Eastbound and down, loaded up and truckin',
We're gonna do what they say can't be done.
As soon as you read these lyrics, the song is already playing in your head, right? Eastbound and Down was written for the original Smokey and the Bandit movie. But if you’re reading this review, you probably already knew that and are curious if the musical by weAREproductions is anything like the movie. Luckily, the creator of this musical loved the movie so much, he included all the classic parts of the movie and then some. SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT: THE MUSICAL captures the essence of the movie and adds some fun musical numbers.
weAREproductions Presents a Foot Tappin’ Good Time
Known for his daring driving deeds in an eighteen wheeler, the Bandit is a legend at the Truck Rodeo. But as the musical opens, he doesn’t seem so legendary as he topples out of a hammock along with dozens of Coors cans. Woken up by the mother/daughter duo, Big Enos and Little Enos are indebted to a judge who will wipe their records if they can get 400 cases of illegal Coors across state lines in 28 hours. The only person they can think crazy enough to take the job is The Bandit.
To the tune of $80,000, Bandit decides to make the run and ropes in his trusty partner - Cledus “Snowman” Snow to drive the big rig. Their journey is not an easy one by any means. Along the way, they pick up a runaway bride, “Frog” and have run-ins with law enforcement, specifically one Buford T. Justice, sheriff of Texas.
Will they make it back in time? Will their illegal cargo get discovered? Will Frog and the Bandit ever just kiss? Only time will tell as they race down the highway trying to beat the clock and get back to Georgia before their 28 hours is up!
Not an Exact Movie Replica
Trying to squeeze a high-speed, multi-state, highway chase into the MCL theatre space was going to be a tall order for SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT: THE MUSICAL. Perhaps this is why the show seemed a bit top heavy as the first half included most of the plot set-up and driving action. The second half felt like it was over too soon because the show couldn’t add the extra characters helping Bandit out or hundreds of police car blockades or that are there towards the end of the movie.
But weAREproductions has made up for losing some of these details with their creative use of space, cardboard cars, and hilarious cast.
Music Makes the Cast Shine
The cast members of SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT each have their own unique take on their characters. They have some traits to emulate the classic characters - like Timmy Hart Barron has an exact replica of Burt Reynold’s moustache and the Bandit’s swagger - but mostly, they’ve all made the characters their own.
Snowman has more comedic bits than the original, which Kyle Encinas milks each and every time. He also has a bit of a chip on his shoulder always being second to the Bandit, but the two still have that same witty back and forth repartee that makes them great friends.
The cast’s personalities also shine as they sing songs from the movie and the original music written for the musical.
Frog, played by Ali Delianides , is a singer instead of a dancer this time around, has a honky-tonk number called the "Pecos Promenade” where she really pulls out her Southern gal charm.
Barron also adds an extra boasty element to the Bandit by singing his own theme song “The Legend.”
And let’s not forget Buford T. Justice played by Mark Hespen who gives us a more tender side of the sheriff. His rendition of “Stand By Your Man” is a real heart wrencher and Hespen packs a surprising emotional wallop with this one.
SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT: THE MUSICAL gives you the heart of the original movie by including famous lines and the basic run down of the story. So if you’re a die-hard fan, you’ll appreciate all the references from the movie. And on the other hand, if you’ve never seen it before, you’ll enjoy the story with its musical numbers and unique twists as well. All in all, it’s a foot tappin good evening out.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.