Redneck review: New Branson show pays tribute to mullets, trailers, tenors

15 Jul

It’s a sad, sad story.
Edna Mae’s husband, Billy Ray, loses his life in a terrible wood chipping accident. Billy Ray’s friends, Billy Joe, Billy Billee and Billy Bob come to the rescue of Billy Ray’s grieving widow. The three Billys feel real bad for Edna Mae and want to help her finish the “dream trailer” she and Billy Ray were working on before his unfortunate — and, presumably messy — demise.
As fate would have it, a big city entertainment agent, The Colonel, discovers the Billys singing at Billy Ray’s memorial service. The Colonel convinces the Billys to take their show on tour. Needing the money to help Edna Mae, the Billys hit the road and the stage.
The rest is redneck musical history. That’s all you need to know about the 3 Redneck Tenors to laugh along to Branson’s newest show.
“I came up the show about five years ago,” said the show’s creator and producer Matt Lord “My nickname in the opera world was ‘Opera Redneck’ because I looked more like the guy who should be driving the truck, than singing on the stage.”
Lord, who has enjoyed successful runs with the San Francisco Opera, Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago, is settled in for a six-week run at The Oak Ridge Boys Theatre in Branson.
Comically twisted
3 Redneck Tenors, Lord’s ode to all things country, chronicles the rise to fame of three mullet-wearing friends. Tenors pays tribute to the original Three Tenors — Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti and José Carreras — and mocks the predictable, cookie-cutter Tenors’ format it spawned.
“I love those original guys,” Lord said. “I call them Pav-o-raty, Dominga and the Little Feller. I love those guys.”
Then, Lord said, it went too far.
“Now, they have the Three Irish Tenors and Three Mexican Tenors and The Twelve Tenors and the 15-27 Tenors,” he said. “So, I came up with 3 Three Redneck Tenors.”
That’s where the show takes a comically twisted turn — one of the tenors is killed off in the wood chipping incident, then replaced with a baritone.
Adding a baritone’s voice to the cast offered Lord the opportunity for more interesting musical harmonies, he said.
“We have a high tenor, a lyric tenor and a baritone,” he said. “Add the Colonel, Denny McGuire, who’s a bass, and you have a quartet of different voice types that you can make an interesting musical evening with, as opposed to three tenors just kind of screaming at each other all night.”
Climbed to the middle
Lord’s musical tale of the Billys and Edna Mae came about almost by accident. Lord had the idea about three years ago for a redneck tenors’ musical review. He had the 3 Redneck Tenors name, but no script or story.
“We did the show in Grapevine, Texas,” he said. “An agent saw us and said he could put the show in about 35 cities (the) next year.”
Lord had to decide whether to go back to the Metropolitan Opera, or to take a chance with 3 Redneck Tenors.
“I decided that this is too much fun, so we gave it a shot,” he said. “Then we came up with the story line of Billy Ray and Edna Mae. The thing took off from there. I always say that we have climbed our way to the middle.”
The group achieved national recognition as a finalist in NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.”
Lord said during the first year of performances, he would talk with audience members, who would share what they liked and disliked about the show. The conversations showed Lord that fans are a unique and friendly bunch.
“Our audience isn’t like, ‘That was very nice. That was pretty. Thank you, Mr. Lord. Can I have your autograph?’ he said. “It doesn’t matter if we are playing northern Washington or southern Alabama, our audiences are like, ‘We’re having a barbecue tomorrow night. Y’all want to come over and hang out with us?’”
‘Won’t learn a thing’
“What we have is an adult show without adult language,” Lord said. “Kind of like the old Sid Caesar (‘Your Show of Shows’) and Jack Benny’s show. You can bring your momma and your kids, but the show is not a like a kids show. I always say there is not a dirty word in the show, but you do feel kind of dirty at the end of it.”
Lord said you can do anything you want on stage, you just have to be inventive about it.
“We wear dresses and everything like that,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. It grew from the audience. That’s why it’s been the success that it’s been.”
While the production’s trailer park set and country costumes may catch audience members’ eyes, it’s the Billys’ “business in the front, party in the rear” hairstyles that Tenor fans remember. Lord laughed when asked about the mullet wigs the singers slip on before every show.
“I have a joke I tell,” Lord said. “I’m the star and producer of a national touring company and yesterday I was out watering and feeding the mullets.”
Lord said that if there is one thing potential audience members should know about his show, it’s this: You won’t learn a thing.
“Just come,” he said. “Just have a good time. You will laugh and there will be as good a singing as I can put on the stage.”
Lord said there are too many shows today trying to push some political agenda or some self-serving message.
“What I’ve learned over the years is that people want to be entertained,” he said. “In these bad times we are having right now people want to forget about their daily problems. That’s all we do. We sing and make you laugh.”

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