Honky Tonk Angels: Bubba's Revenge, a musical comedy presented by the American Theatre Company and produced by Kitty Roberts, is not for me.
If you dislike self-indulgence, fluff, and poorly sung popular music, then neither is it for you.
Bubba's Revenge is the third in a series of shows, but familiarity with the past productions is not necessary to understand this show's plot. A famous country singer, Darlene Purvis, dies in an accident while on stage. Her friends and former co-singers, Angela Bodine and Suellen Smith-Barney-Fife, decide to mount a one-night-only reunion show in the bar where Darlene got her start: Honky Tonk Heaven. Angela's husband gets dragged along, but it turns out he's the only one who can see Darlene's ghost, which haunts the bar now.
And that's pretty much it. The plot's a flimsy excuse for the music, which appears to be the show's main attraction. But as far as I can tell none, or very little, of the show's music is original. It's a patchwork quilt of country music classics, performed by a live band and sung by the actors.
None of the actors exhibits any especial musical talent, however. Anna Neal, who plays Darlene, has a thin, sharp voice. John Knippers, who plays Bubba, has the most pleasant singing voice of the cast, but his character sings very little in the show.
I'm more deeply baffled by the total absence of any musical attributions in the program. There is a synopsis of scenes, but no mention of song or artist names. I am unfamiliar with the nuances of copyright law, but I'm reasonably certain that, if these artists (and their respective labels) allowed producer Kitty Roberts and writer Ted Swindley to use these songs, they would have at least wanted a little accreditation in the program.
When three-fourths of your show consists of someone else's work, you ought to at least give them a nod, don't you think?
So if the plot is just an excuse to hang music on, and the music isn't performed well, and isn't even original, then why see the show?
Well, the band's pretty good. But tickets to the show are more than $20, and if I'm paying that much to see a live band, there'd better be some room to dance.
Scenic designer Richard Ellis made this set with a lot of love. Also, the lighting design, by Tom Poss, is more spectacular than the show warrants.
On the other hand, Kara Staiger's choreography is tepid, at best.
There's very little in the show to admire. There are a few sight gags, which come off well, but much of the text came right off the shelf of some low-rent comedy warehouse.
At one point, when asked for a matchstick, Bubba actually says "I've got a match: your face and my butt."
Then again, the line got a big laugh. Maybe this just isn't my kind of play. I mean, I'm not a big fan of country. Especially not pop-country. But I love me some bluegrass. And I can have a pretty low-brow sense of humor, too.
Perhaps it's because I prize originality, and there's none to be found here. The production doesn't even have the appeal that karaoke can sometimes have. It's just plain mediocre.
When it isn't borrowing someone else's work, the writing lacks care and planning. This play has more false endings than the third Lord of the Rings film. Even when the play pulls the hackneyed "it was all a dream" gag, it still doesn't have the sense to end. It just goes on and on.
To the production's credit, it doesn't have any pretensions about itself. Aside from the ticket price.
A final word of warning: if you have an issue of Intermission from a previous SummerStage production, the showtime as printed may be incorrect for your showing. Be sure to double check the showtime before planning your evening.
Honky Tonk Angels: Bubba's Revenge plays July 24-26 in the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's John H. Williams Theatre. Visit www.tulsapac.com for more details.
You would be better served, artistically speaking, by heading somewhere else this weekend. Gilcrease Museum, now under the management of the University of Tulsa, is gearing up with some new programs. Check out The Poetry of Line: The Pen and Ink Drawings of Earl Biss or 101 Ranch: The Real Wild West, two of the current exhibitions at the Gilcrease.
At the Tulsa Historical Society, you can check out, for free, "Roaring 20s: Prosperity & Peril in the Oil Capital of the World" on Tuesday through Saturday, from 10am to 4pm.
Or check out Hart & Brad Morris, local musicians and a father/son duo, in a one-night only performance during the Tulsa SummerStage festival. The performance is Fri., July 25 at 8pm at the Tulsa PAC's Charles E. Norman Theatre.
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