Chicago Theatre Review
Ain’t Nobody Lost on This Highway
Hank Williams: Lost Highway – American Blues Theater
Hank Williams is more than a country and western singer; rather, he is a musical deity, a towering figure of such musical genius that his musical blueprint, much like those of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, and Louis Armstrong, is forever etched into our American identity – therefore, it high praise that the latest staging of “Hank Williams: Lost Highway” by the American Blues Theater not only sufficiently honors Williams’ memory, but offers a pitch-perfect portal into the man’s genius, demons, and, of course, his music.
Succinctly portraying the meteoric rise and fall of Williams, “Lost Highway” follows the exploits of Williams, his band, and his family, as they tour through rugged Southern bars and performance halls on their way to the Grand Ole Opry stage in Alabama, which served as Williams’ portal to American audiences – that is, until his alcoholism, addiction to pain medications, and other reckless behaviors sidelined his musical career, wrecked his marriage, and led to his criminally early death at the age of 29.
But despite the rather dark nature of the material, “Lost Highway” is among the most entertaining two hours of theater that I have ever experienced, and that is no doubt due to the music, to Williams’ incredible music, all of which is perfectly recreated by the play’s cast. And I do mean by the play’s cast. Though it has become fashionable in Hollywood and other more popular outlets to cast actors and performers in musical material who lack any decisive talent in, well, music, “Lost Highway” positively revels in the talents of its cast, and Matthew Brumlow (who aptly plays Williams), Matthew Brumlow, Austin Cook, Greg Hirte, Michael Mahler, and John Crowley not only sing every note of music that you hear in the show, but they also play their own instruments, pounding out a clean, immaculate country blues sound that truly brings Williams’ music to light.
Indeed, it’s an absolute joy to watch these performers interact with one another on the stage, and by the end of the performance, I’d submit that the audience would have been willing to hear another two hours of music, had they been given the opportunity. Wry, sincere, and above all genuine, “Lost Highway” is not a show to be missed.
Reviewed by Peter Thomas Ricci
Presented August 30 – October 6 by American Blues Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago IL 60614
Tickets are available by calling 773-404-7336 or by visiting americanbluestheater.com
Additional information about this and other spectacular area productions is available at the one, the only, the indefatigable www.theatreinchicago.com.