‘Smoke’ returning to Crossville stage for its 21st season

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One of Cumberland County Playhouse’s most popular productions, “Smoke on the Mountain,” returns to the stage of the Crossville theater on May 30.

Now in its 21st consecutive year at Cumberland County Playhouse, “Smoke” continues to play to sold-out crowds and delight audiences again and again.

“The publisher, Samuel French Inc. — the oldest and largest publisher for plays and musicals in the world — tells us it’s the most popular show they license,” said director Weslie Webster.

French also verifies that the Playhouse has done more performances of this Bluegrass/gospel musical comedy than any other theater, anywhere.

“Our company has made ‘Smoke on the Mountain’ a Playhouse tradition with its longest run anywhere,” said Playhouse Producer and CEO Jim Crabtree.

The year is 1938. It’s Saturday night in Mount Pleasant, N.C., and the Rev. Oglethorpe has invited the Sanders Family Singers to provide an uplifting evening of song.

The audience becomes the congregation as two dozen traditional and original hymns weave with stories of witness from family members.

Though the Sanders Family try to appear perfect in the eyes of a critical congregation who are skeptical about the whole notion of a “Saturday Night Sing,” one thing after another goes awry and they reveal their true — and hilariously imperfect — natures.

Leading this year’s cast are Playhouse favorites Patty Payne as June Sanders, Jason Ross as Mervin Oglethorpe and Daniel Black as Burl Sanders. Between the three of them, they have appeared in more than 1,000 performances of “Smoke” since the show opened the Playhouse’s Adventure Theater in 1993.

The cast also includes Lauren Marshall, who does double duty as Vera Sanders and the show’s music director, along with Bobby Taylor, who’ll share the role of Burl Sanders. Austin Price returns to the cast, this time as Uncle Stanley, as does Malachi Banegas as son Dennis. Newcomer Elizabeth Wyld will appear as Dennis’s twin sister Denise.

“Smoke on the Mountain” will run May 30-Aug. 8. It’s rated G (except for “one word that ought not to be used in church”).

Call 931-484-5000 or visit www.ccplayhouse.com for tickets and details.

All Playhouse productions receive support from the Tennessee Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.