Even the pre-show announcements are in the Southern Baptist spirit in Beef & Boards’ production of Smoke on the Mountain, a show full of spiritual, as well as humorous, bluegrass and “witnessing.” (Did you know the beer man is the Devil? Or that Jesus’ love is like the thread tied to the leg of a June bug? If you tug too hard, you’ll pull your leg right off.) It’s been several years since Indianapolis has seen a full-scale production of this quant and funny little musical.
Set in 1938, the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church is having its first Saturday Night Sing. Performing for the occasion is the Sanders Family, a group of eccentric singers and musicians. They got the gig by helping the congregation’s minister, the equally eccentric Mervin Oglethorpe (a hilarious John Vessels, the only actor in the show who has been seen at B&B before), with his bum radiator. The family is full of multitalented singers and musicians … well, almost. Comic relief in the group comes from June Sanders (Sarah Hund), who, lacking any traditional musical talent, contributes to the family band with her own unique and outrageously funny form of signing, as well as enthusiastic performances of sound effects and on tambourines, washboard and more, most notably a wild turn on the spoons. Also providing continuous humor is the reverend, with his spontaneous commentary and Bible verse showdowns with Vera Sanders (Pam Pendleton), the family matriarch.
Most melodic of the group is Dennis (Andrew M. Ross), who is also a bit touched — his attempt at a sermonette leads to him sticking his head in the lectern. But the whole group — which also includes Jennie Malone as Denise, Jayson Elliott as Stanley and Bob Payne as Burl — get good moments, and each can play multiple instruments, a feat in itself.
Remarkably wholesome family fun, Smoke on the Mountain continues through Aug. 12 at Beef & Boards, 9301 N. Michigan Road. For reservations, call 317-872-9664 or go to www.beefandboards.com.