Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

September 16, 2018

REVIEW: The Majestic, Johnny Guitar, the Musical

The Majestic, West Springfield, MA
through October 21, 2018
by Shera Cohen

“Johnny Guitar, the Musical” (“JG”) is a chick western; meaning that it’s not just for female audiences but is a western whose lead roles are female. A bit atypical, and a bit fun. While “JG” hit the Off-Broadway stage in 2004, it was 50 years prior when the movie version of the same name opened, starring Joan Crawford.

The plot of “JG” is slim; i.e. good guys versus bad guys, more or less. However, remember that the guys are gals, which creates an edge and adds humor to the comings and goings of the main characters.

Photo by Kat Rankins
Myka Plunkett portrays our pistol-packin’ heroine Vienna. Bethany Fitzgerald depicts her arch nemesis Emma. Plunkett wears a tough exterior. She’s no Crawford. Plunkett is a beautiful young woman, perhaps a little too good-looking for the role. Plunkett’s songs offer the audience a mid-West twang mixed with smooth soprano notes. Fitzgerald spends more of her stage time as a somewhat buffoon-like comedian. Billy Clark Taylor’s (Vienna’s love interest Johnny) exquisite talent is his voice, singing most of the ballads.

The production belongs to Mitch Chakour and his band. Chakour’s name is synonymous with The Majestic. It is his skill and that of his team that delivers most of the success to “JG.” That said, many of the solos, duets, and ensemble pieces are a pleasure to hear, yet at times, the band drowns the singers’ lyrics, and/or the singers do not project. This can be a small and fixable problem in future performances.

Given the title of the show, it’s no surprise that a guitar features prominently. Credits list Chakour and Aaron Porchelli as guitarists. A running theme couples a background guitar refrain each time any actor says the name “Johnny Guitar”. It is this type of campiness that works well. Unfortunately, there are many missed opportunities for similar schtick.

No review of any Majestic production can omit praise for Greg Trochlil, scenic designer. It’s difficult to imagine that a movie set and lots of money to build it can look more authentic than Trochlil’s saloon.

A word about the program book: What a pleasure it is to read bios about everyone (not just actors): musicians, designers, and techies. However, where is the song list? Audiences want that information.