Got the blues? Barn show is the cure

By Tom Dillon Times-News

GREENSBORO — You could spend years analyzing the sad events that ended the life of country and western singer Hank Williams at the age of 29. His life could be turned into anything from a Greek tragedy to an opera to a handbook on depression, God help us.
Thankfully, “Lost Highway, the Music and Legend of Hank Williams,” which opened last week at the Barn Dinner Theatre to run through Nov. 18, is neither opera nor handbook.
It’s a play, but it’s a play that values music above plot lines. It tells the story of how Williams and his band, the Drifting Cowboys, blazed a meteor-like trail across American culture in the middle of the century, before Williams died in 1953 from the hard-living ways he sang about.
Williams is played by Mitch Snow of Thomasville, and Snow has Williams’s style and vocal characteristics down pat, even if he’s a distant second in terms of the CD sales in the Barn’s lobby.
Snow is joined in the band by Stephen Koppenhaver (as Hoss) on bass, Chuck Martin (as Jimmy) on guitar, John Hofmann (as Leon) on fiddle and D. Simmons or Bill Davis accompanying on steel guitar. It’s a good band that really should keep playing after the show ends in November.
It’s often hard to find actors who are also good string musicians or string musicians who are also good actors. But the Barn’s director for this play, Bobby Bodford, has managed the task.
The band members are ably supported by Betsy Brown as Mama Lilly, Georgia Rogers as Williams’ wife Audrey, Tim Matson as Pap the promoter and J.W. Smith as Tee-Tot, the black street musician who taught Williams some of his earliest lessons on the streets on Montgomery, Ala.
Smith, who starred as Hoke in the Barn’s production of “Driving Miss Daisy” earlier this year, is particularly effective in this role. His best line, talking about Williams’s music: “These songs wasn’t written. They was born.”
The two-hour, three-act show includes fully 30 of Williams’ best songs, including such standards as “Hey, Good Lookin’,” “Jambalaya,” “Move It On Over,” “Why Don’t You Love Me Like You Used to Do,” “Lovesick Blues,” “I Saw the Light” and “Lonesome Whistle,” written with Jimmie Davis.
If you’re unlucky enough not to like country music, don’t go, because that’s really what this show is. But if you love the music (and Williams’ legend), go. If you haven’t decided, call the Barn and ask to get put on hold. They’ve got Williams’s music on their answering machine, and I could listen all day.
My only complaint is that some of the end of the show tended to turn into a sing-along Thursday night, and by that time I had such a lump in my throat I couldn’t sing well. I guess, as the refrain goes, I’d seen the light.

Dinner is at 6:30 p.m. nightly and showtime is 8 p.m. A matinee will be performed Nov. 18. Dinner is at 12:30 p.m. and the show begins at 2 p.m.