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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Acacia Theatre’s Uplifting ‘Smoke on the Mountain’

Theater Review

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Acacia Theatre closes out its 30th year with Smoke on the Mountain, a musical filled with traditional hymns and Bible-quoting one-upmanship one Saturday night at the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church.

Set in rural North Carolina in 1938, Smoke tells the story of the singing Sanders Family, who end up taking over the church service from the well-meaning but inexperienced Rev. Oglethorpe (well played by David Duncan III). Given their sheer numbers—there’s guitar- and harmonica-playing dad Burl (David Sapiro), mom Vera (Elaine Wyler) on piano, the twins Denise (Therese Gotcher) and Dennis (Nathaniel Gotcher), the non-twin June (Naomi Tiefel) and Uncle Stanley (Filippo Carini)—and their individual stories, the “congregation” learns much about life’s trials and tribulations through their song and dance (even though dance was forbidden in the church back then).

The ensemble works well together, thanks in part to veteran Acacia actress Wyler (reprising the role) and Sapiro, both of whom mine the depths of their individual monologues, a device used throughout the 110-minute “concert.” Kudos to Therese Gotcher as Denise, who helps to flesh out basic musical instrumentation with her turns on the violin, especially during “Are You Washed in the Blood?” and “The Filling Station.” Those who don’t know individual Bible verses probably will after watching the very funny give-and-take between Wyler and Duncan as to who knows their Bible better.

Smoke on the Mountain celebrates the idea that sometimes the simplest joys of life can be the most uplifting.

Smoke on the Mountain runs through July 18 in the Todd Wehr Auditorium at Concordia University. For more information, visit www.acaciatheatre.com.

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