Howdy pardners. Ready to take you on a journey along Classic Country Roads, from left, are: Sean Baker, Katelyn Morishita and Georgia Bennett. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Howdy pardners. Ready to take you on a journey along Classic Country Roads, from left, are: Sean Baker, Katelyn Morishita and Georgia Bennett. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Review: Chemainus Theatre’s new ‘Classic Country Roads’ a rollicking revue

Stellar musical performances

You don’t need to love country music to love the Chemainus Theatre Festival’s new summer show — if you love music you’ll love this show.

Classic Country Roads opened Friday, June 17, and it hearkened back to previous Chemainus Theatre favourites like Twist and Shout and Rock Legends.

The most impressive thing about the production is the musical performances by Sean Baker, Georgia Bennett, Kaden Forsberg, Katelyn Morishita, Melissa Kahan, and Kraig Waye, with most of the heavy lifting done by Baker, Bennett, Forsberg and Morishita.

The effortlessly performed complex harmonies that are done with the perfect balance between the voices is incredible.

All of the singing is good, but even among such a talented cast Morishita, in particular, is a standout with her soulful, rich voice and ability to command the stage.

The music runs the gamut from old-time country that will likely be most recognizable to afficianodos, all the way to more modern crossover hits, and pieces that evoke the fervour of tent revivals, as Classic Country Roads takes viewers through a brief history of the genre, with stops at sub-genres and notable country legends.

The overall pacing of the show is excellent, with bits of comedy and some hilarious old black and white advertisements sparingly interspersed with what everyone is there to see — the musical numbers, which themselves range from heartfelt ballads to catchy hooks with clever lyrics.

The revue format of the show makes for a fast-paced production that’s just a really good time. When it’s time for intermission, you’ll wonder where the previous hour went.

The live band that performs with the singers also deserves a shoutout: Heather Burns, Julian Glover, Michael MacKinnon, Brad Shipley, and Kaito Takeda.

The only real misstep is a segment turning the eerie country favourite ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’ into an unfunny comedy sketch. The fact that this is the only song in the show whose original intent and context is removed in this way makes it even more incongruous.

Given the popularity of the song, it’s quite possible that many members of the audience were looking forward specifically to this tune, and they were likely taken aback at the way in which it was presented. There is an easy fix — simply have the actors don all black and do the song straight — and I hope it’s a reconsideration the creative team will take seriously, as there’s plenty of time to fix it for the rest of the run.

Likewise, the ending would be more effective if the order of the songs in the final medley was rearranged so that the last song is one that gets the audience ready to jump to their feet, rather than a little too laid back and downbeat.

Because the show is begging for the audience to leap to their feet.

The audience on opening night spontaneously clapped along to several of the numbers, and applauded the singers after particularly good renditions of favourites.

Classic Country Roads is a great way to fill a summer afternoon or evening, and you’ll leave the theatre with your toes tapping and at least one song on a loop in your head.

Get tickets by going to chemainustheatre.ca or call 250-246-9820.

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