A whole lot of “yeehaw!” and yodeling goes on in The Kountry Girls, a new musical that just debuted at Theatre Three. That’s right, “Kountry” with a K. Because misspelled words are the hallmarks of great komedy.
The “girls,” Dee Dee (Alexis Nabors) and May (Kelly Silverthorn), sling hash in their mama’s diner in a small town somewhere far from the civilized parts of Texas. They pick. They grin. They say the word “mama” several thousand times and twang out new lyrics to Stephen Foster’s “Oh! Susannah” to sing about a man being “chick-whipped.” This man would be their daddy, a redneck musician named Butch (played by Sonny Franks, also responsible for writing this show, along with Ken Murchison and Andrew Clendenen). Butch has been married 11 times and “owes child support in most Confederate states.” The girls want to go on the road with Butch’s band, but they worry about their mama (Christia Voss) running the greasy spoon alone.
With Dallas Theater Center’s world premiere production of Moonshine: That Hee-Haw Musical peeking over the horizon (it opens September 2 at the Wyly Theatre), Theatre Three has served up its own fresh steaming cow pie of hillbilly nonsense. The Kountry Girls spends two hours borrowing public domain melodies that have been demeaned with new lyrics. “My Old Kentucky Home” becomes “My Old Country Home.” “Camptown Races” is played on out-of-tune cow bells. The audience is frequently invited to “c’mon and sing” (hey, don’t get me involved in this) as the cast works up a sweat clapping along to the music, but on the 1 and 3 beats. That’s just so wrong.
On opening night, the girls tried to drag some old men down to the stage to two-step. Someone should warn the actors that at Theatre Three the advanced age of the patrons could mean achy-breaky hips.
It would be inaccurate to say The Kountry Girls has a plot. The script strings together cornpone jokes interrupted by geetar playing and fiddlin’ (the fiddle player, Katrina Kratzer, is actually terrific). “It’s hard to find a good man, but good to find a hard man.” “Life sucks and then you die.” “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.” It’s like they’re reading off pot holders sold at Cracker Barrel restaurants.
Instead of acting, the cast of eight (plus the fiddler) do a ton of huggin’ and muggin’. The singing is OK, if you’re into the brand of loud folk harmonies heard in shows at Six Flags theme parks. Franks and the girls all play guitar, as does handsome Ian Mead Moore, who’s assigned various characters, one of whom requires a beard held on with an elastic band, and Gregory Lush, who last appeared at Theatre Three in a wonderful musical, On the Eve.
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Alan Pollard plays a customer who comes into the diner and is never served any food, so he just sits silently in a booth wearing a shit-eatin’ grin and shaking maracas. At some point, he jumps up and does a clog dance choreographed like a prolonged seizure. (The café set, designed by the late Jac Alder, could be used for the musical Pump Boys and Dinettes, a much better country-themed show with a real script and original songs.)
Late in the second act, Samantha McChesney-Franks comes on as Butch’s next ex-wife, Tiffany. Here’s what’s said about her: “She had a bird-dog boob-lift. They made her setters into pointers.”
Beware of any show with a title spelled out in rope.
The Kountry Girls continues through July 19 at Theatre Three, 2800 Routh St. (in The Quadrangle). Tickets $25-$50 at 214-871-3300 or theatre3dallas.com.