There is a place where Garth Brooks never pursued fame, Dolly Parton is a chef, and Shania Twain owns a boat. It’s a world unlike our own in whoischrisgains’s Nashville Stories playing at the 2017 SummerWorks Festival.
Nashville Stories is…weird. There is no linear story, it’s like a choreographed dream sequence. The actors address the audience, sing, sprout lobster claws, and name fish in some sort of attempt at a fourth-wall breaking spiritual journey.
The play doesn’t start, so much as you come into the theatre with the actors warming up. And it just sort of goes from there. I don’t know how else to describe it.
Garth Brooks (Jake Vanderham) experiences one moment that changes his life, and apparently, the lives of several big-name country stars. A red corvette goes off a bridge. Suddenly, he and his wife divorce, he struggles to create new songs, pursuing singing lessons from Parton in some variation of the midwestern United States.
The madness of the world as Brooks works his way towards an alternate persona Chris Gaines, is almost too scripted to make it fun. It’s when it strips the staginess from their script that writers Vanderham and David Bernstein deliver poignant oddities.
Arguably, Nashville Stories excels at tiny moments of genuine heart. There’s a moment during an interview between Ryan Seacrest and Brooks where Vanderham gets this stunned, surprised, and somewhat helpless expression on his face as he’s forced to help the interview get stranger and stranger and stranger.
I wanted those bits and pieces, to see the human struggle. Instead I got a lot of Dolly Parton making strange, nonsensical, and not really audible jokes. And that’s not even a slight on the actor.
I just got frustrated when I felt like they were showcasing their talent. In serving their cast, they forgot the story which was a shame for me. I’m always down for something weird.
On the bright side, if you’re anything like me, you’ll get a kick out of hearing some big hit numbers done by some amazing vocalists. Nashville Stories might be hit or miss but, man, do they land all their notes!
The music (there’s quite a bit) might make the show worth it to you. Just be prepared for something that’s unusual and not always in a good way.
- Sunday August 6th5:45pm – 7:00pm
- Monday August 7th 3:45pm – 5:00pm
- Tuesday August 8th 6:00pm – 7:15pm
- Thursday August 10th 8:30pm – 9:45pm
- Friday August 11th 4:00pm – 5:15pm
- Saturday August 12th 8:15pm – 9:30pm
SummerWorks tickets are now Pay What You Decide at $15, $25, or $35, whichever suits your budget. All tickets are general admission and there are no limits to any price level. Tickets are available at the performance venue (cash only), online and in person at the SummerWorks Central Box Office – located at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst Street). Open August 1-13 from 10am-7pm. Cash and credit accepted.
Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 7 shows.
Audience Advisory: Please be advised the show contains coarse language, aggressive lighting, partial nudity, and live cooking (without nuts). Recommended for ages 16+.
Photo by Ian Brown