“Cowgirls,” at Florida Studio Theatre, ropes in the audience right away with its eclectic group of characters, each clearly defined by six talented actors.
The premise is that a wrong booking brings three classically trained musicians to a honky-tonk saloon. The musicians are individualistic country women, however. High jinks ensue as they face off with each other to make the leap from Chopin to country.
“Cowgirls” was nominated for Best Off-Broadway Musical by the Outer Critics’ Circle.
The score features some classical country and mainly original music arranged by Music Director Mary Ehlinger. The songs are chock-full of clever lyrics, such as, “I don’t live in no trailer park; I live in a mobile home.” They range from thrilling, such as a banjo driving-train sound, to emotional. One song in particular, “Miracle,” is strikingly beautiful and moving. The audience expressed hearty approval for every number.
Brilliantly cast, the actors were equally delightful and their every gesture fun to watch. There is minimal downtime in this fast-paced, uplifting production.
Playing prissy violinist Mary Lou, Sarah Hund oozes uptightness. Hund sings and fiddles in real life with rock and country artists throughout the U.S., and she also appears in theater, film and TV, in such shows as “Law and Order” and “The Listening Dead.”
Franca Vercelloni is perfect as put-upon, pregnant Rita. Vercelloni’s musical solo show, “Classically Trained, Practically Broke,” was a 2010 New York International Fringe Festival hit.
Could any contemporary play be complete without a feisty, wise-cracking lesbian? That part in “Cowgirls” — Lee — is played by Joanna Parson, who appeared in “Outlaws and Angels” at the Goldstein Cabaret.
Angela C. Howell appears to have been born to play the part of Jo, and she did play it last year at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Additionally, Howell has originated numerous roles in New York City, including one in “Big Red Sun” at the Lincoln Center.
Chelsea Costa flawlessly transforms herself via a blond big-hair wig into Mickey, a local, wannabe country singer. Costa has done national tours of “Madagascar,” “Go, Diego, Go,” and “Dora the Explorer.”
Mo, an impish handywoman who plays a mean washboard, is charmingly evoked by Emily S. Grosland.
Dale Jordan did the country lodge-inspired scenic design, and Nicole Wee’s costume design enhanced the all-girl ambience. Supporting the production were Stage Manager Kelli Karen, Lighting Designer Michael Foster and Sound Designer Joshua Hummel.
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Food and fun
The Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance and its Young Leaders Alliance have something to talk about: the organizations collected 764 pounds of nonperishable food and $1,295 cash to benefit The Food Bank of Manatee/Meals on Wheels PLUS.
River Club’s Cheryl Kaufman says she’s still pinching herself.
A little “Ho! Ho! Ho!” can go a long way this holiday season.