Saturday, July 06, 2013
"Uptown Country Girls" - Stage West Calgary review
Stage West Calgary
"Uptown Country Girls"
I've enjoyed a lot of shows at Stage West Calgary over the years. If I look back through my podcast interview series, I've been at every show going as far back as September, 2009.
So if the percentage of winning productions is so high that this is the FIRST negative review I've had to sit down and put to page, I can't imagine there's a business in the world that would be upset with a batting average that consistently successful.
Yes, Uptown Country Girls isn't going to make my list of all-time favourite Stage West shows. While the revue format typically works well there (so well that several revues have returned to as strong a success as their original runs enjoyed), this one just doesn't seem to connect with the audience.
To be fair, there are highlights, and I would say that the second act certainly delivers more high marks than the first - but the entire proceeding didn't even once generate impromptu audience participation, or more than moderate applause. If you've ever been in a cowboy bar, or have seen some of these originals artist live, that is the opposite effect these hugely popular artists have on their audiences...
I could be biased here - I'm a long-time country fan, and I've seen a lot of these actual artists live - some twice. With hot country exploding in popularity and crossing over now into the pop charts with many of the performers portrayed here in Uptown Country Girls, the songs I think are either going to have to be altered to stand on their own, or be as close to the originals as possible. The weaknesses are far too evident, and detract from the effort the cast has put into the show.
Carrie Underwood, Faith Hill, Martina McBride and Kelly Clarkson are some of the most powerful vocalists on the planet, male or female - so if you're not clearly and cleanly nailing each note...well, anyone that watches TV singing competitions has probably heard the judges somber comments before each of those contestants are dismissed...
However, as I mentioned earlier, there are some highlights, well worth making sure that if you are a country music fan, you'll enjoy hearing if you attend. "This Kiss", "Still The One", "Over You", and a nicely reworked version of Sugarland's "Stay" hit their respective marks and then some. The band, as always is tops.
Maybe after a few more performances (media night showings are always early in the run) the actors can redirect and sharpen the areas that fall short of the level that Stage West audiences have come to expect. The talent is certainly there onstage...
Official Calgary Herald review to follow, I'll post links once that goes live online!