Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at 9:16 a.m.
The cast of Cowgirls.
Photo courtesy the Old Log Theater
It was a less-than-ideal opening night last week for the Old Log Theater, the first under new owners Greg and Marissa Frankenfield.
They appeared to be unprepared, and understaffed, for the crowd that arrived Friday evening, with delays in the kitchen, the bar, and seating pushing the start of the show back more than 30 minutes.
The vibe certainly improved once Cowgirls started, though the piece itself certainly isn't that radical of a departure from the old Old Log. It's a piece of comfort theater that doesn't ask much of the audience or of its talented cast.
The musical merges the fish-out-of-water plot with "if we put on a show, we can save this place!" An all-woman classical trio on a farewell tour accidentally gets booked into a country honky-tonk bar. Hiram Hall has fallen on tough times, and owner Jo Carlson needs a good weekend to save it.
For obscure reasons (basically, because there wouldn't be a play otherwise) the trio gets to stay, but has to bone up on letting loose and adding a bit of twang to their repertoire. They do, more songs are sung. The end.
The company makes up for a lot of the shortcomings of the script, led by a solid performance by Seri Johnson as Jo Carlson. The character carries plenty of baggage, and Johnson uses that to give the character some grit. A fantastic singer, Johnson makes Jo's solo numbers a lot better than they should be.
Andrea Wollenberg, Quinn Shadko, and Summer Hagen play the trio, shifting between classical instruments and more country-appropriate ones (or country-appropriate styles, in the case of violinist Shadko). They are joined by Anne Reason and Debi Kilde as Jo's two employees, who have some made-for-the-stage troubles, but none that really register as important.
Maybe that's Cowgirls' biggest trouble. It's so slight and inoffensive as to be largely invisible. Songs are sung (usually quite well), plots are advanced, and there is plenty of down-home good cheer, but it often feels like they are just passing the time until the show ends instead of building to something grand. Blame the script or Kent Knudson's flat direction, but Cowgirls never quite becomes the sum of its parts.
Through Oct. 26
Old Log Theater
5175 Meadville St., Excelsior
$16-$35 (dinner also available for additional charge)
For tickets and more information, call 952.474.5951 or visit online