If you enjoy country and cross-over hits from the Country charts to the Popular charts, then “First Ladies of Country Music” provides a satisfying feast of musical giants in The Chestnut Fine Arts current production.
Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Anne Murray, and, of course, Patsy Cline hits fill the two-hour show with hit after hit of songs most everyone in the audience knows and remembers. Back in the 1950s Patsy Cline recorded hit after hit that aall began on the Country Music chart and quickly spread to top of the Pop Music charts. Who can forget “Crazy,” and“Walkin’ after Midnight” ? How about Patti Page’s “Tennessee Waltz”? How about Dottie West and her signature hit “Country Sunshine”?
That’s just a brief announcement of the opening songs in “First Ladies of Country Music.” Follow those with “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” “Harper Valley PTA,” “Stand by Your Man,” “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” as well as a few more gems. That’s just the highlights of Act I of the show.
For that music festival of Country classics, Brad Zimmerman lassoed three super-talented songstresses who can perform almost any genre of music with style. For this show, he called on the vocal talents of Julie Shaw, Samantha Agron, and a Chestnut staple, Val Fagan. All the women have a history of Chestnut performances to their credit, but Fagan stands out because she plays guitar, banjo, and has even been called upon to learn and play drums for a previous show that featured the music of The Carpenters.
To deliver a signature song identified with a specific vocalist might intimidate many. Audiences know the song so well that much of a variance is not allowed. Still, with these talented professionals, the delivery of the songs respected the original artist yet allowed for each lady to “own” the music.
Old-time Country Music, especially the women stylists, had a “twang.” Many of these song did not have the signature “twang” but the spirit of the song and the original artist is revered. The performers delivered a Christmas in July package to Chestnut patrons with “First Ladies of Country Music.”
Story-telling pure and simple forms the spine of the Country Music genre. All the songs have a message to deliver. Some are painful memories; some are happy moments; some are bittersweet; but, all found their way into listeners’ hearts.
Act II followed the first half cavalcade of hits. Such well known songs as “Delta Dawn,” “You Needed Me,” Blue Bayou.” “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” “Let Me Be There,” keep the audience engaged. And how could a show about Country Music not include the most famous of the Country crown without music by Dolly Parton?
No such evening would be complete without Dolly’s music and influence on popularizing the genre and taking it to the world. Her talent began to explode on the weekly Porter Wagoner show on Friday nights. Her determination to succeed and her drive to move forward in a positive way have propelled her to super-star status. She carved out her success from TV, to movies, to Las Vegas, to concert tours, to radio, recording, and even Broadway. Beyond that, she’s opened a theme park and given millions to charities. What a resume!
The Dolly portion of the program, some of her most famous songs get the Chestnut treatment: “Jolene,” “Here You Come Again,” “I Will Always Love You,” and “9 to 5.”
As for the band, production director Jeff Martin selected Lenora Remmert for piano, Russ Weaver on steel guitar, Brian Wilson on bass, and Ken Remmert on percussion. With all that talent backing up the ladies, the band needed an opportunity to shine off their personal talent. So, the instrumental “Ghost Riders in the Sky” provided the chance to display their musical talents.
So, for a lively evening of family entertainment, “First Ladies of Country Music” will provide plenty of entertainment and laughs. Opening night attracted a capacity house with an age range of 7 to 90. The smiles throughout the show and the conversations at intermission and after the show confirmed that the show is a hit and will attract full houses.
Do not delay in booking seats. More information and ticket prices can be found on The Chestnut Fine Arts website.
Tags: Chestnut Fine Arts Center, Olathe Kansas, “First Ladies of Country Music” review, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment