Taproot scores with silly-willy Chaps
 

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posted Friday, July 27 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 30

Taproot scores with silly-willy Chaps
by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

CHAPS TAPROOT THEATRE Through August 11

Some things about summer in Seattle are totally predictable. The sun will appear for a few days in June and July, but the 'real' summer won't arrive until August - or September. Seafair pirates will make fools of themselves. June's Gay Pride celebration will be controversial for weeks beforehand - and will be declared 'the best Pride ever' afterward. And Taproot Theatre will produce a hit summer musical, mystery, or comedy.

So far, Seattle's summer is right on schedule.

Taproot's Chaps, by Jahnna Beecham and Malcolm Hill Gartner, is a perfect summer musical spoof, featuring dozens of Country and Western hits from yesteryear. It's full of laughs, good jokes, bad jokes, a moral lesson about friendship and life, and a wonderful trip down memory lane for anyone who remembers Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Hopalong Cassidy, and the Lone Ranger.

The set-up is classic. We're in England in 1944, the worst year of the Blitz. In Studio B at the BBC, four nerdish radio producers are getting ready for a live broadcast. England is wild about C&W music and the stars who have made it famous, and an 'All American' C&W band is due at the studio. Patriotism runs high, but optimism is tested with daily, even hourly, Axis bombings.

The Americans are late, and the four BBC staffers are worried. The tour manager, a shy young woman who seems unable to finish a sentence, arrives with the music, the costumes and props (there is a studio audience to play to), and the script. But the musicians are no-shows.

It's airtime, and guess what? The four British chaps (be prepared for many puns on that word) are forced to stand in for the missing Yanks. Of course, they're ill-prepared for this, and the big question is, can they sing? Well, this is a musical spoof, so of course they harmonize beautifully without so much as a rehearsal. But wait! Polly and Molly, the singing duo who are also part of the troupe, need to be replaced as well. Who else but Mabel, the shy British girl!

Pandemonium reigns. And the broadcast begins.

The British lads don big Western hats, horrible Western shirts, Levis, and - of course - chaps. 'Back in the Saddle Again' starts the broadcast tentatively. (We've heard 'I'm an Old Cowhand' previously as a warm-up.) The studio audience (that's us, folks) responds enthusiastically, and the singers' confidence grows. '(I've Got Spurs That) Jingle Jangle Jingle' brings the four to full harmony, and we start to relax with memories of radio's golden era.

Mabel solos - and scores - with 'I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart,' with impromptu support from two of the BBC boys, Miles and Clive. 'The Ballad of Curly Joe,' one of the lesser-known classics in this sweet fantasy, delights the audience and shows that shy Miles can take the solo spotlight. 'Cattle Call' stops the show with its poignancy, a trademark characteristic of C&W.

In Act Two, the faux-American chaps decide to salute 'our British brothers' with the lovely 'White Cliffs of Dover.' 'Ragtime Cowboy Joe' finds all four in full voice with help from Mabel and the sound-effects man. And the novelty song 'Cigareets and Whusky' delivers a moral message of triumph over temptation. (Right on, Taproot.) A Charlie McCarthy-type dummy takes the lead on several songs and comedy routines, and there's a terrific comic surprise involving drag.

The entire ensemble cast (Solomon Davis, William Hamer, Ian Lindsay, Caitlin Macy-Beckwith, Simon Pringle, and Sam Vance) approaches perfection. Ditto the three-piece band (Gordon Tibbits on bass, Eric Chappelle on fiddle, and Edd Key and Theresa Holmes alternating on guitar). On-target direction from Karen Lund strikes the perfect balance between the puns and the poignancy. Taproot's tech work is first-rate as always. Kudos to all.

Chaps continues through at least August 11 (the company's summer show often gets an extended run). Ticket and performance information is available at (206) 781-9707 or http://taproottheatre.org. Tell 'em SGN sent ya, pardner.



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