Whether you love country music or not, The Doyle and Debbie Show, currently running at The Royal George Cabaret, is surefire entertainment. Unlike most Saturday Night Live skits, this often hilarious production doesn’t run out of steam at the midpoint either. The laughs keep coming throughout the entire evening.
Recovering from a prolonged stint of alcoholic inebriation and the massacre of his finances, due to multiple alimony payments, country legend Doyle Mayfield is out on the road again with a new partner. Much like R n B legend Herb, who had multiple female singers performing as Peaches, Doyle has discovered a single mother with a brilliant voice in a roadside dive and has deemed her his new ‘Debbie’. As the audience witnesses one of their comeback concerts, filled with such humorous masterpieces as “Whine, Whine, Twang, Twang” and “Snowbanks of Life”, Doyle slowly begins to lose his battle with the bottle while tabloid loving Debbie threatens to quit if the sloshed master unleashes the contents of his long dad father’s favorite box one more time.
Creator Bruce Arnston, who gained some fame working with Jim Varney’s Ernest incarnation in the 80’s, obviously loves such tortured music couples as George Jones and Tammy Wynette, but his rubbery humor appeals to music lovers of all universes. Indeed, Arnston as Doyle and Jenny Littleton as Debbie, have garnered acclaim not only from such Opryland members as Jones but from the likes of Conan O’Brien, as well.
As Doyle, Arnston charms with suave humor and a debauched, egoless energy. Littleton, meanwhile, shines with an apocalyptically beautiful singing voice and a nervously straightforward characterization. One truly believes that she has just been plucked from the halls of obscurity from her blank stage stare and slanted stance. Both artists, who have been performing this piece in Nashville since 2006, make this presentation a musical and comedic highlight of the holiday season.
The Doyle and Debbie Show runs through March 18 at the Royal George Cabaret, 1641 N. Halsted Street. Tickets are $43.50-$49.50 and can be purchased by calling 312-988-9000 or by visiting doyleanddebbie.com. —Brian Kirst