Reviewing Theatre For Over 40 Years
“Honky Tonk Angels” in Covina Offers Country Music Mash-Up
Musical revues come in many forms. One of the most common has a vague plot, so that those singing can inhabit characters while on stage. When this works, it can be a lot of fun. When it doesn’t, it just seems to create interruptions between songs which would have been just as much fun without the plot.
Somewhere in the middle is “Honky Tonk Angels,” just finishing a short run at the Covina Center for the Performing Arts. This show, an homage to an extremely eclectic list of country music songs, purports to be about three disparate women who decide to leave home and go to Nashville, meet on a bus, and become a country music girl group. It’s not, really, but the songs are fun.
Ellen Dostal is the middle-aged Texas housewife. Jennifer Kersey is the haunted, impoverished Louisiana kid. Anne Montavon is the twice-divorced transplanted Texan getting tired of her abusive Los Angeles boss. Their one and only moment of earnest meshing comes in the sequence in which they meet on the bus. Other than that, they could do just as well giving a concert.
All three have good country-style voices. Graced with a live band to sing with (more about them later), they belt out classics with authority and handle the common close harmonies of such music with great style. Moreover, they handle a few feedback glitches from their sound equipment like pros, never letting it interfere with their performances.
Montavon is, by far, the best dancer, and director/choreographer Allison Bibicoff takes advantage of her skills. Indeed, she pretty much overdoes this, as there is no real balance between Montavon’s character movements and the simple stuff the others can accomplish. While everyone else sways, Montavon climbs on and drapes over furniture – an unfortunate choice at one point, as she stands on top of a bar in a skirt so short the entire audience has no choice, when watching her, but to look up it.
Still, the results are generally cheerful. The band is fairly good, too, though its set-up has problems. One of the amplifiers has been placed much too close to the drum set, causing the snares to rattle loudly at times when that sound is inappropriate. The bass guitar’s amp is too loud, and the steel guitar’s amp is too quiet for the balance to sound appropriately countrified.
“Honky Tonk Angels” most interesting feature may be the varied nature of its music, from Loretta Lynn to Bobby Gentry to Dolly Parton to Roger Miller, to Nancy Sinatra, to REO Speedwagon and more. To pull all of this material into something trying to tell a single story may be the real problem: the story is built to fit the music, rather than the other way around, and the result is a nice concert occasionally interrupted by tiny snips of character.
But then, that may be the nature of this kind of show. It is still fun to hear, and even occasionally sing along with. It’s just not great art.
What: “Honky Tonk Angels” When: Through February 3, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday Where: Covina Center for the Performing Arts, 104 N. Citrus Ave. in Covina How Much: $28 – $38 Info: (626) 331-8133 or http://www.covinacenter.com