• Cristee Cook

'The Scenic Route' is an inspiring and uplifting story at The Core Theatre in Richardson

When you walk into the performance space at The Core Theatre, you’ll feel like you’re in an artist’s studio. That was my first thought upon seeing Jim Finger’s scenic art scattered all around the black box theater. The man is a talented painter. The Core Theatre is currently showing the original play, The Scenic Route, written by and starring Jim Finger and directed by The Core Theatre’s Artistic Director James Hansen Prince.

The autobiographical story is about Jim Finger, who leaves his small-town family life and takes a bus all the way from San Antonio, TX to the big lights of Hollywood, CA in the 1960’s. Even though young Jim has dreams of being a movie star, he actually lands himself a job scenic painting in a major Hollywood studio. The Scenic Route is the story of how he got into the profession, and what a life looks like when you take an unexpected path. For Finger, the surprising road resulted in a 40-year career as a professional scenic artist for movies and television.

The play opens with Jimmy (played by Andrew Williams) tiptoeing into the studio, apparently late for his work shift. When Mr. J (Jim Finger) comes in, we get the impression that Jimmy is Mr. J’s apprentice. But as the story unfolds, we learn that Jimmy is the apprentice, but he’s also the young version of Mr. J. There were times I wasn’t completely clear on which character the actors were playing as they seemed to morph back and forth between teacher and apprentice, young and old, and different characters from the past. The play could use some clarification on the characters and more action to really bring the story alive. Still, it’s successful in a lot of ways and not without its merits.

Jim Finger (the actor and the character) is funny, wise due to experience, and surprisingly graceful. In the story he shares wisdom from his mother – “the Lord will put you where you’re needed” – and he seems to have carried this advice with him as he flowed from one success to another. As Finger tells it, at the time, some of the unexpected events seemed insurmountable, but he ultimately landed in a better place. His career is nothing to turn your nose up at – in the span of 40 years, Finger had the opportunity to work on major Hollywood films, and were you to read a list of the films he’s painted, you’d remember and recognize the most iconic scenes. I thought about my own life and the journey I’m on, and how often the things I thought were the most negative ended up leading me to something greater. It’s an inspiring takeaway.

As young Jimmy, Core Theatre regular Andrew Williams is bright, funny, and provides a lot of buoyancy to the story. He has a sparkle that I imagine is very much like the real Jim Finger’s own light, and the two have some nice moments together as they cooperatively tell the story.

The success of the play lies in Jim Finger’s uplifting story and his endearing personality. The beautiful paintings that surround a working studio create a warm and realistic environment, and the camaraderie that is clearly alive between the two actors makes The Scenic Route a show worth seeing. At the very least, you might leave feeling more connected to your own dreams and reflective about your path in life.


The Scenic Route by Jim Finger is showing at The Core Theatre, 518 W. Arapaho Rd. Ste. 115 in Richardson. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, with Sunday matinees at 3 pm on February 28 – March 8, 2020. For tickets, visit thecoretheatre.org or call the Box Office at (214) 930-5338.

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