Honky Tonk Angels Presented By the Visalia Players

Mar 20, 2019 | 2019 Articles, Theatre

by Nancy Holley

Special KRL coupon code at the end of this article.

If Honky Tonk Angels sounds familiar to you, you may be remembering a 1993 album released by Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, and Tammy Wynette. However, the only similarities between the album and Ted Swindley’s Honky Tonk Angels are three female singers and a single song “Sitting on the Front Porch Swing.”

Swindley, the originator of the popular Always. . .Patsy Cline, has created another musical filled with familiar, toe-tapping favorites. Visalia Players’ Director Leeni Mitchell once again brings to local audiences a crowd pleaser filled with Country Western classics.

Honky Tonk Angels
is the story of two young girls and an older woman who are brought together by chance on their way to seek their fortunes in Nashville. Mitchell notes, “They form a nice relationship. Sue Ellen is estranged from her mother; Darlene has lost her mother; and Angela becomes Mother Earth to both.” To embody these roles, Mitchell brings together three actors new to musical theatre at the Ice House.


Left to right: Hillari Loeffler, Jenifer Bellin, and Lola Clark

Hillari Loeffler, who portrays Sue Ellen, is a young mother from Exeter. Loeffler wanted to get back into theatre despite her busy schedule with three small children: 5, 3, and 18 months! Loeffler explained, “I am having so much fun. I love country western music. I can’t imagine anything more fun to come back to.” Her favorite solo in the show is “Cornell Crawford,” about a high school sweetheart. “Although it is not well known, it is up-beat and great fun to sing.”

Another Exeter resident, Lola Clark is Darlene. Clark is new to the Ice House stage, but has been in TCOE productions so is no stranger to musical comedy. Clark describes Darlene as a “sweet little country bumpkin who has a tragic past, but a positive outlook.” One of her numbers in the show is the well-known “Ode to Billy Joe,” but her favorite solo is “Fancy” made popular by Reba McEntire. When asked why “Fancy” is her favorite, Clark said, “It is very challenging to perform. I have to belt the song and be acting at the same time.”


Front: Jenifer Bellin; Back: Lola Clark and Hillari Loeffler

Angela, Mother Earth as described by Mitchell, is the role performed by Jenifer Bellin. Bellin’s first appearance at the Ice House was in Nanny’s Naughty Nickers. Now she has the opportunity to showcase her solo singing voice. Bellin was concerned about being a country person, but her vocalization of “Stand by Your Man” belies those fears.

The three women’s voices blend masterfully as the story progresses. Loeffler identified “I Will Always Love You” as her favorite; “I love the harmonies, and it is a big turning point in the play.” For Clark, “Sitting on the Front Porch Swing” stands out; “It is a pretty song and the whole point of the play.” Bellin notes, “’Paradise Road’ shows off our voices nicely.”

Co-musical Directors Brent Iden and Gail Conn are enjoying collaborating. When they were brought together as co-musical directors for Boys of Broadway, it was a great reunion. They had worked closely at Visalia Unified School District thirty years earlier. Now their relationship is solidified, and their competence and confidence in their craft are clearly displayed on stage.


Left to right: Hillari Loeffler, Lola Clark, and Jenifer Bellin

Conn’s description of the play is typical of those expressed by others; “It’s a trip down memory lane for me. Lots of the songs were popular when I was a teenager. There are also new songs that have become favorites.” Mitchell added to the new song theme, “I just love ‘Cornell Crawford’. It is so cute, and it just fits Hillari as Sue Ellen.”

Honky Tonk Angels
opens at the Ice House Theatre at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 22, 2019 and runs for four weekends with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. on 3/22, 3/23, 3/29, 3/30, 4/5, 4/6, 4/12, and 4/13, and matinees at 2 p.m. on 3/24, 3/31, 4/7, and 4/14.

For more information about the Visalia Community Players and to purchase tickets, check out their website and KRL’s article about VCP. Tickets may also be purchased by calling 734-3900. For details about local arts groups in Tulare County, visit the Visalia Arts Consortium website.

Check out even more local theatre reviews & articles in our Arts & Entertainment section!

To purchase two tickets for the price of one, enter KRLHTA in the Have a code? box on the Buy/Redeem Tickets Reservation page via the Players website.

If you love local theatre, be sure to check out our new Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. The first 17 episodes are now up! You can check the podcast out on iTunes and Google Play, and also on podbean.

Nancy Holley has been involved in the Visalia Community Players off and on since the 1970s, both as a director and actor. In 2010, she retired from 25 years as a software consultant and has since expanded her role at the Players. She is now Membership Chairman and assists with the Players on-line ticketing system.


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