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Country fun at The Dio (“Country Roads”) Review April 5, 2014

Posted by ronannarbor in Entertainment, musical theater, Musicals.
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There’s a lot of country fun to be found in Leslie Jo Hood’s “Country Roads” which opened at The Dio in Pinckney last night. Let me preface this by saying that this is not a true musical comedy — its a musical entertainment following a typically delicious dinner at the venue.

Here’s my advice: ignore the clunky “book” that sort-of holds the show together — it’s basically a jukebox musical comprised of some great country hits, and some Minnie Pearl and Rodley Brasfield thrown in to boot. The book has something to do with waiting a long time to get your big break (and when it comes, “You Can Go to the End of Your Chain and Bark,” its rather anti-climatic.) It thuds along and serves as the mechanism to tie the songs together, not always successfully.

Instead, go for the music:  Aynsley Martindale and Tim Brayman head up a generally strong ensemble cast that sing their way through songs by some of Country’s best — with a bit of bluegrass and Gospel thrown in for good measure. Aynsley in particular, gets some great songs to perform over the course of the evening, and she’s a joy to listen to.

There are also some strong vocals by Steve DeBruyne (including a great “leg kick” you’ll have to wait for)…Liz Jaffe…Thomas Mate…Emily Rogers…and Thalia Shramm (who I believe in the book is supposed to be the ingenue (?) but that storyline sort of disappears by her next song). The other ensemble members range from terrific to pitchy — Lydia Adams, Franklin Burns, Jared Schneider. Never mind, they follow in rapid succession (particularly in the less-talk and more-singing second act) and if you don’t like one of the songs, another one comes along a few minutes later —  songs range the gamut from Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” to Garth Brook’s “If Tomorrow Never Comes” and everything in between.  Some of the songs would be served better with a verse and chorus, rather than the entire song.

The three-piece band under the direction of Brian Buckner sounds great – and their instrumentals in between songs and during scene changes are ear-catching.

Special kudos to Liz Jaffe’s Minnie Pearl — a total hoot — including an audience singalong where at last night’s performance, this reviewer got a chance to sing “baa baa” during “Old McDonald Had a Farm”…

The evening runs long (the show starts immediately after everyone has finished dinner, so our performance started a bit late and ended a bit late) and there are some judicious cuts that can (and should) be made for future productions of this show (I would start by combining all the “Grand Old Opry” flashback stuff in Act I into one 5 minute medley rather than distinct songs, and moving the Patriotic Medley to the finale) — but consider this another “workshop” for “Country Roads” and go have a hand-clapping foot-tapping time…and as usual, enjoy Chef Jarod’s terrific meal beforehand.

“Country Roads” continues through May 11th at The Dio. Tickets at http://www.diotheatre.com or (517)672-6009 – 177 E Main Street, Pinckney, MI  48169

 

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