Archive for September, 2010

A very nice review for SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN HOMECOMING from The Star Group

Well y’all, the Smoke on the Mountain juggernaut keeps chugging along with another great review from The Star Group. You can read it below.  If you haven’t yet reserved for this show, please do so as soon as possible. SMOKE closes October 23rd (which is closer than you think). Read below:


Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and here’s hoping you get a burning desire to get your hands on the hottest tickets in town to see “Smoke on the Mountain, Homecoming.”

It’s the current production of the Plaza Theatre Company, playing through Oct. 23 at the Plaza Theatre in Cleburne.

This one is not simply Plaza-quality good, it’s outstanding.

Usually, humor and hymns are not paired in a musical, but this one works because of the setting  — a church — the occasion — a send-off for the pastor and welcome to the new one — and the terrific voices of the Plaza troupe which blends together in 24 church stalwarts such as “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” “Standing on the Promises,” and “I Love to Tell the Story.”

Think side-splitting comedy at a Gaither Homecoming concert, where every song is sung by the Hoppers or the Isaacs — when they really want to harmonize on an old favorite — minus the nasal nuisances of Jeff and Sherry Easter.

The setting is Saturday night, Oct. 6, 1945, two months after V-J Day, at the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Chatham County, N.C.

The audience serves as the congregation and is welcomed by Maude (Priscilla Nix) and Myrtle (Judy Barnett), the Bible-toting, scowling, every-church-has-them little-ol’-ladies who have occupied their seats forever in “Amen Corner.”

The story — the third of a trilogy — is a farewell to Pastor Mervin Oglethorpe (Kyle Macy) and his wife, June (Camille Shaw) who have accepted a call to “Wildarado,” to pastor a newly established Baptist church in the wild and woolly plains of West Texas. The farewell is organized by Burl and Vera Sanders, (Aaron Siler and Darcy Farrington), patriarch and matriarch of the Sanders Family Gospel Singers, which includes grown twins Dennis (Andrew Guzman) and Denise (Jill Baker) and would include older sister June (Shaw) if only she could sing.  But she can’t. Instead, she signs the words — not according to American Sign Language-established images — but according to her own, unique and hilarious imagination and invention.

The going-away service for the Oglethorpes is also a reunion for the Sanders family, who haven’t sung together for five years while Dennis went off to war, Denise had a family — she and her off-stage husband are parents to a pair of rambunctious boys — and Stanley (JaceSon Barrus), Burl’s elbow-bending brother who was good enough to break away from the family to embark on a solo singing career — was serving time for his wayward ways.

The Sanders celebrate by quoting Bible texts to fit every situation and spontaneously breaking into hymns, accompanied on the piano by musical director Cheri Mega and a combination of Bob Gracey, Aaron Lett and Mike Medley on the bass and Bill Ware on the banjo.

Each member of the family takes a few minutes to deliver a monologue, a sort-of testimonial or brief summary of their station in life.

The themes are poignant (Barrus), historical and philosophical (Siler), and revealing (Farrington, Guzman, Baker and Shaw). All are delivered with the emotion, timing and passion that has become synonymous with the talent on display at the Plaza Theatre Company.

Siler, who along with Barrus is one of the founding producers of the PTC, is usually content to play a supporting role on stage while taking major responsibilities off-stage. This time, you can see why the theater, along with his family, is his life. He not only is perfect as the family patriarch, his harmonizing with Barrus and Farrington on “A Little at a Time,” and with Farrington on “The Far Side Banks of Jordan,” is really, really good. Somehow, he also manages to direct the production and provide the sound design.

Regular Plaza attendees know Barrus can sing from his lead in “Will Rogers Follies,” but in “Smoke,” he delivers a great monologue about  his wayward life, followed by a solo of “Come Around,” which gets right to the point. Meanwhile, Farrington, Guzman, and Baker are outstanding singers and are a delight to listen to in everything they do.

There are some silly songs, too, such as Baker, Guzman and Shaw collaborating on “The Royal Telephone,” and Macy and Shaw in “Round-Up in the Sky,” and some serious songs, especially Baker’s rendition of “Children Talk to Angels.”  You’ll enjoy PTC veteran Farrington’s take on a “children’s story” about Jesus being the pilot of our lives and the accompanying toy airplane demonstrations.

Woven throughout the musical numbers is the “signing” of Shaw, who is funny, funny, funny as she uses her entire body and a few clever props to convey the meaning of the words.

Watch her facial expressions, the expressions of the actors on the periphery of the main action and — every now and then — catch a glimpse of the ladies in Amen Corner as they react with shock and disgust to just about everything.

Many Keene residents will find the monologue of Dennis (Guzman) very interesting as he tells why, while serving in the Army, he decides to become a pastor. He relates the story of Jessie Jakes, a fellow soldier whose observance of his Sabbath and desire to read his Bible result in ridicule from the men. The harassment continued, Guzman says in his monologue, until the unit was fighting the Japanese on Okinawa and Jakes saved many of the men, lowering them one-by-one over an escarpment, telling his commanders to let him climb back up and “save  just one more.”

I knew the story immediately and other Keene residents will, also, recognize the similarities — even the alliteration in the name, “Jessie Jakes,” to that of Desmond Doss, the Seventh-day Adventist unarmed Army conscientious objector whose harassment for observing his Sabbath and reading his Bible was followed by his actions on Okinawa — saving more than 50 men by lowering them over an escarpment, losing his Bible and the entire fighting cease while soldiers looked for and found it.  Wow, how unexpected and unusual. Listen for it when Guzman delivers his monologue. Listen, too, for Guzman’s mellow tenor voice on his songs, especially during the four-song Prophet Medley in Act II.

