Fans of old-school country music should scoot over to the Flat Rock Playhouse mainstage for the season-opening production of Classic Nashville Roadshow, running through Saturday, March 18.
The showcase is loaded with non-stop hits from Music City’s golden era, a time before the genre was rocked out and difficult to separate from pop tunes. The production is powered by singers Jason Petty and Katie Deal and a strong five-piece band. Along with the hits, there are stories and jokes, and a surprisingly touching moment also turned up on opening night.
This is pure country music that was originally performed by stars of the 1950s through the early ’70s. Many big acts are represented, starting with Willie Nelson’s blockbuster hit “On the Road Again.” Deal keeps a Nelson theme going throughout the show. And the hits just keep on coming, like a non-stop jukebox.
Deal delivers with a cover of Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” and Petty follows with a Hank Williams medley. Then Deal does a tribute to Patsy Cline. No surprises there — Petty has toured with a Hank Williams show and Deal has done same with a performance of Cline classics.
Deal digs deep with a great version of Jeannie C. Riley’s “Harper Valley PTA,” written by Tom T. Hall, complete with a 1960s dress. Petty’s best work might be on Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried.”
Deal channels the late, great Minnie Pearl in a comic bit that includes the Grand Ole Opry star’s classic flowered covered hat with tag dangling from one side.
There’s even a local tune: “Jackson,” written by Billy Edd Wheeler of Swannanoa, through his Western North Carolina connection wasn’t mentioned.
Petty and Deal have great on-stage chemistry, constantly bouncing off each other. It’s obvious that these two have country roots, even if you didn’t know that Petty hails from Manchester, Tenn., and Deal is a Georgia native.
While the band doesn’t get any dialogue, it provides the solid support needed with this type of show. Cheers to Eric Lewis on steel, electric and acoustic guitar; Mark Baczynski on fiddle, DB Woolwright on drums, Jimmy Sullivan on bass and Steve Sensenig on piano and keyboard.
The most surprising opening night moment comes when Petty stops the show to pay tribute to the late Flat Rock executive director Robin Farquhar, who built the theater into a nationally known institution before his death in 1998. Some in the audience may not know Farquhar’s great accomplishments, but they are well worth remembering and noting. Petty’s heartfelt remarks helped reinforce this passionate production.
WHAT: Classic Nashville Roadshow
WHERE: Flat Rock Playhouse, 2661 Greenville Highway, Flat Rock. flatrockplayhouse.org
WHEN: Through Saturday, March 18. Friday-Saturday, at 8 p.m.; Wednesday-Thursday, at 7:30 p.m.; matinees at 2 p.m. $15-$50