So Much Heart in Country Music
There’s another crowd-pleaser on stage at The Victoria Playhouse in Petrolia: The Men of Country ~ From the Heart. In a season full of box office hits and happy audiences, co-artistic directors David Hogan and David Rogers have done what they set out to do. As Mr. Hogan told me last January, he has listened to the audience and given them what they want.
Last year’s From the Heart ~ Women of Country was a huge hit, so they have followed up with the Men of Country. Back in 2012, VPP’s Country Sunshine was also very popular, and they are building on that tradition.
This year’s offering features a cast of six very talented boys – well, men, as they keep reminding us. Not only can these six sing, but they all play many instruments, and frequently switch them around. Each man has his turn as a soloist at centre stage, and they each change from guitar to keyboard, to bass, to drums, to banjo, to steel guitar, to whatever is needed. Harmonica and tambourine are thrown in the mix, too. Musical director Mark Payne performs, too. He has great fun with some boogie-woogie honky-tonk that he pounds out on the keyboard.
The show gets rolling with salute to booze. Dan Baerg comes out from behind the drums to sing an old favourite, I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink. Jesse Grandmont is best known for his fiddling skills and he doesn’t disappoint. But this revue offers the opportunity for him to play other instruments and also entertain. He has some fun with the ode to the Red Solo Cup. Continuing the tribute to drink, Kraig Waye sings Hey Hey Hey What’s So Wrong with One More Drinkin’ Song and in the same vein, Brian Barber sings Garth Brooks’ Friends in Low Places, while Randy Rector asks the musical question What Would Jimmy Buffet Do, singing It’s Five O’clock Somewhere.
The entire ensemble has great fun with the Hole in the Bottom of the Sea, singing acapella in harmony, faster and faster, to the delight of the audience. There is the requisite Blue Grass Duelling Banjos – only in this case, the banjo duels with a fiddle and many other instruments. Together they cover all the great country stars but the Kenny Rogers medley was especially well received. When Kenny’s favourites were performed on opening night, there were oohs and ahhs of recognition from the audience when the first few notes were played.
The Men of Country is a high-energy tip-of-the-cowboy-hat to Country Music, with a very multi-talented cast, all of whom sing and play effortlessly. This show continues the run of VPP’s crowd pleasers and will sell out quickly, despite being on stage til September 25. If country music is your thing, you better call the box office right now.
The Men of Country ~ From the Heart continues at Victoria Playhouse Petrolia until September 25. Call the box office at 1-800-717-7694 or 519-882-1221 for tickets or visit www.thevpp.ca
Photo: The Men of Country: Brian Barber, Mark Payne, Dan Baerg, Kraig Waye, Randy Rektor & Jesse Grandmont. Photo by Diane ODell.
The Men of Country ~ From the Heart
Directed & Choreographed by David Hogan
Musical Direction by Mark Payne
Performed by Dan Baerg, Brian Barber, Jesse Grandmont, Mark Payne, Randy Rektor, & Kraig Waye.
Victoria Playhouse, Petrolia
September 7 to 25, 2016
Reviewed by Mary Alderson