Purely American

By Lydia Baxter

What’s more American than baseball and apple pie? Country music.

One of the few wholly American genres of music, country is a fusion of musical styles. But this sound that is so iconically American to us today is actually a melting pot of techniques and instruments, born from a diverse range of musical traditions from around the world. As more people arrived in the United States, they brought these elements with them–the guitar from Europe, the banjo from Africa –and together, a whole new sound emerged.

“These artists reached people on a personal level through their music,” shared Madalyn McHugh, one of the six cast members of Outlaws and Angels. “They told authentic stories that allowed listeners to feel a connection with them through their music alone.”

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Nick Lerangis and Madalyn McHugh in Outlaws and Angels. Photo by Matthew Holler.

A good story is key to any good country song. With “I’m a Ramblin’ Man,” Waylon Jennings sang about having a restless spirit and not wanting to settle down. In “Georgia on a Fast Train,” Billy Joe Shaver shared how he worked on his uncle’s farm, dropped out of high school, and “raised hell” for those around him. In “The Thunder Rolls,” Garth Brooks weaves a dramatic tale of heartbreak and infidelity taking place in the midst of a dangerous rainstorm.

In the 1960s, artists like Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson wanted to tell stories in their own way, so they severed ties with traditional record companies and insisted on taking over creative control. This inspired other musicians to do the same, giving birth to a new music scene that was less restrictive and championed artistic autonomy.

This change enabled musicians like The Allman Brothers to give their music a Southern rock edge. It also gave Garth Brooks the freedom to take country music in a completely different direction – Brooks’ performances are influenced by the stadium rock bands he watched when he was young.

Like many of country’s restless artists, the cast of Outlaws and Angels will play their own instruments. A piano, banjo, fiddle, and a few guitars will all help bring songs like “Hey Good Lookin,’” “Walk the Line,” and “Desperado” to life onstage.

Known for his smooth baritone voice, Joe Casey returns to the Goldstein Cabaret after starring in both Guitar Girls (2018) and Blue Suede Shoes (2017). Nick Lerangis, who played the Emcee in FST’s Mainstage production of Once in 2017, is making his Cabaret debut in Outlaws and Angels.

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Joe Casey in Outlaws and Angels. Photo by Matthew Holler.

FST newcomers Madalyn McHugh and Rosie Webber are both looking forward to tackling the material in FST’s latest Cabaret.

Rounding out the ensemble are former Acting Apprentices J Vance and Cat Patterson.

“I am a country girl through and through,” said McHugh. “Country music was a huge part of shaping who I am today.”

Webber, a self-identified “good ol’ Southern Belle from Alabama” can relate.

“That authenticity, it’s what brings people back to this music every time,” she shared. “To do such a fun show at such an esteemed theatre is quite literally a dream come true.”

Outlaws and Angels plays in FST’s Goldstein Cabaret through March 29. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here.