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L.A. Beat

New West rocks the country in new music comedy review

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It is the last week to catch  New West Theatre’ “surprise ” production of Rocker’s Gone Country. It’s a surprise because they usually save their big music -comedy revues for summer.
 Rocker’s Gone Country is as entertaining as   you’d expect. Also true to the  title the show is all about the rock side of country music, particularly ’90s country.Rylan Kunkel returns to New West in Rockers Gone Country. Photo L.A. beat file photo
The show opens with a group performance of Shania Twain’s “ Rock this Country, and continue strong with  Rylan Kunkel’s  excellent performance of Alan Jackson’s “ Gone Country.”

There aren’t as many group numbers in this show, but there are a lot of numbers featuring one or two cast members backed by a couple of others.

 There is also a lot of comedy, some of it pretty inspired, particularly a bit featuring Devon Brayne talking to Erica Hunt about how much has changed since he’s been away. Hunt explains to him how many bars and clubs have either moved for changed ownership.
It is great to see Brayne back with New West. He returned last year as Johnny Cash in  their production of “Million Dollar Quartet.” Brayne brings his Cash back on a show stealing solo acoustic performance of Cash’s cover of “Hurt.” His bartender steals the show for some of the best comedy bits, and one of the few where the cast go full on hillbilly. The rest of the humour is pretty straight forward with no accents. Though Erica Hunt’s old woman goes before a judge. Hunt and Scott Carpenter’s Lethbridge news break was pretty popular with the crowd, Friday, Feb. 15 as well. One of the more surreal comedy bids is  Coalhurst interpretive dance company featuring Devon Brayne and Rylan Kunkel in black tights miming out titles of popular country songs throughout the night.

The band is solid as well with Scott Mezei on guitar, bassist Greg Paskuski playing more guitar than usual, Bente Hansen covering most of the bass on her keyboards and drummer Theo Lysyk.
 Mezei and Paskuski take centre stage with acoustic guitars  to accompany Erica Hunt and Kathy Zaborsky singing  Fleetwood Mac/The Dixie Chcik’s “Landslide.”

Cast member Kathy Zaborsky appears in the background adding extra keyboards. Kyle Gruninger and Devon Brayne add extra guitar on a couple of numbers as well. Gruninger leads the band  on an excellent rendition of Jon Bon Jovi’s  Blaze of Glory.”

 More guitars is all the better on the guys’ (Kyle Gruninger, Devon Brayne, Rylan Kunkel, Scott Carpenter) rendition of the Allman Brother Band’s “Ramblin’ Man.”

They have a lot of fun by breaking out individual mullet wigs for Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Achy Breaking Hear,” which ends with Scott Carpenter bowing and tipping his mullet to the crowd.
 The girls (Erica Hunt, co music director Kathy Zaborsky and newcomer Bryanna Rae) shine on the apt Martina McBride song “ This One’s for The Girls.”
Zaborsky performs a beautiful version of Lee Ann Womack’s “ Hope you Dance,” with the rest of the cast members taking turns to show their best  slow dancing moves.

Rylan Kunkel sits on the edge of the stage to add a more traditionally country feel with an intimate version of “ Blue Moon of Kentucky.”

They end the first set with Kyle Gruninger leading the troupe on Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long,” with  Mezei playing the Lynyrd Skynyrd “ Sweet Home Alabama” sample and Bente Hansen adding the Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” sample of the song.

 The cast kicks off the second set on a hauntingly beautiful a cappella version of Buffalo Springfield’s “ For What it’s Worth.”
They end with a rousing version of Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5.
Rockers Gone Country is at the Yates Theatre at 7:30 p.m. each night until Feb. 23.

 — By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
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