‘Carrying a Torch’

Sandra ClarkWest Knoxville

“That ain’t right” is a mantra at the Flying Anvil Theatre’s latest offering.

“Carrying a Torch” is an original work, written and directed by Flying Anvil founder Jayne Morgan with musical direction and arrangements by Wendel Werner.

Morgan notes that love has inspired some really good art, but heartbreak is no slouch. The medley of songs performed solo or in harmony by Morgan’s four-woman cast hits hard on the heartbreak side, yet the play is more funny than sad – somewhat like the movie, “Waiting to Exhale.”

Four strangers start as a “party of one” in a smoky bar where Werner plays sad drinking songs. Differences in age and experiences don’t stop friendships from forming as the evening ensues (and “drinks” are consumed by the gulp).  The show is physical, as actors perform from elevated platforms and at times walk into the audience or even stretch out on the bar. It’s whimsical, as Werner collects notes during intermission: “Tell us who broke your heart, what dastardly thing they did and with whom! Give us all the juicy details … or make some up!”

Backstage, Morgan whipped the notes into rhyming couplets (how did she do that?) and incorporated them into a second-act song … each followed by the observation: “That ain’t right!” Some were pretty funny. But the players make the play and “Carrying the Torch” proves it again.

Laura Beth Wells shows more emotion through her eyes than most of us manage with our whole face. She’s not old enough to have endured the heartbreak about which she so convincingly sings.

Jessica Magers-Rankin drew laughter with a spot-on impersonation of Tammy Wynette standing by her man. She’s added much to the local theater scene after moving here from San Francisco and now works with acting students at Knoxville Catholic High School.

Lauren Winder is the young bar owner who grows up fast in the company of these “bawdy broads.” And she used props provocatively (think meat cleaver, baseball bat).

Dana Wham is back after her awesome performance in Flying Anvil’s inaugural production, “The Great American Trailer Park Musical.” Wham’s vocals are a highlight of the night.

Werner was assisted by musicians Ruth Johnson, Peggy Bertrand Terpstra and Kerry Morrison. The comic musical revue runs through May 13 with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday through Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Take your mom; take your daughter; heck, take your next boyfriend. Ticket prices vary, and the theatre is conveniently located in Rocky Hill. Reservations here.

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