Father-son musical duo to perform at the Bonnie Kate

Published 8:43 am Friday, September 13, 2019

By Brittnee Nave


A father-son musical duo will be hitting the stage at the Bonnie Kate Theater this weekend.

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John Thomas and Tommy Oakes will be putting on a two-man, pirate-themed musical called “Whale of a Tale” based on the biblical story, “Jonah.”

This is not the first show for the pair, however, who have written numerous musicals together.

“We’ve been writing shows since the mid-’90s,” said Thomas, son of the dynamic duo. “We always try to write two shows at the same time, one from folklore and one from the Bible.”

The pair have written musicals ranging from the upcoming show of “Whale of a Tale” to a flipped and modernized version of “Cinderella.”

“We have a male version of ‘Cinderella’ where we took the characters and kind of flipped them,” Thomas said. “Our male Cinderella is a farm boy named Chipper who falls in love with a judge’s daughter, a female Prince Charming. It’s a down farm version.”

For the musical “Whale of a Tale” there was an idea prior to what theatergoers will see this weekend.

“We didn’t want to just do a traditional Bible retelling,” Thomas said. “Our first idea was to update it. We set it in New York City and Jonah was going to be this guy who got trapped in a subway car and it stops at the aquarium stop and he can’t get off. The whale was like the subway car. We worked with that a little bit but ended up back at the drawing board.”

The pair eventually deciding a retelling with a pirate twist was the way to go. The musical is now set in a tavern by the sea.

For the father and son, this creative genius was not something that began as soon as Thomas was born. It actually began a bit later.

According to Thomas, his roots in performing began when he was in college.

“I was a jazz piano major at the University of Tennessee, so I was studying jazz piano performance down there,” he said. “I just happened to be in a lot of performances because the theatre department was right next door and they were always needing musicians for the shows.”

According to Thomas, this is how he fell in love with musical theater. Once his father, Oakes, who was also the first person in the world to graduate with a Master’s Degree in storytelling, started preaching and telling biblical stories, it got him thinking about combining them with music.

The pair now travels and have performed in venues around the country.

“We’ve got a few groupies,” laughed Thomas. “We’ve got about six people from West Virginia that if it’s within 300 miles, they’ll drive.”

In addition to their current shows, the pair have new things in the works like a prequel to “Cinderella.”

For more information on the father of this musical duo, check out his website at www.tommyoaks.com.

“Whale of a Tale” will be performed Friday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Saturday at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Bonnie Kate, with the audience being encouraged to dress like pirates! Admission for adults is $10 and $5 for children.