With a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dramaturgy/Dramatic Criticism, Alyssa Dyksterhouse has over 20 years of professional theater experience. She recently returned from the living in the Pacific Northwest where she wrote about arts and culture for Seattle Weekly and Seattle Gay Scene.
(l-r) Leryn Turlington, Jacquelyne Jones, Collette Todd. Photo by Adam Veness.
Review: HONKY TONK ANGELS at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre.
By Alyssa Dyksterhouse
In 1988, Ted Swindley created his jukebox musical ALWAYS…PATSY CLINE which eventually pleased audiences worldwide. You might recall Chicago’s popular sit-down performance. Unfortunately, his follow-up show HONKY TONK ANGELS leaves me wondering if he’s a one-hit wonder.
The Theo Ubique production, playing at the No Exit Café, features thirty classic country songs telling the story of three women—the queen of the double-wide, the twice-divorced gal fleeing Los Angeles and the coal miner’s daughter—who meet at a Greyhound station en route to Nashville and form a vocal trio.
Notwithstanding the countless clichés, in the first act Swindley creates characters and delivers exposition by subsuming songs such as “Stand By Your Man,” “9 to 5” and “Ode to Billy Joe.” By intermission it seems the stratagem might shape some sort of story in this book musical; however, in the second act, he deserts all dramaturgical foundations. With no further rising action or conflict, we fast forward to the ladies’ final night singing in Music City, USA. From there the musical numbers are as random as the “Divas of Country Music” station on Pandora. HEE HAW sketches supply superior plot development.
Despite the feeble material, talent-wise this production provides the parts of a platinum album. The ensemble of three—Jacquelyne Jones (Sue Ellen), Colette Todd (Angela) and Leryn Turlington (Darlene)—energetically exude enthusiasm and extreme talent. Likewise, Adam Veness’ set and James Kolditz’s lights transport you to a saloon offering the perfect intermingling of wood and sparkle. Alas, no amount of talent—even Dolly herself—can put HONKY TONK ANGELS on the charts.
Yet, there are moments. “Barroom Habits” hatches a high-energy hootenanny. “I Will Always Love You” induces chills. Culminating in cognitive dissonance since I savored the skill but, sadly, cannot stomach the sticky “script.”