Surflight’s ‘Almost Heaven’ Comforting in Turbulent Times

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John Denver’s new music was rather tricky to determine.
It was a clean combination of people, pop, state, Western and tender rock, with easy potentially staying the most descriptive word. No wonder Denver experienced a string of hits in the 1st 50 percent of the 1970s, taking into consideration he could get to so several distinct audiences.
Surflight Theatre’s most current mainstage generation, “Almost Heaven: Songs of John Denver,” is also to some degree tough to determine, but it absolutely is clean.
“Almost Heaven” isn’t a tribute act, with a person manufactured up to glimpse like Denver and a band playing powering him.
It certainly isn’t a reserve musical. In fact, nobody is credited with being its e-book author, whilst Harold Thau is credited with coming up with the show’s “original idea.”
It isn’t a correct biopic with scenes from Denver’s lifetime. But some perception into the late singer-songwriter is specified when the show’s actors, male and woman, mouth text supposedly claimed by the singer-songwriter (they in some cases feel far too rigid to be true prices) among tunes. If the audience is not acquainted with Denver’s heritage they study, for illustration, that he was born Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. in Roswell, N.M., was an Air Pressure brat continuously going as a child, that the like of his daily life was Annie Martell of “Annie’s Song” fame, and that the few ultimately grew to become near friends right after their divorce, and that just before getting to be a solo star he was portion of the Mitchell Trio, changing founder Chad Mitchell.
Nevertheless, the exhibit is essentially a live performance, with 22 musical numbers.
What tends to make the Seashore Haven theater’s manufacturing of this likely messy present clean is the six-human being solid.
They are musicians as perfectly as actors and singers. Gracie Belt plays the mandolin, viola and guitar. Alex Canty provides mandolin, piano, banjo, guitar and cello to the blend. Keaton Eckhoff chips in on the guitar, piano and percussion. Julia Hoffman tackles the violin, guitar and piano. Dylan Landau strums a guitar, tickles the keys of a piano and gives percussion. Jonah Martin has the longest list of devices: guitars, harmonica, double bass, electrical bass and soprano saxophone.
They perform and sing their way by Denver hits these as “Take Me Home, Country Roadways,” “Rocky Mountain High,” “Calypso,” “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and “Sunshine on My Shoulders.” Their instrumentation blends nicely their harmonies are limited. Once more, sleek.
The present, while, isn’t basically an onstage finest hits album.
Some of Denver’s music that weren’t huge hits. “Looking for Place,” which only arrived at No. 29 on the Billboard Sizzling 100 in 1976, and “What Are We Producing Weapons For,” a wonderful tune from his 1986 1 World album that not only did not make the charts but also resulted in RCA Data dumping him, ended up featured. Even Phil Ochs’ protest track, “Draft Dodger Rag,” from Denver’s Mitchell Trio days, was sung by Canty.
Thank God they were, because lots of of Denver’s early 1970s hits had been not only clean but rather saccharine. That’s what can come about when you test to arrive at a bigger viewers. When you string them alongside one another they seem as if they were being slash out of the exact same mildew. At times smooth can sink into bland.
That is why the viewers arrived to lifestyle midway as a result of the display when the firm released into “Thank God I’m a Region Boy,” a person of Denver’s most lively music. Surflight regarded that and based the show’s curtain simply call all-around it as effectively.
To repeat, the Surflight cast’s overall performance was easy. The musicians and singers ended up unquestionably qualified. But had been they exciting? Not quite. I’ve read quite a few improved musical thrives by amateurs at Waretown’s Albert New music Corridor, which provides bands that are not polished, but whilst uncooked, are authentic. Of class, they typically really do not complete middle-of-the-street Denver songs, just regular state, bluegrass and previous-timey songs.
The just one performer who did especially impress me in “Almost Heaven” was Belt. She was energetic, a trait that normally earns credit in my opinions. She seemed to get to out to the viewers more than the other actors/singers/musicians. She didn’t overdo it – she was not on the lookout for the lights, but the lights ended up type to her.
Belt’s singing voice was fascinating to the max. There were times when it appeared like she was a 16-calendar year-old who identified she could sing at other instances the youthful redhead’s experienced coaching appeared to kick in. Set them collectively and she sounded reliable.
By the way, there had been lots of references to Denver’s like of the country over major towns, equally in his tracks and in the show’s restricted spoken parts. Discuss about timely! As broadly described of late, people with indicates are fleeing towns for the nation. 
I need to confess to never ever getting a John Denver admirer. I observed his middle-of-the-highway approach to new music much too undistinguished, much too faux at moments. But I also ought to admit that in these turbulent moments Denver’s tunes can be a comforting tonic.
“Almost Heaven” will operate by way of Sept. 20 in Surflight’s huge best tent in Seaside Haven’s Veterans Memorial Park. Shows will start out at 8 p.m. on Sept. 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 and at 2 p.m. on Sept. 13, 15, and 20. Tickets are $41 for adults and $31 for little ones 12 yrs of age and young. They might be purchased on the net at, by cellular phone at 609-492-9477 or at the box business office.
— Rick Mellerup

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