Smoke on the Mountain at Beef & Boards 

click to enlarge Pastor Mervin Oglethorpe (John Vessels) and June Sanders (Sarah Hund) smack out a rhythm in 'Smoke on the Mountain.'
  • Pastor Mervin Oglethorpe (John Vessels) and June Sanders (Sarah Hund) smack out a rhythm in 'Smoke on the Mountain.'

The premise to Smoke on the Mountain is slight: In the midst of the Great Depression, the down-and-out-Sanders Family brings their musical talents to the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in North Carolina. One calamity seems to lead to another and like a tumbleweed gathering momentum, the result is a journey of wonderment.

The production features a company of seven proficient on 24 different instruments and every style culled from old hymnbooks. Praise to John Vessels as the bombastic Rev. Oglethorpe, Pam Pendleton as the over-the-top Vera, Bobby Taylor as the trying-to-keep-it-all-together Burl, Brian Gunter as the repentant yet wise sinner, Keith Potts as the stammering shy minister-in-waiting, Ashlie Roberson as the stardom-sighted ingénue and Sarah Hund as the endearing June: "I don't sing, I sign." And what she depicts is rollicking.

Jeff Stockberger's direction finds a beautiful balance the tongue-in-cheek and an admiration for people who live their faith and belief with honesty.

An aside: In the contest of quoting Bible verses between the Sanders Family and the Reverend Mervin Oglethorpe, one wants to shout out the two dozen-plus references to praise dancing when June and Denise are reprimanded for breaking out in dance. Why some Baptists and other hardline religious conservatives still choose to ignore these verses and thus forbid dancing is a mystery to this reviewer.

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Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn has been covering craft beer and the arts for NUVO for two decades. She’s the author of True Brew: A Guide to Craft Beer in Indiana.

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