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The Doyle & Debbie Show: Singin’ hits that’ll warm you up like hog rasslin’ in the July sun

Submitted by on Oct 20, 2011 – 4:12 pm

Review: Bruce Arntson and Jenny Littleton star in “The Doyle & Debbie Show” at the Royal George Theatre through Mar. 18. ****


By Lawrence B. Johnson

Put on some clean jeans, tuck in your shirt and get on down to the Royal George Theatre where “The Doyle & Debbie Show” is raisin’ a ruckus that you just don’t want to miss.

Jenny Littleton as Debbie and Bruce Arntson as Doyle in The Doyle and Debbie Show photo credit Doug Blemker Royal George Chicago 2011Direct from the Station Inn in Nashville, where they’ve been packin’ em in since 2007, Doyle & Debbie are one amazing twosome, singin’ original hits you never heard of in a heartfelt tribute to country music with just a teenie little bit of parody mixed in. By the time D&D have made their way through down-home, feel-good songs like “Whine, Whine, Twang, Twang,” “Blue Stretch Pants” and “Stock Car Love,” well you just about want to move to a red state.

We’re told Doyle & Debbie is just an act, that the two performers are actually Bruce Arntson (author of this show and an old hand at song writin’) and Jenny Littleton, who doesn’t need any other credits if you can follow my drift. But I’m not buyin’ any of it. Doyle & Debbie are the genuine article if I ever saw it, so I wouldn’t pay any mind to those other two characters.

You get so caught up in their singin’ and jokin’ that it’s hard to remember which song was which and who did what. But there is a kind of story behind them. Seems Doyle has had a couple of Debbies before this one, and he picked up the latest in a bar. Well, that’s not exactly how he told it but I took his meaning.  He’s a sort of washed up country singer, except that you have to be successful before you can be washed up and that part of Doyle’s history isn’t clear. Anyway, they’re together now, re-livin’ his old hits and spreadin’ joy.

I know their upbeat take on “Fat Women in Trailers” – about how trailer park mamas are pretty good pickins cause their husbands are usually in jail – brought memories back to me.  And Doyle really showed what a good ol’ boy is made of with a song practically lifted from the hymnal, “I Ain’t No Homo (But Man You Sure Look Good to Me).” You don’t find that kind of sensitivity parked on every barstool.

But let me tell you something about Debbie. That little girl has had one hard life. Three kids (out in the car doin’ what kids do and waiting for another show to end) and still no husband. And did I mention she’s mighty pretty? I didn’t? Well, just slap me. And sing, my, can she ever. Like to broke my heart with a little number called “For the Children.” I admit I was a mite surprised by the words.

Which brings up another point: This is probably not a show for the kids. Take the song “Harlequin Romance.” I don’t know where Doyle got that title, but it’s not about anyone named Harlequin. It’s about these two people drivin’ down the highway, is what it is. Sometimes he’s behind the wheel and sometimes she’s behind the wheel. And the other one, who isn’t behind the wheel, always has his/her head in something – a roadmap or whatever. I believe this is what’s called an oblique reference.

That’s about it, except to say the Doyle & Debbie show sizzles like spit in a hot skillet. Doyle comes across as a man’s man who knows you’ve got to fill your glass if you want hair on your chest. And these two are funny as all get out. I haven’t laughed so hard since we were movin’ the privy and my daddy took a step back… well, we don’t need to go there.

The good folks in that packed house laughed till who wouldn’t have it. When I say there wasn’t a dry eye during a song called “When You’re (Out With) Other Women, Think of Me,” I don’t mean people were crying.

I know that people who only watch the PBS channel on TV might call Doyle & Debbie a guilty pleasure. Well, lock me up and throw the key away. Guilty as charged.

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Photo captions and credit: Home page and top: Jennie Littleton as Debbie, Bruce Arntson as Doyle and Matt Carlton as Buddy in “The Doyle & Debbie Show” at Chicago’s Royal George Theatre:  Right: Littletton and Arntson. (Photos by Doug Blemker.)

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