2013 Lyceum season preview, theater to open with 'Smoke on the Mountain'

Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Artistic Director Quin Gresham sits on a pew on the set of "Smoke on the Mountain," after talking about the 2013 season line-up on Saturday, April 6.(Kelsey Alumbaugh/Democrat-News)

The 2013 season at the Lyceum Theatre will be different than seasons past. The Lyceum will open with a special show in April instead of close with a special show in November.

On Wednesday, April 17, the Lyceum opens with "Smoke on the Mountain."

Quin Gresham, artistic director at the Lyceum, said they loved the cast of "Sanders Family Christmas" so much they chose to open with the first installment of the trilogy.

"We just loved this cast that we put together for the show," he said.

He noted Director David Hemsley Caldwell has been involved in about 30 productions of the various "Smoke on the Mountain" shows.

Gresham said the set would just need a few changes, like removing the Christmas decorations, but would remain mostly the same because "Smoke on the Mountain" takes place in the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church.

Gresham noted this show would be different because Pastor Mervin Oglethorpe is just getting to know the Sanders family, unlike the other two "Smoke on the Mountain" performances when he already knew them.

"I think for audience members who saw 'Sanders Family Christmas' or saw 'Smoke on the Mountain Homecoming,' this will be really fun because you get to see how it all started," he said.

He also stated unlike the second and third installments, this show has a lot more traditional blue grass music.

"What makes this cast so good at performing this particular show, is their ability to play a wide variety of musical instruments and play them with real skill," Gresham said.

He said there isn't a big, dramatic conflict in the show, but there is the all-important family dynamic that intersects as the play unfolds.

"I guess why I've always responded to these shows is because of the way they are presenting sacred music in a Baptist church in the 1930s, but they're not perfect people," he said.

"Smoke on the Mountain" is rated PG and will be performed from April 17-21.

For one night only, on Saturday, April 27, Todd Meredith and Bill Morey will return to the Lyceum with the Rave-Ons, a Buddy Holly tribute band, for a fundraiser. Tickets are $35 and there will be an auction.

"(Meredith) agreed to come in and do a one-night- only concert for us as a benefit. (It's) pretty close to being sold out at this point," Gresham said. "There's been a real clamor for Todd to be back on the stage."

The regular Lyceum season will open with "The Wizard of Oz" on Friday, June 7, and there will be a season opening party following the performance.

"This is one of the more elaborate shows that we've done," Gresham said, noting it had been performed in 1999 when he played the Tin Man.

Gresham said the Lyceum has evolved its expectations of the show and has big plans for the June 7-16 performance. The show is rated G.

"We're bringing a company in from Las Vegas," he said with a smile. "Flying by Foy is their name and they provide all of the magic necessary to make monkeys fly, to make witches fly and to make Dorothy get swept up in a tornado."

Gresham noted a live dog would also play Toto, or rather, two live dogs named Nigel and Dusty that are trained by William Burloni Theatrical Animals.

Gresham said about 15 kids would be involved in the performance as munchkins and flying monkeys.

Laura Roth of Blackwater, Jackson Wells of Marshall, Emma Betz of Marshall, Drew Arends of Marshall, Malik Evans of Marshall and Lillian Buie of Marshall will all play munchkins in the performance.

"There's also the fact that you have unusual characters that you don't find in other shows," Gresham explained. "The costume director and I have been working together a lot trying to figure out a way to bring all of that magic through the costumes."

Gresham said there were challenges scenically as well.

"Scenically, it's a very complicated show too," he said. "You start off in Kansas -- a flat Kansas prairie, a colorless place. You transition to the multicolored Land of Oz. There are a lot of locations in there so our scenic director is working really hard."

Gresham said the Lyceum has expanded their approach to musicals for the 2013 season.

"'The Wizard of Oz' will feature at least a nine-piece orchestra and we'll have that for all three of those first musicals," he said. "The 'Fiddler on the Roof' orchestra, at least right now, will be on the stage. The other two orchestras will be hidden away."

"Fiddler on the Roof" follows "The Wizard of Oz" and opens on June 22.

The musical is about Tevya, a poor dairyman who tries to instill in his five daughters the traditions of his tight-knit Jewish community in the face of changing social mores and the growing anti-Semitism of Czarist Russia, according to the description of the performance.

"'Fiddler' takes place in one village, so we're focusing more on the dialogue, music and the character relationships," Gresham explained. "As opposed to some shows where you're going to see very literal scenery, with 'Fiddler on the Roof' you don't need it."

Gresham noted there was still a wonderful scenic design that delivers a message of connectivity and responsibility to each other.

"People don't maybe always realize how the thematic content of a show shapes the design of the show," he said.

"Meet Me in St. Louis" is a musical about the Smith family at the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis and how the family's love and respect for each other is tempered with genuine humor and memorable music.

The show is performed from July 10-21 and is rated G.

Opening on July 27 will be "The Nerd." The show runs through Aug. 3 and is rated PG.

The comedy centers on young architect Willum Cubbert, who has often told his friends of a debt he owes to Rick Steadman who saved his life in Vietnam and is delighted to meet Steadman but soon realized he is a bumbling oaf with no social sense, according to the description of the play.

"Agatha Christie's A Murder is Announced" is about the residents of Miss Blacklock's reading in the local newspaper that a murder will take place at their home that evening, and an evening of fun and games turns grisly when a murder does indeed take place, according to the description.

The show, which runs Aug. 10-17, is described as "funny and chilling" and is rated PG.

"Hank Williams Lost Highway" takes the stage next. The show is rated PG.

"We're really happy to have hired a guy named Robbie Limon to play Hank Williams," Gresham said. "He does Hank Williams tribute shows all over the country and has been in several productions of 'Hank Williams Lost Highway.' He really does bring Hank to life on stage."

Gresham said with a show like "Hank Williams Lost Highway," people are coming to hear Hank Williams.

"You have to find somebody that is capable of bringing that real life human being back to life, and Robbie is dynamite for that," he explained.

"Steel Magnolias" opens next and all of the women in that are going to be at the Lyceum for the first time, Gresham noted.

"I was very happy to find a collection of women who are able to bring authenticity to it, but also very lively and able to make it fun," he said.

Gresham said the set design for Steel Magnolias is tricky because people are actually doing hair on stage, which is a whole other element that requires a good amount of rehearsal and also requires running water.

The show runs Sept. 7-15 and is rated PG.

The 2013 Season closes with "Tuna Does Vegas."

"This is the fourth installment in the Greater Tunas series," Gresham said. "In this one, unlike the others, the residents of Tuna end up going to Las Vegas. Unlike the other ones though, we get to meet characters from outside of Tuna. ... It will be fun to incorporate new characters into the show."

Gresham notes there are around 50 costume changes for the two actors, one being Gresham himself, playing all 18 characters.

The show runs from Sept. 21-28 and is rated PG.

Andrea Dotto will be playing Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" and Gresham said she was born to pay the role.

Whit Reichert, who has been doing shows at the Lyceum since 2006, is the Wizard in "The Wizard of Oz," is in "Fiddler on the Roof," he's the grandfather in "Meet Me in St. Louis," he's also the architect's client in "The Nerd," the inspector in "Agatha Christi" and he is in "Hank William's Lost Highway."

"He's a really, really gifted, funny, sincere actor and just about the nicest guy you've ever met," Gresham said of Reichert.

Dana Snyder will be at the Lyceum for the "Wizard of Oz" as the Lion, Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof" and Rick Stedman in "The Nerd."

There are a couple of Marshall residents, Michael Brennan and Harold Hynick. Brennan will be in the "Wizard of Oz" and Hynick will be the rabbi in "Fiddler on the Roof."

Mallory Hawks, who played Jo in "Little Women" when we did that in 2009, she's playing Ester.

"Mallory has an incredible voice and I think audience members are going to have fun hearing her sing those familiar songs," Gresham said.

Michael McKenzie will be playing the father in "Meet Me in St. Louis."

"Again, an actor that I just can't say enough nice things about," Gresham said. "He's wildly intelligent, but also very charismatic and interesting to watch. He'll be with us from 'Fiddler on the Roof' through 'The Nerd.'"

Contact Kelsey Alumbaugh at kalumbaugh@marshallnews.com

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