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The Dude Abides: "For the Record: The Coen Bros." Takes a Wildly Fun Turn at Show at Barre

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Ginifer King, left, and Haviland Stillwell perform a song from "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" in "For the Record: The Coen. Bros" (Photo courtesy Show at Barre)
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The films of Joel and Ethan Coen have long been given "cult" status, and when fans convene to celebrate the wit and wackiness of so many of the brothers' beloved movies, it's often a raucous good time. This is most assuredly the case in the cabaret-style setting of Show at Barre. The "For The Record" team, who take the movie soundtracks from a director's oeuvre and make live musical magic have added the Coen Bros. to their repertoire, which includes Quentin Tarantino, John Hughes, and Baz Luhrmann.You'd be correct in thinking that the Coen Brothers' films, like Fargo, Intolerable Cruelty, The Hudsucker Proxy, and--we dare not forget--The Big Lebowski, are not musicals. In fact, you might wonder: Hang on a minute--there are songs in those movies? Yep! There sure are. And, curiously enough, thanks to the wildly talented cast of performers in the FTR ensemble, the dialog-only scenes interwoven between the songs, and some clever staging, those soundtrack songs tell the story of the films used in the show.

One Coen Bros. film, O Brother, Where Art Thou? is most definitely a film driven by music, and that is where the evening's musical journey begins. On opening night, Rogelio Douglas Jr. took the book-end role of the show, as the voice we hear to start things off with a soulful, mournful "Po Lazarus" chain gang, and the frenetic gospel sounds leading "Light of the Lighthouse" from Ladykillers to bring things to a hand-clapping revival-style finish.

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Using the whole space of the almost-impossibly small Barre VT room, where diners and drinkers sit at close tables, the performers snake their way from one end of the venue to the other, interacting with the audience, popping up atop the bar (you will bust a gut laughing with the show's version of Nancy Sinatra's iconic "These Boots Were Made for Walkin'" as done the night we were there by the irrepressible Ben Goldberg) and even on the sidewalk outside.

The small venue means you get a chance to see the memorable mugging of the cast in so many of the movies' cherished moments, like the nail salon gossip sesh of the ladies in Intolerable Cruelty, or Bunny Lebowski's infamous "blow on my toes" request of the hapless but very cool The Dude. Kristolyn Lloyd's hilarious and literal send-up of "Do You Know the Way to San Jose" will forever change how you hear that song, and the entire Fargo segment will have you nostalgic for the era of the "Cosby Sweater."

Though the cast rotates in the various roles, it is hard to imagine a miscast or misstep with this ensemble, who each have not only powerhouse voices, but the uncanny ability to charm the crowd in the smallest of moments, like the cheeky "Tammy" of Ginifer King, or the bigger moments like Haviland Stillwell's saucy operatic turn in "Habanera." Derek Klena's brilliant turn at the old fashioned mic stand for "Memories Are Made of This" will leave you with a pronounced case of the giggles.

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Knowing the Coen Bros. material will admittedly give you an advantage over those who aren't as schooled in the movie favorites. In fact, if you're among those--theoretically--who had never seen The Big Lebowski (and they walk among you, trust us), FTR might even inspire them to see the movie, and finally figure out what all that "Dude" talk was about.

If you already "abide" by the wisdom and ways of The Dude, like the guy with whom we shared a table and caught grinning broadly most of the night, FTR's show will be your happy place, for sure (and why not watch this quirky nod to life on the fringes in Los Angeles?). Considering the talent of the cast and the smart way the show is assembled, it will have you happy, regardless.

"For The Record: The Coen Bros." runs Thursdays, Fridays, an Saturdays at 9 p.m. @Barre VT [More info & tickets]