughs Davidson. “It was a very specific mission statement that allowed him to do the kind of music he wants to do. What’s not to like?”
Davidson has an equally colorful background. He studied voice at the University of Texas which led to performances in various symphonies, operas and musical theatre productions. He performed solo concerts at NYU, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and the Tokyo Opera House. Early in his career, Davidson was seen off-Broadway at 2nd State and appeared as a singing ringmaster for the Shrine Circus. But when he auditioned for the 3 Redneck Tenors, he was in practice as a chiropractor.
“I was tired of the grind, tired of fighting with insurance companies. I was looking for something like this,” he says. “I saw a notice looking for a new baritone, so I sent in a recording. They auditioned me the next week and hired me on the spot.”
Jonathan Fruge holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Performance and a Masters of Music in Vocal Performance from Texas Tech University. His credits include choral and solo performances at Carnegie Hall with the New York City Chamber Orchestra, Walt Disney Concert Hall and Meyerson Symphony Center of Dallas. Prior to his debut in the role of “Billy Bob” in the first licensed production of the 3 Redneck Tenors, Fruge performed more than 20 leading roles, three original premiers and four regional tours.
“We are three very different personalities. We got along better than anyone that has worked for this company, and people say all the time that they love our dynamic on stage. We’re not laughing just because it’s funny. We are having a genuinely good time. Over the years we’ve learned to not sweat the small stuff. We are all working toward the same common goal, and that makes the tour work well. Everyone knows their place, and no one steps out of their role into someone else’s space. I’m Ed McMahon. I’m the straight man and I only throw something in when it’s funny. Jonathan is very physical with his comedy. Matt is the talker, and he considers it a personal affront and a challenge if an audience isn’t giving him the right reaction. He won’t let an audience have a bad time.”
Davidson tries to explain the appeal of 3 Redneck Tenors but some things, he says, must be experienced to fully appreciate. As he was leaving the show one night, he fell into step with an audience member who summed it up the best, saying to Davidson, “I’d tell my friends about you, but I don’t know what I’d tell them.”