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Lost Highway - Thru April 20, 2008 at Virginia Stage Company's Wells Theatre

Lost Highway - Thru April 20, 2008 at Virginia Stage Company's Wells Theatre

Musically, 'Hank' sets the woods on fire

Musically, 'Hank' sets the woods on fire

Jarrod Emick is winning as the iconic country singer in 'Hank Williams: Lost Highway,' but given the dramatic events of Williams' life, it's curious that the script skims over them. (Courtesy photo)

By Mal Vincent
The Virginian-Pilot
© April 13, 2008

Hear that lonesome whippoorwill,

He sounds too blue to fly,

The midnight train is whining low,

I'm so lonesome I could cry.

These lines from Hank Williams form perhaps the most dramatic pop song about human loneliness in the American lexicon. The hopeless quality of lost love and lost ambition permeate. To hear it should send chills up your spine. It is a drama all to itself.

It is curious, then, that there is so little drama in "Hank Williams: Lost Highway," the show that has settled in to the Virginia Stage Company's Wells Theatre through April 20. Walking in the footsteps of an earlier box-office bonanza for the company about Patsy Cline, this show is sure to be a crowd pleaser that will encourage continued musical "biographies" such as "Ella," already scheduled for next season.

Read more HERE

Lost Highway - Capitol Repertory Theater - Albany, NY - Thru May 17, 2008

Lost Highway - Capitol Repertory Theater - Albany, NY - Thru May 17, 2008

Musical tragedy
'Lost Highway' at Capital Rep follows Hank Williams' tumultuous rise to fame

First published: Thursday, April 17, 2008


It's possible to do a play on the life of country music icon Hank Williams without focusing on his music.

But what would be the point?

Certainly, the story of Williams' short life and tragic death is tabloid fodder at its finest. A country superstar at age 25, Williams overindulged in the trappings of stardom and became a pill-popping alcoholic. He was dead four years later, leaving two young children, an ex-wife, a wife, a mistress and a musical legacy that continues to influence musicians across a spectrum of genres.

That's why Williams' music and his turbulent story are center stage in Capital Repertory Theatre's production of Randal Myler and Mark Harelik's "Hank Williams: Lost Highway." (Preview performances start Friday; the show opens Wednesday and runs through May 18.)

"It's a combination of both; there's no separating them," said Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, the show's director and producing artistic director. "They called him the Hillbilly Shakespeare, because he had this poetic, romantic sensibility and he was able to write songs that were poetic. The music has lived on and become classic and timeless, but no one knew then that would happen."

"His life is about the songs, the two are intertwined," said David Malachowski, a longtime local musician whose resume includes tours with Shania Twain (he's also a rock critic for the Times Union). "That's what he was about. These are timeless songs about his life."

Rise and fall

The play, which stars Manhattan actor Tony Barton as Williams, chronicles his rise to stardom and his fall from grace, which happened over the span of about five years. During that time, Williams charted almost a dozen No. 1 country singles, including classics such as "Cold, Cold Heart," "Your Cheatin' Heart," "Hey, Good Lookin'," and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry."

"You really see (Williams and his band) go through this together," said Malachowski, who plays one of the members of Williams' band, the Drifting Cowboys. "You see him as a honky-tonk guy who hangs out with his musical buddies, to when he gets to the recording studio and becomes a big star. Once he gets there, he realizes it wasn't quite what he was expecting."

There's also a focus on Williams' first wife, Audrey -- who Williams recruited as his band's singer, even though she couldn't sing -- and his mother, who managed him early in his career.

His life becomes more and more unmanageable as he becomes more famous, leading to a public meltdown that ends with his death in the back of a Cadillac on New Year's Day in 1953.

Finding someone to play Williams wasn't easy, Mancinelli-Cahill said. "David and I went to New York City to cast the show. ... It was really important for us to cast that role together." Barton, a former Blue Man Group performer, "can do everything," she said. "He's got an incredible musical background and he loves the music."

"He doesn't come from a country background, and it's been fascinating watching him become Hank Williams," Malachowski said. "He's getting (Williams') yodel down, and it's a fascinating thing to watch."

A new role

It has also been interesting for Malachowski as an actor. Malachowski has handled musical duties for several Cap Rep shows (including "Always ... Patsy Cline" and "It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues"), but takes his first stab at acting as Jimmy, one of Williams' band mates.

"I have never opened my mouth in this capacity onstage before, and it's been interesting," Malachowski said of his role, which also includes playing guitar.

Musically, Malachowski said he and the other Drifting Cowboys -- dobro player Kevin Maul (who played on the original cast recording of "Lost Highway"), bassist Chris Blissette and fiddler H. Drew Perkins, who has played with gonzo Texas singer-songwriter Kinky Friedman -- have put their own touches on Williams' music. But the arrangements are loyal to the original versions.

"You have a lot of leeway in a guitar musical," he said. "You make it your own, because of the musicians you have and how they play."

One of the best aspects of the play is accessibility. You don't need to have a working knowledge of Williams' music -- or even know who he was -- to enjoy "Lost Highway," Mancinelli-Cahill said.

Continued Below:

Continued: Lost Highway - Capitol Repertory Theater - Albany, NY - Thru May 17, 2008

Continued From Above:

"That's the joy of it," she said. "If you know Hank Williams and you've never seen him live, (the play) is like seeing him live for the first time. If you don't know Williams, you'll see that it's a good story and a good time."

Michael Lisi is a freelance music writer from Rotterdam and a frequent contributor to the Times Union.

'Hank Williams:

Lost Highway'

When: In previews at 8 p.m. Friday; 4 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Opens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Through May 17

Where: Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N. Pearl St., Albany, NY

Tickets: $36-$46

Info: 445-7469;


"Hank Williams: Lost Highway" - Stage4 Theatre, Verona, VA - thru May 4th, 2008

"Hank Williams: Lost Highway" - Stage4 Theatre, Verona, VA - thru May 4th, 2008

Theater group to perform: ShenanArts will present the musical biography "Hank Williams: Lost Highway" at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday and May 2 through 4 at Stage4 Theatre, Verona, VA. Reserved tickets cost $16. Admission costs $12 for the public and $8 for students. To reserve tickets, call 248-1868. For more information, visit


Hank Williams: Lost Highway From:

April 25-27 and May 2-4
Director, Jeff McDaniels & Mike Conner
Friday & Saturday 7:30 pm
Sunday matinee 3:00 pm
Reserve - $16
General Admission - $12
Students - $8

Lost Highway is a tender paean to Williams,
one of our country's most talented and original
singer-songwriters. Filled with humor and
Hank's song, the play documents his rise
from obscure hillbilly to super-stardom as
Country & Western pioneer to his early demise.

Advance tickets are available by phone
540-248-1868 - until noon on the day of the
show . (Reserve tickets will be held until show time.
Tickets not picked up by show time will be
released to other patrons.)

"Hank Williams: Lost Highway," - Bradenton, Fl - Through Nov 16, 2008

"Hank Williams: Lost Highway," - Bradenton, Fl - Through Nov 16, 2008

Legend Hank Williams gets closer look

Music lovers may not know a lot about Hank Williams, the country songwriter and singer who died in 1953 at age 29.

STAFF PHOTO / THOMAS BENDER Steve McAllister and Karen Blankenship in Lost Highway.

But he left behind a treasure trove of songs that became part of our culture.

In "Hank Williams: Lost Highway," the Manatee Players takes a biographical look at Williams' life, his struggles with illness and his chart-topping success with such hits as "Your Cheatin' Heart," "Jambalaya," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and many others.

Preston Boyd directs the production, which opens tonight in Bradenton, Fl and stars Steve McAllister as the title character.

