published Friday, March 23rd, 2012

'Smoke' sings its way into Memorial Auditorium


What: Closed Door Entertainment's "Smoke on the Mountain."

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-March 31; 2 p.m. April 1.

Where: Memorial Auditorium, 399 McCallie Ave.

Admission: $20-$28 (plus fees).

Phone: 642-8497.


As often as the fictional singing Sanders family comes to Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, its members are welcomed with open arms.

Theatergoers may know the characters and the songs in "Smoke on the Mountain," which will be offered Thursday through April 1 at Memorial Auditorium, but their attendance at performance after performance at venues across the region indicates they never get old.

"Even for people who have seen the show," said J.C. Smith, director of the Closed Door Entertainment production, "the music is always beautiful. And every production is a little bit different if you have different actors."

"Smoke on the Mountain" is the inaugural presentation for the production company as a troupe rather than as a collection of open-auditioned performers and volunteers.

Smith said he wants the troupe to become the best nonprofessional community theater company in the area.

"We're not a typical community theater," he said. "We're [emphasizing] professional standards at a professional level. When people are going to spend their money, they would prefer to spend it for high quality, and that's what we plan to offer."

For those who don't know the Sanders saga, father Burl, mother Vera, Burl's brother, Stanley, daughter June (she doesn't sing but signs) and twins Dennis and Denise have traveled to Mount Pleasant, N.C., in the late 1930s to offer their mixture of energetic rousing numbers, plaintive hymns and soulful praise songs for the pastor, the Rev. Mervyn Oglethorpe, and his flock.

They deliver nearly 30 gospel tunes, from the known ("Rock of Ages," "Church in the Wildwood" and "I'll Fly Away") to the obscure ("Filling Station" and "Christian Cowboy").

While the characters play instruments in some versions of the production, Smith has opted to use members of the Closed Door Entertainment orchestra as a backing bluegrass band for the actors. The band members will be Sanders "uncles," he said.

All of the actors in the show are either members of the Closed Door Entertainment troupe or regular crew members, said Smith, who doubles as twin son Dennis.

The other actors are Paul Stone as Burl, Tonya Lively as Vera, Steve Jordan as Stanley, Eryn Jones as June, Maddie Brashier as Denise, Chuck Nalley as pastor Oglethorpe, and Darlene Stone and Mark Morgan as Mount Pleasant members Maude and Myrtle.

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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