Country fans were in for a treat Wednesday night (June 15) at Nashville’s Tennessee Performing Arts Center as a top-notch cast geared up for the opening night of May We All, a jukebox musical inspired by music from all the country greats.
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Co-produced by Brian Kelley of Florida Georgia Line, alongside Lively McCabe Entertainment and BMG Music, the musical follows a fictitious town called Harmony, Tennessee – lovingly dubbed “the town that sings.”
As local sensation Jenna Coates leaves her cozy hometown for the bright lights of Nashville, her family and friends saw nothing but success for her. Despite her best efforts, Jenna never found her hit and returned home to Harmony without a record deal or dime to spare, only to discover her town is not the way she left it.
In a story about making amends, resilience, hard work, and family, May We All is a moving testament to life in a small town and overcoming the odds.
The entire cast held their own while running through music from the likes of Dolly Parton, Sara Evans, Miranda Lambert, Chris Stapleton, Kieth Urban, and more with a surprise performance from Kelley himself, who brought the crowd to their feet.
Bligh Voth, playing the titular Jenna Coates, was reminiscent of a young Dolly as she showcased her soaring vocals, complete with a superb country twang. Giving a whole lotta heart to the role, the audience rooted for her from start to finish as she lost her way and fought to get back up again.
She first hit the stage with a bang, delivering a powerful performance of Sara Evan’s classic track “Born To Fly.” The track then acted as her theme song throughout the duration of the musical. She reprised the song later, mashed up with the title track (a Florida Georgia Line song) “May We All,” in another show-stopping performance.
Two standouts from the cast were Jenna’s love interest and fellow Harmony local, Dustin, as played by Matt Manuel, and her bartending best friend Liz, as played by Lauren “LOLO” Pritchard.
At one point in the show, Manuel took on Dolly’s famed track “Jolene” flexing his vocal range, matching the country queen herself note for note. Pritchard, a singer-songwriter, was the grounding force of the musical, offering sage advice to Jenna in her lowest moments. She gave a pumped-up performance, chock full of rock-laced vocals.
Elsewhere Heidi Blickenstaff, Ryan Link, and Pasty Detroit lightened the mood as Jenna’s mom, dad, and younger sister, respectively. One highlight from the stacked soundtrack was the trio singing Reba McEntire’s bluesy 1994 track “Why Haven’t I Heard From You.” Together they playfully chided Jenna in flawless three-part harmony.
At the climactic ending of the musical, fictitious country star Bailey Stone was played by Kelley himself as he stepped out on stage to sing “Back To My Boots,” an original song written specifically for the musical. He joined Voth for a high-powered duet that had the crowd clapping and singing along.
Though maybe a little cliched at times, May We All gives fans of the genre a chance to step into the humble, small towns that are the lifeblood of country music. It was all-and-all heartwarming and will leave you humming along for days after.
The musical also offers new surprises at every turn, with a number of famous faces slated to take over the Bailey Stone role throughout the musical’s run, including Alana Springsteen, Alexandre Kay, BRELAND, Canaan Smith, Caleb Lee Hutchinson, Chris Ruediger, Cooper Alan, Danielle Bradbery, Jamie O’Neal, Lainey Wilson, Lindsay Ell, LOCASH, Nich Fradiani, Scarlette Burke, Thomas Mac, Tigirlily and Trent Harmon.
May We All will be at TPAC ‘s Polk Theatre until July 17.
Photo by Jeremy Daniel