As one half of the famed country duo, Doyle has seen some hard times (divorces, alcoholism, fraud, and various other scandals). He discovers a new "Debbie" singing in the VFW and hires her to go on tour with him and bring back the old Doyle and Debbie act. The hard-working single mother puts up with the misogynist and slightly crazy Doyle to get her one big chance in Nashville. The show consists of the duo singing old and new hits, interspersed with stage banter and a few glimpses into the not-so-happy backstage life.
Although I'm no fan of what passes for country music on the radio today, I love that good old Country-Western sound, and the original music in this show hearkens back to that. Written by Bruce Arntson (who also performed in the original Nashville version of the show), the dozen or so songs include ballads, up-tempo numbers, and some fantastic harmonies. They're really wonderful traditional country songs, but with completely ridiculous lyrics that poke gentle fun at the common themes of the genre. There's the overly patriotic song, the cheated-on woman song, the sappy love song. But all of them take it to the extreme so that you're laughing and grimacing while taping your toe to the rhythm.
|Kim Kivens and David Andrew Anderson|
as Debbie and Doyle
And now we come to the bad news. Unfortunately this production does not include a live band; they sing to a recorded track (I doubt they'd be able to get away with that in Music City). This is one of my least favorite things in musical theater, to which I take offense as a former band geek. I wish the producers had shelled out a few more bucks to hire some musicians; the experience would be greatly improved with a couple guitars and a fiddle, and would be worth an increase in ticket price. It would feel more like a real Nashville club, rather than a really excellent karaoke performance. The "band leader" counts down and then pushes a button on his laptop. Add a live band, and maybe some wait service to bring out drinks during the show, and The Debbie and Doyle Show could be a fantastic immersive country music satire experience.
The Doyle and Debbie Show is playing at Hennepin Theatre Trust's New Century Theatre, which is set up as a country bar, with tables in the audience and photos and music memorabilia on the walls, and has been extended through May 11 (check out the discount tickets on Goldstar). It's a fun and entertaining 90 minutes featuring some great original country songs well performed by the cast.