HANK WILLIAMS: LOST HIGHWAY

 

Pictured: Michael W. Howell, Russ Wever, Myk Watford, Jason Petty, Stephen G. Anthony, Michael P. Moran & Juliet Smith.  Photo: Aaron Epstein

 

MANHATTAN ENSEMBLE THEATER

David Fishelson, Artistic Director

Bess Eckstein, Executive Director

Sandra Garner, General Manager

by special arrangement with

Sony/ATV Tree/Acuff-Rose Music Publishing, Inc.

presents

 

HANK WILLIAMS: LOST HIGHWAY

By

RANDAL MYLER and MARK HARELIK

Directed by RANDAL MYLER

Musical Direction by DAN WHEETMAN

Starring JASON PETTY as Hank Williams

 

Reviewed during the earlier run at Manhattan Ensemble Theater

Now in an open run at:

Little Shubert Theatre

422 W. 42 St, NYC

Tickets: (212) 239-6200 or Telecharge

 

Scenic Design Beowulf Boritt

Costume Design Robert Blackman

Lighting Design Don Darnutzer

Sound Design Randy Hansen

Production Stage Manager Antonia Gianino

Dramaturg Aaron Leichter

Cast

Hank Williams - Jason Petty

Tee-Tot - Michael W. Howell

The Waitress - Juliet Smith

Mama Lilly - Margaret Bowman

Hoss - Stephen G. Anthony

Jimmy (Burrhead) - Myk Watford

Leon (Loudmouth) - Drew Perkins

Fred "Pap" Rose - Michael P. Moran

Audrey Williams - Tertia Lynch

Shag - Russ Wever

 

One of the best productions of the 2002 – 2003 theater season is playing off-Broadway at Manhattan Ensemble Theater (M.E.T.) in a run that has been extended through February 2. M.E.T. has established itself as a new hot spot for quality theater in its short history, and this smart New York City debut/U.S. revival of the musical HANK WILLIAMS: LOST HIGHWAY is a clear reminder that the reputation is well deserved.

How much did I enjoy LOST HIGHWAY? Well I do not know country music, or particularly like it much at all, and not only did I recognize the ubiquitous Hank Williams hits, such as "Move it on Over," "I Saw the Light," "Your Cheatin’ Heart," and "Hey, Good Lookin’," I loved the whole of the two acts. This show is a reminder of what theaters were built for! Jason Petty, in a fabulous performance as the troubled Hank Williams, leads a great cast that should be particularly noted for some marvelous musical abilities. Michael W. Howell, as Tee-Tot, an early musical influence on Hank, lends his booming and evocative voice in a handful of memorable and pivotal moments onstage. As the Drifting Cowboys, Stephen G. Anthony, Myk Watford and Drew Perkins are a trio to be reckoned with. They, along with Mr. Petty, had the audience clapping their hands, stomping their feet, and even singing along at some points.

One of the best attributes of this biographical work is that it never becomes maudlin, in spite of the very sad aspects of Hank Williams’ life. Yes, he hit it big, but he was an alcoholic who was also addicted to drugs, and he died in the back seat of his own car at the age of twenty-nine. Those tawdry details could have led to the most melodramatic and exploitive of dramas. Could have, but not in the respectful hands of Randal Myler and Mark Harelik. For, HANK WILLIAMS: LOST HIGHWAY is a portrait of the man as an artist, as a human being, and as a permanent fixture in American musical culture. Neither heroic nor pathetic, this Hank Williams is simply a very talented man who, by sheer circumstance was able to have his voice heard for the very short time that he lived. Simultaneously tragic and triumphant, we are left feeling the void, but awash in the collective experience of having heard his songs. Such is the power of inspired art.

Highly, heartily recommended, and a requirement for the country music fan, HANK WILLIAMS: LOST HIGHWAY is impressive work.

- Kessa De Santis -

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