It’s getting to be that time of year again…you know, that time where you can’t stop thinking of what you’re going to get for your aunt Edna, or who’s going to be hosting the holiday dinner. You may worrying about the thing I’ve been stressing about since about October: trying to fit my family’s events and my boyfriend’s family dinners into our schedule. In all of this hustle and bustle, we need something to take our minds off of all the stress. Ragged Edge Theatre had just that.
I had the pleasure of getting to see Honky Tonk Angels: Holiday Spectacular this past Sunday. Unfortunately, due to Kentucky’s crazy weather, this review is later than I originally had planned. I gotta say, overall, this was an awesome show. Before I start, I’ll throw in a brief synopsis. In this holiday sequel, the Honky Tonk Angels reunited one more time at Honky Tonk Heaven. Darlene Purvis (Rachel Beckman) had stayed behind in Nashville to make her dreams come true of becoming a famous country singer. Sue Ellen Smith Barney Fife (Julie Taylor) had returned to L.A and opened her own beauty business and was known as the “Texas Chainsaw Manicurist!” Angela Bodine (Sherri Locke), the other original Angel, had returned to her husband, Bubba, and her children back in Texas, but had to miss the reunion because she’s “sick.” So, to replace Angela, the beautiful soul-singin’ psychic, Charilee Chess (Tobie Brown), stepped in.
The Positives: When I did this review, I brought my butterfly notebook to make notes so I wouldn’t forget anything I wanted to mention. There were so many bits and lines that I loved, so I knew I’d have to write them down. I want to point out that there are about a hundred other notes that I had made of things I liked, or scenes that made me laugh…but I couldn’t include them all!
- In regards of the set, I really liked that this show included the bar. I felt like it gave the actors something to do if they weren’t singing, and it gave the show a setting! I also loved all of the holiday lights and decorations on the stage. It instantly gave you a holiday feeling as soon as you entered the theatre.
- I made a ton of notes about how wonderful the band was. Walter Eng was on drums, and I was so tickled to see him! I knew that Walter is an absolutely wonderful actor, but I had no idea that he could play drums! Mason Foley was on bass, and was rocking awesome. The music just wouldn’t sound complete without that bass line. Lastly, Laura Foley was on piano. Truthfully, when she played, it almost brought me to tears. She NEVER misses a note, and this might sound ridiculous– but I can just hear her passion for music when she plays. Oh, have I mentioned she was also the director for this show?
- Tobie Brown rocks. I made this note more than once. Her performance could be a definition of comedic timing. Throughout this show, I felt like she just let loose and owned the entire theatre. She had a wonderful stage presence, and really made Charilee into a such a fun character (Example: her bright red glitter lipstick) when this script didn’t give her much room to play around.
- Truthfully, I had my pen ready to make critiques on harmony. On my list of things to watch for, that was numero uno. All of my notes on harmony were about how WONDERFUL it was! That was the most important thing to me going in, and I was not disappointed.
- Speaking of harmony, I decided Julie Taylor is the best harmony singer ever. I could ALWAYS hear her line being sung, and it was beautiful!
- I have to admit, I got a teary-eyed during some of the solos. For example, when Rachel sang “Coat of Many Colors”, I wasn’t the only one who was sniffling. People all around me were wiping tears away! I felt the same way when Julie got to sing “From a Distance”. In fact, that was one of those moments where I wasn’t thinking of anything else…I just listened.
- Sherri Locke was absolutely hysterical as Angela. Personally, I always thought Angela was the most silly character in the show, and I mean that in a good way. She had a majority of different gags and bits, but… there was one particular thing she did that made my jaw hit the floor. See, it turns out Angela wasn’t really sick..(And by the way, I’m going to give a spoiler, but the show has already closed so I can say this and not feel guilty…) she was a little over 9 months pregnant! In act II, Angela’s water broke….and that was one of the funniest freakin’ things I had ever seen in a play. Ever. Not only was the amount of water comical, but the way Sherri handled it was perfect. (Also kudos to all of the girls for not cracking up. Because I would have)
- I felt like the overall audience favorite was the Elvis medley. Every single girl was giving their A game during this piece. Why? They were all consistent! Sherri wasn’t singing or moving much in this number, but she was always reacting and that’s important! “Blue Christmas” was sang by Rachel, and I was so impressed because she sang it in this really deep voice and never was off pitch. I always felt like the character of Darlene had it tough sometimes, because in one song she might be singing low alto, then in the next song she’ll be singing soprano. Rachel was strong throughout the entire show, and especially in this number. While Julie may have not had a big solo in this song, my eyes went directly to her and her Elvis lip. I actually made a note about how hard I was laughing at Julie’s facial expressions. But I gotta say, Tobie Brown stole the show during this medley. She had the leg movements and the hip shakes, and she gave a heck of a performance that would make Elvis proud. Also, I really want to say that Bev Cox did a wonderful job on the costumes for this number! They really made this particular song so fun for the entire audience!
