Theater review: ‘King Mackerel’ at N.C. Stage

GONE FISHING: N.C. Stage Company's latest production is the musical comedy 'King Mackerel and the Blues are Running' staring, from left, Ben Mackel, Charlie Flynn-McIver and Joel P. Rogers.
GONE FISHING: N.C. Stage Company's latest production is the musical comedy 'King Mackerel and the Blues are Running' staring, from left, Ben Mackel, Charlie Flynn-McIver and Joel P. Rogers. Photo by Nina Swann Photography

Before those summertime memories start slipping away, make a quick trip to the beach  — or to the musical comedy King Mackerel and the Blues are Running, on view at  N.C. Stage Company through Sunday, Oct. 8.

Director Neela Munoz does a fine  job with this heartfelt show, written by Bland Simpson and Jim Wann with Don Dixon and J.L Mills.  It hits home with anyone who has spent time at the beach, especially North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

You can almost feel the sun beating down and hear the waves crashing onshore. There’s nothing heavy here: The closest the play comes to high drama is when a hurricane blows the roof off the beloved Corncake Inlet Inn. A quartet of musicians perform a fundraiser to prevent the place from going to greedy developers. The boys crack wise and sing and tell stories of beach life. There are similarities here with the popular Pump Boys and Dinettes, which was also written by Wann: Both shows share a love of small-town life.

King Mackerel requires actors who play instruments and sing, while creating appealing characters. Munoz has a solid cast with Ben Mackel as the guitarist Chuck, Joel P. Rogers on keyboard as Reid and Charlie Flynn-Mciver (the N.C. Stage co-founder) on bass as Murphy. Sam Cobb is Cecil G., who keeps the beat going on drums, but has no spoken lines.

There’s not much plot here and none is really needed. The show  is carried by the songs and amusing stories (a fisherman’s unfortunate adventure, a borrowed car gets stuck in the sand, etc. ).

Rogers sets it all up with an introduction and directions to Corncake Inlet, which takes visitors on a long and twisting trip across the Tarheel State. The show is supported by a projection screen which is particularly effective when a storm blows in.

The songs range from toe-tapping (the title tune and “To Catch A King”) to amusing (“Joyride”) and sweet (“Georgia Rose”). The audience is pulled into the show by a game of bingo with the promised prize of a vacation at the Corncake Inlet Inn, once the roof is fixed.

What King Mackerel really delivers is a night of family-friendly humor that leaves viewers longing for an old-fashioned beach vacation — the sort that’s becoming more difficult to find, these days.

WHAT: King Mackerel and the Blues are Running
WHERE: N.C. Stage Company, 15 Stage Lane, ncstage.org
WHEN: Through Sunday, Oct. 8. Wednesdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Sundays plus Saturday, Sept. 30, at 2 p.m. $16-$34

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About Tony Kiss
Tony Kiss covers brewing news for the Xpress. He has been reporting on the Carolina beer scene since 1994. He's also covered distilling and cider making and spent 30 years reporting on area entertainment. Follow me @BeerguyTK

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