We at Rhys Reviews are petitioning to get the term “small theatre play” as a descriptor added to the English dictionary as there are so many shows that fall into this category and instead of simply using this term every time I use it I need to breakdown exactly what it means. To summarise a “small theatre play” is a production with a limited cast, limited set/props, a musical score that is fairly stripped back and focusses on the emotion behind the songs. So to us, the newly released recording of ‘Holy Cow’ would fall in this category as the music is generally subdued. This is a show that is based on the play by Carolyn Lardonis English and tells the story of a local ever-losing baseball team in South Dakota of the same name. Markys Brooks (played wonderfully by Sierra Rein) is not only one of the team’s biggest fans but also the minister wife so she usually used these events to spread the gospel but she had been experiencing a lapse of faith. While religion is a key theme in the show it’s not overtly in your face which is nice! This normalised and real view of religion can only help to make the church more accessible and the overarching pastoral vibes of the show help shone a light on the more caring side many religious people possess. These elements of religion combined with the underdog story creates a fun and relaxed show that to me seems like an unusual hybrid of sister act and calendar girls.
Generally speaking, the majority of the songs on this album are very calming and tranquil. If you have read my review before you know, I love a spectacle and anything over-the-top but sometimes we need something that calms our soul. The opening song in this production is called “holy cows of Credence” which is a very subdued and relaxing song. If you were to imagine rolling hills in the countryside and the music this image would create, this is exactly what the song sounds like. It sets up the scene and introduces the characters who are all very over-the-top and almost pantoesque. I enjoyed the song “where are you” which talks about the characters loss of faith. This song was beautifully performed by Sierra with incredible vocals that had me very close to tears. I know from experience that religious people do sometimes face religious uncertainty which is normal so for them to see a character who is being shakey with their beliefs would only empower these viewers. At first, I enjoyed the song “the line up” performed beautifully by the wonderful Liz Lark Brown. The song was an almost roll call of the players of the baseball team underscore but a wonderfully jazzy musical accompaniment. This was narrated by a female commentator who put their male counterparts to shame, to wanted to make hr clear that women not only deserve a place in sports but on the same level that the men’s activities are at. This is why I was a little uncertain about the inclusion of a flirtatious section in the song as I thought the focus was on women in sport because of how talented and overlooked they are so this should have been the focus, not a romantic relationship.
To me, the whole point of music is to make the listeners feel some type of way. It’s the emotion the performer(s) inject into the songs that radiate through the speakers so that the audience can feel that same range of emotions. This was perfectly done “my faith in you” where it starts fairly subdued and relax but builds through the song to a much more energetic and empowering rhythm. The team of Mark-Eugene Garcia, David and Paul Rigano have managed to transition to and from these two emotional states within the song perfectly in terms of music in a way that is both powerful and emotional! The song takes you on a relatable emotional journey perfectly that has you draw into the world on the show which is everything a good musical theatre song should do! The other very powerful song in the album was “better next year” where the two voices worked flawlessly together while talking about how we are strong together. We have the added layer to this song of everything that is currently globally going on so this message of how next year will be better is even more powerful and accessible to those listening to it which I enjoyed! The lockdown situations aside even for people going through rough times/mental health issues etc this idea that we can get through whatever is going on is very important so it was great to listen to a song that is relevant now more so than ever with a powerful message at its core.
Overall, the demo recording of The Holy Cows of Credence, South Dakota is a very pastoral and relaxing musical which we need every so often. It’s a classical underdog story with a twist that explores ideas of religion (in a very real and honest way), hints at sexism and has an added meaning with the current global situation. I would rate this recording 4 out of 5 stars and can’t wait to see how this show progress in the very near future!