Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Things To Do

April 19, 2012

REVIEW: 'Cowboys' a different sort of musical

CROSSVILLE — As visiting members of my family and I drove home on the opening night of Cowboys! we continued to chuckle over the horses ridden by these cowpokes. We wondered how they were created and marveled that Greg and Lindy Pendzick could ride one together. My daughter commented, "I haven’t laughed so hard in years."

"Give it a really good review, Grandma," advised my eleven-year-old grandson.

John Briggs wrote the show with Paul Mroczka and Judith Townsend. His note in the program tells us that “Cowboys” is intended as a gentle spoof of Hollywood western films, with an ear tuned to that genre of music and an eye focused on the zaniness of Mel Brooks’ “Blazing Saddles.” Jim Crabtree discovered “Cowboys” in 1981 and brought it to the Playhouse where he directed and starred in the production.

On this opening night, 32 years later, Briggs is the director. Jim Crabtree plays Phinnius Phalstaff, the actor manager of a medicine show company and Colonel Lynch, the leader of the Badland Gang and head of Robber’s Roost.

Clearly visible on stage right, her bonnet-festooned head bobbing while her hands sped over the keyboard, is Annie Crabtree. She keeps this fast-paced show moving! Joining her are musicians Drew Robbins and Tommy Hancock on guitar, Tony Greco on upright bass, Austin Price on percussion, mandolin and banjo. Lauren Marshall is busy with her fiddle but steps to the stage in the hilarious role of a temperance woman. She steps out of character to remind the other musicians that they are about to drown out her best lines.

Musicians Hancock, Marshall and Price join the dance ensemble periodically. Fellow ensemble members are Porter Anderson, Quinn Cason, Jensen Crain, Donald Frison, Debra Marie, Caitlin Schaub and Derek Wagner.

Greg Pendzick is cast in the various roles required by the show: Toadsticker/Mean Boss Lynch/Phinnius’ stage manager, and the villain of the story. He wants power and expects to exercise it.  

Jason Ross is beloved for his ability to be ridiculous and over-the-top in playing character parts. As Alfred Rowland, the oldest brother on the Rowland Family Ranch, he uses his silliness skills to the fullest extent. Daniel Black plays Alfred’s younger brother, Rusty. The sight of him rocking along on his horse is hilarious.

Jim Crabtree, a.k.a. Judge Lynch, is hoping for re-election. Oh, that his only daughter Rose had not been killed! But, wait. Rose, played by Lindy Pendzick, is alive and well. Just back from an eastern school where she has learned to be a lady, she packs a mighty pistol, too. On the hill overlooking Cheyenne, she mourns the death of her father as she sings "Papa." What joy at discovering that he also is alive. The Judge is aiming for residence at 1600 Pennsylvania. Maybe Rose can help.

Mean Boss Lynch (Greg Pendzick) also has a daughter. Emily Woods is seen in that role, sometimes called Kitty Lynch and at other times Kitty Hawk, with appropriate flapping of the wings. She longs for a man in uniform. All Ross’ charms cannot win her, it seems.

A mostly silent comic addition is the ever-present Blabby Gaze played by Michael Ruff. He is the Rowland boys’ mentor. (I kept thinking of the Lone Ranger’s Tonto!) I especially enjoy the fine duet "West of Yesterday" that he sings with Black.  

Weslie Webster has the most ludicrous role in this show, one filled with mistaken identities. She is sleazy dance hall girl, Margo Bordeaux from Paris! Scantily costumed, Webster joins three women of the ensemble in a wild cancan dance while entertaining at the Cheyenne Social Club. She identifies herself in song as Margo. Maybe she has amnesia. Is she really Ginny Rowland, the long-lost mother of Alfred and Rusty?

The scenery is frequently pulled into place on ropes, removed and replaced depending on whether the action is at the Rowland Ranch in Wyoming Territory in the 1880s, on a hill overlooking Cheyenne, or in the Cheyenne Social Club. It may even be north on the Canadian border. It is all part of the over-obvious spoof of the cowboy myth.

There are 15 scenes within the two acts showcasing 19 delightfully varied songs. This is unusually well written and performed music and lyrics. Timing is everything in a show like this. They never miss a beat. These are fine actors with wonderful voices. Whether on horseback or dancing, they allow themselves to be ridiculous in order to bring the audience an evening of fun. The plot is thin but the show is rich with music, dance, and action. Whether singing "Step Right Up" at the beginning and end of the show, or joining the company on "Cowboys!' and "The Devil’s Trail," Jim Crabtree’s voice has timber I have not heard in recent years.    

