McHarge: Talking Honky Tonk Angels

MORRISBURG – “Honky Tonk Angels celebrates a wide spectrum of music and musical styles, but every song in this show was a number one hit for the singer. Audiences will know and love this music.”

Chris McHarge is the creator of Upper Canada Playhouse’s spectacular musical production, ‘Honky Tonk Angels,’ opening May 9, running until May 21. A noted playwright/musician/director, McHarge has staged some of the Playhouse’s biggest hits, including the recent ‘Glory Days!’ as well as ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ and ‘Johnny and June.’ His first association with UCP dates back nearly 20 years to a show called ‘18 Wheels’ performed when the theatre was just getting started.

Chris will be in town for the opening of ‘Honky Tonk Angels.’ “Upper Canada Playhouse is just about my favourite theatre in the world,” he said, during an interview with the Leader. “The singers and musicians who come to the Playhouse always tell me how much they love the immediacy of the audiences here, the closeness with an audience that allows for instant reactions and responses to their performances. I love bringing shows here.”

In his research for ‘Honky Tonk Angels,’ Chris learned that “female country singers often don’t get celebrated like they should. It was almost an unwritten rule on country radio stations that you never played two female artists back to back: the assumption seemed to be that listeners wouldn’t like that. The irony is that the biggest sell out crowds for country music were almost always for the female singers. Why? I think they were just that good.”

And his multi media production of ‘Honky Tonk Angels’ will make it clear just how truly fantastic these female country greats were and are. Born in Tennessee, Chris McHarge was inspired by the country music he grew up listening to. “Country was in my blood right from the start,” he laughed.

“I literally had to go through hundreds of songs to choose the final music for this show,” Chris explained. “It was incredibly difficult, just because these wonderful country stars created so much fantastic music. Act One is going focus on the original legends of country music – Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and Emmy Lou Harris. Then in Act II, I look at the contemporary country stars, artists like Faith Hill, the Judds, Barbara Mandrell, Carrie Underwood and Trisha Yearwood. The show features a number of great duets, as the incredibly talented J. D. (Jack) Nicolsen takes on the roles of Willie Nelson, Conway Twitty, George Jones and Kenny Rogers. There is going to be an incredible blend of voices and talent on the stage.”

Taking on the roles of those wonderful women of country music will be Imogen Wasse and Caitlin McKeon. Imogen thrilled audiences during her recent appearance in the hit show ‘Glory Days!’

Caitlin has performed in several musicals, including a powerful Patsy Cline Tribute. “Fantastic voices,” Chris said.

The three leads will be supported by a group of live musicians that Chris (tongue-in-cheek) calls his “band of aging, washed up rock stars – who wear the title like a badge of honour. And they won’t mind that I called them that,” he added. Kevin Dempsey, Sherman Dean Harrison, David Johns, Peter Mueller and Dale Rivard are, quite simply, outstanding musicians.

Chris McHarge’s ‘Honky Tonk Angels,’ a celebration of the greatest female country singers, will be a wonderful musical experience for Playhouse audiences. “I think people will walk out of this show singing, toe tapping, maybe dancing a little, and, if they are couples, holding hands.”

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