Theatre Review: “Honky Tonk Angels”
Swift Creek Mill’s latest musical directed by Tom Width, “Honky Tonk Angels” written by Ted Swindley, features three country music lovin’ women from different backgrounds who, as fate would have it, meet on a Greyhound bus on their way to try and make it big in Music City, a.k.a. Nashville, TN. Angela, Darlene and Sue Ellen, played by Robyn O’Neill, Debra Wagoner, and Robin Arthur respectively, are fed up with the direction their lives have taken and decide it’s time to make a change.
Angela, who resides in a trailer park with her husband Bubba and several unruly children, has been feeling neglected and under-appreciated by her family, bored with the drudgery of her day to day routine. Darlene lives with her father, who’s a bad drunk, and her dysfunctional brother and sister-in-law who are constantly fighting. Sue Ellen is harassed daily by her pervert of a boss, and after two divorces, is in no mood to be messed with. So, the three women decide to leave their homes and hop on a bus, where they all meet, become fast friends, and decide to form a country music trio called “The Honky Tonk Angels.”
Featuring a total of 32 country songs, some more well known than others, “Honky Tonk Angels” is just well, a grand ole time. Swindley does a good job of incorporating the songs into the plot as we follow the “Angels” on their journey to moderate stardom. Robyn O’Neill has a very endearing quality about her, almost as if you could be her best friend, she doesn’t mind being goofy or loud and I like that about her. Robin Arthur, as Sue Ellen Smith Barney Fife, is deliberate and confident on stage and her southern drawl was the most believable of the three. Debra Wagoner gives a solid performance as Darlene and is the strongest singer in the group.
The set, also designed by Width, is as impressive and multi-faceted as ever, at one point in the first act it is an office in L.A., a trailer, a country house, and a Greyhound bus, all on the same stage, while using Joe Doran’s lighting to break up each of the ladies’ individual storylines. In the second act the set is transformed into the “Honky Tonk Heaven” restaurant and bar in Nashville and we get a glimpse of the live band directed by Paul Deiss. While there were times when the I felt the ladies mic’s were just a bit too loud, the sound for the most part on Saturday was very good. Maura Lynch Cravey’s costumes are attractive and well made, what I have come to expect from this talented designer (the “Cleopatra” costumes are definitely a highlight).
“Honky Tonk Angels” is playing through May 4th at Swift Creek Mill.
www.swiftcreekmill.com for information
Jen Maciulewicz is theatre critic for GAYRVA.com and is a Richmond local. Jen attended VCU and holds a B.S. in Anthropology. She has starred as Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes" and attended VCU’s School of Music. Follow Jen on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jenlaumac.
“Its really just hometown Americana and I think that plays well for us.”March 26, 2015
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