published Friday, August 5th, 2011

'Smoke on the Mountain' starts 18th year at CCP


What: "Smoke on the Mountain."

When: Thursday-Oct. 29.

Where: Cumberland County Playhouse, 221 Tennessee Ave., Crossville, Tenn.

Admission: $22 adults, $21 seniors, $20 groups, $11 child/student.

Phone: 931-484-5000.


As far as "Smoke on the Mountain" is concerned, the Cumberland County Playhouse lives by the motto "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

For the 18th consecutive year, the Crossville, Tenn., theater will offer the musical that tells the story of the mythical Sanders Family Singers with a healthy dose of humor, bluegrass and gospel music.

"It's just a terrific piece of theater," said CCP producing director Jim Crabtree. "It's a great story, and the music is wonderful. The characters are just down-home folks, just like the folks who come see it. 'Smoke on the Mountain' reminds them of home, of the little church they grew up in. It's more than just homespun; it's a really important record of the traditional musical and heritage of the southern Appalachian Mountains."

He said the production is now being seen by a new generation of people and by people who have recently moved to the Crossville area for a retirement community.

"It's a way for [the retirees] to get to know their new region in a fun way," Crabtree said. "Some of our biggest fans are Yankees from all over the North."

The 2011 version has a mixture of veterans of the show and newcomers.

Among those who have participated during much of the 18-year run are Patty Payne (Aunt June), Bobby Taylor (Burl Sanders) and former Chattanoogan Jason Ross (the Rev. Mervin Oglethorpe).

The other actors are Lauren Marshall (Vera Sanders), Austin Price (Dennis Sanders), Emily Woods (Denise Sanders) and Daniel Black (Stanley).

Many of the actors, according to Crabtree, have "grown up in these roles."

Taylor and Black are co-directing as well as directing the music.

"Smoke on the Mountain" will be presented in the CCP's Adventure Theater.

The actors "are very close up -- right in the lap of folks," Crabtree said. "It's not a whole lot bigger than what Mount Pleasant [Baptist Church, where the musical is set] must have been like. It fits just beautifully.

"Wherever two or three are gathered, we can do 'Smoke on the Mountain,'" he said. "Somehow, it manages to make itself right at home wherever you find people who love gospel and bluegrass and love getting to know others as part of a good, old country church."

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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