I stand by ‘Stand By Your Man’

By on January 16, 2019

Breanna Sensmeier plays the part of Tammy Wynette and Matt McClure is George Jones in “Stand by Your Man – The Tammy Wynette Story,” at Dutch Apple Dinner Theater

“I spent 15 minutes writing ‘Stand By Your Man,’ and a lifetime defending it.” – Tammy Wynette

The song “Stand By Your Man” turns 50 this year. It’s rumored that singer Tammy Wynette and producer/co-writer Billy Sherrill took all of 15 minutes to write it.

Wynette’s songwriting wasn’t flowery or full of metaphors. She got right to the point, and her message resonated with listeners across demographics throughout her career, which spanned from 1966 to her death in 1998.

Wynette was only 55 when she passed away. During her lifetime, The First Lady of Country Music was married five times —  and four of them ended in D-I-V-O-R-C-E. She had four daughters: three with first hubby, Euple Byrd, and the fourth during her third marriage, a public and prolific partnership with country legend George Jones.

Her life was tragic — even by country standards. There was poverty, abuse, kidnapping, pain, rejection, and addiction. Her father died of a brain tumor just after her birth, and, raised by her “MeeMaw,” she was reduced to picking cotton to make ends meet. She got married just out of high school, and took a few menial jobs before finding her calling as a hairdresser. Health problems plagued her adult years. She underwent 26 surgeries, and her near-constant pain led to drug addiction.

The biggest challenge of “Stand by Your Man: The Tammy Wynette Story,” was condensing all of this into a two-hour show.

Breanna Sensmeier as Tammy Wynette.

The show

“Stand by Your Man: The Tammy Wynette Story” premiered in 2001, a few years after she died. The show is a biographical treatment of Wynette’s life and music, and features many songs recorded by Wynette and/or her former spouse, George Jones.

Initial Impression: Act I seemed very rushed to me. Even though it was an hour long, I realize now that it wasn’t the pace that bothered me, but that I wanted to know more. Wynette had a very full life, and I was more than a little disappointed at how glossed over some events seemed to be. I realize now it was important to keep the story going to its tragic, yet uplifting, conclusion. It inspired me to want to read a biography.

Coolest Thing About The Show: The band, which in most musicals is either hidden or buried in the orchestra pit, was right on stage — the entire time! The quintet (JP Meyer, David Warfel, Dean Clemmer, Jonah Martin, and Brandon Miller) were delightful, and tossed in a line or comment from time to time as the show progressed.

Favorite song(s): I loved the pace and the harmonies of “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad,” which was the first chart hit for Wynette. However, the song that resonated with me most was buried in the middle of Act II — “Til I Get It Right,” a haunting tune about falling in love over and over again, until it sticks.

Favorite Female Actor: Both “Young Tammy” Amanda Lyn and “Adult Tammy” (Breanna Sensmeier) have incredible pipes. Sensmeier handled the role of Wynette with a sensibility beyond her years.

Favorite Male Actor: Matt McClure as George Jones was dark and troubled. As Frank Purdue once said, “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken.” This role could have easily gone south in its portrayal of alcoholic Jones, who was alleged by Wynette to have beaten her — even firing a shotgun a shotgun at her at one point. But McClure made us love George Jones as much as Tammy did. Their musical partnership lasted long after their marriage dissolved.

Funniest Moment: Perfect placement of the song “D-I-V-O-R-C-E.” Chris Bober’s turn as Burt Reynolds also provided levity.

Tenderest Moments: It’s a toss up between young Tammy’s performance of “How Great Thou Art” when her mother is near death, and Tammy’s realization that while she does have a crippling addiction, it’s her addiction to her performing and her fans that keeps her going.

Dutch Apple Signatures: There are qualities that I find myself mentioning over and over about Dutch Apple productions, which I’ve realized now are pretty much standard: creative use of single actors for multiple roles (well done, director Ann Nieman); perfect use of lighting that focuses the eye and furthers the plot (Russell Thompson is a master at this); and lightning-quick wardrobe changes (made possible by the talents of costume designer John White).

There were more empty seats in the theater than I would have liked, and it’s probably because the show isn’t as well-known as some. But, it’s got fantastic music, a talented, energetic cast, and tells a story well worth hearing. Go see it.

Tickets are available online at dutchapple.com or by calling the box office at 717-898-1900.

Melissa Hunnefield, features editor, welcomes your comments at mhunnefield.eph@lnpnews.com.

Breanna Sensmeier and Matt McClure are Tammy Wynette and George Jones in Dutch Apple’s production of “Stand By Your Man.”

One Comment

  1. Susan George

    January 17, 2019 at 5:29 am

    Know that Amanda Lyn has a marvelous voice!

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