Sporting his new boots and cowboy hat, the Rev. Mervin Oglethorpe (John Vessels), center, sings “Roundup in the Sky” with the Singing Sanders Family (from left), Denise Sanders Culpepper (Christina Rose Rahn), Burl Sanders (Bob Payne), Dennis Sanders (Brian Gunter), Dennis Sanders (Will Boyajian) and June Sanders Oglethorpe (Sarah Hund) in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of Smoke on the Mountain: Homecoming.
The most recent play at Beef and Boards lures you into the setting of a Saturday night gospel session at a tiny church in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina.
It’s a tightly developed play that follows a visiting troupe who brings in a bit of the outside world to a quiet mountain. The original play was set in 1938; this second sequel is set in 1945.
The Sanders family has endured World War II in between and the changes include marriages, babies born and changes in the making. That’s all of the plot I’ll reveal for “Homecoming,” just so you know you’ll be ‘witnessing’ a new set of circumstances from the original and the Sanders Family Christmas that followed.
With Smoke on the Mountain: Homecoming you’ll get a new set of 25 gospel songs, rousingly and sometimes tenderly sung by a cast of seven—five returning from the original Beef&Boards production in Summer of 2013.
Sarah Hund is the indefatigable June Sanders once again signing—not singing—and adding zest with a changing array of musical instruments. She now is Mrs. Mervin Ogelethorpe, wife of the Rev., embodied by John Vessels. Brian Gunter brings back his laid-back portrayal of brother Stanley Sanders and Pam Pendleton recreates the long-suffering Vera Sanders while Bob Payne continues as the unflappable scion of a family on the upswing.
Making their Beef&Boards debuts are Will Boyajian as the shy Dennis Sanders and Christina Rose Rahn as the ever vibrant twin sister Denise. Jeff Stockberger directs with a sure ear for comedic timing and eye for sight gags. Kristy Templet’s musical direction is a delight with excellent harmony, meticulous elocution and instrumental playing. All production elements are on mark.
Written by Connie Ray and conceived by Alan Bailey, musical arrangements are by Mike Craver.