"Even people who don't like country music or have a prejudice against country, will like it because the band is just great," said Boyd, who describes Williams' music as a strong mix of blues and country from the pre-rock era.

Performances continue through Nov. 16 at the Manatee Players, 102 Old Main St., Bradenton, Florida.

Tickets are $25 for adults, $11 for students. 748-5875.

Tickets may now also be purchased online at


"Hank Williams: The Lost Highway." - Simi Valley, California - Dec 32, 2008

Arts center hosting New Year's Eve gala - Simi Valley, California - Dec 32, 2008

The Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, 3050 Los Angeles Avenue Simi Valley, California, will host a New Year's Eve Gala Celebration on Wed., Dec. 31 at 3050 Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley.

Dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m. with show at 8:30 p.m.- the opening night performance of the musical "Hank Williams: The Lost Highway."

The show contains more than 20 of Williams' hit songs, including "Jambalaya," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and "Hey, Good Looking."

Dinner package includes a catered dinner, show and postshow champagne reception.

Show and party package includes the show and champagne reception.

Tickets are also available for the show only.

For more information and for reserved seat tickets, call the box office at (805) 583-7900


"Hank Williams: The Lost Highway." - Feb. 22, the University Playhouse at Texas A&M University

Gala For Hank Williams Play Set Feb. 22 At A&M-C

Commerce, TX. (Top40 Charts/ University Playhouse) - On Sunday, Feb. 22, the University Playhouse at Texas A&M University-Commerce will present a Gala performance of "Hank Williams: Lost Highway" by Randal Myler and Mark Harelik, as a kick-off event for fundraising efforts to establish a new scholarship - the Ray Price Texas Culture Award.

The Gala performance will be at 3 p.m. The play runs Thursdays through Sundays, Feb. 12-22, with the Gala set for the closing matinee. For tickets and information, call 903-886-5900.

Ray Price recently began his annual Birthday Tour with a performance in Longview, Texas, on the occasion of his 83rd birthday. Although there wasn't a big age difference between Ray Price and Hank Williams, Hank was a big influence on Ray's early career. Luckily for his fans around the world, Ray avoided the pitfalls that plagued Hank Williams' short life and he continues to entertain today.

Play director Jim Anderson said the idea of the scholarship developed over time. "I was talking to a friend, L.P. Gregg, who has a veterinary practice here in town, about the Hank Williams play."

He said, "My cousin, Ray, was pretty close to Hank. In fact they were roommates for a while."

He also told me that well over 100 of Ray Price's family members had attended Texas A&M University-Commerce, formerly East Texas State University.

"As I continued research fro the production, I listened to a lot of Ray Price's early recordings, and found that he even sounded a lot like Hank back then."

Ray Price's fans will know he organized the Cherokee Cowboys band from members of Hank Williams Drifting Cowboys band after Hank's death.

Since then, Ray has nurtured the careers of many country music stars, including Roger Miller, Don Helms, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Paycheck.

Ray developed his own unique style and gave Country music its international appeal. His rich, velvety crooning is packed with emotion and defies definition by genre.

Anderson said with the help of a colleague, Dr. Deborah Porter, herself a Country music performer, he got the chance to meet Ray Price and discuss the scholarship on the occasion of Ray's induction to the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame , in Carthage , Texas .

"Since Ray Price's music appeals to everybody, we thought it appropriate that the scholarship in his name be available to any A&M-Commerce student, regardless of major," Anderson said.

One of the criteria for eligibility would be that the student make a contribution to the culture of Texas .

Contributions to the Ray Price Scholarship Fund can be made at the Gala, by mail, by sending checks payable to the A&M-Commerce Foundation, with "Ray Price" on the memo line. The address is Glenda L. Anderson,

Director of Advancement Services,
Texas A&M University-Commerce,
P.O. Box 3425, Commerce, TX 75429.

Online contributions can be made at:, and follow the link to the Ray Price fund.


MLT announces cast for ‘Hank Williams: Lost Highway’ - Muskogee, Oklahoma

MLT announces cast for ‘Hank Williams: Lost Highway’ - Muskogee, Oklahoma

Muskogee Little Theatre announced the cast for the summer musical, 'Hank Williams: Lost Highway.'

Adele McClure is producer. Directed by guest director, Nick Sweet, the cast includes:

- Jim Paul Blair - Hank Williams.

- Bronko - Tee Tot.

- Steve Gibbs - The Announcer.

- Steve McCarter - Shag.

- Dana Hazzard - Leon/Loudmouth.

- Virgil Bonham - Jimmy/Burrhead.

- Cliff Parrett - Hoss.

- Sharon Harper - The Waitress.

- Lauren 'Lou' Murphy - Audrey Williams.

- Bobbie Huddleston - Mama Lily.

- Greg Buckley - Fred Rose/Pap.

A spectacular musical biography of the legendary singer-songwriter frequently mentioned alongside Louis Armstrong, Robert Johnson, Duke Ellington, Elvis and Bob Dylan as one of the great innovators of American popular music. The play follows Williams’ rise from his beginnings on the Louisiana Hayride to his triumphs on the Grand Ole Opry to his eventual self-destruction at 29.

Along the way, we are treated to indelible songs like 'I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,' 'Move It On Over' and 'Hey, Good Lookin,' which are given fresh and profound resonance set in the context of Williams’ life.

Dates of production are Aug. 14 to 22. Advance tickets will be available at Soundworld on Aug. 1 or you may purchase season tickets now for the best seats in the house for this production.

Dates of production are Aug. 14 to 22. Advance tickets will be available at Soundworld on Aug. 1 or you may purchase season tickets now for the best seats in the house for this production.

Information: or call 816-0688. All productions at Muskogee Little Theatre are sponsored by The Oklahoma Arts Council.


Auditions for Circuit Playhouse's "Hank Williams: Lost Highway," Through Oct 11, 2009

Auditions for Circuit Playhouse's "Hank Williams: Lost Highway,"

Musical Follows Hank's Heartbreak in Memphis

By Christopher Blank

When it comes to casting a musical, divine intervention is often the best thing a director can hope for, especially when the show calls for a leading actor who walks, talks and sings like a famous dead person.

Wonder of wonders, the right actor indeed showed up to audition for Circuit Playhouse's "Hank Williams: Lost Highway," a biographical musical revue of the incomparable singer-songwriter's life.

Actor Tim Greer matches all the adjectives other characters can throw at him. He's "skinny," a veritable "beanpole," and when he's all duded up in his wide-brimmed cowboy hat and Nudie suit, you can squint your eyes and almost picture Hank on the cover of a greatest hits album.

But that's just the leather on the dashboard. Greer is a true- blue country singer, his voice saturated with that lonesome, old- school Grand Ole Opry melancholy. The actor could be a 1950s-era country and Western star in his own right. Here in 2009, he teaches fine arts and English at Memphis University School.

Perhaps because the music is so heartbreaking, ably backed by fellow actors Matt Adkins on bass, Jason Labrador on fiddle, Michael Towle on lead guitar and Ed Richter on steel guitar, the plot itself is a yawner.

Those familiar with biographical musicals will find "Hank Williams: Lost Highway" to be the same formula of shows like "Always ... Patsy Cline" or "Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story." In a nutshell: young artist has talent and drive. Young artist faces personal demons/relationship issues. Young artist dies young.

Unlike other biomusicals, Williams' story is not one of accidental tragedy (he self-destructed from alcohol and drug addiction at 29). Neither does it boast a lighthearted soundtrack. Aside from a few happy tunes delivered in moments of levity, like the evergreen "Jambalaya" and "Hey, Good Lookin'," Williams rips out his heart in wayward ballads like "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and "Lost Highway."

The script sweeps the messier parts of his later years under the rug.

Two ancillary characters are instructive, though unnecessary. A black blues singer (played by TeKay) instructs Hank on how to wring emotion out of his soul, and later serves as a spiritual guide to the drunken hillbilly. A diner waitress (Jennifer Henry) dishes out more cornpone exposition than a Nashville tour guide.

The highlights of the musical, directed by Emily Wells (who also did Playhouse's "Buddy Holly Story"), are also the best moments of Williams' life: when he puts down the flask, picks up his guitar, and sings.



'Hank Williams: Lost Highway'

The play continues through Oct. 11 at Circuit Playhouse, 1705 Poplar, Memphis. TN. Tickets are $35 adults, $20 seniors, students and military and $15 children. Call 726-4656.


Originally published by Christopher Blank Special to The Commercial Appeal .

(c) 2009 Commercial Appeal, The. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.

A service of YellowBrix, Inc.


City Stage presents Hank Williams: Lost Highway - Wilmington, NC - November 4-8 -09

City Stage presents Hank Williams: Lost Highway - Wilmington, NC - November 4-8 -09

City Stage, Wilmington, NC, is reprising “Hank Williams: Lost Highway,” and audiences will believe that Hank has been reincarnated on the Wilmington stage. The crowd went wild on Friday night—there was hand-clapping, toe-tapping, whoops, hollers and lots of laughter. It was a rousing, rocking and rolling good time, with an occasional reverential hush during Hank Williams’ lost and lonely songs.

Zach Hanner really is Hank Williams. His voice has all the resonance and soulful twang of the legendary singer/songwriter. Hanner’s expressive face revealed every bit of the emotional conflict Williams experienced in his short life: the physical pain of spina bifida, the absence of a father figure, the rebellion from a domineering mother and wife, the camaraderie with his friends, and the joy of singing from his heart.

Center stage for almost the entire production, his tender portrayal of the tragic singer was a tribute to his life and legend. His low-key performance perfectly captured the personality of the character, as he communicated emotions with the tilt of his head or a wistful glance. His drunken scenes had a tragicomic subtlety, particularly when he was singing “Hey Good Lookin’” and forgetting the lyrics.

Compared to Hanner, the rest of the actors have relatively minor roles, but each performance was amazing. In a fast -paced, mostly comic show, timing is everything, and Director Don Baker has choreographed a snappy, delightful production.

Kitty Fitzgibbon is perfectly cast as Mama Lilly, the controlling mother hen, band manager and chauffer. Her droll delivery of the dry-humored lines was on-target funny. In one wonderful scene, she exchanged barbs with Miss Audrey (the beautiful Madison Weidberg) while furiously driving an imaginary car down a bumpy country road.

Shane Callahan plays hilarious hillbilly musician Jimmy and cracked one-liners in a deep-fried Southern accent like a stereotypical dumb hick. His bug-eyed comic repartée with Bill Ladd (Shag) in “Way Downtown” was very funny.

Paula Davis (waitress) has a relatively small role, though she was present onstage much of the time, representative of lonely fans who were so affected by Williams’ poignant lyrics and cheered by his honky-tonk. In the funniest scene of the evening, an intoxicated Williams swept her off her feet to have sex in a country field. Davis enthusiastically stripped (almost) naked, and performed with absolute nonchalance and total self-confidence.

Weidberg portrayed the whining, pouting, self-serving Miss Audrey as the part was written, and she seemed to have a cold, cold heart, indeed. It is difficult to play an unsympathetic character to an audience laughing at you, rather than with you. It was particularly amusing when the band tried to sing over her awful voice during “I’m Gonna Sing, Sing, Sing.”

Similarly, the role of Fred “Pap” Rose is somewhat one-dimensional, as the voice of reason. Veteran actor Gil Johnson casually assumed the father figure role and, though more likable than Miss Audrey, his character was essentially a narrator.

Bill Ladd (Shag), like Hanner, is a gifted musician and actor. His talent on the steel guitar is phenomenal and his comic timing, delightful. Nathanial Johnson (Tee Tot), like Davis, remained in a dark corner of the stage for most of the performance, as a hauntingly ethereal reminder of his influence on Williams’ music. He has an incredible singing voice, which was often unaccompanied by instruments. Adrian Varnam (Leon) brought down the house with his spirited fiddling solos, and Seth Moody (Hoss), a great bass player, rounded out the band. Music Director Chiaki Ito, as usual, pulled it all together, and the result was an exhilarating, energetic evening of entertainment. The standing ovation was well deserved. Because of the dualism inherent in his writing, everyone has a favorite Hank-Williams song. He wrote and sang about what he knew, and his thematic chiaroscuro explores the emotions of happiness and sadness, and the actions of sinners and saints. Hank Williams speaks to the heart, whether it is cold, chained or cheatin’. Don’t miss the message.


Actor back in Santa Rosa, as Hank Williams in "Lost Highway" - Jan 8 thru Feb 7, 2010

Actor back in Santa Rosa, as Hank Williams in "Lost Highway"

Tahmus Rounds as Hank Williams. (Photo by Eric Chazankin.)

The 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa had such a hit this year with “Always, Patsy Cline” that it has decided to open its new year with another classic country music star — no less a legend than Hank Williams himself.

The Cline show, a co-production with Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater starring Mary Gannon Graham, played three sold-out runs in Santa Rosa and Petaluma before going into Wells Fargo Center last month for a single show that drew more than a thousand people.

So, why not take another spin?

“Hank Williams: Lost Highway” by By Randal Myler and Mark Harelik — featuring more than 20 of Williams’ hits songs including “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” and “Hey, Good Lookin’ ” — will play the Playhouse from Jan. 8 through Feb. 7.

Starring as Hank will be former Sonoma County actor Tahmus Rounds, now a professional screen actor in L.A.

A graduate of Sonoma State University, Rounds has appeared on television in “CSI,” “CSI:Miami,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Cold Case,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Criminal Minds” and most recently with Christian Slater in a recent episode of Slater’s new series, “The Forgotten.”

His screen career began in 1995 when he appeared in the thriller “Copycat,” with Sigourney Weaver, Holly Hunter, Dermot Mulroney and Harry Connick Jr.

During his time at SSU, Rounds played the leading role in “Strider.” After graduating, he returned to SSU to play Salieri in “Amadeus.” Rounds also worked in numerous productions with the Western Union Theatre Company in Petaluma including “Elephant Man,” “Road” and “A Lie of the Mind.”

He later joined the Blue Man Group and performed with the experimental musical theater troupe in Chicago, New York and Boston during his stint.

A musician and songwriter, Rounds teamed up with Tom V Ray, a musician in the Blue Man band, and the two form the alternative country roots band, Porch Music.

“Hank Williams: Lost Highway” also features Sid Robinson, Mollie Boice, Shannon Rider Urquhart, Jim Peterson, Chris Rovetti, Dave Zirbel, Tim Sarter, John Craven and Kendell Carroll.

Tickets cost $15 to $35. The The 6th Street Playhouse is at 52 West 6th Street, Santa Rosa, CA. Information: 707 - 523-4185,


Hank Williams: Lost Highway - Charlottesville, VA - Through April 11

Hank Williams: Lost Highway; Live Arts - Charlottesville, VA; Through April 11

Breezing down the Lost Highway


“I ain’t gonna worry wrinkles in my brow, cuz nothin’s never gonna be alright nohow,” says Hank Williams in Hank Williams: Lost Highway, quoting his song “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive.” And he’s right—we already know how the Live Arts production is going to end. So why not just enjoy the show?

The show’s two hours take the audience on a breakneck journey, from the early stages of his career (when his mother, played by the excellent Jane Lynch in her Live Arts debut, ushers the boys to play for a couple of bucks at a bar) through the good times (Hank’s first visit to the Grand Ole Opry) and to the end, when Williams is found dead in the backseat of his baby blue Cadillac at age 29, his veins flooded with liquor and morphine.

It has been suggested that Williams’ lifelong struggle with severe back pain, and his self-medication, may have been the result of a minor case of spina bifida. Lost Highway brushes such details into the background and instead fashions Williams’ losing battle with booze and pills into a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of fame. Director Fran Smith writes in her notes that “the scripted text in Lost Highway is a somewhat shallow version of this country music legend’s short-lived life.” And indeed, the text that surrounds the songs could hardly aspire to the heights of Hank’s songs.

Williams (the amazing Dallas Wesley) is instead colored by a series of embarrassments—his real name’s Hiram and his mom calls him “Skeet,” he’s not a great guitar player and he’s bald as a bowling ball under that big white hat. What saves this musical from the kind of boilerplate moralism that made movies like Walk the Line and Ray tedious is, first, the sheer force of the songs.

The second is that they were able to find such a talented group of musicians in the Central Virginia to play Williams and the Driftin’ Cowboys. Just as Williams is described, Wesley (a Lynchburg-based singer-songwriter) has the dark, beady eyes Williams was known for, could easily “change clothes in a shotgun barrel,” and has the yodel to prove it. His Driftin’ Cowboys—Thomas Gunn on Bass, Jeffrey Justice on Fiddle and Dan Sebring on guitar—sound like the real deal. The boot-stomping singalongs make it worth the trip. So do the lonely dirges.

A more subtle delight is Mary Butcher’s set design, which deftly tells the story of Hank’s life in one fell swoop: the porch where he learned to sing songs with his mother is framed within and extends outward to a stage, where a vintage condenser microphone stands, as if Hank walked out after a big breakfast and onto the Opry stage. Stage left is a diner where Hank later has a romantic run-in with a waitress (Mary Beth Revak), and on the other end is a gas pump where Tee-Tot (Steve Smith), who, upon hearing Williams’ “WPA Blues,” cautions the young songwriter: “If you want to find some hard times, find some of your own.” Hard times and good times, it turns out, are one in the same on the lost highway.


Theatre Alliance's 'Lost Highway' show - Winston/Salem NC - May 20 & 22, 2010

Theatre Alliance's 'Lost Highway' show - Winston/Salem NC - May 20 & 22, 2010

Love & Pain Hank Williams' music, life take center stage in Theatre Alliance's 'Lost Highway' show

By Mary Martin Niepold


Published: May 9, 2010

If you've ever heard country music, you've probably heard Hank Williams. And if you haven't heard Williams, you've probably heard any of the hundreds of vocal artists who recorded his hits such as "Hey, Good Lookin'" and "Your Cheatin' Heart." On Friday night, the man and his music take the stage when Hank Williams: Lost Highway opens at Theatre Alliance.

Williams had an amazing string of consecutive No.-1 hits -- more than 30 in roughly 10 years. Williams, the songwriter, and Williams, the man, were very much the same. He always seemed to hurt over love. Such singers as Tony Bennett, Patsy Cline and Frankie Lane -- and more recently, Norah Jones -- have recorded his music, because it got to the heart of love, especially painful love.

Williams died at 29, probably from a lethal dose of alcohol and painkillers. He was tragic and knew life's hard side.

Born to humble beginnings in Alabama, Williams could barely read music but learned guitar at an early age from an aunt. By the time he was 15, he was playing his guitar on the sidewalk in front of the local radio studios in Montgomery, Ala., and after catching the attention of the producers, began singing live on their station.

The show, written by Randal Myler and Mark Harelik, references him playing as early as 10 years old.

Soon after his radio appearances, Williams began touring and turning out the hits -- his No.-1 hits dominated the charts between the mid-1940s and his death in 1953. Williams and his steel guitar had a sound that was new to country-music lovers, but the feelings he expressed were universal.

Just last month, the Pulitzer Prize committee awarded him a posthumous Special Citation for his lifetime achievement as a musician. "The darkness is falling. The sky has turned gray," wrote Williams. Most anyone can appreciate his song-writing gift.

"The steel guitar really helped create what his lyrics were all about," said Gray Smith, who plays the lead role.

The show will feature live music from six musicians directed by Wesley Hudson. Audiences will hear 27 of Williams' No.-1 hits.

Smith, a longtime favorite with Theatre Alliance, said he's very comfortable in edgy shows, but he admits he's a bit nervous about this one. Playing the tormented singer, he says, isn't as bad as playing the guitar.

Smith grew up listening to Hank Williams and Elvis Presley, two of his mother's favorites, and his grandfather, Homer Gray Sprinkle, was a country bluegrass musician who played guitar and banjo in North Carolina.

There is little film footage of Williams that Smith can study, but his research reveals not only the torment of the man but a rather simple music style. "He played the guitar, basically a chord strummer," Smith said.

When it came to heartache, much of it was between Williams and his first wife, Audrey Sheppard. Jaye Pierce plays Audrey, a young, country woman who wanted to be a singer, didn't have the talent of her husband and became his manager instead. Both lead actors think Williams never got over loving Audrey, even though he remarried before his death.

They talk about common threads among talented iconic entertainers, such as Williams, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. "They were heroes from underprivileged backgrounds," Smith said.

"What separates Williams from Dean and Marilyn Monroe was his genius," Pierce said. "His songs have definitely stood the test of time."

For Smith, the freewheeling nature of Williams draws him to the character. "It's his music first of all. Then, he's free-spirited. He did his own thing. He was a groundbreaker -- his music, he was the first real country star to tour, and his crazy costumes."

His flashy costumes, unheard of at the time, were called "Nudie suits" because they were named for their designer (Jamie Nudie), who brought rhinestones to show biz and also costumed Porter Wagoner, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, among others.

"No one had ever seen showmanship like Williams," Smith said.

No one had ever heard music quite like Williams wrote, either.

Theatre Alliance presents Hank Williams: Lost Highway at 8 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and May 20, and 22; at 4 p.m. on Saturday and May 22; at 2 p.m. next Sunday and May 23; and at 6 p.m. on May 23. Tickets are $16, $14 for students and seniors. The theater is at 1047 Northwest Blvd. Call 800-838-3006.


Hank Williams: Lost Highway in Fayetteville, PA, opens May 28, 2011

Follow THIS LINK to read about Totem Pole Playhouse Presenting Hank Williams: Lost Highway in Fayetteville, PA, opens May 28, 2011 and runs for 19 performances through June 12, 2011

‘Hank Williams: Lost Highway’ at Silver Spur in Salado, Texas - Feb 19 & 20, 2011

‘Hank Williams: Lost Highway’ at Silver Spur in Salado, Texas - Feb 19 & 20, 2011

SALADO — A musical biography of the legendary singer-songwriter Hank Williams will be presented this weekend at the Salado Silver Spur Theater, 108 Royal St. in Salado, Texas.

Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

The play follows Williams' rise from his beginnings on the Louisiana Hayride to his triumphs on the Grand Ole Opry to his eventual self-destruction at age 29.

Along the way, the audience is treated to indelible songs like "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "Move It on Over" and "Hey, Good Lookin,'" which are given fresh and profound resonance set in the context of Williams' life.

Williams is frequently mentioned with the likes of Louis Armstrong, Robert Johnson, Duke Ellington, Elvis and Bob Dylan as one of the greatest innovators of American popular music.

For more information, call (254) 947-3456, e-mail or go to


‘Hank Williams: Lost Highway’ at Fayetteville, NC - through May 29, 2011

Hank Williams' life is the subject of musical by the river - Fayetteville, NC
By Rodger Mullen
Staff writer

Growing up in West Virginia, Cliff Hale knew the music of Hank Williams.

"My dad was and is a big music fan, and he was constantly exposing me to the founding fathers of American root music," Hale said.

One of those founders was Hank Williams, a country music pioneer whose death at age 29 only furthered his legend.

Hale, a guitarist with the Rye Mountain Boys bluegrass band, is stepping into Williams' boots as he takes on the title role in Cape Fear Regional Theatre's "Hank Williams: Lost Highway."

CFRT's annual dinner theater river show opens today and continues through May 29 at the Sol Rose Amphitheatre at Campbellton Landing on the banks of the Cape Fear River.

The musical opens with the announcement of Williams' 1953 death of a heart attack brought on by an overdose of drugs and alcohol. It then proceeds to trace his life and career, from his Alabama boyhood through his beginnings as a street performer and finally to his rise to fame.

Some of Williams' best-known songs are performed - "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "Cold, Cold Heart" and "Your Cheatin' Heart," to name a few.

"Lost Highway" director Gina Stewart said the play strives to examine all aspects of the singer's life.

"Unlike a lot of the bio-musicals out there, this one doesn't shy away from his real story," Stewart said. "He didn't have an easy life."

Those troubles included a life-long struggle with spinal bifida, for which he was prescribed powerful drugs that contributed to his early death, and a troubled marriage, which inspired some of his best songs.

The musical examines his marriage to Audrey Sheppard, whom he divorced and remarried; and his musical mentorship with Rufus "Tee-Tot" Payne, a black street performer.

"Lost Highway" marks Hale's first foray into acting, other than an elementary school play. He plays rhythm guitar with the Rye Mountain Boys, who specialize in traditional bluegrass.

Hale, who lives around Clayton and works in banking, said his band was performing at the Cumberland County Public Library last year when he met local musicians Jon Parsons and Jerome Hawkes. Parsons and Hawkes play in The Parsons, a traditional folk band, which also includes Jon's wife, Caroline.

Hale, who bears a resemblance to Williams, said Hawkes told him about the "Lost Highway" opportunity. He auditioned and got the role.

For Hale, one of the most difficult aspects has been mastering Williams' distinctive, piercing voice.

"His voice has such an edge to it," Hale said. "Some of the songs are very vocally demanding in terms of his range. In some, he's yodeling."

Hawkes and the Parsons play Williams' back-up band. Rebecca Wilson-MacCredie plays the singer's wife Audrey and Roger Davis plays Rufus Payne.

The other performers are Nicki Hart as a waitress, Libby Seymour as Williams' mother and Jonathan Flom as Williams' manager, Fred "Pap" Rose.

Stewart, who has acted in CFRT productions such as "Good Ol' Girls" and directed performances of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," said "Lost Highway" is a good overview of the life and career of an artist some call the "hillbilly Shakespeare.

"His body of work has been the foundation of country music," she said. "It's just unreal."
'Hank Williams: Lost Highway'

Where: Campbellton Landing, off Person Street on the banks of the Cape Fear River

When: Wednesdays through Sundays through May 29. Dinner is at 7 p.m.; Performance is at 8 p.m. Performances may be cancelled due to weather.

Admission: Reservations are required for dinner theater packages, which range from $25 to $28. Show-only prices (reserved seats and general admission) range from $15 to $20. Wednesday's show is $4 off regular admission. Show-only tickets are $12 on this night only.

Information: 323-4233 or
Staff writer Rodger Mullen can be reached at or 486-3561.


“Hank Williams: Lost Highway,” June 25, 2011 - Sebastopol, CA

“Hank Williams: Lost Highway,” June 25, 2011 - Sebastopol, CA<

Uptown hosts Hank Williams retrospective - Sebastopol, CA

The Heritage Music Theatre presents “Hank Williams: Lost Highway,” by Randal Myler and Mark Harelik at the Uptown Theatre on June 25.

The play follows Williams’ rise from his beginnings on the Louisiana Hayride to his triumphs at the Grand Ole Opry and to his self-destruction at 29.

The performance includes Williams’ classics like “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Move It On Over” and “Hey, Good Lookin’.”

Hank Williams: Lost Highway

• Uptown Theatre

• Saturday, June 25

• Tickets: $25

• Doors open at 7 p.m.; show starts at 8.

• Details:, or at the theater box office. Call 259.0123, ext. 6, for hours.


“Hank Williams: Lost Highway,” July 13, 2011 until Sept. 4 - Houston, TX

Stages Repertory Theatre to perform biography of Hank Williams

by Glenna Herald

Stages Repertory Theatre has announced that it will premiere "Hank Williams: Lost Highway, The Music and Legend of Hank Williams" on Wednesday, July 13.

This Tony Award-nominated musical follows Williams from his modest beginning in Alabama to his successful days at the Grand Ole Opry, featuring hit songs including "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "Jambalaya" and "Hey, Good Lookin'."

The show will run from July 13 until Sept. 4 at Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway. Performances are scheduled to take place on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.

Ticket prices start at $23. To purchase tickets or for more information, call 713-527-0123 or visit


Filament Theatre Ensemble to Present HANK WILLIAMS: LOST HIGHWAY, 6/8-7/8

Filament Theatre Ensemble to Present HANK WILLIAMS: LOST HIGHWAY, 6/8-7/8

The Filament Theatre Ensemble today announced the final show of their 2011-2012 season: the Chicago Premiere of Hank Williams: Lost Highway, performing at The Athenaeum Theatre June 8 – July 8, 2012.

In the span of his short life, Hank Williams changed the landscape of American popular music forever. Lost Highway follows Williams from his roots in Alabama to his meteoric rise to stardom on the stage of the world-famous Grand Ole Opry. This toe-tapping musical tribute showcases what Williams did best: performing, and features over 20 of Williams's best loved songs, performed live by Hank and the Drifting Cowboys, including timeless classics such as “Move It On Over”, “Jambalaya”, and “Your Cheatin' Heart”. A humorous and heartfelt tribute, Hank Williams: Lost Highway reveals an intimate portrait of the passionate and troubled man behind the music.

Hank Williams Lost Highway is directed by Filament Artistic Director Julie Ritchey and Associate Artistic Director Omen Sade, and features the work of Peter Oyloe (Hank), Mary Spearen (Audrey), Sam Quinn (Jimmy), Jesse Woelfel (Hoss), Eric Labanauskas (Leon), Gerald Richardson (Tee-Tot), Danon Dastugue (Mama Lilly), Bill O'Neill (Fred Rose), Tim McNulty (Shag), and Bryce Gangel (The Waitress).

Henry Behel (Scenic Design), Noel Huntzinger (Costume Design), Melissa Schlesinger (Sound Designer), Nicholas J. Caroll (Lighting Design), Jen Bukovsky (Stage Manager), Kati Sweaney (Dramaturg), Matt Kahler (Music Direction) and Peter Oyloe (Graphic Design). Previews are June 8. Opening night is June 9, and performances continue every Thursday through Saturday at 7:30PM and Sundays at 3PM until July 8. All performances are at The Athenaeum Theatre at 2926 N. Southport Ave. Chicago, IL 60657.

Tickets are on sale now. More information on tickets can be found at or on the Athenaeum Theatre website


'Lost Highway' at home at Round Barn Theatre in Nappanee, Indiana - continues through Aug. 26, 2012

'Lost Highway' at home at Round Barn Theatre in Nappanee, Indiana
South Bend Tribune

NAPPANEE - When someone becomes a "legend," the real person often disappears. With time, all the little flaws and imperfections are forgotten, and all the sweet memorable spots become that much more romantic.

"Hank Williams: Lost Highway" collects a variety of memorable spots from the late, great singer-songwriter's life and stitches them together into episodes of "The Hank Williams Legend."

Written by Randal Myler and Mark Harelik and directed by Jeremy Littlejohn in a production currently running at Amish Acres' Round Barn Theatre, "Lost Highway" makes use of more than 20 songs from Hank Williams' extensive catalog mixed with scripted dialogue.

Each episode provides context for such Williams songs as "Move it on Over," "Lovesick Blues," "Long Gone Lonesome Blues" and "I Saw the Light," among others. Audiences get a sweet if somewhat shallow glimpse into the ups and downs of Williams' short 29-year life through these episodes.

The Round Barn Theatre is the perfect place for this country-western play. The wooden barn structure adds more country atmosphere to a play already covered with cowboy hats and Grand Ole Opry props.

But the props aren't what make this production work. Timothy Leonard nails the role of Hank Williams with some near-perfect acting. Not only does Leonard do justice to Williams' music, but in his gait and gestures he carries himself like the man, never once feeling as if he were an actor simply mimicking the singer while playing covers. When the play goes into darker territory to portray Williams as a troubled drunk or melancholic husband, Leonard takes what might be read as cheesy or blunt dialogue and turns it into believable acting.

Another contender for best actor in the play is Jamal Crowelle, whose role as a bluesy singer and mentor for the young Williams steals the show with multiple displays of vocal prowess and soulful lyricism. He may be present only in the beginning for a few brief scenes, but at the end of the show, Thursday's audience roared when Crowelle came forward during curtain calls.

But the script makes Williams' wife, Audrey, an underdeveloped character. Played by Olivia Corbello, Audrey appears too suddenly on stage, disappears too quickly and reappears inconsistently, with her motivations quickly changing from in love with Williams to exploitative, to angry, back to loving, suddenly divorcing, and a whole other mess of mood swings. These changes are sometimes handled through other characters and provided the audience with exposition, but this doesn't work well and seems at times to reduce Corbello's role from a fully realized character to an actress playing dress up from scene to scene.

Although "Lost Highway" excels in the acting department, I felt the sets and costumes at times were lacking. Williams dons his signature white attire for the second act, but the other characters remain in the same clothes from curtain-up to the closing number. Additionally, the set remains static throughout the play, leaving most locations and situations up to audience's imagination.

Despite these technical flaws, the cast of "Lost Highway" weaves together a melodramatic tale of the singer-songwriter's life that never dabbles too long on the darker side of stardom and will leave audiences clapping and singing along.

"Lost Highway" continues through Aug. 26 at 1600 W. Market St.


HANK WILLIAMS: LOST HIGHWAY, GROUNDED and More Set for American Blues Theater's 2013-14 Season

HANK WILLIAMS: LOST HIGHWAY, GROUNDED and More Set for American Blues Theater's 2013-14 Season

Producing Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside of American Blues Theater, Chicago's second oldest Equity ensemble, announces the Ensemble's 28th season. The season begins with the Chicago professional premiere of Hank Williams: Lost Highway by award-winning playwrights Randal Myler and Mark Harelik, directed by Damon Kiely, September 5 - October 6; the 12th smash year of It's a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! , now at the 199-seat Greenhouse Theater Center, directed by Ensemble member Marty Higginbotham, November 22 - December 29; world premiere of 2012 Blue Ink Playwriting Award-winning script American Myth by Christina Gorman, directed by Steve Scott, February - March 2014; Chicago premiere of 2012 Smith Prize winner Grounded by George Brant, June 2014. American Blues also announces year-long development and public reading of Ensemble member's Nambi E. Kelley's adaptation of Richard Wright's Native Son which will receive a production in fall of 2014.


Chicago Professional Premiere
Hank Williams: LOST HIGHWAY
Written by Randal Myler and Mark Harelik
Directed by Damon Kiely
September 5 - October 6 at Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave.

Hank Williams: Lost Highway follows Williams' rise from his humble beginnings to his triumphs on the Grand Ole Opry stage, to his self-destruction at the age of twenty-nine. This unforgettable tribute includes more than 20 Williams hits, such as "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "Move It on Over," "Hey, Good Lookin'" and "Jambalaya." The production features Ensemble members Matt Brumlow as Hank Williams, Dara Cameron, Michael Mahler, Suzanne Petri, and guest artists Sean Blake and Dana Black.

Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside comments on American Blues Theater's 28th season, "The American Blues Theater's 2013-2014 season, 'Legend and Legacies,' is truly exciting and allows American Blues Theater to demonstrate how much we have grown in the past five years. With four productions on stage and an expanded education and community outreach, American Blues Theater continues to move ahead and establish itself as a leader in the Chicago theatre community."

Performance schedules, venues, and ticket information will be announced at a later date. Flex passes for the 28th Season are available now. For more information and season updates, visit


UNA summer theater honors Hank Williams

UNA summer theater honors Hank Williams

By Jennifer Edwards
Staff Writer

FLORENCE — The University of North Alabama Summer Theatre 2013 program will explore Hank Williams’ musical legacy with its production of “Hank Williams: Lost Highway.”

Performances will be July 11-14 at Norton Auditorium.

“Hank Williams: Lost Highway” is a musical biography by Randal Myler and Mark Harelik.

“Hank’s music is timeless,” says Lost Highway co-creator and two-time Tony nominee Myler, who is directing the UNA production. “He sang from a place of pure honesty. He lived both the pain and the joy.”

UNA’s Summer Theatre program allows theatre students to work alongside established theatre professionals on a full-scale stage production. For Lost Highway, professional actor Peter Oyloe will reprise his portrayal of the real-life Williams, a Butler County, Ala., native whose brief but brilliant career encompassed 11 No. 1 country hits and 24 additional Top 10 singles.

A preview performance is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. July 11. Tickets for that performance are $15 for general admission, $10 for seniors and UNA employees and $5 for students.

Regular performances are 7:30 p.m. July 12-13, and 2 p.m. July 14. Tickets for those shows are $20 general admission, $15 for seniors and UNA employees and $5 for students.

For tickets and more information, visit


Arrow Rock, MO: Lyceum Theatre opens the much anticipated 'Hank Williams: Lost Highway' Saturday

Arrow Rock, MO: Lyceum Theatre opens the much anticipated 'Hank Williams: Lost Highway' Saturday

"Hank Williams: Lost Highway" opens at the Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre Saturday, Aug. 24, and plays through Sept. 1.

"We are so excited for this show to open," Director of Marketing Jackie Buckley said. "Three of the seven matinee performances are completely sold out already!"

The play follows Williams' rise from his humble beginnings on the Louisiana Hayride to his triumphs on the Grand Ole Opry stage to his eventual and painful self-destruction at the age of 29. This musical biography of the legendary singer-songwriter features more than 20 of his most popular songs, including "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," "Move It On Over" and "Hey, Good Lookin," which are given fresh and profound resonance set in the context of Williams' life. "Lost Highway" is a moving and honest portrait of one of the most influential country artists of all time.

Making his Lyceum debut as Hank Williams is Robbie Limon, an award-winning entertainer who mixes solo and band appearances with acting/singing roles at professional theaters. Limon has been on the bandstand for over 30 years and currently plays over 200 dates a year. His ability to copy the tonal qualities and phrasings of other vocalists led to his numerous performances as Hank Williams, Sr. in theaters around the country.

Playing the role of Hank's wife, Audrey, is Lyceum favorite Mallory Hawks. Earlier this season Hawks appeared in "Meet Me In St. Louis" and "Agatha Christie's A Murder Is Announced." Past Lyceum credits include "Black Coffee," "You Can't Take It With You" and "Little Women."

Making his Lyceum debut, Elliot Dash plays Tee-Tot, an Alabama street singer and mentor to Hank. Dash's credits include Joe in "Show Boat," the voice of Audrey II in "Little Shop Of Horrors," Hoke in "Driving Miss Daisy" and the title roles of "Purlie," "Othello" and "Julius Caesar."

Dakota Mackey-McGee returns to the Lyceum stage in "Lost Highway" as a waitress and great admirer of Hank and his work. Earlier this season, she was seen in "The Wizard of Oz," "Fiddler On The Roof" and "A Murder Is Announced."

Another Lyceum favorite, Whit Reichert. returns to the stage in the role of Fred "Pap" Rose. This season, Reichert was seen as The Wizard in "The Wizard Of Oz," Lazar Wolf in "Fiddler On The Roof," Grandpa Prophater in "Meet Me In St. Louis," Warnock Waldgrave in "The Nerd" and Inspector Craddock in "A Murder Is Announced."

The role of Mama Lilly will be played by Leslie Alexander. This season, Alexander has performed on the Lyceum stage in "Meet Me In St. Louis," "The Nerd" and "A Murder Is Announced."

Hank's band, The Drifting Cowboys, are played by Jonathan Schriock, fiddle; Jon Brown, bass; Charlie Ingram, guitar; and Dave Flanagan, pedal steel guitar. Schriock's credits on the Lyceum stage include "Always...Patsy Cline" and, earlier this season, the fiddler in "Fiddler On the Roof." Brown's credits include "The Take" at the Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, "Shake, Rattle & Roll" cabaret at the Florida Studio Theatre, LM in "Pump Boys & Dinettes" and the Johnny Cash review "Ring of Fire" at Ivoryton Playhouse. Ingram's credits include Lesgles in "Les Miserables" at the Muny, Jeffery in "Mrs. Mannerly" at Max and Louie and Warner in "Legally Blonde." Flanagan was last scene at the Lyceum playing in the band for "Always...Patsy Cline."

The production team consists of David Hemsley Caldwell, director; Dan Calandro, scenic designer; Matthew Wilson, lighting designer; Katharine Mott, costume designer; and Ryan Matthew Hall, resident sound designer. Tony Dearing is the production stage manager and Emilee Buchheit is the assistant stage manager.


Actor George Wendt plays Hank Williams' manager in musical

Actor George Wendt plays Hank Williams' manager in musical at Merry-Go-Round Playhouse

George Wendt - Image added by ATL WEb Admin - Click on image for video

Syracuse -- If you only remember George Wendt as Norm Peterson settled into a bar stool in "Cheers," you might be surprised by all the actor is about to do and has done since the hit TV comedy ended in 1993. Wendt plays Fred "Pap" Rose in Merry-Go-Round Playhouse's "Hank Williams: Lost Highway." The musical biography about country singer Williams plays through Oct. 5.

Looking anything but the part of Rose _ who was Williams' manager and a Nashville music publisher _ Wendt is wearing a blue T-shirt, baggy gym shorts, white tube socks and sneakers as he and the cast rehearse in the stuffy third floor education building of Westminster Presbyterian Church on a sticky 90-degree day last week. Wendt also serves as narrator in the musical. No singing or dance is required in this role.

Wendt, with a big, icy McDonald's drink in hand, seeks the relief of the only air-conditioned office on the floor to talk about his role and his career. The actor is quiet and self-effacing during the hour-long interview. Of his role, Wendt says, "Sometimes the narration things can be a little dry. You've got to humanize those. Of course, the relationship with Hank is building and that's going to be very important," he says referring to the scene he rehearsed earlier with Peter Oyloe, who portrays Williams.

The actor admits he became acquainted with the life and music of Williams only recently and partly through watching clips on Youtube. Wendt says audiences unfamiliar with Williams will be surprised by how many of the country singer's songs they know. At this, Wendt breaks into the opener from "Jambalaya" _ "Goodbye Joe, me gotta go, me oh, my oh ..."

Wendt makes it clear throughout he's a follower, especially in in this production. "This is so Hank Williams. People shouldn't expect this to be a big, big George Wendt piece," he says. "I'm a team player. Hank's our man."

He downplays any Norm effect, but knows it has its early advantages. "They're more on board with a familiar face, from the get-go. Over the years, I've found that people sort of forget about the Norm thing within 10 or 20 seconds," he says. Once the "show's moving like a freight train," he says audiences usually are transported, leaving any vestiges of Norm behind.

The actor says he's adventurous, likes to keep busy, work and meet new people. "What am I going to do sit around my house?" Before he arrived in Auburn, Wendt did a guest appearance on former "Cheers" cast mate Kirstie Alley's new show, "Kirstie." The comedy begins on TV Land in December. He played ex-husband of Rhea Perlman, another "Cheers" alum.

"I just think it's really odd that once I hit my 60s I work in the musical theater so much. It's just so peculiar because I don't sing or dance. Yet, once again, we come back to I will, however, do what I'm told. So, if they tell me I have to move in a certain or hit a certain note or a certain tempo, I just learn it and say, 'Yes, I will.'"

And move he has. Wendt played on Broadways as housewife Edna Turnblad in the musical "Hairspray" in 2007. He appeared as a zombie in "Re-Animator: The Musical" that was performed at the New York Musical Theater Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival last summer. A New York Times critic wrote "And if you ever wanted to see Norm from "Cheers" (George Wendt) do the "Thriller" dance, now is your chance ... " When asked about any fancy footwork, Wendt sidestepped the question. He will say "We'll be back with that show."

For the moment, Wendt is more interested in bringing back to life Hank Williams for Merry-Go-Round Playhouse audiences.

George Wendt answered a question from Sherlock88, a reader:

QUESTION: George!" Welcome to Auburn, NY! I'm retired from being a teacher at Auburn Correctional Facility. How do you prepare yourself to portray someone opposite your own character as you did as a murderer in "Columbo" all those years ago? Thank you and continued success to you!

ANSWER: "I don't know. I honestly I can't answer that. I don't know I just learned the words. I was a BAD guy. I killed my brother. It's really hard to put yourself in that character, in that space. So I just kind of faked it. I'm sorry. You know, Peter (Falk) carried it. Rest in Peace. The guy was amazing. I had all these cat-and-mouse scenes with him. It was so much fun. (Episode titled "Strange Bedfellows," aired May 8, 1995.)

Continued Below:

Continued: Actor George Wendt plays Hank Williams' manager in musical

Continued from above:


WHAT: "Hank Williams: Lost Highway," presented by Merry-Go-Round Playhouse.

WHEN: Sept. 18 to Oct. 5.

WHERE: Merry-Go-Round Playhouse, 6877 E. Lake Road, Auburn.

TICKETS: $42 to $50, general; $39 to $47, senior, and $22, 22 years and younger. To purchase, call 255-1785 or 800-457-8897 or go online.

TICKET GIVEAWAY: The Post-Standard is giving away a pair of tickets to a performance of "Hank Williams: Lost Highway." To enter the giveaway, email Melinda Johnson. In the subject field type "Hank" and in the text field include day and evening phone numbers. The deadline for entering the random drawing will be 4 p.m. Friday.


Hank Williams musical biography will be performed at Flat Rock N.C. Playhouse

Hank Williams musical biography will be performed at Flat Rock Playhouse

FLAT ROCK, N.C. – Wednesday is your chance to see the premiere of “Hank Williams: Lost Highway,” a musical biography of the legendary singer/songwriter performed at the Flat Rock Playhouse Mainstage.

Described as “an honest and mesmerizing portrait of the drifting cowboy from his beginnings on the “Louisiana Hayride” to his triumphs on the “Grand Ole Opry” to his eventual self-destruction at 29,” the tribute will include hits including “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Move It on Over” and “Hey, Good Lookin’.”

Flat Rock Playhouse Mainstage is at 2661 Greenville Highway. Tickets are $40, with discounts for AAA members, military personnel, students and groups. Call 866-732-8008 for more information or to purchase tickets. The show runs through Nov. 3.


WaterTower's HANK WILLIAMS: LOST HIGHWAY, Now Playing Addison, TX Playhouse

WaterTower's HANK WILLIAMS: LOST HIGHWAY, Now Playing Addison, TX

Joey Folsom, Mikaela Krantz, Pam Dougherty; Dave Rankin, Joseph Holt, Sonny Franks

WaterTower Theatre presents Hank Williams: Lost Highway running October 11 - November 3, 2013 on the Main Stage at the Addison Theatre Centre. Joey Folsom stars as Hank Williams. The cast features several WaterTower Theatre favorites including Pam Dougherty as Mama Lilly, Stan Graner as Fred Rose (Pap), Mikaela Krantz as Audrey Williams, Joseph Holt as Leon (Loudmouth) and Sonny Franks as Jimmy (Burrhead). The cast also includes Major Attaway as Tee-Tot, Christia Mantzke as The Waitress, Dave Rankin as Hoss and Dennis Bailey as Shag. This production is sponsored by Frost Bank and WaterTower Theatre Board of Directors. Check out a first look below!

Making their WaterTower Theatre stage debuts in Hank Williams: Lost Highway are Major Attaway, Christia Mantzke and Dave Rankin.

Subscriptions are currently on sale for the 2013-2014 season which will include Hank Williams: Lost Highway. Individual tickets do not go on sale for Lost Highway until September 18th


Lost Highway winds its way into Wetaskiwin, Alberta, Canada

Lost Highway winds its way into Wetaskiwin

The Wetaskiwin Theatre Society is kicking off its 2014 season by paying tribute to one of the most influential singer-songwriters in the history of country music.

Lost Highway: The Hank Williams Story will be opening this Friday, Valentine’s Day. The production will run for two weekends, Feb. 14-16 and Feb. 21-23.

“The writers of the play use Hank Williams’ songs to tell his own story,” explained the play’s director, Ken Mastel, who also stars as Williams.

“His music hit very close to home, so if he was having a bad day, he wrote about it. A lot his songs talk about hard times. He was an alcoholic and addicted to prescription pills and such, so he was the cause of many of his own hard times and a lot of that came out in his music.”

Though the production centres on one of country music’s biggest legends, Mastel believes the show is more than just a musical and will appeal to a broader audience than just country music listeners.

“It’s a very dramatic show,” said Mastel. ”It’s not an all-feeling-good play. I think it stays true to his story.”

“The first act is very up, it shows Hank on the rise and climbing to the pinnacle of the music world and then the second act turns the opposite direction, where you can see the partying and the drinking from the first act becomes not so funny and you see it for what it is: it’s a problem.”

“If you’ve never heard a Hank Williams song before, just to watch a good drama is always entertaining.”

Williams began his career in the 1930s with a successful radio show. His salary from his radio gig was enough for him to start his own band, the Drifting Cowboys. He dropped out of school to devote his full energy to touring with the band. Williams would have 35 top 10 singles, including 11 number one hits throughout his career. He died at the age of 29 from heart failure brought on by his drug and alcohol abuse.

“He was literally the first superstar of music,” said Mastel. “He made the mold for the superstar life, which is too much of everything. He was a musical genius and I think that comes out in the story, that he was just ahead of everybody in what he was doing. But his success fed his addictions.”

Lost Highway will showcase a live band, the theatre’s own version of the Drifting Cowboys, comprised of bass, guitar, fiddle, and steel guitar. The production will feature 18 of Williams’ songs.

“Some of his biggest hits got left out, because he just had so many songs,” said Mastel. “I’ve got a greatest hits package of Hank Williams and there’s 40 songs on it. He produced a ton of music … and certainly his style just became the style of country music. Those songs about trucks and hurtin’, he invented all of that.”

With a live band and a raw group of local actors, Mastel expects the show to be a good one.

“We’ve got a fairly new cast. There’s not a lot of experience, but we spill over with enthusiasm,” he laughed.

Another bonus for the audience: this will be the first production at the theatre society’s 53 Avenue home with no obstructed views. A support beam was installed in the ceiling this past December, replacing several posts that had been in front of the stage.

“This is the next generation of productions where we can actually build more involved sets and not be worried about the sight angles for the audience,” said Mastel.

Tickets for Lost Highway are available now. You can contact the box office at 780-352-8383.


"Hank Williams: Lost Highway" Star Reflects on his Career, Show

"Hank Williams: Lost Highway" Star Reflects on his Career, Show
By Lawrence Hartmann

Matthew Brumlow is a Chicago actor who plays the soulful country singer Hank Williams fives times each week in “HankHank-Williams-Lost-Highway-Hank-BANNER-flat Williams: Lost Highway,” the drama/musical about Williams now in an extended run at Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. On Aug. 21, Brumlow, the star of the show, was honored with a nomination for a 2014 Joseph Jefferson Award for Actor in a Principal Role – Musical. (The American Blues Theater show itself was nominated in the Midsize Musical Production category, while its director, Damon Kiely, was nominated in the Director – Musical category.)

Brumlow, 40, lives in the city’s West Ridge neighborhood, on the northwest side, with his wife, fellow actor Cora Vander Broek (who portrays Audrey, Hank Williams’ wife in the show). Born and raised in Conyers, Ga., a small community about twenty miles east of Atlanta, Brumlow was an English major in college, at Lee University in Tennessee, where he graduated summa *** laude.

In a recent e-mail exchange, Brumlow said, speaking of his undergraduate years at Lee, “the Theatre bug fully bit me there.” After undergrad, he moved north for graduate school, studying theatre at Northwestern University. “And when I wrapped up my program there,” the handsome, affable actor said, “it made sense to me to stay in Chicago and try this acting thing.” Reflecting on his adopted hometown, Brumlow Hank Williams Aug. 2014 post-show 1continued, “I quickly fell in love with the city and the theatre community here. It truly is one of the best scenes in the world for theatre.”

And Brumlow is speaking from experience. He has worked as an actor in numerous cities and states across the U.S. Though he considers Chicago’s American Blues Theater as his “first theatre family,” he has trod the boards all over what he calls the “regional theatre circuit,” including at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Milwaukee Rep, and at the Indiana Rep in Indianapolis, which he calls “a home away from home.” Some favorite roles in Indianapolis were the title role in “Hamlet,” and Hannay in “The 39 Steps.” In 2011, Brumlow first began what he deemed his “Hank experience” in a solo show called “Nobody Lonesome for Me,” which played to sold-out houses at the Milwaukee Rep and then at American Heartland Theatre in Kansas City.

In addition to stage work, Brumlow has in recent years also acted in numerous film projects, often alongside his wife, Cora Vander Broek. For example, a film both appeared in, “Where We Started,” recently premiered in LA, New York and Seattle to good reviews, and is available for rental or purchase on Amazon. (The film is an intriguing glimpse into what happens one night when two thirty-something married people meet in a motel’s parking lot.) Looking ahead, a film featuring both actors, “Of Minor Prophets,” is scheduled for release this fall. Of the project, Brumlow said, “Cora is going to blow people away in it.”

Brumlow reflected on his current stage show, “Hank Williams: Lost Highway.” Via e-mail, he said, “Ultimately, it is a great rush when we all get out there and things are cooking. You can feel a very palpable energy exchange between audience and cast...especially when the band is in the pocket on a particular really does feel like we are in a rockin' honky-tonk joint with a rowdy crowd some nights which is such a rush.”

Text by Lawrence Hartmann. Photographs by Violetta Muzychenko; and by Johnny Knight Photography, from


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