Love country music? Hate country music? Love to laugh? Enjoy a smart, irreverent parody? If your answer is “yes” to any of those questions, you must check out The Doyle and Debbie Show, playing through January 8 at the Royal George Theatre Center’s cozy and casual cabaret space, located at 1641 N. Halsted.
The Doyle and Debbie Show is a wicked-smart 90-minute “revue” celebrating the return of the once popular C&W singer/songwriter Doyle (Bruce Arntson, who also created and wrote the show). You see, Doyle’s been on a 30-year hiatus involving alcoholism, four wives and some sort of vague mental breakdown. It’s Doyle’s big Nashville return, and he’s brought along with him his famous other half, Debbie (the fantastic Jenny Littleton). Well, she’s not the Debbie we’re used to, because she’s the “new” Debbie, a single mom whom Doyle discovered only six weeks ago singing her heart out at the VFW hall. Eager for her big break, “Debbie” has learned all the songs and performs them with utmost conviction, while desperately trying to keep the show afloat as Doyle falls apart onstage.
Now, I’m not a country fan, but the music featured in this review is toe-tappingly brilliant. Yes, the twang is there, but Arntson, who’s made a career writing and performing in the C&W music scene, brilliantly lampoons the genre without cheapening it. In other words, he’s quite familiar with the stereotypes, and elevates them into the stratosphere. While song titles such as “I Ain’t No Homo (But Man You Sure Look Good To Me)” and “Barefoot and Pregnant” might seem a bit over-the-top, trust me: Arntson’s lyrics are ingeniously irreverent and expertly performed by Arntson and Littleton.
I had a great time at this show, and the audience was mostly doubled over in laughter from start to finish. Go and enjoy — and bring friends! This is a show that demands to be seen with a group.
“The Doyle and Debbie Show” plays through January 8 at the Royal George Theatre Center, 1641 N. Halsted. Buy tickets here >