Amid the frivolity, Jim Crabtree brings us a magnificent ballad as he sings, “Love is a Gamble.” We celebrate that Jim and Annie took the gamble so many years ago, their unique shared skills are a gift to us all. Thanks, John Briggs, for bringing a very different sort of musical to the Mainstage of the Cumberland County Playhouse.   

Text Only
Things To Do
  • front page news.jpg "Front Page News" held over in Dayton

    Cumberland County Playhouse and its producing partner The Scopes Festival in Dayton, TN, have added three more performances of "Front Page News," the newly adapted, historically accurate play with music, currently being staged in the historic “monkey trial” courtroom in Dayton’s Rhea County Courthouse.  Additional shows of the new work are Saturday at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m., and the final show Sunday at 2:30 p.m. All times are EDT.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • granville.jpg Scarcrow Walk set Oct. 4-31 in Granville

    The Second Annual Granville Scarecrow Walk will be in Historic Granville on Oct. 4 through Oct. 31.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Conlee Color HI.jpg Conlee to perform at Palace

    John Conlee is a lot like the songs of which he sings. He lives a domestic life with his wife Gale and three children, Rebecca, Jessica and Johnny. During the past two decades, Conlee has achieved a level of success that he has sustained by simply being himself and by making records that the listening public can relate to. He is a gifted entertainer, but he’s not into the glitz and hype of the entertainment world. He’d rather spend his “off the road” time working on his 32 acre farm outside of Nashville or engaging in his woodworking and gunsmithing hobbies.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • City Lites.jpg 'Friday Night Air' features City Lites

    The “Friday Night Air” summer concert series continues Friday at the Spirit Broadband amphitheater in downtown Crossville with the City Lites Band. They are a very popular four-piece band from Crossville that has performed throughout Tennessee and the Southeast for more than three decades. Their lineup features Marty Gibson on guitar and vocals, Flavy Miller on bass and vocals, Glenn Holverson on saxophones and Wade England on drums. The song list includes a wide variety of musical styles from swing, country, '50’s and '60’s, rock and more. Something for everyone to enjoy! The performance is free to the public and begins at 6 p.m. and is sponsored by the Historic Palace Theatre and the city of Crossville.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gypsy, Front Page News open this weekend

    They're gearing up for a very exciting week both at the Cumberland County Playhouse and at the Rhea County Courthouse in Dayton!

    July 17, 2014

  • LexVinDance260_2.jpg Vintage Dance Society opens PAART season

    The Performing Arts Alliance of Rural Tennessee (PAART) is pleased to announce the first event in it’s 2014-15 season: the Lexington Vintage Dance Society will perform "Downton Abbey Era: The Titanic to the Jazz Age" in period costumes. This performance will take place Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. at the Palace Theatre in Crossville.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • gypsy hombres.jpg Gypsy Hombres take stage Sunday

    For years, there has been a persistent legend in Nashville about a crazy gypsy ‘Fiddler on the Roof” who dances as he plays the violin on the roof of his Victorian house. Cumberland County Playhouse will prove the legend is 100 percent true as The Gypsy Hombres take the stage Sunday.

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • 'Gypsy' opens July 18 at CCP

    Beginning July 18, everything’s coming up roses as the Playhouse brings one of the greatest American musicals of all time to life… “Gypsy”! From the unforgettable first notes of its legendary overture to the final white hot spotlight, “Gypsy” is considered by many to be “the best musical ever,” as it tells the story of the archetypal stage mother, Rose, and her daughters, June and Louise.

    July 10, 2014

  • wildman.jpg ‘Wild Man’ takes Palace stage Aug. 23

    Look out, Crossville, here comes the coolest guy in town and his name is Rafael R. Soriano, also known by fans everywhere as “Wild Man,” but he calls himself “Wild Man Billy Ralph!”

    July 10, 2014 1 Photo

  • KOTR Steven Whitson Picture.jpg 'An Evening with Steven Whitson' to benefit Kids on the Rise

    ds on the Rise will be hosting a fund-raising concert Aug. 2 at the Palace Theatre. The local non-profit agency will present An Evening with Steven Whitson.

    July 2, 2014 2 Photos

AP and the Gulf Oil Spill
AP Video
Raw: 2 Shells Hit Fuel Tank at Gaza Power Plant Raw: Massive Explosions From Airstrikes in Gaza Giant Ketchup Bottle Water Tower Up for Sale Easier Nuclear Construction Promises Fall Short Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide