Friday, February 23, 2018
Stage

Review: Show Palace's 'Route 66' stokes plenty of memories of the famous highway

People who fondly remember Nash Ramblers, the man with the Texaco star, eight-cylinder engines and little GTOs will likely enjoy the songs in and the memories revived by Route 66, a jukebox musical recalling all things good and fine with that strip of highway running straight through from Chicago to Los Angeles and carrying trucks and vacationers for the first half of the 20th century — or until the Interstate Highway System almost killed it.

Route 66 (not to be confused with the book musical Route 66: The Road Musical) plays matinees and evenings through Oct. 2 at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson.

It's a lively, fun, all-music and dance tribute (with one brief spoken local reference) to truckers and their CB radio chatter, tourists looking for a roadside attraction (World's Largest Ball of String, anyone?), saucy diner waitresses and the stay-put locals who wistfully watch the passing parade on what has been called America's Main Street.

First-time Show Palace director Matthew Belopavlovich and co-director Steve Jones (Mark in A Chorus Line) guide the show's four talented singer/dancers to an audience-pleasing turn. Show Palace veterans, tall, deep-voiced Clay Smith and multitalented Matty Colonna, and newcomers Joshua Kolb and Dylan Vallier do a delightful series of familiar and not-so-familiar tunes centered around the kings and queens of the road. Choreographer Jones adds some fancy footwork in and around set designer Todd Everest's simple but evocative backdrops and props.

Everest's set includes a large radio dial suspended over the stage, playing commercials for date-specific cars, tires and digestive remedies, along with station call letters, to let the audience know when and where they are on this cross-country adventure — and give the performers a chance to change outfits. Scenic artist Tim Dow's painted backdrops set the locale just right, and Michael Sessa's lights enhance the mood.

There are novelty songs like Beep Beep!, with Smith's Rambler hilariously tailgating Kolb and Vallier's Cadillac as they spin and honk and roll around desk chairs; comedy songs like Girl on the Billboard, sung at breakneck speed by Kolb; trucker songs like Six Days on the Road, and nostalgic songs like Used to Be, a lament that a local dance hall is gone, anchored by Vallier, and Mother Road, the regrets of the locals.

Each of the four performers gets a chance to shine, but it's the close harmonies that hit the heart and stay there. On opening night, music director Smith's recorded music at first almost drowned out the voices on stage, but modulated nicely by the end of the performance.

Running about 100 minutes, including intermission, the show moves as fast as a long-haul trucker getting close to home. (Note: If you leave during the bows, as some did opening night, you'll miss two of the best numbers of the evening.)

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