Written by Betsy Howe
Conceived, with Music & Lyrics by Mary Murfitt
Directed by Robert More
Performed by Cathy Elliott, Gabi Epstein, Keely Hutton, Lizzie Kurtz, Heather Lea-Brown, Ann O’Kane.
Victoria Playhouse Petrolia production with Drayton Entertainment
Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia
July 20 to August 7, 2010
(Also August 11 to 28 at Drayton Festival Theatre, Drayton)
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
Cowgirls are a Classic
A couple of weeks ago, when Country Legends opened at Huron Country Playhouse, I said I didn’t like country music, but was forced to admit I loved the show. Now, I have the same reaction to Cowgirls, which just opened at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia. I still don’t like country music, but I really enjoyed this show about country music in a Kansas country music bar.
Three very talented young women, recently graduated from Coghill University after studying classical music, have taken their trio on the road. Rita, Mary Lou and Lee are snobby and very pretentious about their classical training. But they find themselves booked to entertain at a country & western bar. Instead of hiring the Coghill Trio, the owner, Jo, thought she was hiring the Cowgirl Trio.
Jo is desperately trying to save the bar from foreclosure, so she’s planned a big re-opening. Her two servers, Mo and Mickey, would like to perform on stage and feel they could do a better job than the uppity classical musicians. The three classical musicians decide to make an attempt at singing country, and the laughs ensue.
In telling this interesting little tale, director Robert More has assembled an excellent cast of six very talented women. Not only can they all sing and act, they play musical instruments as well. Keely Hutton is excellent as the pregnant Rita, playing the piano, singing classical and making the shift to country. She really shines when she confesses to loving honky-tonk and pounds out a tune. Ann O’Kane gives a good performance as Lee, the lesbian-hippie-cellist. Lizzie Kurtz as Mary-Lou cleverly takes the audience on a journey as she transforms from tightly wound to literally letting her hair down. At the same time her violin transforms into a fiddle.
Cathy Elliott with her powerful voice makes a perfect Jo, the bar owner. Heather Lea-Brown is excellent as the tough girl Mickey, and Gabi Epstein provides the comedy as the offbeat Mo.
It’s a cleverly written show, with warm and witty dialogue. The link between classical and country music is also demonstrated – for example, did you know that the tune of Tammy Wynette’s “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” is derived from Beethoven’s “Fur Elise”?
This bright cast gives life to a cute and clever little musical, making it Petrolia’s hit of the season. The opening night audience loved it.
Cowgirls continues with eight shows a week at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until August 7. Call the box office at 1-800-717-7694 or 519-882-1221 for tickets, or visit www.thevpp.ca. If you can’t catch it in Petrolia before August 7th, it is moving to Drayton August 11th to 28th.