‘Stand by Your Man’ is a stand-out production

Published 9:22 am Thursday, October 2, 2008

Audiences coming to the Albert Lea Community Theatre production of “Stand by Your Man: The Tammy Wynette Story” expecting to hear some quality country singing will get that — plus a whole lot more.

They’ll get a real story, too. It’s a story that delivers a lot of information: the singer’s five marriages, her divorces, children, addiction, electro-shock, tabloid romances and more. The play opens tonight at the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center.

The Mark St. Germain script, directed by Rory Mattson, details the highs and lows of the life of the first lady of country music. And it’s capably delivered by the very talented Stephanie Erdman in the title role.

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It’s a role that seems made for Erdman. She can sing country with the best of them. And as George Jones, there’s Todd Utpadel, one of the finest male country singers our area has to offer.

Put those two together and it’s magic. Together, they sing such hits as “Near You” and “Golden Rings.”

Lisa Sturtz also shines as Mee Maw, Wynette’s mother. As the play opens and Tammy discovers she’s dead, her previously deceased mother helps her come to terms with her life. From there, the play is a flashback to the highlights of the singer’s years on Earth. Sturtz is particularly enjoyable as she delivers “God’s Gonna Get You for That,” in response to a comment made by Hilary Clinton on a “60 Minutes Episode.”
Performances of “Stand by Your Man” are tonight through Saturday and again Oct. 8 to Oct. 11 at 7:30 p.m. at the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center. There is also a 2 p.m. matinee this Sunday. For tickets, call 377-4371.

The rest of the roles are also well cast. Tony Segura plays Euple Byrd, Tammy’s first husband. Gary Neist plays her second husband, Don Chapel. John Woodruff plays husband No. 5, and her manager, George Richey. Jay Paul gets the enjoyable task of donning a mustache and pretending he’s Burt Reynolds. And Mark Place plays Billy Sherrill, the man who “discovers” Tammy. They all play multiple roles in the production, as does Carrie Boyer, who plays a young Tammy and Dolly Pardon from the beauty school. Kate Ellertson plays one of Tammy’s daughters.

And then there’s the band. Mattson has managed to assemble some of the best musicians around in Neil and Barb Lang (who just happen to be Erdman’s parents), Merle Krause, Teresa Iverson and Bruce Himmerich. They make the 26 songs in the production a joy to listen to.

It’s also a treat for the eyes. While generally performed on a larger stage, set designer Steve Kinney has successfully used a minimalist approach to get the show to work in a small space.

Rosalie Truax designed the costumes, Mike Wangen did lighting design and Lori Larsen is running lights, Tubby Petersen is on sound and Karen Szymanowski and Loyal Leas are serving as stage managers.

The show lasts just under 2 1/2 hours, which includes a brief intermission.

Tickets will go fast for this show.