Ted Swindley may not exactly be a household name, but he’s gained quite a fair amount of recognition with the success of the musical Always…Patsy Cline, which turns up regularly at theaters around the country. Now Sarasota audiences have another chance to see a Swindley piece with a country twang—although the story of The Honky Tonk Angels, now playing at the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre, is nowhere near as compelling as that of the legendary Cline.
It’s a pretty different animal, in fact, a tissue-paper-thin plot tied to a lot of good old—and some newer-- country tunes. We meet the “angels” as they’re at first facing various stages of unhappiness. Angela (Kyle Ennis Turoff) is a self-proclaimed queen of the double-wide, a Texas mother of six whose husband (inevitably named Bubba) is doing her wrong. Darlene (Heather Kopp) is a sweet young thing taking care of her daddy in the Mississippi Delta and missing her mother in heaven. And Sue Ellen (Dianne Dawson) is a twice-divorced L.A. secretary resisting the advances of her boss and coping with a mother who wants grandchildren. She’s originally from Texas, though, so all three are basically country girls with a dream of making it in—you guessed it—Nashville.
Dianne Dawson, Heather Kopp and Kyle Ennis Turoff in Honky Tonk Angels.
They meet on a bus to the Music City, and team up as a trio, so by the time we see them in Act II they’re playing a place called Honky Tonk Heaven. And now you know pretty much everything there is to know about the show.
That’s the down side—that The Honky Tonk Angels doesn’t really give its performers much to do over the course of a two-hour (with intermission) evening. On the up side, all three of them are talented and lively and get to demonstrate their abilities on three-part harmonies as well as solos. There’s a wide range of songs here, from oldies like Coal Miner’s Daughter, Delta Dawn and Ode to Billie Joe (Swindley throws in a reason for that famous jump off the Tallahatchie Bridge) to real oldies like Rocky Top and I’ll Fly Away to slightly more recent vintage, like Pam Tillis’s Cleopatra, Queen of Denial. Among some of the most effective: the trio on I Will Always Love You and Act II’s rueful Sittin’ On the Front Porch Swing, and Turoff’s rendition of Harper Valley PTA (complete with over-the-top revealing costume).
While you can’t help wishing for more with The Honky Tonk Angels, you can also enjoy what there is and may find yourself humming along to some old favorite songs. The show continues through June 19; for tickets call 366-5454 or go to thegoldenapple.com.