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Quirky, clever musical will make you smile

By Deirdre Parker Smith
dp1@salisburypost.com
“Kudzu” will grow on you, just like the vine ó but it won’t choke you to death.
Piedmont Players’ production of the musical based on the late Doug Marlette’s comic strip, “Kudzu,” is nice, light fun, especially on a cold, rainy night.
A smaller-than-usual opening night audience took longer than usual to warm up, which means they missed some of the clever lyrics in the many musical numbers.
The book, music and lyrics, by Jack Herrick, Marlette and Bland Simpson, are quirky and clever and silly and funny.
Director Reid Leonard’s cast, all fine individually, didn’t seem to gel as a team on opening night. Perhaps it was the damp audience that did it.
Surely, with more performances they will notice each other on stage and become a cast, as well as talented individuals.
The one thing that will wake you up and get you going is the marvelous voice of Alexis Greer as Mazee Jackson, mama of Kudzu’s friend, Maurice.
And Brenda Julian, Mama Dubose, has a bright, strong voice, to boot.
Kudzu, played by the talented CaLeb Hill, is the downhome boy who wants to get out of Bypass, N.C., and be a writer in New York City. Hill is cute and sings well and charms the audience.
Reverend Will B. Dunn, well-played by veteran Barry Dyson, is the town’s trusted spiritual adviser ó the only one in town.
Another veteran, Graham Carlton, plays Uncle Dub Dubose, infamous gas station owner and musician.
Micah Cottingham has the pose nailed as the beautiful but vain Veranda Tadsworth, richest girl in town. Her daddy is the formidable Big Bubba Tadsworth, played by Piedmont veteran Joseph “Big Joe” McGee.
Kudzu hangs out with his friends, Maurice, played by Michael Brooks, and the rotund Nasal T. Lardbottom (Dennis Welch), who proves white men can’t jump. The three of them work well together.
Kudzu’s got a thing for Veranda, so he doesn’t notice Mike ó that’s Michelle ó played by Aubrey Barton, who has a sweet voice and a couple of good musical numbers.
The Bypass Boys provide the music for the group, and include Mike Craver (also the music director) and John Stafford as Peabo, Mike Austin as Purvis, M. Adams as Hiram and Brad Gulley as Little Precious.
They do a mighty fine job singin’, too.
Each performer has his or her shining moments, and they will improve as a group with time. They’ve got plenty of strengths that should add up to more than the sum of the players.
Oh, don’t forget Earl, laziest hound dog in town. He’s a terrific performer, very cooperative.
The music is toe-tapping and contains lyrics that tell the story. A little more enunciation will help. The set is comic-strip style, all black and white.
The plot’s pretty thin. It involves barbecue sauce, kudzu vines, greed and growing up, not necessarily in that order. Doesn’t really matter what happens ó the good guys win and Nasal learns to jump.
At just over two hours, which includes a 20-minute intermission, the show is just the ticket to ease the fall blues and make you smile.”Kudzu,” underwritten by The Animal Care Center of Salisbury and Bob and Sara Cook, continues tonight and Saturday and Nov. 18-21 at 7:30 p.m., with a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Nov. 15. at the Meroney Theater in downtown Salisbury. For tickets, call 704-633-5471 or go to www.piedmontplayers.com.

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