Summer has been long and hot, the start of school is still a few weeks away, and I REALLY needed a night out. (Who’s with me?) I’ve been spending most of my summer days working from my home office among tweens and teens and their bizarre sleep and eating schedules. The juggle is real when it comes to “older kids” and working, so it’s important to me to seize moments to connect and make fun memories. I was super tickled when my seventh grade daughter, Daisy, said “yes” to joining me on a girls’ night out to see “Honky Tonk Angels” at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, one of my favorite places!
The comedic storyline of this jukebox musical follows three brave and memorable women who seem to have little in common except for their love of country music. Along their honky tonk adventure and travels to Nashville, country classics help tell the story, including beloved tunes from Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, and Tammy Wynette.
First and foremost: this cast is simply INCREDIBLE. I showed up for a fun girls’ night out with my kid, and came away with tear-stained cheeks and an unexpected workout for my heartstrings.
I could talk about the show all day (!) but since your days are probably as packed as mine, I’ll keep it simple and narrow it down four things to love about “Honky Tonk Angels,” directed by Jeff Stockberger and choreographed by Doug King:
4 Things to Love About “Honky Tonk Angels” at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre:
1. They harmonized like “Angels”
The three women gracing the stage in this show (Bridgette Ludlow as Angela, Shelbi Berry as Darlene, and Kaylee Verble as Sue Ellen) each have strong, beautiful and commanding voices, unique in tone, style and texture. Just as the characters in the story discover, when these heavenly voices COMBINE, the effect is exponential. You could have heard a pin drop in the audience at several points when the trio locked into their perfect harmonies in songs including “I’ll Fly Away,” “Paradise Road,” “Angels Among Us” and “I Will Always Love You.” (If I had a cast recording, it would be playing right now!)
2. They cracked us up
This show is packed with comedic energy, and Bridgette Ludlow truly commanded the stage physically and vocally as a self-proclaimed “Queen of the Double-wide.” (I became a huge fan of her gorgeous voice and acting talent when I saw her in “The Color Purple” at Civic Theatre – seeing her in such a contrasting role gave me even more appreciation for how versatile she is as a performer – just, WOW.) The three women did a great job playing off each other, delivering hilarious twists during the dialogue scenes and classic songs like “Stand By Your Man,” “Harper Valley PTA,” and “Fancy.”
3. They delivered the unexpected
There were all kinds of surprises in this show! A few of the moments I wasn’t expecting but found delightful included: a tap-dancing, baton twirling dance break (by Kaylee Verble as Sue Ellen), gorgeous Act II wigs (by Andrew Elliott) and costumes (by Terry Woods), super fun fiddle solos (Kathy Schilling) in the live band conducted by Kristy Templet, and to-die-for desserts during intermission. (Daisy ordered the Smores Cake – after the first decadent bite, even though she was still pretty full from the dinner buffet, she asked me, “Are we allowed to ask for seconds?” This kid…)
4. They took us to church
I’m still not exactly sure what happened to me when Shelbi Berry began singing “Calling All Angels,” but I could not stop the tears from flowing. Her voice is so soulful, with such range, from quiet, deep, and moody, to knock-you-out-of-your chair powerhouse moments. Her emotion comes straight through. Daisy’s assessment: “I couldn’t BELIEVE how good she is!” (Side note: On the drive home from the show, I pulled up the recording of “Calling All Angels” by by Jane Siberry with k.d. lang to refresh my memory, and now I can’t stop listening.I had forgotten how absolutely magical and moving that song is. Oof.)
I AM exactly sure what happened when the audience spontaneously began to sing along with the cast during “Amazing Grace” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” Quite simply, these ladies took us to church with their artistry. Daisy and I looked at each other with wonder in our eyes, then glanced around at our fellow audience members, quietly by reverently singing their hearts out from their tables in the darkness. I sang along. Couldn’t help it.
If you could use an evening out, and perhaps a bit of musically divine inspiration, I recommend you spend an afternoon or evening to fly away with these “Angels,” on stage through August 14.
Fast facts about “Honky Tonk Angels” at Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre:
- Tickets range from $51-$71 and include Chef Larry Stoops’ Southern-inspired dinner buffet and select beverages
- Performances on stage through Aug. 14
- Tickets are available online at beefandboards.com or through the box office, 317.872.9664
- Sponsored in part by WFMS The Country Station
- Rated PG for some mild language and adult content