SCKBSTD: Musical High in the Low Country
Recap/review of the musical SCKBSTD is kindly offered by @juliegr (Julie Gray-Roller). First three photos by @juliegr; production shots by David Polston via SCKBSTD (Facebook)
On a clear, crisp Saturday morning we headed for Norfolk and for the premiere weekend of the new Bruce Hornsby musical, SCKBSTD. I was to chat with Marilyn Johnson, Marketing Director at the Wells Theatre, prior to the matinee and would later attend the evening performance of the play.
When I entered The Wells lobby, I found myself in a crowd of theater goers dressed to the nines. The Wells is located about two blocks from the Elizabeth River and the wind off the water was whipping down the streets. Almost every lady I saw was wearing a fur coat; I was amidst Norfolk society. They were all gathered in the lobby and absorbed in animated conversation.
I located Marilyn, and over drinks we talked about the wonderful show reviews that had appeared in the Virginian-Pilot and online newspapers that morning. Marilyn confirmed that the play is drawing well with attendance of about 3/4 capacity. She told me that Bruce Hornsby has attended each show, sitting to the side once the performance begins so he can gauge how the crowd likes the music and play. He always ducks out before the play ends so he isn’t seen by attendees!
As we were talking, Marilyn saw Chip DeMatteo (the co-lyricist and Bruce’s long time friend). Marilyn pulled him over and I got a photo with him. Bruce and Chip have known each other for many years – writing lyrics, playing in bands, and even toying with the idea of writing a play together.
There was an interesting mix of people in the lobby – ladies of at least eighty years, middle aged men and women, and young ladies in their twenties. It was obvious that a number of people have season passes to the Theatre but an impressive number were buying tickets at the box office as well. The matinee was about to seat attendees and Marilyn had other duties, so we parted.
As I left The Wells, I stopped to admire the building – a beautiful old structure which at one time was an opera house. The orchestra seats about 125; total seating capacity is approximately 450. There are ornate balconies and two mezzanines. The topmost mezzanine and a couple of the balconies are set aside for lighting and other production equipment. The orchestra seats all provide a good view of the stage.
Following dinner, I returned to The Wells for Saturday evening’s show. The Theatre was again abuzz with people discussing the play and the newspaper reviews. One man mentioned that he had encountered Bruce Hornsby in the Mall across from the Theatre and got his autograph!
I doubt many of us live in small towns – but I think that everyone can relate to the problems, joys, angst, and current events that play a large part of SCKBSTD. If any of the following are part of your life – either daily or occasionally – you will be immersed in and intrigued by this play.
Troubled teenager; elderly parent living with you; elderly parent suffering from mild form of Alzheimer’s disease; no one-on-one time with your spouse; runaway child; divorce; step-children/step-parent; marriage therapy; expecting too much of your child; trying to live out your sports dream through your child; working too long for too little money; allowing the job to interfere with your sex live; unhappy about the new ethnic group in your town/city/community; teenage drinking; fears about teenage drunken driving and the results of such driving; teenage smoking; everyone pushing against the boundaries of life, marriage, and/or school. Sound familiar? Mix in gossip about an unfamiliar car being driven by a stranger and you have the storyline.
I think we have all experienced some of the above and most of the vignettes were well acted, successful in making the audience laugh, nod in agreement and even wipe away a tear or two. The players were exuberant, high energy and well cast; I thought they all enjoyed their roles and did an excellent job moving from scene to scene. The band was on stage with the cast and was perfectly placed to be part of the play.
For me, SCKBSTD had many highs and a few lows.
The “highs” included the music and the band, especially keyboardist Jodie Moore. Jodie’s light touch on the keys reminded me of Bruce Hornsby’s style, and her skilled play helped to impart the music’s meaning to the audience . There were bluesy songs – “Who Takes Care of Mom” and “Where’s the Bat”; a beautiful duet – “Invisible” by the teenagers questioning their place in the community; and a whimsical piece “Don of Dons” by the grandfather. “Low Country” was a perfect beginning to the play and set the mood for the audience. I also loved “The Black Rats of London”, an ode to xenophobia.
Another highlight was the singing; the cast was in excellent voice and I was especially impressed by the “teenagers “ Charles Franklin (Tim) and Brynn Williams (Jill), and touched by William (William Parry), the senile elderly parent.
The “lows” included the book. The storyline drifts and wanders far afield before everything is tied together in a neat package at the play’s end. It is only then that we find out who the “SCKBSTD” is, why he is roaming the roads at night, and how an unfortunate incident many years ago became both his livelihood and his burden.
Another low for me was the disconnect between the play’s title and the unfolding events. I was left wondering why fear of the unknown led the townspeople to label the stranger a SCKBSTD. However, maybe that is the beauty of a play — if you’re still thinking about the storyline two or three days later — the objective has been satisfied.
The audience applauded loudly for a number of the songs and gave a standing ovation for the band and actors at the end of the play. The applause meter was at the high end for “Jill” and “Tim”, but all the cast was well appreciated.
I encountered the theatre manager in the lobby and asked about that evening’s gate and if Bruce Hornsby was in the house. The manager said the theatre was again nearly full and that Bruce had watched the play, but departed for a secluded area before the audience left.
I wish he had stayed; I would have liked to tell him how much I enjoyed the play and the music. I hope many of you will soon be able to enjoy both as the play moves on to Broadway.