smoke1

ver·sa·tile [ vúrssət’l ]

1.with many uses: able or meant to be used in many different ways
2.moving easily between tasks: able to move easily from one subject, task, or skill to another
3.changeable: subject to rapid or unpredictable change

Synonyms: adaptable, flexible, resourceful, multitalented, all-around, all-round

The word versatile is going to be a key word in this write-up, so I thought I would give you all a complete picture of it’s meanings. The performers in Beef and Board Dinner Theatre’s production of Smoke on the Mountain are all, in every meaning of the word – versatile.

Mrs. K and I had the privilege of attending the second night performance of this show – and what a very unique and well-done musical excursion it is. Director Jeff Stockberger has brought together a top-notch group of performers who strum, pick, pluck, bow, strike, slap and clap nearly 30 instruments, each taking frequent turns on the many stringed and percussion devices, and sharing the stage in an awesome display of their versatility. Add to this their splendid vocal talents and acting skills, and you have a tour de force I am sure Beef and Boards is very proud to offer.

Bobby Taylor as Burl Sanders; Pam Pendleton as Vera Sanders

Bobby Taylor as Burl Sanders; Pam Pendleton as Vera Sanders

Smoke on the Mountain is the story of the performing Sanders Family and their appearance at the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in North Carolina in the year 1938. Opening with the flappable Rev. Mervin Oglethorpe, played to the hilt by John Vessels (with sudden musical accompaniment by his accordion!) – we eventually meet the entire cast of characters who make up the Sanders clan.

Sarah Hund as June Sanders; Brian Gunter as Stanley Sanders; John Vessels as Rev. Oglethorpe

Sarah Hund as June Sanders; Brian Gunter as Stanley Sanders; John Vessels as Rev. Oglethorpe

First, there is the gentle and musically under-talented June Sanders, as portrayed by one of the most versatile performers I have ever met, Sarah Hund (segueing from her elegant performance as Elsa Schraeder in The Sound of Music ) in a comedic romp as the eldest Sanders daughter. Then, in rapid succession we meet mother Vera Sanders, played with spunk and purpose by Pam Pendleton; father Burl Sanders, masterfully done with solid stage presence and performance by Bobby Taylor; Burl’s brother, Stanley Sanders, characterized in a convincing and well-crafted interpretation by Brian Gunter; and the Sanders twins, Denise and Dennis, expertly presented with youthful exuberance by Ashlie Roberson and Keith Potts.

Keith Potts as Dennis Sanders; Ashlie Roberson as Denise Sanders

Keith Potts as Dennis Sanders; Ashlie Roberson as Denise Sanders

Each character in the family takes a turn at “witnessing” for the congregation and these acting segments serve as the glue between the remarkable musical numbers this cast turns out and the core storyline: the return of the Sanders Family (hopefully) to the bluegrass gospel circuit. The cast’s witnessing runs from the inspirational – as shown by Burl Sanders’ tale of his Job-like challenges at his gas station/store, and his brother Stanley’s dark, yet touching story of dealing with his past; to the highly comical – as portrayed by young Denise’s brush with stardom, her brother Dennis’ call to the pulpit, their sister June’s allegorical visit to an electric power station, and their mother Vera’s children’s tale of June bugs and the devil. These wonderful stories are spread throughout the production and every one is a gem, done with fine theatrical ability. This is not to short-change Rev. Oglethorpe’s hilarious contributions to the program as he tries hard not to lose complete control of the proceedings – nor of his “flock”.

The result of all these amazingly versatile performances is a crowd pleasing 2+ hours of entertainment you simply should not miss. Add B&B’s great food buffet, dessert tray and outstanding staff and you have one of the top family entertainment packages in the city.

Luckily, Smoke on the Mountain continues through August 18th, with shows Tuesday-Sunday and matinees scheduled July 7, 10, 11, 14, 17, 21, 24, 25, 28 & 31 as well as August 1, 4, 7, 8, 11, 14 & 18. Tickets are available by calling 317-872-9664. Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre is located at 9301 N. Michigan Rd. in Indianapolis IN. For further information about the show, tickets, pricing and schedules go to http://www.beefandboards.com/ .

* Production photography by Julie Curry

** Smoke on the Mountain was written by Connie Ray, conceived by Alan Bailey, with musical arrangements by Mike Craver & Mark Hardwick

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