“He who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke,” Psalms 104:32.
It’s that time of year again to grab a partner, put on some comfortable clothes, and head to the Ratner Theater in the Harris Arts Center to enjoy a Calhoun Little Theatre production of the much loved and highly popular “Smoke on the Mountain,” written by Connie Ray and Alan Bailey.
The play takes place at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in North Carolina. The year is 1938 and the Sanders Family, a well-known ensemble of traveling gospel singers, are giving their first concert after a five- year hiatus. Excitement is in the air as the young preacher eagerly awaits their arrival.
They sing the beloved blue grass gospel songs that are still favorites today — songs like “Rock of Ages” and “I’ll Fly Away.” But it’s not just the music that brings audiences back time and time again. “Smoke on the Mountain” is so funny that it might just make the audience laugh themselves silly.
Jeri Dunn is the director of this production and is also reprising her role as June Sanders, the oldest child who doesn’t necessarily sing, but signs. She needs lots of practice.
The patriarch, a gentle bear of a man, is portrayed by Jeff Adair. LeAnna Wade portrays the matriarch Vera, a God-fearing woman who is proud of her knowledge of Bible verses.
The girl twin is Denise, who has aspirations of being Scarlett O’Hara. She is portrayed by Taylor Chavez. Dennis, the boy twin wants to be a preacher, but is a bit shy in front of people. He is brought to life by Hartwell Brooks.
Burl’s brother, Stanley, played by Phillip Hayes, has come home after serving a stint in prison. He has a chip on his shoulder. Colt Chambers is Mervin Oglethorpe, the young preacher who is happy to be the center of attention.
Other cast members are the church ladies portrayed by Gloria Courdin, Mary Nell Podgorny, Caryn Sims and Susan Cooper. Band members are: Joseph Evans on the guitar; Robbie Garmon on the piano, mandolin, and banjo; and David Hartel on the double bass. Jim Kirk is in charge of lights and sound.
“I love doing this. I love how things work out … how everything comes together in the end,” said Dunn, who is also the co-chairman of the Calhoun Little Theatre. “We all enjoy doing this for the community.”
Hartwell Brooks, who is Dunn’s counterpart at the CLT and a Harris Arts Center board member, had praise for Dunn’s hard work and dedication to the play.
Brooks thanked Jennifer Dudley, the director of the Harris Arts Center, and Nick Sainato, the Harris Arts Center board chairman, for their continued support of the Calhoun Little Theatre. He expressed thanks to Cathy Camp Bomar for her sponsorship.
The production will open Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. Opening night will be followed by two more showings next weekend, one on Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. and a matinee Oct. 21 at 3 p.m. “Smoke on the Mountain” will then hit the stage again Oct. 26 and Oct. 27 — both shows start at 7 p.m.
General admission tickets are $15, with seniors and students getting in for $12, and Harris Arts Center members for $10. They can purchased online at harrisartscenter.com or by calling the Harris Arts Center at 706-629-2599.
This is the fourth time the Calhoun Little Theatre has presented “Smoke on the Mountain.” It consistently plays to sell out crowds, so get your tickets early.