- This one is for Allen… the lights were really nice. I’m a firm believer that theatre’s aren’t using their light boards to their fullest potential. I was happy to see the colored gels being used, and it really worked well for this show. It really makes an already good scene even better.
- Sound-wise… this show definitely didn’t have as many sound cues as the original Honky Tonk Angels did, but when they did have a cue, it was on time. I always appreciate it when sound and lights don’t have any mishaps, mainly because it makes the actors and the audience feel comfortable. Plus, there were NO microphone mishaps! Yay!
- Honestly, what made this show so moving to me, was that I could see that these four women actually cared about each other. They all looked like they had built friendships throughout this show.
The Negatives: What I wrote down really isn’t that negative, but it’s just me being picky. Trust me, this show was awesome…but there were a few things that I thought could have been done differently. I’ll go ahead and start with something that really doesn’t have anything to do with the actual performance.
- I always think it’s funny that I tend to have a note about the audience…sure enough, I’ve got another. If the house lights are off, stage lights are on, and there’s somebody on the stage…you don’t talk. Even if it’s not one of the actors. When act 2 began, Laura entered the stage and played a piano piece that was so beautiful that I felt like I was in a trance. However, I was quickly distracted by a few people that continued their conversations. I don’t know if these rude people understand that an overture, or an instrumental piece that begins an act, is a chance for the musicians to shine. It’s THEIR solo. Of course, I wish I was more of a confrontational person who would have felt comfortable shushing them…but all I could do is give these ladies the death stare.
- I think I was expecting more of a musical… but this was totally a musical revue. I’ll say this bluntly, I wish there was more of a storyline, or more background information. While they explained some about the characters, I felt like it was so basic and quick. Part of the reason that Honky Tonk Angels was so successful, I believe, was because you saw these women struggle and work to make their dreams come true. Like I said earlier though, this has nothing to do with the Ragged Edge production specifically.
- This is me purely being picky, but during “12 Redneck Days of Christmas” (which was honestly one of my favorite songs in the entire show), Angela was given a box of Bud Light for Christmas by her husband, Bubba. Well, they brought the box out of the garbage bag… and it was picked up and passed around like it was as light as…well, a box. I know that they weren’t going to have an actual box of beer onstage, but it would have been nice if people had hefted it around like it was a full twelve pack.
- This show is pure music. It felt like the songs were one right after the other, and some of the songs had an instrumental break in the middle. There were a few times where all of the girls kind of stood and clapped their hands, or moved around from side to side…but it felt kind of awkward. I don’t necessarily believe that there should have been a huge choreographed dance, but maybe choreographed movements together…just a little something to make the girls seem more in unison.
- One of Darlene’s opening numbers was a Loretta Lynn song, and her costume was supposed to be giving homage to Minnie Pearl. I heard Rachel say “Howdy!”, but I never realized that she was referencing Miss Minnie until she took her hat off. Then, I realized that her hat had been on backwards and I couldn’t see her tag. The whole joke got kind of lost.
- Since this was the Honky Tonk Angels’ show, there was an old fashioned microphone at the front of the stage. A lot of their blocking was around the microphone, but I noticed that they’d start singing into the microphone…but slowly drift and would end up a foot or two away. In the end, I felt like the microphone was wasted sometimes.
Whew, I’ve got the negatives over with. See, they weren’t an overly big deal, right?
I wish I could have had this review posted earlier, so I could tell you that this show is something you don’t want to miss! I want to thank the cast, crew, and Ragged Edge for having such a wonderful show for our community to see! Hopefully, Bubba’s Revenge will be on a future season so we would get to see part 3 of these girls’ stories!