Saturday, August 25, 2012

Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge

Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge opened at Cumberland County Playhouse Thursday night. As excited as I was about this show, it was the second time in two days that I’d seen it. I was blessed to be asked to come to the final dress/preview of the show on Wednesday night by director, John Fionte. Myself, along with two other CCP patrons, were able to sit in on Wednesday night AND tweet (and take some pictures) about what we were seeing.

This was my first “tweet event” and I was glad to be a part of it and really glad I got to see the show before it opened. If you’d like to see what was tweeted (including a tweet from one of the show’s writers), you can click HERE, or search #goldenboytweets on Twitter.

Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge is a comedy and a tragedy all at the same time. The story centers on Maggie McFarland and her life as the daughter of moonshiner JM McFarland. Taking place over two days, Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge looks at the relationship between Maggie and stranger Clayton Monroe. Set in 1930s prohibition Appalachia, this show is full of music that sounds like bluegrass in tune, but takes on an edgier feel when you listen to the lyrics of many of the songs.

Choreographer Donald Frison has given the show a feel that boarders somewhere between a standard musical and a rock musical (a la Spring Awakening) that both works for the show, but isn’t anything like you might expect. Perhaps the most visually captivating moments of the show is the opening number, “Way Out Back and Beyond,” due in major part to the choreography. Lighting, designed by Sandra “Sam” Hahn, helps to set the mood throughout the show, as well as casting a “golden” hue overall, helping the audience to understand the older time period that they are experiencing.

Anna Baker gives the role of Maggie a mixture of youthful exuberance and jaded disenchantment. Baker’s voice is beautiful and one of my favorite numbers of the show was the Act 2 opener “Grist for the Mill.” A large part of my love for that song was how wonderfully it was performed by Anna Baker.

Greg Pendzick plays Clayton Monroe, the golden boy with a dark past that turns Maggie’s world on end. Clayton Monroe changes in so many ways through the show and Greg Pendzick does a fantastic job of showing the transition of Clayton’s personality and why the character changes the way he does.

Luther Coffey, played by Austin Price, is Maggie’s “intended.” Austin Price tackles this role with massive amounts of comedy, but it seems to work for the character. There are times when the comedy would seem over the top, but you know that if Luther Coffey were a real person, he’d be acting the same exact way. His crowning moment in the show would be his “First-Class Ticket” number, as he begs Clayton to leave town.

Typical funny man, Jason Ross, tackles a whole different type of role in Golden Boy. Ross plays Leroy, a quite scary, slightly deranged law man with a hidden agenda. While there are times the character is funny, it’s not Jason Ross in his typical comedy. I loved seeing a different side of Ross, and I hope to see more of this type of role for him in the future.

Cast of Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge, taken from the
CCP facebook page

Lauren Marshall played local widow Hazel Grubbs. Widow Grubbs is essentially the character that glues the show together. Looking out only for herself, Widow Grubbs plays every character in the show to get herself ahead. Lauren Marshall makes Hazel Grubbs a lovable character, when it could be easy to hate her.

Rounding out the cast are Daniel Black as JM McFarland and Douglas Waterbury-Tieman, Colin Cahill, and John Dobbratz who double as part of the orchestra and locals in the small community in West Virginia, and the final two members of the orchestra, Drew Robbins and Tony Greco.

In all honesty, I think “unexpected” may be the whole theme of this production of Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge. Unexpected storyline, unexpected choreography, unexpected ending.

If you’d like to read more about the show, you can find the official press release for the show HERE. You can also read my interview with director John Fionte HERE. Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge runs through October 26th in the Adventure Theatre at Cumberland County Playhouse. If you see it, I promise you won’t be disappointed. You can get tickets on the CCP website, or by calling 931-484-5000.

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