Kings & Queens of Country

Written on June 18th, 2018

Yee Haw – Y’All Be Havin’ Lotsa Fun!

It might feel like the Grand Ole Opry, but actually, you’ll be in the Grand Bend Opry.  In fact, you’ll travel through time to hear all the great country stars of the past and then magically hear the stars of the present singing your favourites, all the while remaining seated in Playhouse II.  The Kings & Queens of Country covers 103 country hits – yep, I counted ‘em!

The show opens with a Johnny Cash medley and a Statler Brothers medley, which immediately put everyone in the mood for country music.  Then there are eight songs from the historic queens of country, followed by 11 songs from the kings.  From there, the show goes on with selections from every country great you can think of.

What makes this revue enjoyable is the excellent cast.  Five singers – two female, three male – all have excellent voices.  They add  their finesse as musical theatre performers to the country sounds.

Kelly Holiff sings Patsy Montana’s “I Want to be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart”, complete with yodelling which earns her instant applause.  Similarly, the audience loves Holiff’s version of Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man”.  Later she gives a moving delivery of Dolly Parton’s song (perhaps better known for Whitney Houston’s rendition) “I Will Always Love You”.

Chelsey Duplak is a hit with “Walking After Midnight” and “I Fall to Pieces” in the Patsy Cline medley.  Duplak also delivers on Dolly’s material with “Here You Come Again” and “Jolene”.  It’s interesting to note that the rest of the cast performed this show for several months last year in St. Jacobs, so it was just a matter of reminding themselves of the songs.  However, Duplak is a new addition to the cast and had just over a week to learn all the lyrics.

Michael Cox wows the Hank Williams fans with a medley of favourites including “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “Hey Good Lookin’”.  Cox also performs Hank Snow’s “I’ve been Everywhere”.  He has great fun with the auctioneer-like fast list of all the places he’s been, but unlike Hank Snow, his list includes Grand Bend, Penetang and Drayton.

Al Braatz wins over the audience singing Conway Twitty’s opening line “You Want a Man with a Slow Hand, You Want a Lover with an Easy Touch”.  Braatz shows great talent with the big bass violin.

Spontaneous applause erupts after just a few notes of “Gentle on My Mind” when Tyler Check sings the Glen Campbell favourite.  Check’s Kenny Rogers medley gets the same response when he starts playing “The Gambler”.  You may remember Check from his talented portrayal of Carl Perkins in last year’s Million Dollar Quartet.

In keeping with the country style, the humour is corny.  J. Sean Elliott is a country hick in overalls and rubber boots giving us dated one-liners such as “My wife’s cooking is so bad, we pray after we eat.”  Elliott is also the reincarnation of Minnie Pearl, taking the audience to the Opry.  His version of Ray Steven’s silly hit song “I’m My Own Grandpa” is a crowd pleaser, and his short impersonation of Little Jimmy Dickens’ “May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose” has fans in stitches.  Later, he brings everyone on board for a sing-along of John Denver’s “Take me Home, Country Roads”.

The singers are joined on stage by three excellent musicians:  Earle Filsinger who plays guitar and steel guitar, Kevin Dempsey on drums, and Steve Thomas on keyboard.

This music revue is similar to Country Legends, which played at Huron Country Playhouse in 2010, both with the same great country music and corny country comedy.  Any country music fan will absolutely love this show.  In fact, one woman who knew every song said this was one of the best shows ever!  But even if you’re not a country fan, you can appreciate the wonderful singers and musicians in this cast.

Kings & Queens of Country continues with eight shows a week until June 30 at Playhouse II in Grand Bend. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office: 519-238-6000 or Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check www.huroncountryplayhouse.com

Photo: The cast of Kings & Queens of Country.  Photo by Darlene O’Rourke.

Kings & Queens of Country
Conceived & Directed by Alex Mustakas
Orchestrations & Vocal Arrangements by Nicole Gusé
Musical Direction by Steve Thomas
Choreography by Jackie Mustakas
Performed by Al Braatz, Tyler Check, Michael Cox, Chelsey Duplak, J. Sean Elliott, & Kelly Holiff, and Musicians Kevin Dempsey, Earl Filsinger, and Steve Thomas.
Produced by Drayton Entertainment
Playhouse II, Grand Bend
June 13 to June 30, 2018
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Leave a Reply