Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Features / Living

May 30, 2007

Matt Smith: Plaza play soars with heavenly harmony

Welcome to Mount Pleasant, N.C., a place that, in the words of one character, is the “only town that smells like it should belong on a hot dog.”

Times are tough for the rural outpost, what with the Depression full on and the town’s main employer driven out of business. Faith proves stronger, however, and nowhere more so than at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church.

The Rev. Oglethorpe (Daniel Merrifield) leads the flock — that flock being the Plaza Theatre Co. audience — while a band of traveling troubadours, the Sanders family, delivers the song and dance. It’s best not to tell the busybody church ladies about the latter though.

And what great music “Smoke on the Mountain” delivers. Despite one’s religious persuasion, or lack thereof, I’m betting few could resist tapping toes and clapping along to the show’s heady mix of folk, bluegrass, gospel and harmony. Some songs are so joyful and upbeat that audience members may convert on the spot while others are as mournful as a beloved family hound on his last legs.

The play’s story (the music’s really the thing here) occurs between and within the numbers. Father Burl Sanders (G. Aaron Sanders) battles temptations of moral compromise in the face of declining business while his brother, Stanley Sanders (JaceSon Barrus) struggles with temptations of a wayward life while seeking salvation through church and family. Mother Vera Sanders (Darcy Farrington) keeps a close watch on everyone, especially daughters Denise (Kaitlin McDonald) and June Sanders (Danielle Beacham) who spend much of the play making doe eyes at Oglethorpe. Painfully shy Dennis Sanders (Joey Geisel) prays the Lord will fill his mouth with the right words. He stutters while proclaiming in deer-in-the-headlights fashion his intention to preach. No huge surprise what happens next.

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Features / Living
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