'Honky Tonk Angels' celebrates country music and those who make it

Kaitlin Doughty, who is playing Darlene; Jama Bowen, who is playing Angela; and Alison Rose Munn, who is playing Sue Ellen, pose for a photo on the set of the Dutch Apple’s “Honky Tonk Angels.” (Blaine T. Shahan / Staff)

As the great Kitty Wells once sang, it wasn't God who made honky tonk angels.

It was circumstances. And the three leading lady characters of Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre's production of "Honky Tonk Angels" can certainly attest to that.

They have husbands who disappoint. Or bosses who harass. Not to mention dreams that have been stifled.

Small wonder, then, that Angela, played by Jama Bowen; Darlene, portrayed by Kaitlin Doughty and twice-divorced Texas gal Sue Ellen, brought to the stage by Alison Rose Munn, find themselves on the same bus headed for Nashville, the Tennessee music mecca where the ladies are out to reach for the stars. The girls get a little inspiration from country music goddesses past and present.

And that should add up to some sweet sounds on stage.

"It has great three-part harmony," says Bowen of the production, which was penned by playwright Ted Swindley, best known for creating "Always … Patsy Cline," a paean to what many say is the greatest lady of country music ever.

Bowen herself is a native of Waxahachie, Texas, and she once sang before former American president Bill Clinton. In this particular show, expect songs made famous by Dolly Parton, Cline (of course!) Reba McEntire, Tammy Wynette and "a lot of Loretta Lynn," promises Bowen. But let's sit a spell and talk about how "Honky Tonk Angels" got its name.

Wells, a country legend who passed away in 2012, wrote the 1952 song that serves as the inspiration for the show's title. That tune was considered somewhat shocking at the time, as it says that women can be as burdened as men when it comes to trouble. And lord knows, the ladies of "Honky Tonk Angels" have their share of trouble.

Just ask Doughty about Darlene.

"Darlene is the youngest," Doughty says of her character. "She lives with her father. They are very poor. She finds her escape from it all" by jumping on that bus, Doughty says.

You think that's bad? Ask Bowen about Angela.

"Her husband Bubba drives a beer truck," Bowen says. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but Bubba "has really let her down." On top of all of that, Bowen says, Angela has six kids. "She really has her hands full."

Munn's Sue Ellen can probably top them all. She's been through three husbands and "has never found her direction in life," Munn says.

"She has a boss who harasses her and a mom who is always on her," forever pestering Sue Ellen as to when Momma can expect grandchildren.

The gals unleash life's care and woes in songs such as "I'll Fly Away," "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" and Parton's immortal "I Will Always Love You," a number later immortalized by the late Whitney Houston.

For the actresses involved in "Honky Tonk Angels," the show is both a homecoming and an introduction to a new way of thinking.

"I could never stand country music!" confesses Doughty, who grew up in Missouri near "the boot heel" which gives the state its distinctive shape. But she's become a convert.

"The music of the show is amazing," she happily admits.

Munn didn't grow up anywhere near Nashville, but she was raised in a Northern California ranching and farming family, so she can connect with "Honky Tonk Angels."

"It's my first time singing country music, and my family is very glad!" she says.

For Bowen, the production is truly home turf.

"I am from Nashville," Bowen admits with justifiable pride. "I have sung country music. It's kind of like full circle with me," she says of the show.

"But I didn't have six kids and I didn't have a Bubba!"

"Honky Tonk Angels"

Cont. through Feb. 8

Most Tues-Sat. evenings

6 p.m. dinner and 7:30 p.m. show

Select matinees and Sun. twilights

$45 adults, $23 students

$19 children 3-12. Show only: $32

Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre

510 Centerville Road, 898-1900

www.dutchapple.com

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