Live music brings singer’s story to Fallon House stage
COLUMBIA — Sierra Repertory Theatre brings hot-fingered fiddling and good old country music to its Fallon House stage when it presents Hank Williams: Lost Highway April 1 – May 15.
Hank Williams is widely regarded as one of the most significant and influential American singers and songwriters of the 20th century, with 11 songs hitting number one Billboard country and western ratings, and 35 singles that made Top 10. Sierra Rep’s production packs 20-plus Hank Williams songs into its show, with hits like “Hey, Good Lookin’,” “Move It On Over” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” The catchy, heart-filled tunes bridge the gap between country and blues.
Beyond the timeless music itself, the production gives audiences a chance to know Hank and some of the stories behind his classic songs. Characters hop seamlessly between speaking, singing, and playing their instruments throughout the show.
“Getting to know more about an iconic artist and then having all these great tunes brought to life live on our stage are what the show is all about,” said director Scott Viets.
Growing up in south Alabama, the young Hank befriends and learns the blues from a street performer and shoe-shine. With friends for bandmates and his mother as his manager, Hank’s group rises on the waves of popular opinion. The show climaxes with the band’s performance at the Grand Ole Opry, known as “The Show that Made Country Music Famous” in Nashville, Tennessee.
The play doesn’t avoid the topic of Williams’ heavy drinking and trouble with his wife, among other demons.
“It’s a theatrical bio of a real person, a famous icon in the country world, who had a very, very dark side to him,” Viets said. “Sometimes these artists, these brilliants artists, are a little tortured. And no less in Hank Williams’ case.”
“He broke all the rules,” said Randal Myler, the play’s co-creator, who noted that Williams was one of America’s first “bad boy” artists.
The struggles, which ultimately led to Williams’ premature death at age 29, offer an authenticity to Williams’ iconic role in country music.
“Ultimately, it’s all there in his music,” Viets concluded.
Sierra Rep has decided to bring the show back after its explosive local debut in 2008, which saw through-the-roof attendance. The Union Democrat called the show “satisfying and artful.” This time around, Seattle native Joey Shaw plays the title character. He recently moved to New York after performing with the Seattle and Tennessee Shakespeare companies. Los Angeles actress Stephanie Tucker (All My Sons) returns to Sierra Rep to play Williams’ wife, Gary Holman (Macbeth) returns as music publisher Pap, and Michelle Foletta (Honky Tonk Angels) returns as the waitress who represents Williams’ fans. Sierra Rep Education Director Ralph Krumins also stars as one of Williams’ band members. Los Angeles actress Dianne Manaster plays Williams’ caring mother and New York actor Uton Onyejekwe is early mentor and street singer Tee-Tot.
The show opens April 1 and runs through May 15 with performances Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m.; and Thursdays at either 2 or 7 p.m. A special “talk back” performance is Thursday, April 14. Tickets range from $32 to $37, with senior, student and child discounts available. The show is rated PG-13 for mature themes and language. For tickets and information, visit www.sierrarep.org or call the Box Office at 209-532-3120.