Developed by Rebecca Langford, Richard Hopkins and Cristin Kelly
Directed by Richard Hopkins
Florida Studio Theatre, Goldstein Cabaret
1214 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota,
March 25 through June 7, 2008

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker

The Outlaws are the performers-composers who struck out against "factory Nashville" (as they called "corporate greed"), starting their own country and western music movement and enterprises. Willie Nelson teamed up with Waylon Jennings and brought in Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash to go their rugged ways at the center of the Outlaw Movement. Celebrating it at FST, Michael Hicks introduces silvery-haired, seasoned guitarist and husky-voiced Dominick Cicco; young, darker guitar-playing but smoother-singing Alex Brume; and himself. Lanky, light-haired Hicks explains things, tells jokes, and sings mainly with a twang. He also manages a variety of instruments, including keyboard, harmonica, fiddle, accordion.


Admitting the men to be not just plain outlaws, Hicks joshes: "If there weren't no sinners, we wouldn't need angels." That need is half filled by keyboardist Erica Aubrey, blond, flirty, and sexy in a strapless bustier and gold-decorated denims. She often interjects women's comments into the men's lyrical narratives, and manages a mean country yodel in a few solos, notably "I Wanna Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart." Principal Angel vocalist is brunette Joanna Parson. Her tailored black jacket, subtly embroidered jeans, with red satin blouse and earrings bespeak the simplicity she says she likes in her solo numbers, like "A Coat of Many Colors." Dolly Parton is honored among the Outlaws as well as with Angels Patsy Montana, Jessi Colten, June Carter Cash, and Kitty Wells.


If there's a predominant motif among the songs presented, it may well be movement. Cicco's "Midnight Rider" is the first solo. Brumel walks Cash's famous "Line." Joanna Parson goes "Travellin' Through." Part II of the program has all five "On the Road Again" at the start and ends with them "On a Fast Train."


As a whole, Hicks gets the most laughs by bragging "It's Hard to Be Humble." It's easy for him, as well, to get the audience to sing along. Since so many of the songs tell stories, Musical Director Tony Marcus assures that the music never overwhelms the lyrics, which Richard Hopkins directs to have full dramatic impact. Simple velvet-topped, sheer cloth backdrop and costumes are of Marcella Beckworth's design, while that of the light-filled finale is Colleen Jennings'. Dean Curosmith stage manages the rousing, premier 90 minute show.


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