Legends of Country at Stage West conjures memories through music

Caroline Russell-King gives us her perspective on the latest production at Stage West: a musical retrospective of country music and its most famous performers.

Show: Legends of Country.

Playwright/composer: Created by Liz Gilroy, Jason Pechet and Konrad Pluta. Lyrics and music by various artists, including Buck Owens, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Dwight Yoakam, Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks.

Production Company/theatre space: Stage West.

Length: Two acts (one intermission).

Genre(s): Tribute concert.

Premise: Lookalikes for Buck Owens, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Dwight Yoakam, Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks sing a medley of their hits.

Why this play? Why now?: Stampede time always brings the closet cowboys and country western aficionados out.

Curiosities: I was curious why some of the artists who talk about their past successes in retrospective are such young performers. It’s a bit of a non-logical mashup: Owens is dead, Rogers is 80, Parton is in her 70s, (plastic surgery aside). I wondered if it was wise to point the mic to the audience to have them carry the song? I also wondered what the show would be like with a co-creator who is also a writer. Will there be more “Legends of” shows in the future? My vote is for jazz and blues next – or show tunes!

Notable lines: “Know when to walk away, know when to run” – Kenny Rogers.

Notable writing: There is no script per se, the songs are accompanied by tidbits of information, awards and accolades of the artists. 

Notable performances: Kent Sheridan as Kenny Rogers has the warmth and charm of the singer he plays and the gravitas of an older performer.  

Notable design/production: Kudos to the band: Jeff Fafard, Rob Hutchinson, Darcy Johnstone, Brad Steckel and Lucien Desharnais under arranger and musical director Konrad Pluta.

Notable direction: Liz Gilroy as director and choreographer’s work is most apparent with the two hard-working, synchronized backup singers who smile, grind and foot stamp as appropriate.

One reason to see this show: For everyone in the audience there will be sentimental memories that are conjured up at point or another. “I remember what I was doing and where I was when this song was popular…”

Legends of Country runs at Stage West until Sept. 1.

Caroline Russell-King is a playwright, dramaturg, and instructor. She is a member of The Playwrights Guild of Canada, the Dramatist Guild of America and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You can find her work here