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Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011

‘Nobody Lonesome for Me’ Captures Hank Williams’ Spirit

Theater Review

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Hank Williams is best known as one of country music’s great singer-songwriters, having penned and recorded such classics as “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “Jambalaya” and what best symbolizes his short life, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”

That short, turbulent life of 29 years has been expertly depicted in Nobody Lonesome for Me, playwright Lanie Robertson’s one-man show about the man and his music, which opened at The Rep’s Stackner Cabaret last weekend.

Robertson has skillfully captured the rebellious spirit of the artist, who’s holed up in a West Virginia gas station on New Year’s Eve 1952, trying to drive to a show in Ohio despite bad weather. (Williams died the next day reportedly of a mixture of alcohol and drugs). Williams had an impoverished childhood with indifferent parents and battled the ongoing physical pain of spina bifida and the emotional turmoil of his personal relationships.

It’s a classic real-life story filled with all the perfect components for drama. But it only truly succeeds thanks to the multitalented Matthew Brumlow, who plays the troubled singer. Brumlow completely embodies Williams, from his skinny, tiny frame to his frenetic energy and, at times, violent temper.

We learn so much about the man who charted 11 No. 1 songs between 1948 and 1953 (“Your Cheatin’ Heart” was released after his death). His talents were also his tribulations.

“…Sometimes I’m up there singin’ one song and hearin’ another. That’s heaven for me,” Williams says, his creative process always in motion.

Nobody Lonesome for Me
gives us a glimpse of that personal heaven along with the man and musician who inhabits it.

Nobody Lonesome for Me
runs through March 13 in The Rep’s Stackner Cabaret. For more information, call 414-224-9490 or visit www.milwaukeerep.com.