Wow! And wow again!
That three-letter word was used countless times by the opening night crowd as they filed out of the Okoboji Summer Theatre. It was the only word they could come up with to describe what they had just witnessed. It may be a small word but it packs a lot of power.
"The Honky Tonk Angels" is a musical jam-packed with country music. Even if you don’t like that genre, the words of the 34 songs performed helped to tell a unique story about three women, with totally different backgrounds, who come together and find themselves through each other. It is an endearing story and the music spells it out completely.
Three amazing Stephens College theatre students make up the cast of the musical. Natalie Irlmeier, Aubrey Hicks and Colleen O’Brien are amazingly talented singers with incredible voices. Irlmeier’s voice is soothing to hear. Hicks can belt out a song better than Ethel Merman in her heyday. O’Brien’s lower range is beautiful and so strong for such a small woman.
None of the three tried to outstage the others. They played so well off each other; it was a team effort from beginning to end. Their harmonies made the veteran Sweet Adelines in the audience gasp in pure pleasure.
Director/choreographer Paul Finocchiaro came to the Lakes from Florida to do this show. A talented singer and dancer himself, Finocchiaro gave the girls superb direction, using their body language as well as their vocal skills and motion to give each a character all her own. Bravo, Paul!
The band is on stage with the actors for the entire show. Tom Andes, Greg Forney, Dalton Peterson and Tim Schumacher not only played extremely well, they seemed to be having a ball up there with the gals. The set designed by Nathan Lee served all those on stage well. It was cleverly simple.
I send out a huge bravo to costume designer Ashley Harrison. I lost count at all the costume changes that were appropriate for the roles but over the top in eye catching appeal. She even made the guys in the band look good. Fantastic job, Ashley!
The opening night audience really got into the show. We clapped in time to some of the songs. We cheered loudly at the conclusion of several of the numbers. We laughed out loud at the antics of Hicks over and over again. We grew very quiet toward the end of the second act when we knew it was going to be over soon. As an audience we loved what we were seeing and hearing from the first note to the last.
I encourage audiences not to be afraid to get involved with a show. If you just sit quietly, and let out a chuckle now and then, the people on that stage feel as though they are failing miserably. Be vocal and enthusiastic to encourage these students on to bigger and better things.
"The Honky Tonk Angels" is music sung at its best, comedy played at its best and a story as necessary to tell today as when it was created several years ago. This show has really put the pressure on the directors and actors to follow this summer. The bar has been set high (10 plus). If the rest of the nine shows are as good as this, it will be the most fantastic summer ever at OST!