Even as the RTG continues to stir up considerably excitement with its production of “Godspell,” rehearsals are already underway for our next show. . . a country music review called “Honky Tonk Angels.” When I first heard the title of the summer show, I fully expected to be gritting my teeth from first read-through until closing night, because country western music ranks somewhere between kazoo quartet and circus calliope on my musical hit parade. In other words, country western music for me is something to endure rather than enjoy . . . especially the “Your Cheatin’ Heart” type of country western music, which for me is the musical equivalent of cod liver oil.
Which is not to say that there haven’t been pockets of country western music which I have enjoyed a lot – especially an album which came out a few years back called “Trio” which featured the first-time collaboration of Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstedt and Emmy Lou Harris. I don’t remember how this album crossed my path – maybe they were interviewed on NPR – but I was intrigued and I ended up plunking down $9.99 and buying the LP – which I still own, by the way. As a long-time fan of Diana Ross and the Supremes – as well as the Rhine Maidens in Wagner’s Ring Cycle – and the Andrews Sisters – I am a sucker for three-part female harmony . . . especially when it’s sung well . . . . so it’s not any wonder that Honkey Tonk Angels, a review featuring almost non-stop three-part female harmony, would manage to get under my skin.
Part of what I like about it is that I know a few of these songs, such as 9 to 5, Coal Miner’s Daughter, Delta Dawn, I’ll Fly Away, Angels Among Us, and Rocky Top. (Not that any of these songs are on my iPod, mind you, but I’ve heard them and liked them.) But this show is introducing me to some songs I had never heard before- “masterpieces” such as “These Boots are made for Walkin’,” “Don’t Come Home A- Drinkin’,” “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad,” It Wasn’t God Who made Honky Tonk Angels,” “Cleopatra, Queen of Denial,” and “Barroom Habits.” On top of the songs themselves is some lively dialogue between the three ladies- named Darlene, Sue Ellen, and Angela, who have each followed very different paths to the country music spotlight. The show is both hilarious and poignant – and both sides of it will be explored beautifully in our three performers: Kate Potter Barrow, Robbyn Wilks, and Dana Rhodes, who bring such warmth and vibrancy to the table. That was evident yesterday when the three of them gathered for the first time to read through the show.
But tonight was when I really got excited – because for the first time we had the three women singing together. (I had rehearsed with each of them separately – but this was the firs time we had the three of them in the same room singing.) And Lordy, it did indeed sound like three angels – not just in how their three beautiful voices blended together, but also how they seemed to feel the music as one. And this was at our very first rehearsal. I can scarcely imagine the magic which Robbyn and Kate and Dana will be conjuring up when this show opens in July.
pictured above: the cast of “Honkey Tonk Angels” reading through the show for the first time with director Doug Instenes. left to right: Kate, Dana and Robbyn – three remarkably gifted and exceptionally fun, nice people. Doing this show with them is going to be one long joyride (despite how serious and somber they look in this photograph.)