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‘Beau’ closes Adk. Theatre Festival on the highest note

Chronicle Managing Editor Cathy DeDe writes: In French, “Beau” means “beautiful man.” It’s a fitting title, then, for the Adirondack Theatre Festival’s final show of this summer season — a honky tonk musical that continues just tonight, Thursday, Aug. 8, and tomorrow, Friday, Aug. 9, at The Wood Theater in Glens Falls.

Beau — Jeb Brown (left) and Matt Rodin as the title character/grandfather and Ace, his grandson, for The Adirondack Theatre Fest.

Be alert: Only a few tickets remained as of Tuesday night. Call: 480-4878.

Beau isn’t quite like anything else on any stage: Part country-honky-tonk concert, part narrative play with rock music, part confessional, part time-travelling memory piece — it is also in large part a celebration of men who love: Confused teenaged boys, fathers and grandfathers, grandsons, closeted Southern cowboy singers, stepdads, friends and sons. Even, at its most “meta,” bandmates on a stage.

The core is the coming of age/coming out story of Ace, played open-hearted by Matt Rodin, a young, fatherless, bullied middle- then high-school-aged boy who discovers a father figure when he discovers the grandfather he never knew. That’s Beau, himself closeted and estranged from Ace’s mom.

Jeb Brown is Beau. The distinction between Brown himself, fine and friendly looking from the eyes out in his headshot, and the look of his character — loose limbed, drawl, tousled hair and tossed advice — is a world. Beau is gruff and also sage, generous, wise and wounded. He’s unrequited, sad, flawed and funny and truly, beautiful.

The trope is that Ace, now the young lead guitarist of a band, is telling the story behind his body of songs. Overpowered by the concert-within-the-show, our audience was moved to standing ovation when the supposed concert was over, Ace’s story complete, although the show was not.

The band, the actors, played off that — moved to what I’m pretty sure were tears of true appreciation. We were in it with them like I haven’t much felt in a theatrical experience. By the time the actual story plays out — we’re moved again. One show, two ovations, both honestly earned.

‘Beau’ on stage: The set transforms the Wood Theater into a honky tonk bar, hospital room, school hall and more. Photo provided

The set is a miracle of transformation, aided by the magical lighting design.

For how Beau plays neither as concert or musical theater, look to the choreography: No typical stop-song-and-dance, but not loose stage antics, either.

The actors all play in the band, holding or standing at their instruments, so mostly they dance from the hips down, with lots of stylized lunges, interesting to watch, uniquely this show’s own. Cast and company all pull in the direction of connection, and deeply satisfying storytelling.

Creators Douglas Lyons and Ethan Pakchar, aided by the sensitive direction of Michael Wilson, have created a winning number. They expect it might go far. This viewer suspects as much, also.

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