published Friday, November 18th, 2011

Director: Pleasant familiarity to 'Sanders Family Christmas'

IF YOU GO

What: "A Sanders Family Christmas."

When: Today through Dec. 23.

Where: Cumberland County Playhouse (Adventure Theater), 221 Tennessee Ave., Crossville, Tenn.

Admission: $23 adults, $22 seniors, $20 groups, $12 children/students.

Phone: 931-484-5000.

Website: www.ccplayhouse.com.

In the intimacy of the Adventure Theater at the Cumberland County Playhouse, audiences may feel they're seated in the pews of the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church as they watch "A Sanders Family Christmas," said director Bobby Taylor.

The show's 12th season opens today with the same cast that portrayed members of the fictional singing family in the Crossville theater's recent presentation of "Smoke on the Mountain."

That production, said Taylor, who also plays patriarch Burl Sanders in the show, was "more inclusive of the audience in the set" with its thrust-type stage. "You can expect that same sort of intimacy and freshness in the way this piece is portrayed."

Although each cast member has acted in "A Sanders Family Christmas" "somewhere at sometime," he said, the challenge for them is "to come together as a new family" and "find where your heartbeat is as a family."

The show finds the family reuniting at the church before Christmas in 1941, shortly after Pearl Harbor, to have a final Saturday night singing before son Dennis reports for basic training.

There, the family shares songs and testimonies, and the Rev. Mervin Oglethorpe continues his pursuit of Sanders daughter June.

Like "Smoke on the Mountain," the show is filled with songs, some of which were written for the show, said Taylor. There also are 10 or so familiar or traditional seasonal songs such as "Away in a Manger.

The director said the uncertainty in the United States today is not unlike the uncertainty people felt in the year the show is set. World War II had started, the country was still recovering from the Great Depression and no one was sure what was next.

That's why people keep returning to see the Sanders family, Taylor said.

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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