Director: Michael Serrecchia
Music Director: Sonny Franks
Stage Manager: Luisa Torres
Set Design: Clare DeVries
Costume Design: Michael Robinson
Lighting Design: Leann Burns
Sound Design: Scott Guenther
Properties Design: Gillian Salerno-Rebic
Joey Folsom - Hank Williams
Major Attaway - Tee-Tot
Christia Mantzke - The Waitress
Pam Dougherty - Mama Lilly
Dave Rankin - Hoss
Sonny Franks - Jimmy (Burrhead)
Joseph Holt - Leon (Loudmouth)
Stan Graner - Fred Rose (Pap)
Mikaela Krantz - Audrey Williams
Dennis Bailey – Shag
Photos by Karen Almond
Reviewed Performance 10/11/2013
Reviewed by Eric Bird, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
I had an enjoyable opportunity to review WaterTower Theatre’s presentation of Hank Williams: Lost Highway. The musical biography tells the story of the remarkably talented musician Hank Williams, considered to be the father of modern country music. Hank Williams was introduced into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1960 and many awards have been bestowed on him recently, including his 1949 MGM #1 hit “Lovesick Blues.” This same song was inducted into the Recording Academy Grammy Hall of Fame. In 1999 Williams was also inducted into the Native American Music Hall of Fame.
Upon entering the theatre the audience finds themselves smack dab in the middle of the Grand Ole Opry. This allowed for the concert-based production to flow smoothly, creating a definite environment for the actors. The set design by Clare DeVries exuded an old country feel, with quilts hanging on the back walls and company logos and advertisements running along the front of the stage.
Michael Robinson was the costume designer for the show, also bringing back that 1940’s country feel with his use of boots, buckles, and hats. Though these items are still a large part of the country spirit today, the way Robinson put them together allowed for realism of the time period the musical was set in.
Leann Burns made clear choices when designing the lighting. I enjoyed how the back drop for the Grand Ole Opry would light up creating a believable music hall feel. The actors were clearly illuminated, and though a few light cues were a bit late, the show ran smoothly and clearly. Spotlights helped to transition between different characters and to distinguish changes of location, highlighting the diner at one point and then the singer Tee-Tot.
Sound design by Scott Guenther heightened the quality of the music being performed live. Though the actors were the ones creating all of the music for the show, Guenther fully and successfully augmented their instruments and voices to make it easier and more enjoyable for the audience to hear. Though there were some issues with the microphones being too quiet on occasion, I was able to follow the storyline. The gunshots were also very realistic, as they were firing blanks, and the sound effects for their car made it very realistic.
Gillian Salerno-Rebic designed the properties, making appropriate choices, from the style of the microphone used throughout the play to the gun that was used during the show. The properties added a definite dimension to the show, such as beer and liquor bottles placed about. Alcoholism and drug abuse were often mentioned and these props helped reinforce Hank as an individual with serious problems.
Joey Folsom played the part of Hank Williams, the southern Alabama hillbilly singer who accomplished a lot in his 29 years of life. Folsom had a strong, dynamic performance as Hank, showing incredible singing skills and good guitar skills. I especially appreciated his singing during the songs “I’m So Lonely I Could Cry” and “Mind Your Own Business.” Folsom’s acting was strong and his body movement and mannerisms made it very clear if he was portraying the young and irresponsible Hank Williams or the older man who got caught up in problems that he couldn’t figure out.
Major Attaway was outstanding in his portrayal of Tee-Tot, the southern Alabama street singer who teaches Hank to sing with soul. Attaway had an exceptional performance, with strong vocal skills during “This Is the Way I Do”, “Long Gone Lonesome Blues” and “Lost Highway.” Attaway’s voice was powerful and commanding and I kept wishing to hear him sing more throughout the show.
Christia Mantzke portrayed The Waitress, an employee at an all-night diner in the south. I enjoyed watching her enthusiasm whenever Hank’s music came on the radio and how she interacted with the songs. The choices Mantzke made in her acting showed a woman who really wanted freedom from the drudgery of her life and who, like many other women of that era, escaped through Hank’s music.
Hank’s strong, overbearing mother Mama Lilly was portrayed by Pam Dougherty. Dougherty created a very real character with her choices, showing a strong woman who had done her best to raise her son properly. The way she also interacted with the other characters showed a realistic mother who didn’t want those around him to be a bad influence on her son.
Dave Rankin portrayed the part of Hoss, one of the members of Hank’s band The Drifting Cowboys, and showed dynamic performance skills both vocally and on the guitar. Sonny Franks portrayed Jimmy (Burrhead), the Oklahoma native and second member of Hank’s band. Together these two served as both the foundation of Hank’s band and as his partners in crime. They exuded a youthful desire for freedom and fame along with Hank. As the show progressed they morphed into friends who were hurt by Hank’s choices and worried about his well-being. Both Rankin and Franks were incredible at portraying their emotions throughout the show. Added to the band later was Leon (Loudmouth), the fiddle player who was masterfully portrayed by Joseph Holt. Holt demonstrated incredible fiddle skills and a very talented member of the band, creating a believable fun character.
Stan Graner played Fred Rose (Pap), the founder and executive producer of a Nashville publishing company who discovers Hank and his music and hires him on to be a regular performer on the Grand Ole Opry. I appreciated the style in which Graner narrated what was happening to Hank during his brief life, as it lent an almost storybook quality to the show as well as keeping the musical moving smoothly
Audrey Williams, the blond Alabama beauty that was Hank’s first wife, was portrayed by Mikaela Krantz. Krantz was a joy to watch onstage, especially in how she interacted with Hank and how their interaction changed over time. Her vocals during “I’m Gonna Sing, Sing, Sing” was appropriately dreadful, adding to the character’s overall image and showing Krantz’ great talent. Her skills were even more apparent during ensemble numbers when Krantz could more skillfully sing with the rest of the cast. I also enjoyed how at times she was positioned behind a screen on the set, showing merely through her body language her disapproval at how Hank was living his life.
The story of this great country musician is masterfully portrayed by WaterTower Theatre. The night that I reviewed was their first preview performance, which means this show can only keep on getting better and better from an already incredible start. I highly recommend Hank Williams: Lost Highway as an evening full of soulful music and astounding performances.
HANK WILLIAMS: LOST HIGHWAY
15650 Addison Road
Addison, Texas 75001
Performances run through November 3rd
Prices range from $25.00 - $40.00. A $3.00 senior discount applies Wednesday – Friday and Saturday matinees. Groups of ten or more also receive a $3.00 discount. Student Rush tickets are $12.00 each and can be purchased 15 minutes before curtain, if available.
Wednesday/Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday/Saturday at 8:00, Sunday at 2:00 pm. Additional performances on Saturday, Oct. 26th and Nov. 2nd at 2:00 pm
For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.watertowertheatre.org or call their box office at 972-450-6232.