published Thursday, March 14th, 2013

'Smoke on the Mountain' returns to Colonnade

June Sanders (portrayed by Amanda Dullen, center) spends time in the Amen Corner with Miss Maude (Kim Jenkins, left) and Miss Myrtle (Gayle Carter).
June Sanders (portrayed by Amanda Dullen, center) spends time in the Amen Corner with Miss Maude (Kim Jenkins, left) and Miss Myrtle (Gayle Carter).
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
IF YOU GO

What: "Smoke on the Mountain"

When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, March 15-16 and 22-23; matinee 1 p.m. Saturday, March 23

When: Catoosa County Colonnade, 264 Catoosa Circle, Ringgold, Ga.

Admission: $15 adults, $12 seniors/students, $11 groups

Phone: 706-935-9000

Website: www.ColonnadeCenter.org

Note: Final evening show (7:30 p.m. March 23) will be interpreted for the deaf and hearing impaired.

The Colonnade bid goodbye to "Smoke on the Mountain" after 10 years of shows in 2011, but longtime cast member Gayle Carter heard the requests more than once in the past two years.

"I wish you'd do 'Smoke' just one more time" were the pleas from friends.

When a slot in the venue's theatrical schedule came open this winter, Ever After Productions filled it with the music-filled show.

"People love the show and come," said co-director Carter, who portrayed Miss Myrtle in each of the "Smoke" shows the Community Players did. "It's a fan favorite."

The play, which opens Friday, March 15, for the first of five shows, focuses on the singing Sanders Family, which has been invited by young pastor Mervin Oglethorpe to return -- after a five-year hiatus -- to a tiny country church in North Carolina's Smoky Mountains in 1938.

During the balance of the show, the family sings two dozen bluegrass songs or old hymns as the nervous pastor frets and two church members sit and kibutz about the goings-on.

Carter, who reprises her role as Miss Myrtle as well as co-directing with Jan Daigle, said a different production company and/or a different cast can make the venerable show new.

"Every production puts a different spin on it," she said.

Performances at Cumberland County Playhouse often focus on the music, Carter said, while a version she saw in Branson, Mo., focused on mother Vera Sanders.

"Our focus is on the story," she said. "It's a story of redemption, forgiveness, love and family. You add the comedy that comes from the family testimonies as well as Maude and Myrtle in the Amen Corner."

Carter said the story seems so familiar because people know the hymns, the old-time music and even the characters.

After performances in previous years, people would tell her, "We've got ladies just like you [as Miss Myrtle]," she said. "Pastors would say, 'I recognize you. You're in my church.'

"The story never gets old," Carter said. "I hate to say it's a feel-good show, but it is a feel-good show. All ages can identify with it."

Richard Stretton is music director for "Smoke on the Mountain," while the stage band includes three members of the Heritage High School band on bass fiddle, banjo and guitar and one Chattanoogan on fiddle and mandolin.

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.

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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