The first thought I had when I heard that the music of the Coen Brothers was next to be featured in the very successful “For the Record” series at Barre/Vermont was, “There are that many songs in Coen Brothers movies?” I knew O Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Big Lebowski had songs, but I couldn’t recall any from the directors’ other films.
Sure enough, there are enough songs from such films as Fargo, The Hudsucker Proxy, Intolerable Cruelty, and others to fill 90 minutes. If this show doesn’t coalesce as well as previous productions dedicated to the music from films by Quentin Tarantino, John Hughes, and Baz Luhrmann, it is not for lack of effort on the part of creators Christopher Lloyd Bratten and Shane Scheel and their terrific cast.
It is easy to find thru-lines in the films of those other three directors (violence, the angst of being young, tragic love), but the Coen Brothers have been far more idiosyncratic in their widely divergent films. As a result, it is tougher to build a cohesive show around the songs found in their work. “The Dude,” “Marge Gunderson” and “Mattie Ross” make strange bedfellows.
Is this show fun? Absolutely. This continues to be one of the best series in Los Angeles and there is plenty to enjoy here. Such well-known songs as “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?,” “Up, Up & Away,” “The Boxer,” and “Hotel California” (sung in Spanish) are part of the evening.
I’ve seen For the Record: The Coen Brothers on multiple occasions and found some particular highlights. Though “Danny Boy” has been sung to death, it never sounds fresher than when Kristolyn Lloyd sings it. “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” is almost a cliché. But watching men perform the song atop the bar in their own fancy footwear is priceless. The staging of “Tammy” (one of the prettiest mundane songs ever written) is a total delight. I also loved “Memories are Made of This.” And you can’t do this show with “Man of Constant Sorrow,” which was also impressive.
As with previous shows in the "For the Record" series, the staging, choreography, and performances are top-notch. The musicians who back up the rotating cast of eight are outstanding.
Even if I don’t find this show quite as rewarding as presentations past, this is still a very enjoyable way to spend an evening and you get to do so in the presence of a supremely talented group of singers and musicians.