It's just not Christmas at the Cumberland County Playhouse without the Sanders family.
The quirky mythical singing family, first introduced to playgoers in "Smoke on the Mountain," returns for the 11th consecutive year -- opening on Thursday -- in "A Sanders Family Christmas."
But, said director Daniel Black, if you think you've seen the play, think again. Four actors, who took their bows in "Smoke in the Mountain" earlier this year, are new to the play. And Black returns in a new role.
"People want to see it over and over again," the director said. "It puts them in the Christmas spirit, and every character has a good story to tell."
The play is set four years after "Smoke on the Mountain" as son Dennis Sanders is preparing to go off to World War II. For one last time before he leaves, the family unites during the holidays to sing.
Among the memorable numbers the family imparts, Black said, are "Away in a Manger," sung in a round, and "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem." A medley of bell songs, played by family members, is also nice, he said.
The director doubles as Burl, the family patriarch.
"It's a little different," said Black, who previously portrayed Dennis Sanders. "He's like the band leader."
He also changes instruments, going from Dennis' mandolin to the guitar, but Black insists "it's not a big switch."
Now in his third year as director, Black said the dual role is "a little tricky" because he can't sit back to see what's going on. In the role, he said, he has to rely on help from the stage manager.
While four cast members are new this year, two others are in their second year.
With so many new faces, Black said, audiences "get to see a new face, hear a new voice," hear them play a new instrument.
"It's never the same show twice," he said, "but it's always nice to keep the show fresh with new faces and new talents."
IF YOU GO
* What: "A Sanders Family Christmas."
* When: Thursday through Dec. 19.
* Where: Cumberland County Playhouse, 221 Tennessee Ave., Crossville, Tenn.
* Admission: $23 adults, $22 seniors, $20 groups, $13 children/students.
* Phone: 931-484-5000.
* Web site: www.ccplayhouse.com.
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 ...