Jan 22, 2018
by Alexa Chipman
Photo above: Amy Webber (Sue Ellen), Abbey Lee (Darlene), and Daniela Innocenti Beem (Angela)
Vibrant country music inspires three women to give up their mediocre lives in favor of a one-way ticket to Nashville. Classic songs like “I Will Always Love You” and “9 to 5” link together to progress the story and deepen understanding of the characters, while causing laughs along the way. This lively, escapist work by Ted Swindley is meant to be a relaxing, clap-along evening, rather than soul-searching drama. Michella Snider’s cheeky choreography gives the impression of self-assured women ready to take the world by storm, stylishly strutting in knee-high pink boots.
Surrounded by a rustic barn scenic design by Jesse Dreikosen and a shimmering backdrop for the band, separate worlds unfold. Languishing at a dead-end job with her supervisor constantly pressuring for a date, Sue Ellen (Amy Webber) has had enough, and remembers her childhood dream of becoming a singer. Across the country, Texan housewife Angela (Daniela Innocenti Beem) has spent her life catering to others, and boards a bus to follow her own desires for a change. Provincially raised in coal mining country and cotton fields, Darlene (Abbey Lee) is determined to find a way to perform in the big city. They discover each other and become the Honky Tonk Angels, finding courage through their fear by depending on friendship and a shared passion.
Brandishing an iron and cell phone, Daniela Innocenti Beem’s arresting performance gave a striking interpretation of the “Stand By Your Man” lyrics, which did not end well for an unoffending cotton shirt. Amy Webber’s playful, spicy flair is evident in “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” contrasted with languid ballads from Abbey Lee, whose voice is lovely, but not necessarily suited for the role; there was a sense of discomfort in her performance. Engaging interpretations from director Michael Ross infuse vivacious comedy, and despite timing challenges, music director Robert Hazelrigg has created charming three-piece harmonies.
The rather thin story falters in the second act and fizzles out for an unsatisfactory ending, so while it is an entertaining, heel-tapping festival with talented actors, it suffers from a lack of cohesion. If you enjoy country music, it will be a captivating kaleidoscope of songs, from “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad” to “Coal Miner’s Daughter” with accompaniment by Ian Scherer (guitar), Quinten Cohen (drums) and Kassi Hampton (fiddle).
G.K. Hardt Theatre at 6th Street Playhouse
52 W. 6th Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95401
Photos by Eric Chazankin
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