March 22, 2003


Charlotte Squawks

reviewed by
Lynn Trenning












For more about Lynn Trenning, please visit her main page.

Charlotte Squawks, with WFAE talk show host Mike Collins as Master of Ceremonies, is an irreverent cabaret that lambastes Charlotte with heartfelt affection. It is big fun. Dedicated as a celebration of the life and times of retiring WTVI General Manager Hal Bouton, the show was written, produced and directed by Keith Martin, with writing assistance from local attorney Brian Kahn. What results is a tight, amusing script, with highly targeted jokes performed by a bevy of local talent.

Alan Morgan delivers a beautiful lament about the arena debacle with melodramatic flair by replacing the word "Maria" from West Side Story with, "Arena." Itís a riot. One of the best songs stars Bobby Tyson as new NBA franchise owner Robert Johnson. Dressed in a dashing suit, covered with wads of 100 dollar bills, Tyson beseeches fans to buy tickets to his new team with a tongue in cheek version of "Send in the Crowds." "Writing the check made my hand shake, but youíll help foot the bill," he sings, with a complicit wink.

Four men wearing orange jumpsuits with "Got Busted Penitentiary" stamped on the back perform an ode to Charlotteís criminal club of athletes. In a wonderful display of chutzpah, the Womenís ensemble dedicates a special song to the "Duke of Power," replete with flashlights. "I thought Iíd always be able to turn you on," croons Cathy Stallings, one of four sterling female performers. The others are Lisa Dames, Erica Allen McGee and Emily Van Dyke. The quartet is bursting with stage presence.

There is a marvelous dueling duet between McGee as Bank of America, and Dames as Wachovia, to the tune "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better." A brilliant skit entitled "If Airlines Sold Paint" excoriates US Airís pricing policy by comparing the sale of seats to that of gallons of paint. "If you only paint in one direction, we will charge you an extra..."

There are lots of mischievous insider jokes, including the one about how they couldnít find any New Yorkers to insult Charlotte because they were all down the street working on stage at Charlotte Rep. In "Hello Trolley," the Citizens for Effective Government declare, "Youíre not much use to us, youíre just one mile long."

Even though nothing is sacred in this parody, sprawl, banks and a propensity for changing the name of downtown canít hide the facts. At her heart, Charlotte is a squeaky clean city that works most of the time, and is peopled by some real nice folks who donít mind laughing at themselves. It would do this town good to make "Charlotte Squawks" an annual tradition.

Lynn Trenning, March 22, 2003

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