REVIEW: Country Legends come to life on Drayton stage for eight weeks

Get your heart torn out or kill yourself laugh­ing.

If the heart wrenching country music doesn’t get you, the comedy will. With Country Legends, now playing in Drayton, either choice is a great way to go.

What a party this produc­tion is; a host of old friends from the country to rediscover with music, dancing, plenty of goodwill and laughter. Many party goers donned their cow­boy boots and Stetsons for the event and everyone agreed that country music is where the heart is.

Conceived, written and directed by Alex Mustakas, this Salute to Country Music Pioneers covers the greats from their earthy roots. Mustakas’ seasoned instinct to choose, blend, and flow songs, med­leys, dance, comedy, and talent leaves the audience with never a dull moment, just the luxury to reminisce and enjoy.

The life of the party, Keith Savage, renders the audience helpless with his foolhardy acts such as (really) Little Jimmy Dickens and May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose, his Minnie Pearl act and random country song title suggestions such as If the Phone Don’t Ring It’s Probably Me.

The fabulous foursome who harmonize together or show­case individual talent are Dan­ny Williams, Trevor Covelli, J.D. Nicholsen, and Bobby Pro­chaska. Among many favourite moments include their Johnny Cash opener, the Hank Willi­ams segment by the charis­matic J.D. Nicholsen with Your Cheatin’ Heart, and I Can’t Help It I’m Still in Love With You. The smooth voiced, guitar playing Williams takes on Willie Nelson, gray braids and all, with ease. Roger Miller’s King of the Road was fun to sing along to with its’ hard to beat lyrics so easily remembered from so long ago, like "Rooms to let 50 cents?"

Karen Coughlin does a Loretta Lynn medley that includes a heartfelt You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man. Jayme Armstrong, a recent finalist on the CBC’s How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, joins the tappin’, fiddle playing musical director Nicole Gusé and Paula Mac­Neil as Queens of Country, including Dottie West, Kitty Wells, Connie Smith, Tammy Wynette, and Patsy Cline.

Paula MacNeil later cap­tures the essence of Dolly Par­ton and reminds the audience that she was the original with her poignant I Will Always Love You. As always, the multi taskers are all wonderful dancers as well. The onstage band, which includes Kevin Dempsey, Earl Filsinger, Prochaska, and Jeff Scott are multi-talented too with their easily alternating array of instruments from steel guitar to bass.

Additional dancers further embellish the spectacle. Chore­ographer Gino Berti coordi­nated spirited dance sequences provided by Carla Giuliani, Patrick Stiles, Heather E. Wilson, and Ryan Gifford.

A great variety of costumes by designer Jenine Kroeplin give an authentic air to the varying eras and a new regard for country style.

Drayton Entertainment is truly a phenomenon with fans flocking to the country to watch big city theatre about country music, in record num­bers.

Country Legends plays eight shows a week through May 30th. Tickets can be ordered by calling the Drayton Festival Theatre box office at 519-638-5555 or toll free at  1-888-449-4463. For more about the 2009 season visit www.­