Haunted Hillbilly is a great whopping romp of a play and a fabulous send up of all the country and western clichés one has come to know. There is also a touch of the gothic as naïve Hyram Woodside (played with infectious energy by Mathew Raudsepp) sells his soul to the evil cowboy couturier, Nudie. Greg Kramer is magnificent in his role as the cowboy designer who has serious designs on the young Hyram, bringing a kind of poignancy to the vampire Mephistopheles persona.
Hyram discovers that in order to achieve the stardom that Nudie offers, he must betray the woman he loves and give up his own reach for happiness. Graham Cuthbertson, who adapted Derek McCormack’s novel for the stage, plays a slimy but wonderful Pastor Ray, warning us from the get-go that this is a “cautionary tale.” In short, do not hang out with gay vampire couturiers and then let them manage your careers.
Daniel Bruchu is truly unfettered in his role as Erskine Mole, the king of country, and his performance is a stomp in the country ho-down style of the play. Kyle Gatehouse is terrific as Nudie’s side kick, Dr. Wertham. With just a raised eyebrow he was capable of bringing the house down. Katie Smith is delightful as the tough Audrey Woodhouse, and Alexis Taylor is wonderful as Bobbi.
There was the captivating score of Matthew Barber. And the band was perfect in their music and interaction with the cast. There was also the professional hand of Andrew Shaver directing. Susana Vera did the costumes proud.
The play is a sure delight, and the only thing that could be criticised was that it was a little too slick. The original version, which I caught at the Segal Centre, had rawness and energy that this version did not quite match. But that is a small quibble. If you can get to this really hot show, y’all better get a ticket before they run out.
Centaur Theatre: May 8 – June 3, 2012
Box Office: 514-288-3161