The Three Redneck Tenors Return for Christmas Spec-Tac-Yule-ar!
When we last heard from Billy Joe, Billy Bob and Billy Billee, the 3 Redneck Tenors, they were working overtime trying to find the right image. From opera to disco to classic country to cheesy TV themes, these three beer-swilling, bib overall-wearing good old boys were singing up a storm, everywhere they could, just trying to get themselves noticed. Their manager, the Colonel, a man with big ideas, was determined to root up the perfect formula for his boys. Of course, the Tenors are really Matthew Lord, Alex Bumpas and John Wilkerson, three world-class opera singers, and their show is as genuinely musical as it is satirical. There’s nothing like the sound – and sight - of a pure, operatic tenor voice coming out of a man in a mullet. Or the angelically-perfect harmony made by three mullet-wearers. The Tenors are back this season with their first-ever Christmas show. And according to Matthew Lord, who also writes the Tenors’ scripts, it’ll be quite the knee-slapper. “The Colonel, God bless him, loses his Christmas spirit,” Lord explains. “And he’s visited by three tenors, to help him find it. With a little help from Edna Mae - she’s the Sugar Plums Fairy.” (Edna Mae, as all hardcore Redneck Tenor fans know, is the Colonel’s brainless but bosomy assistant.) “It really stems from a tragic event from his childhood,” Lord continues. “He lost his Christmas spirit because his grandma got runned over by a reindeer. We trace it back to that, and then of course we sing ‘Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.’” In the holiday show, Lord promises, “Everybody will be happy. We’ll don our dresses again and sing ‘Santa Baby.’ It has ‘White Christmas,’ and a television Christmas theme song medley. And that’s just the first half.” Lord, a Juilliard-trained lyric tenor who’s performed at the Metropolitan Opera, Glimmerglass, the Washington Opera and others, is based in Texas; that’s where the 3 Redneck Tenors saga began. Sick and tired of the starchy “Three Tenors” phenomenon, perpetuated by singers in tuxedos who took themselves far too seriously, he envisioned a knock-out show that blended world-class singing with sophomoric humor - and really bizarre costumes. “I find nothing more boring than three guys singing in unison all night,” he explains. So he called on a couple of his multi-talented friends, bought an outhouse and an old Airstream trailer (there’s your stage set) and took his show on the road. That was four years ago. The 3 Redneck Tenors have become an American musical theater institution. “I attribute our success to: Sing well, or it wouldn’t be funny,” Lord says. “Otherwise, it would be bad blue-collar comedy, and that’s not what I set out to do.” For the Christmas show, the trailer is decked out in tacky tinsel, with a white, aluminum tree set up between the lawn chairs out front (the ornaments are made from beer cans). Putting Act II together posed a bit of a problem, Lord admits. “There was no way to figure out how to do non-secular music, meaning ‘Silent Night,’ ‘O Holy Night,’ those types of songs, and do them in a comedic way without basically making fun of Jesus,” he laughs. “So I decided, best not to attempt that path. “So what we’ll do in the second half is don our tuxedos with various Christmas trim – red and green cummerbunds and ties – and sing non-secular songs. Sort of a nostalgic, Norman Rockwell, sitting on the front porch of Andy Griffith’s house, heartwarming kind of concert. No slapstick, just really a traditional kind of Christmas concert with the Rednecks. “Of course, if something ends up being funny, I’m going to leave it in.” With all the Tenors’ success these days, sometimes it’s difficult for the group’s creator to remember, deep down inside, that he’s really Matthew Lord, professional opera singer. “He’s in here somewhere, but it’s especially hard when I’m writing,” Lord says. “Because I have to write as Billy Joe. Not everybody loves me, but everybody loves Billy Joe.” The trio’s annual Lyric appearance is one of their favorites. They love the Treasure Coast audience as much as they audience loves them. “Tell everybody to look forward to the same message: None,” Lord says with a Billy Joe-esque belly chuckle. “We have no message at all.”
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