It’s classical music, y’all
3 Redneck Tenors bring opera, mullets and laughs to stageBy EMILY REILY
Special to the Union Leader January 04. 2017 1:19PM
If you go...WHO: 3 REDNECK TENORS
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday
WHERE: The Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester
TICKETS: $35.50 to $60.50
INFO: palacetheatre.org; 668-5588
Classically trained tenor Matthew Lord garnered an unusual nickname years ago.
“I would tour a lot with the San Francisco Opera in my early days, and guys would come up from the theaters we were at and go, ‘Hey, man, you gotta move the truck,’ (assuming he was part of the crew),” Lord said. “They never would believe I was an opera singer. So my nickname became ‘opera redneck.’ That’s how the name got started, because of what I look like.”
Still, the idea to write “The 3 Redneck Tenors,” a show that combines comedy with popular music and Broadway hits, began on a whim.
“There was no story in mind,” the California native and opera veteran recalled. And initially, he wasn’t quite sure just how to create it.
“I’d never even written a show before. I only knew length by opera and by thickness of score. The very first show was about three hours long. It was just wheels off. But an agent saw it and said, ‘Man, if you fix some of this stuff, we’ll put you in 35 cities next year.’” Lord said.
After making it into the Top 10 in the second season of “America’s Got Talent” in 2007, the 3 Redneck Tenors were off. And for more than 10 years, they’ve been performing Broadway songs like “Figaro” and “Memory” from “Cats” in plaid shirts and overalls, and elegant dresses and mullets, in halls across the United States.
“I’ve written for a lot of standup comedians. I get to do that a lot, and then I also get to sing with probably two of the best singers in the country, so I don’t do opera anymore; I do Redneck Tenors,” Lord said.
In advance of a show Friday night at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, Lord spoke with NHWeekend about how “America’s Got Talent” changed everything for the trio, what a typical Redneck Tenors show is like and why it’s important as ever to just be entertained.
Q: What happened after “America’s Got Talent?”
A: (Got) called all the time to do operas. Never recognized. Never anything. (Then) you make it into the Top 10 of “America’s Got Talent,” you got kids chasing you down in Childress, Texas, in a gas station.”
A: Oh yeah. It was so bizarre. Because as an opera singer, half of 1 percent of 1 percent of all people even go to an opera. If you look at “America’s Got Talent,” it doesn’t look like we were opera singers. We did the Beethoven 5th (Ludwig van Beethoven’s early-1800s classical masterpiece) but we had mullets and we were in jeans.
Q: But is it still opera?
A: Well, not really. We do everything from Rascal Flatts to TV theme songs to a lot of Broadway, like “Alone In the Universe” from “Seussical.” We do “Memory” from “Cats.” All the opera in the show is from Bugs Bunny cartoons. So the audience recognizes it. There’s country, pop, crossover like Rascall Flatts, and Broadway.
Q: What other songs do the Redneck Tenors sing?
A: We do “Nessun Dorma,” which is from “Turandot.” We do “Figaro,” a comedic version, which is from “Marriage of Figaro,” or “Barber of Seville.” Mixed in there is “Phantom of the Opera.”
I guess the word you would use is a “potpourri,” a treasure trove of different styles of music but sung in the style that it’s supposed to be. It doesn’t sound like opera singers are singing. And we have the best arranger on the planet. He is fantastic.
Q: Do you still dress up like rednecks?
A: We have the mullets on for the first part of the show. (In previous shows) we were three guys in drag doing “You Light Up My Life” in full evening gowns and feather fans. In the Christmas show we have a number where we dress like the mean girls in 9-inch heels (to) sing “Santa Baby” in pleather mini skirts and heels. It’s a beautiful thing. You can’t un-see it. Let’s put it that way.
Q: Are the other singers on board with the whole redneck style?
A: Oh, they auditioned for me. Jonathan (Frugé) is my third tenor and Blake (Davidson) is my fourth baritone. This has pretty much been the group for the last four years. This is the best group I’ve ever had together. They are the best singers. We travel really well together. That’s one of the more important things.
Q: Would you say it’s like a variety show?
A: Almost like a variety show (but) with a little bit more continuity. It all makes sense. It’s basically like going to see the Rat Pack — Frank (Sinatra), Dean (Martin) and Sammy (Davis Jr.) back in the day — where they’d make you laugh and they sang all night and they told stories. That’s sort of what we do.
Q: What do you have planned for the New Hampshire show?
A: The first half ... will be done in what we call redneck gear and we’ll do TV theme songs. In the second half we come out and it’s all tux and tails and (we) do heavy Broadway.
The music has an arc where it gets more serious as the show goes on.
Q: Do you ever get any blowback for using the term “redneck”?
A: Not much, because there’s not a redneck joke to the show. It’s more “don’t judge a book by its cover.”
There’s no racist humor. It sells just as well in the Northeast and in the North and the west as it does in the South.
Q: Why do you think your show is so popular?
A: I think now it’s really had a resurgence. We have about 100 dates on the road this next year, and I think the reason is because this country is so polarized. All they want to do is laugh and enjoy some good music. They don’t want to hear preaching.
I’m not here to educate anybody, I’m here to make you laugh — laugh at ourselves, don’t take a cheap shot at anybody — and here’s some good music.
That’s hard to find nowadays. Everybody wants to make a statement.
Q: So there’s no political slant to it?
A: No one wants to hear what I believe politically. I don’t care if you’re left or right. I always say in our show, “Thanks for coming. I hope you didn’t learn a thing.” That’s really the bottom line of the show. Just to have fun and have a good time.