Myrtle Beach shows: “One – The Show’’ at The Alabama Theatre
Greg Rowles of Alabama Theatre in North Myrtle Beach
North Myrtle Beach | If you’re looking for a night of live music, laced with comedy and a dash of glitzy choreography and showbiz sparkle while vacationing in the Myrtle Beach area, then The Alabama Theatre’s in-house production may be the ``One’’ for you.
Simply put, “One – The Show’’ is a live variety show; it’s like “Hee-Haw’’ mixed with “American Idol,” sprinkle in some “Dancing with the Stars’’ with a shot of Broadway and some good, old fashioned churchin’ for good measure. Except no one gets voted off the stage, there’s no discernable plot, the collection plate isn’t passed, and these performers have already gone through rigorous auditions.
Greg Rowles, who you might know from his moonlighting gig on WFXB TV’s “Not the News,’’ or perhaps from his stint on “Star Search,” is “One’s” emcee and featured male vocalist, but several other members of the cast and in-house band are given ample time to shine, too, including lead guitarist Jeff Zona, who steps out from his recessed stage riser to sing a couple of tunes on center stage, including “Hummingbird,’’ a tune made famous by both Ricky Skaggs and Restless Heart, and Rascal Flatts’ 2006 hit “My Wish.’’
And vocalist Gail Bliss is arguably the show’s diva. Bliss, who stars in a “A Closer Walk with Patsy Cline’’ touring show when she’s not performing with the “One” cast, pays tribute to the country legend during one of her featured segments with a Cline medley eliciting an outpouring of applause the moment she begins to sing the opening lines of ``Walking After Midnight’’ and “Crazy.’’
And let’s not forget comedian Grant Turner, whose local yokel comedic foil/altar ego Rickey Mokel is a crowd favorite. He’s the yin to Rowles’ yang, often getting big laughs at the straight-laced emcee’s expense.
Mokel’s shtick is almost like a one-man Greek chorus, as he wanders on stage under the guise of being the theater’s stage hand sent out to stall for time, and proceeds to comment on the show and its cast, who feign disdain at the unskilled performer sharing the stage and spotlight. While much of his aw-shucks persona remains the same year-after-year, Grant/Mokel also peppers his jokes with up-to-date observations, such as the night we visited he performed a bongo-accompanied original tune dedicated to the B.P. oil spill, entitled “Plug the Durn Hole.’’ He also took some jabs at the Obama/Biden administration, health care reform, New Jersey and Canadians. Of the latter, known to frequent these parts, especially during the winter, he quipped: “I never met any Canadians until I moved to South Carolina. You can’t swing a lounge chair in this town without hittin’ one in the head.’’
Rowles, meanwhile, isn’t just a pretty face and perfectly coiffed ‘do; when not performing front-and-center, he sits down with the band to man the peddle steel, that signature weeping electric string sound that gives country music a distinctive flair. While “One’’ uses a tried and true formula of mixing family-friendly comedy with song and dance, and some nifty visuals supported by some projected backdrops and on-stage set pieces, the show’s strength is the choice of musical material. Overall, there’s a country theme to the program, but you’ll hear plenty of pop and rock, too, especially during the “American Bandstand’’ segment which rifles through storied 20th Century pop song book, from Bill Haley and His Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock’’ to Gloria Estefan’s “Turn the Beat Around.’’
It plays out like a multi-media pop culture snapshot of the last 50 years, with nods to divergent icons from Mary Poppins to the King of Pop. While offering up some familiar household favorites, “One’’ also digs a little deeper into the contemporary country playbook, featuring tunes such as Jason Aldean’s “She’s Country,” another Rascal Flatts’ tune, “”Me and My Gang,’’ and Carrie Underwood’s version of Randy Travis’ “I Told You So.”
There are two minor quibbles with this production. The various shout-outs to church and civic groups and honeymooners and those celebrating anniversaries becomes overkill and would be better served as visual messages on the show’s projection/video screens during the course of the show, instead of interrupting the flow.
Secondly, while generally a clear and mostly-audible sound comes from the in-house P.A., the band simply is not loud enough. While we’re sure the producers don’t want to blow away the show attendees on the front row, we sat in Section F, about eight rows behind the soundboard, and many of the band’s instruments were overpowered by the vocals. We know the band is made up of seasoned and skilled professionals, led by drummer/musical director Bobby Gabriele, and wanted to hear ‘em let it rip.
For instance, fiddler extraordinaire Robert Napier was buried in the mix for most of the entire show we attended, except for his solo spot on “Orange Blossom Special, ’’ where he got his bow seriously rosined up.
The Alabama Theatre does not serve alcoholic beverages. Sodas are $2.75 and $3.50, bottled water is $2, candy is $2.25, ice cream is $2.50 and popcorn is $3-$4, and the concession stand accepts debit cards. However, if you want a pre (or post)-show cocktail, there are several restaurant bars and lounges within walking distance of North Myrtle Beach's Barefoot Landing, including Wild Wing Café, Bully’s Pub & Grill, Fire Island Grille, and the spanking new Flying Fish Public Market & Grill, which is right next door to the theater.
Open since 1993, the venue is named for supergroup Alabama, which was the house band at Myrtle Beach’s Bowery in the late ‘70s, the band as a whole has not performed at The Alabama Theatre in several years, although individual members have played solo shows there recently. There are six main sections of seating in the lower level, and three balcony sections.
The venue is handicap accessible; and there are restrooms on the main floor and balcony level.
Parking is in ample supply and free, including handicap spaces, which are on the south side of the theatre.
“One – The Show’’ runs at 7:30 nightly during the main tourist season, but check with the venue’s Web site (www.alabama-theatre.com) or call the box office at 843-272-1111 to make sure a performance is scheduled for the evening you want to attend, because concerts by nationally touring artists, such as George Jones and Josh Turner, are also hosted at the theater and on those nights performances of ``One’’ are not staged.
The Alabama Theater is located at 4750 U.S. 17 S., Barefoot Landing, North Myrtle Beach. Tickets range from $34.95 to $45.95.
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