by Jim Cavener - Asheville Citizen Times

Cowboy Cafe is a rousing paean to yee-haw, corn-pone, down-home country culture with high-volume, fast-moving shenanigans that buffet the audience from the opening chords of the stage band. At the Cowboy Cafe, music is the name of the game. Forget the food. Suffice it to say that Mama/Billie Joe, owns a road-house midway between Nashville and Branson, staffed by her children, each by a different father and all named for the state where they were conceived. They may not cook, but they sing and dance up a storm. The music fully captures the genre and propels things along, with destination dicey, but the trip is a delight.


Dottie Ashley, The Post and Courier

From tears-in-your beer to Texas-swing, Charleston's Garden theater was filled with good ol' country-western tunes last night when it was transformed into the "Cowboy Cafe" and a talented cast blew the roof off in the opening performance of a seven-week engagement.

Bonnie Bramlett plays the cafe's owner, Billie Joe, an veteran singer/song-writer and legendary barbecue queen, who cooks up a plan to burn down the cafe for the insurance money. Make no mistake, Bramlett still has the star quality she exuded in the 1970s when she sang with the likes of Leon Russell and Joe Cocker, in a career to music stardom that began as a back-up vocalist for Tina Tuner and recording success with the group, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends.

A stellar group of actors and musicians accompany Bramlett, including playwright Phyllis MacBryde, and eight other cast members. MacBryde plays Billie Joe's oldest daughter, Louisa, a down-on-her-luck singer, who has returned home after eleven years on the road, considering herself a failure since she never hit the big time. MacBryde's flair for comedy and energetic vocals keep the story moving, while disarming the man she longs to marry. A standout is Roger Bartlett, in the role of R.L. Pickett. Bartlett, who wrote fifteen of the musical's twenty songs and arranged the score, is a recognized guitarist and session musician who was the original lead guitarist for Jimmy Buffett. Bartlett's "Golden Stallions," sung by Byron Crawford Smith who plays Louisa's heartthrob and the country crooner, Les, poignantly laments the vanishing of the western hero.

Along with barbecue, Cowboy Cafe serves up buckets of belly laughs and whether or not you're a country-western fan, you should enjoy the variety of numbers.


By Rachel Rivers-Coffey - Watauga Democrat

The Blowing Rock Stage Company's production of Cowboy Cafe is out there, watchin' them 18-wheelers roll on by. And Les, the cowboy "short on gumption," but long on love, is Byron Crawford Smith, a guitarist handy with a harmonica, and stone cold sober in love with . . . his truck.

Of all the songs which tell the story, "She's a Beauty," by Phyllis MacBryde and her fellow composer, Roger Bartlett, is my favorite. When Les sang, "She's a beauty, heavy duty, she's my truck." I was possessed of the notion that this song - among many other possibles - should be a natural for national status.

The cafe is the lair of this generation, and MacBryde and fellow composers Leslie Ellis and Roger Bartlett throw out plenty of delightful country and western numbers for Louisa (MacBryde), Les's love interest, Missi (Leslie Ellis), and Mama (Pebble Daniel) to sing. Talk about your whiskey-voice beautifully under control, Pebble Daniel in the role of the girls' mama, Billie Joe, can belt out a tune with considerable punch. Daniel has toured with Tammy Wynette, Jimmy Buffett, Ronnie Milsap, Crystal Gayle, Leon Russell, etcetera.

Phyllis MacBryde has a voice that can encompass everything from the campy and the cornball, to the courageous. Good show, I say, all around. Director Chuck Rounds, choreographer Gary Walker, musical-director Roger Bartlett and scene designer Jennifer Wynn O'Kelly all are due special mention. You gotta check these guys out. And pay attention to the program credits. These people aren't just "going" somewhere. They're already there.


E.G. Painter, The Times Journal

The 48th season of summer theatre at Burnsville's Parkway Playhouse ended with a bang with Cowboy Cafe, which had the highest attendance of any show produced at Parkway in the past ten years.