Honky Tonk Angels at theREP Is Two Hours of Fun, Songs and Good Times

TheRep has put together a joyous summer hit with Honky Tonk Angels. Ted Swindley’s jukebox show is an homage to country music and, in particular, the women of country. 

The show is built around three women of somewhat disparate backgrounds; Angela is in her thirties, the mother of six, married to Bubba, a truck driver for a Texas beer company, who lives in a double-wide (think a less vulgar but equally funny Roseanne). Darlene is just out of her teens and lives in the Mississippi Delta and a coal mining town in West Virginia (think a young Loretta Lynn). And L.A.-based Sue Ellen, a working woman with a sexually aggressive boss, twice divorced and ready to throw it all in to follow her dream (think Dolly Parton in Nine to Five). 

The three meet through happenstance on a Greyhound bus as they all head to Nashville to follow their dream and the calling of country music. The show is wrapped around their journey, but the play is all about the music. The play itself is cliché ridden and banal, the music worth the price of admission. With about thirty songs everything from Rocky Top, Stand By Your Man, 9 to 5, Coal Miners Daughter, Ode to Billie Jo, Harper Valley PTA, I Will Always Love You, to Delta Dawn the hits just keep on coming. These women will carry you on a journey through the classic country music songbook. It is their voices that will capture you and their harmonies that will enthrall you. Erin Edelle is Angela, Elizabeth Nestlerode is Darlene, and Kara-Tameika Watkins is Sue Ellen. Whether singing solo, in any number of pairings or when they truly shine as a trio, their voices will mesmerize. 

Director/Choreographer Gary John La Rosa takes on his third iteration of the show with a deft hand and a strong sense of how and where the show should go. Backed by a solid technical crew, with musical arrangements by Harry Lumb and Josh D. Smith, Lighting, Sound, Costume, and Wig Designs by Travis McHale, Jeffrey Salerno, Sera Bourgeau, and Michael Dunn, they transport you beautifully from the double-wide to the back woods of the Delta to the stage of a Nashville Honky Tonk bar. Set designer Christopher Rhoton brings you literally inside the music with his creative and stunning set.  (On a personal note, it is a thrill to see Josh Smith return to the creative arena after his recent absence.) 

The ladies are wonderfully supported by a six-piece band revealed to the audience on stage under the able stewardship of conductor Mark Galinovsky. 

There is a certain underlying sadness to the ladies’ lives, and that is played out through their music. But not to worry, as with most jukebox musicals, everything ends happily on a high note. Make it a point to go and see Honky Tonk Angels. It’s fun, it’s toe-tapping, and it will make for a memorable summer night. 

As Producing Artistic Director Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill said during her curtain speech opening night, what a thrill it was to see the house more filled than it has been since the return of theatre. These people were there without having read a review, not knowing if what they were going to see was good or bad, but just going out to support theatre. 

I would add it is so very important that we, as a community, get out and see a show or two or more, whether at theREP, the symphony, the park, or any number of community theaters, professional or amateur. Without your support, the theater that has so flourished and grown in our area these past years will just wither and die. We can not let the epidemic of the past few years add yet another casualty to its list. 

Add Honky Tonk Angels to your list of must-sees this summer. You’ll help the art/theatre world and enjoy an evening of summer fun and song. And perhaps, if you’re fortunate enough when you catch the show that Maggie is doing the curtain speech, she’ll be wearing her red stiletto heels! Honky Tonk Angels run through August 20 at theREP, 251 North Pearl Street, Albany. For ticket information: www.capitalrep.org or call the box office: 518-346-6204.

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