The Reviews Are In

Ken AshfordLocal Interest, Personal, TheatreLeave a Comment

From the Winston-Salem Journal:

Leigh Somerville McMillan 


 Published: August 1, 2010 

The Theatre Alliance audience returned home after Friday's opening night performance with quite a catch. King Mackerel & The Blues Are Running: Songs and Stories of the Carolina Coast delivered exactly what was promised: a vacation. 

And, like most vacations, we didn't want it to end. Within minutes of stepping on stage, Jason Kraack, Mike Orsillo, Tracy Warren and Ken Ashford became our new best friends. 

Playing members of the band, The Coastal Cohorts, they engaged the audience in a benefit to raise money to restore Miss Mattie Jewell's Corncake Inlet Inn after it was damaged in a hurricane. 

Kraack, the leader of the group, explains that if they fail, the "greed-head developers" will tear it down and build a new high-rise. Kraack's rich and true tenor and full-body piano playing earned him the role of "The King Fish." He knows how to rock and roll, but he was clearly at his best during his heartwarming solos, "Sand Mountain Song" and "Home On The River." 

Wearing a well-worn ball cap and growling out a better-than-garage band baritone, the "mystic fisherman" Orsillo brought back memories of summer romances in his solo "Georgia Rose." But it was his storytelling, especially of Cooter Womble's boating fiasco, that won our hearts. 

And when Warren took the stance and leaned back with that bass guitar, we all fell in love with his boyish smile. The house was full of folks who related to his fondness for cruising Myrtle Beach at 4 or 5 miles an hour in the 1963 Thunderbird his grandmother won in a Bingo game. 

Director Jamie Lawson gave the show the perfect finishing touch by adding Ken Ashford on drums to the script. It's hard to imagine '50s music without percussion. While he only had one line (which he delivered perfectly), Ashford was able to do more with his good-ole-boy smile than some actors can accomplish with pages of monologue. 

A rousing game of Bingo provided the opportunity for some actual audience participation. Rita Ladd won an all expenses paid vacation at the Corncake Inlet Inn with its private flush bucket and flounder shaped Jacuzzi. The rest of the audience won rubber worms. 

After the final number, the crowd was invited to have pictures taken with the band and the 5-foot long, 42-pound, 11-ounce canvas King Mackerel borrowed from the original cast. No one seemed to mind getting a little sand in their shoes. 

Theatre Alliance will present King Mackerel & The Blues are Running at 2 p.m. today; at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; and at 2 p.m. next Sunday. Tickets are $16 and $14 for students and seniors. The theater is at 1047 W. Northwest Blvd. For more information, or to purchase tickets, call 800-838-3006 or go to

We've added a show at 4:00 next Saturday, too.  

Here's a picture of the cast with a pretty girl: