October 19, 2009
It has a paper-thin plot and mostly forgettable music, but there is a rough-and-tumble charm to this honky-tonk musical set in a roadside bar in Texas, with music and lyrics by Richard Levinson and book by Jeff Goode. The show is a bit slow to warm up, but under Jeremy Aldridge's direction the play is cooking by the second act.
Top billing for the bar's Saturday night show goes to Eldridge Paisley Jr. (Brendan Hunt), who is headliner and owner of the bar. Eldridge is a cross between an Elvis wannabe and the loudmouthed twerp in high school you wanted to punch out. His ex-wife and former co-star, Lucinda (Natascha Corrigan), whom he is alternately wooing and screaming at, also makes a regular Saturday night appearance at the bar-complete with heavy drinking, flirting, and stealing the mike for some singing of her own. Refereeing these domestic showdowns, along with the rest of the honky-tonk hubbub, is the bartender Doc (Bryan Krasner), who has carried a flame for Lucinda since high school. He may get his chance with her soon, because Eldridge has now fallen for a young waitress, Patsy (Courtney DeCosky), whom he has promoted to singer and who is about to make her onstage debut.
Levinson's music is all country, all the time, with a mix of ballads and stompers that get the supporting cast of waitresses and patrons out on the dancing floor. There are a couple of emotionally dynamic ballads, such as "She Wanted to Be A Singer" and "When We Dance," as well as the light and tender "Let's Do Something Cheap and Superficial," but most of the music is less than memorable. Hunt is solid and energetic as the prancing Eldridge and uses his comic timing to capture the shades of dark and light in his character. Corrigan is strong and appealing in voice and acting, and Krasner is convincing and lovable as Doc. There are also notable performances by Dave Fraser as the piano-playing mechanic and Rachel Howe as the waitress who delivers the moving and heartfelt final number.
However, the bravura performance of the show is by DeCosky, who seizes the spirit of the wistful and wonderful Patsy like catching a firefly in a bottle. DeCosky has a remarkably charismatic stage presence-that rarified ability to rivet an audience's attention in an understated, organic way. Apart from her powerful acting gifts, DeCosky also is a magnificent singer, not only through vocal skills but also through her gift for touching the heart with every lyric. Her renditions of "She Wanted to Be a Singer" and "When We Dance" are transcendent.
Presented by and at the Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Drive, Hollywood.
Sept. 18-Oct. 31. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. (Also Sat. 2 p.m. Oct. 31.) (310) 281-8337. www.sacredfools.org.