'Honky Tonk Angels' descends on Studio Players' stage

Contributing Culture WriterJuly 17, 2014 

  • If you go

    The Honky Tonk Angels

    What: Ted Swindley's country musical presented by Studio Players.

    When: 7:30 p.m. July 18, 19, 24-26, 31 and Aug. 1 and 2; 2 p.m. July 20, 27 and Aug. 3.

    Where: Carriage House Theatre, 154 W. Bell Court.

    Tickets: $21; available at the Singletary Center ticket office, (859) 257-4929, or Singletarycenter.com.

    Learn more: Studioplayers.org.

When summer rolls around, Studio Players tends to keep its theatrical offerings light and musical.

This season, with its production of The Honky Tonk Angels, the Lexington theater company has brought a musical to the stage that is festive and familiar, especially if you're a fan of a certain type of music.

"We just thought the songs were great," said Tonda-Leah Fields, the director. They are "just really great, classic country songs, and it's tied together in a plot that's silly and fun."

This won't be the first time Studio Players has put on a musical revue with country leanings. Last summer, it again produced Always ... Patsy Cline and received a wonderful response. The theater's original production of that show in 2010 was its biggest box office hit.

That play's creator, Ted Swindley, also created The Honky Tonk Angels, which follows three very different women on their way to Nashville to pursue their country music dreams. Sue Ellen (Erin Tuttle), Darlene (Brooke Noe) and Angela (Leah-Marie McDivitt) meet on a bus ride to Music City, and they form a singing group and an unlikely friendship in their quest for stardom.

The Honky Tonk Angels is based on the album of the same name that famously teamed female country legends Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette. Throughout the play's first act, which highlights each woman's journey, and the second act, featuring the girl group performing at a Nashville honky tonk, the musical's more than 20 songs will strike a chord with country fans while tying into the story.

Backed by a five-piece band, the actresses, in solos and three-part harmonies, bring to life such classics as 9 to 5, Coal Miner's Daughter, Harper Valley PTA, I Will Always Love You and I'll Fly Away, among others.

Jessica Slaton Greene, the play's musical director, said all three actresses had the vocal ranges to pull off some of these coveted tracks, but the challenge was to steer away from doing some form of country karaoke.

"For me, it was making sure the girls were authentic to the characters they were playing," she said. "It needed to sound like the character was singing it."

Studio Players opened The Honky Tonk Angels last weekend, and the show will continue its run until Aug. 3 with performances Thursday through Sunday. Through the opening weekend, audiences were treated to a very interactive performance at which singing, clapping and even dancing wasn't frowned upon but encouraged.

"This production is just so fun. It's not one of those shows where you just sit back and relax. You get to be a part of it," Noe said.

Tuttle added, "The audience really, really has gotten into it. I think it's mainly the songs that pull people in."

Throughout The Honky Tonk Angels, the music is enhanced by the relatable characters and light-hearted, comedic moments among the three women. Between the laughs and the melodies, Greene said there's also something bigger you can take away.

It's "the idea that no matter how old you are or what you're doing in life, you can still follow your dreams," she said.

Blake Hannon is based in Mount Sterling.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service