Encore Michigan

Meadow Brook puts on its ‘Fancy’ pants

Review September 10, 2021 Patrice Nolan

ROCHESTER, Mich.— Meadow Brook Theatre has a tradition of including jukebox musicals in each season, and these feel-good shows are generally well-attended and much enjoyed. What better way, then, to welcome back a pandemic weary audience than with something both new and instantly familiar?

FANCY, a Country Jukebox Musical is a world premiere that stages a fan-favorite list of the most well-known honky-tonk tunes spanning the George Jones and Lyn Anderson era right up to Carrie Underwood and Garth Brooks. Lacing the songs together is a story – a backstory, if you will – about a girl named Fancy, the eponymous heroine of the Bobby Gentry song popularized by Reba McEntire.

We meet Fancy, as the song suggests, when her momma sends her out into the world with a red dress, a locket, and the advice to “be nice to the gentlemen.” The book by Susan DiLallo and Dan Wackerman holds true to the hard-knock tradition of country music; Fancy may eventually trade her rags for riches, but it comes at a price.

The large 14-member cast sings, dances, and rouses the audience to clap, stomp their feet, and lip-sync along with the performers as 21 favorite honky-tonk anthems carry Fancy and her friends through a rodeo of sorrows and triumphs.

Fancy is played by Larissa Klinger who has the pipes and physical presence to dish out the plaintive tunes while letting go in her performance of the title song, “Fancy.” She is paired with Max Falls, who plays her husband Ned. He has fun – and delightful harmonies – with the male cast members singing “Long Neck Bottle” and “Friends in Low Places,” but shows his sweet tenor range in “I Can’t Make You Love Me.”

Jacqueline Petroccia, as Fancy’s best friend Sally, owns the stage whenever she’s on it. Of all the cast, Petroccia is the best at channeling the rowdy spirit of roadhouse country music in her no-holds-barred delivery of “Redneck Woman” and “Before He Cheats.” Meadow Brook favorite Ron Williams, as Fancy’s womanizing manager Charley, delights the audience with his rendition of the George Strait classic, “All My Exes Live in Texas.”

The play is directed by Travis Walter with choreography by Debbie Williams, who is also featured in the ensemble in various roles. Meadow Brook continues its tradition of top-notch production values, with scenic design by Kristen Gribbin, costumes by Karen Kangas-Preston, lighting by Phillip Hall, and sound design by Mike Duncan.

This show is all about the music, and the scenic design for Fancy places the 5-piece band upstage center, which is about perfect. Zachary Ryan is the music director and conducts the band from his position at keyboard. When Fancy takes the stage of a Nashville club in Act II, the lights come up on the band and they are officially the focal point of the show. We recommend Fancy to anyone who is ready to return to the familiar world of live theatre, kick-ass country, and old-fashioned heartache.

FANCY, a Country Jukebox Musicalruns at Meadow Brook Theatre on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester from September 8 through October 3, 2021. For ticket information and also safety precautions, check the theatre website. At this time, per guidelines established by CDC, the State of Michigan, Oakland University, and Actors’ Equity Association, masks are required to enter the theatre.

Week of 9/27/2021

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