Show about one of country music’s first female stars on national tour

Stewart said that when she does concert-like performances during the play, people often shout out like they are actually at a Tammy Wynette concert. (Courtesy photo: Encore Attractions)

By Tova Fruchtman: CNJ staff writer

Kristen Stewart knew little about Tammy Wynette when she auditioned for a musical based on the tragic life of the country singer.

Since landing the lead in the New-York based production, she’s grown to admire one of country’s first female stars, whose life was pockmarked by drugs, divorce and discord.
“It’s incredibly tragic, her life, every turn kind of shocked me,” said Stewart, a 24-year-old who was raised on a farm in Iowa and moved to New York City after receiving a degree in performing arts and music. “She was able to turn around and use her life story to pour her heart out.”

Performing in the show was also Stewart’s first exposure to Wynette’s music.

“She really was the first lady of country music,” said Stewart, pointing out that Wynette, who died in 1998, was the first female artist to sell 1 million copies of a record.

Stewart said as a woman, she identifies with Wynette, an Alabama native whose successful music career spanned from the 1960s to the 1980s.

“I think any female, once learning the facts of her life, would have a hard time not feeling a connection with her,” Stewart said.

Producer Jerry Lonn dubbed the play a “bio-musical” because it tells the story of Wynette’s life through her music.
The show features a New York cast and a six-piece band, whose members double as the actors who play Wynette’s five husbands.

But Stewart said the show isn’t all tragedy. It’s sprinkled throughout with bits of humor, she said.

All of the songs in the show were originally performed by either Wynette or George Jones, another country music star and one of Wynette’s husbands.

At moments, the play almost seems like a concert performance by Tammy Wynette and George Jones, Stewart said.

Some audience members have been so enthralled they stand up and start shouting: “Sing it George!” or “You’ve got it Tammy!”

Stewart said these have been her favorite moments of their national tour so far.

“It’s a great show, it has a lot of humor in it, a lot of her music,” Stewart said. “It’s a simple little show, but it’s a lot of fun.”

‘Stand By Your Man’

When: 4 p.m. Sunday

Where: Marshall Auditorium

Tickets: General admission — $15
Military, seniors and students — $12
Children under 12 — $10

Information: 769-4132