A review of Lance Brown’s “Will Rogers Now”

On Nov. 4, Lance Brown graced the stage of the Fine and Performing Arts Center for his performance as Will Rogers. The day marked a historic date in time, the day that Will Rogers was born, 131 years ago. 

Brown, who is an artist, actor, musician and song writer, was inspired by cowboys during his childhood days on his family’s farm in New Mexico. This inspiration is what introduced him to Will Rogers, and in 1987 he turned his act into the first person view on Will Roger’s life. 

The stage was set with a rocking chair, a standard wooden chair, a radio from the early years, several ropes and a guitar and ukulele. As one looked around the theater, there was a similarity in all of the audience.  They were all of a much older crowd.

The show was scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. and it did just that.  It lasted about two hours, which for me was the longest two hours of my life.

The production was set up to gradually tell the life of Rogers, which Brown did in the first person form. Even though the show was humorous, it was hard to understand all the jokes Brown was making as Rogers. I suppose if one was born closer to the time period, as most of the audience was, or knew a little bit more about history, then it would be a fantastic show.

Brown played about seven songs throughout the entire show, beginning with your “typical” cowboy song then moving to decade appropriate songs as the life of Rogers continued on.  It was not until the second half of the show that I personally got into the performance. Must have been because I knew a little bit more about what was going on during those years of Roger’s life. 

After the performance was finished, Paul Lormand, Director of the Fine and Performing Arts Center, informed the audience that there would be a celebration of Will Rogers’ birthday in the Fine Arts Museum.  For all of the guests who attended, they were allowed a piece of birthday cake.

Lance Brown also sat out in the lobby of FAPAC to sell and sign copies of his book, “On the Road with Will Rogers”. During this signing I took the initiative to ask Brown a few questions about his performance and background.  After standing in line for a good 20 to 30 minutes I was finally acknowledged. I was only able to ask him one question, which he was very distant and uncooperative. He was too focused on talking with the other audience members than me.

Was the performance good? Yes. But there were definitely some things that were uninteresting, and could cause an audience member of a much younger age to be confused and unsatisfied.  Would I recommend WCU’s FAPAC to book another act slightly similar to this one? No. As much as the local citizen’s of Sylva, Dillsboro, and Cashiers enjoyed this performance, there was not a single WCU student sitting in that audience that I could see.  This is our university and it would make sense to book performances that would not just interest an older demographic, but a multitude of age groups.  After all, that is what good theater is all about.  It is about appealing to an audience of all ages.