‘Smoke on the Mountain’ is good, wholesome theatre

The Sanders Family Singers are back to raise the roof at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, from left, Stanley Sanders (Steve Gouveia), Burl Sanders (Rik Ogden), Denise Sanders (Annie Buckley), Vera Sanders (Deborah Gilmour Smyth), Dennis Sanders (Beau Brians), in back, Pastor Oglethorpe (Brian Mackey) and June Sanders ( Katie Sapper). Ken Jacques photo

 

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal
Special to the Village News

The current production at the Lamb’s Players Theatre rings true to their mission which is to “tell good stories well that are grounded in a historic Judeo-Christian worldview”.

“Smoke on the Mountain” is an old-time revival meeting at the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in the summer of 1937, in Mt. Pleasant, North Carolina.  New pastor Mervin Oglethorpe has arranged for a musical presentation by the Sanders Family Gospel Band.

However, they are late. Consequently, our new pastor played by Brian Mackey is anxiously pacing and fidgeting, whiling away the time as he keeps the restless congregation in their seats.  Filled with charm, Brian Mackey hits his mark with nervous patter accompanied by his myriad of quirks like speaking in scripture.

After an interminable wait he is jubilant when the first member arrives explaining why the others are not present but en route. Apparently, a near fatal accident caused their bus to slide into a mire filled with cucumbers.

Led by their multitalented parents, Burl and Vera Sanders, the Sanders family band of singers and musicians present a rejoiceful gospel celebration. Vera (Deborah Gilmour Smyth) is wholesome, funny and her scripture quoting equal to the pastors.  Smyth continues to amaze by adding a new depth to her extensive repertoire of characters playing both piano and guitar. Husband Burl (Rik Ogden) is the family peacekeeper. He is warm, funny and a skilled musician playing guitar and banjo.

Burl’s brother Stanley Sanders (Steve Gouveia) plays the bass in the family band with so much exuberance he is chastised. According to the pastor, “there is no dancing”. Gouveia too is a wonderful musician and singer.

Twins Dennis (Beau Brians) and Denise (Annie Buckley) also sing well and play multiple musical instruments including the cowbell. I counted nine instruments played by the Sanders Family band. This is a remarkably talented cast. The one who said she didn’t play or sing is the silliest of the lot, June Sanders (Katie Sapper). She is like watching a fairy flitting about the stage as she continues to try to sign through each performance.  She is silly and funny and charming. Out of this gifted troupe of players she stands out with her quirky peculiarities.

When so many theatres are trying to send messages, it is a relief to see one that embraces my Judeo-Christian beliefs and rejoices in good, wholesome theatre for entertainment.

Applause, applause, applause to director Kerry Meads and the artistic production staff for continuing to bring such phenomenally artistic productions to their loyal audience.

“Smoke on the Mountain” will put a fire in your heart. Currently playing at Lamb’s Players Theatre, 1142 Orange Ave, Coronado. Free street parking. Tuesday through Sundays until Nov. 19. A great multi-generational experience. Box Office (619) 437-6000 or lambsplayers.org.

 

 

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