EmptyBarrow Street Theatre, New York
Shuffling onto the stage, the eight members of the Austin-based roots band Asylum Street Spankers seem more than a little weary. "Damn hotel pillows," one laments, while another complains, "Eight hours in the van killing my knee." Another declares: "Man, am I high!"
But the comically visible toll of the grind of the endless touring by "God's favorite band," as they describe themselves, soon dissipates as they launch into their high-spirited theatrical musical revue featuring their wittily anarchic compositions.
The show intersperses such original songs as "Winning the War on Drugs," "You Only Love Me for My Lunchbox" (from their kids-oriented CD) and "My Baby in the CIA" with comic monologues and observations about their life on the road, including a lengthy account of a tour-bus accident and a hilarious blow-by-blow description of a typical "gig from hell."
Led by the hilarious Wammo (who also writes much of the band's material) and featuring the soulful lead vocals of its sole female member, Christina Marrs, the group delivers wonderfully rousing acoustic numbers showcasing intricate musical arrangements -- featuring such instruments as clarinet, banjo and even washboard -- and tight, multipart vocal harmonies.
Director JP Riedle doesn't weigh down the proceedings with too tight a theatrical structure, with the result that the show wavers uneasily between full-on concert and theatrical satire.
But the musical virtuosity of the performers and the wonderfully funny songs on display provide ample compensation, and the utterly likable performers -- they even helpfully announce at which bar they'll be drinking at after the show -- overcomes any critical resistance.
WHAT? AND GIVE UP SHOW BIZ?
Director: JP Riedle
Producers: Christina Marrs, JP Riedle, Wammo
Lighting designer: Zach Murphy
Christina Marss, Wammo, Stanley Smith, Nevada Newman, Scott Marcus, Korey Simeone, Josh Hoag, Charlie King