Stage

Dream: The Music of the Everly Brothers Brings a Welcome Nostalgia Rush at Stages

Ben Hope and Eric Anthony in Dream, the Music of the Everly Brothers
Ben Hope and Eric Anthony in Dream, the Music of the Everly Brothers Photo by Melissa Taylor

If you are of a certain age, the music of the Everly Brothers formed your memories.

Even as a child in Pennsylvania, in elementary school, I knew their music. It was on the radio, and everybody listened to the radio. Every style of music played on the radio. There were no distinctions between country, emerging rock & roll, blues, Broadway show tunes. Within 15 minutes, you could hear Ella, Bing, Buddy, and Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians. The radio played them all. It was an American musical quilt, all mashed together, all equally valid, and so much more appreciated if you could dance to it. We didn't dance back then, but my older brothers did, and the music that caught my attention was that close harmony – usually thirds – that the Everly Brothers spun into soft rhythmic magic. It's imprinted into my DNA and is the defining sound of the time.

Stages' concert show, Dream: The Music of the Everly Brothers, brings a welcomed nostalgic rush. Created, sung, and superbly played by Ben Hope and Eric Anthony on steel-string acoustic guitars – remember those? – they don't actually impersonate the brothers, but talk about the duo's career in a sweet tribute as they recreate their distinct sound in renditions of their iconic songs.

There's nothing else to it. We get their history: how they were raised in a musical family and coached by their beloved father Ike, moved from Iowa to Nashville, promoted by famed guitarist and producer Chet Atkins, performed on the radio and sang or played backup, finally signed with Cascade Records, where their 1957 “Bye, Bye, Love,” written by famed songwriters Felica and Boudleaux Bryant, which had been turned down by 30 other singers, became No. 1 on the country charts and No. 2 on the pop charts. The song sold a million copies. The Brothers had arrived.

It was meteoric, and their hits came fast and furious – “Wake Up Little Susie,” “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” “Claudette,” “Poor Jenny,” “Let It Be Me,” “Cathy's Clown,” “When Will I Be Loved.” Hope and Anthony perform each of them, and many more, with pristine vocals and superb guitar artistry. They have an instant rapport with the audience, and when the Brothers' tale turns dark due to drugs, marital problems, changing musical tastes, and a full decade when they didn't speak to each other, the songs chosen exemplify the turmoil without explicitly beating us over the head. It's subtle and very moving.

Helped along by designer Joel Burkholder's arena lighting of Edison bulbs, flashing marquee, and single pin spot, the songs come alive with emotional power and simple grandeur. “Let It Be Me,” sung while the duo is disintegrating, is illuminated by thousands of tiny pin lights through the floor. It's almost poetry.

You may not remember how influential the brothers were in country and pop music. Among the first ten artists to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, they received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, had 35 Billboard Top 100 singles, and remain the second ranked duo for the most Top 40 singles by a duo. They even have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And their vocal and guitar prowess has been lauded by music luminaries Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Neil Young, Paul Simon, and Keith Richards, among others.

The Brothers had an impact on all of us. They always will. Anthony and Hope, an impressive duo on their own in this world premiere, see to it that the Everly Brothers' music stays as fresh and fragrant as when we first heard it over that clunky Philco. Stages allows us to dream again.

Performances continue through September 4 at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays through, Fridays, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays at Stages, 800 Rosine. For more information, call 713-527-0220 or visit stagestheatre.com. $30-$84.
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D.L. Groover has contributed to countless reputable publications including the Houston Press since 2003. His theater criticism has earned him a national award from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN) as well as three statewide Lone Star Press Awards for the same. He's co-author of the irreverent appreciation, Skeletons from the Opera Closet (St. Martin's Press), now in its fourth printing.
Contact: D. L. Groover