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'Sneaky Ole Time' is a flawed but stealthy charmer

'Sneaky Ole Time' is a flawed but stealthy charmer
From left, Chip Bolcik, Amy Motta Robert Craighead, Alexander Hitzig, Ken Korpi, Nina Brissey, and Nicole Olney star in "Sneaky Ole Time," a world premiere jukebox musical featuring the top ten hits of veteran country songwriter, Paul Overstreet. (Ed Krieger)

As far as jukebox musicals are concerned, the name Paul Overstreet isn't quite on a par with, say, The Four Seasons and "Jersey Boys."

Overstreet, however is a veteran tunesmith who has written two-dozen-plus Top 10  country songs, including "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" (co-written with Jim Collins) and "When You Say nothing at All" (co-written with Don Schlitz). Many have been repurposed for "Sneaky Ole Time," a world premiere musical at the Ruskin Group Theatre.

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For the record, 2:15 p.m. Aug. 12, 2015: An earlier version of this post said that the show ends Sept. 4. It ends Sept. 19. There is no performance on Sept. 4.

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The show, developed and directed by Michael Myers, is set in a Tennessee bar, a cozy locale nicely realized by set designer Cliff Wagner, who also serves as musical director.

The various denizens -- pragmatic bartender Janine (Amy Motta), who is nursing a secret heartbreak, and new hire Lexi (Nicole Olney), a dizzy blonde with a surprisingly high IQ -- mix and jabber with boozy regulars Red (Robert Craighead), a seemingly sour-on-marriage curmudgeon, and Sheila (Nina Brissey), a snarky divorcée with a surprisingly romantic core.

As Repairman (Chip Bolcik) labors to fix the jukebox, womanizing musician Lucky (Ken Korpi) drops by for drinks, as does the colorful Old Man (Dave Florek). When another musician, Jack (Alexander Hitzig), who is on his way to propose to his girlfriend, Maggie (Lara Jones), crashes his motorcycle just outside, the plot thickens.

To be sure, this "Time" takes its time getting anywhere, and although book writer Stephen Mazur tries valiantly to cobble Overstreet's songs into a cohesive whole, the enterprise is a slow starter, with performers playing to their very broad stereotypes and one-liners falling flat.

However, if the story occasionally stumbles, the game performers gradually win us over, scene by scene and song by song. A delightfully off-base "Twilight Zone" segue, coupled with a slamming live band, contributes to the considerable fun, while Florek's moving rendition of "Sneaky Ole Time" sneaks right into our hearts -- the place where all good country music goes to dwell.

"Sneaky Ole Time," Ruskin Group Theatre, 3000 Airport Ave., Santa Monica. 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. (No performance Sept. 4.) Ends Sept. 19. $30. (310) 397-3244. www.ruskingrouptheatre.com Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

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