When Plaza opened in 2007, one  performance of “Smoke” attracted an audience of three people, Siler said in his director’s notes in the playbill. Now, PTC has more than 850 season ticket holders with sales for 2011 to be capped at 1,000.

This is a must see. I was in the audience Thursday, Sept. 16, and was back again the following Saturday night. And I’ll be back again for this funny, inspirations and thoroughly enjoyable trip back in time.

Conceived by Alan Bailey and written by Connie Ray with musical arrangements by Mike Craver, “Smoke on the Mountain, Homecoming,” with technical direction and light design by Cameron Barrus; costumes designed by Tina Barrus; set design, painting and construction by JaceSon Barrus and Cody Vernon, is presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 23 at the Plaza Theatre, 111. S. Main in Cleburne.

Tickets — $12 for adults, $10 for age 65 and older, $10 for students and $9 for age 12 and under — are available at the box office or by calling 817-202-0600.

CAST LIST for Over the River and Through the Woods at Plaza Theatre

Hello y’all, we at Plaza Theatre are looking forward to our next production – the wonderful and touching OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS. And we have an outstanding cast to match the fantastic script. The show is under the direction of Kevin Poole. The amazing cast is as follows (double cast where noted) –

NICK – Andrew Guzman, Aaron Lett
CAITLIN – Jill Etheridge, Annalee Herron
EMMA – Trich Zaitoon,  (U.S. Shauna Lewis)
FRANK – Dick Helmcamp
NUNZIO – Burl Procter
AIDA – Julie Hefner

OVER THE RIVER AND THROUGH THE WOODS opens at Plaza Theatre Company on Friday, October 29th and plays every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm and Saturday afternoons at 3pm through November 20th. Come see what this exceptional cast does with this amazing play.

Dear Cleburne Residents,

Dear Cleburne residents,

Our friends at Carnegie Players need your help. A vote is coming up at the Cleburne city council that could SEVERELY limit Carnegie’s ability to continue it’s over 30 year run of providing outstanding entertainment in our community. If you are a Cleburne resident/voter, please contact your local council member in support of Carnegie. Specifically, ask them to ease restrictions on Carnegie’s ability to produce shows in the new conference center theater. We at Plaza strongly believe Carnegie deserves this support. Don’t wait, make your voice heard in support of this exceptional arts organization today.

Plaza Theatre Company

AUDITIONS! – A Christmas Carol 2010

It’s time to cast Plaza’s bi-annual production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Information about the show, the audition, what’s required and so on can be found below. If you are looking for a way to make the holiday season even more special, consider auditioning for A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Watching folks leave the show with a greater appreciation for the real meaning of Christmas is a thrill beyond words. Hope to see y’all there.
Oct. 4th & 5th, 2010
7pm – 10pm at the Plaza Theatre Company
111 S. Main St, Cleburne, TX
…Auditions are by appointment only
Audition appointments can be made online at or by calling the Plaza Theatre Box Office at 817-202-0600.

The show will be Directed by JaceSon & Tina Barrus with Musical Direction by Christine Atwell.


Those auditioning are asked to come prepared to sing 32 bars of music in the style of traditional Christmas Carols that will best display their vocal ability. An accompanist will be provided. Additionally, auditioners will be asked to read cold from the script during the initial audition. The directors will spend around 5 to 10 minutes with each individual auditioner at this initial audition.
A call back audition will be held on Saturday October 9th at 9am. Those auditioners who the Directors wish to see further will be invited to the call back audition which may last up to 4 hours time. PLEASE REFER TO THE PLAZA AUDITION GUIDELINES AS WELL AS THE PLAZA AUDITION CREDO WHEN PREPARING YOUR AUDITION FOR A CHRISTMAS CAROL. The guidelines and Credo can be found at


The production will play on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings and Saturday afternoons opening on November 26th and playing through December 23rd. Rehearsals will commence on October 11th and take place Monday thru Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings till opening. No Sunday rehearsals or performances.


Our semi-annual production of this timeless Christmas tale is back again for 2010. You’ll thrill to our original adaptation of this majestic story of change and forgiveness as the cantankerous Scrooge sees his life from the past, present and future. A wonderful holiday event for the whole family!


Ebenezer Scrooge – The miserly owner of a nineteenth century London counting-house. (M 45-60)
Charles Dickens / Scrooge’s Nephew Fred – The Narrator who tells the story throughout as well as taking the role of Scrooge’s Nephew Fred, a genial man who loves Christmas. (M 30-45)
Bob Cratchit – Scrooge’s clerk, a kind, mild, and very poor man with a large family.(M 35-50)
Tiny Tim – Bob Cratchit’s young son, crippled from birth. (M 5-7)
Mrs. Cratchit – Bob Cratchit’s wife and the Mother of Bob’s 6 children. (F 30-45)
Jacob Marley – In the living world, Ebenezer Scrooge’s equally greedy partner. Marley died seven years before the narrative opens. He appears to Scrooge as a ghost condemned to wander the world bound in heavy chains. Marley hopes to save his old partner from suff ering a similar fate. (M 45-60)
The Ghost of Christmas Past – The first spirit to visit Scrooge. (F – 6-9)
The Ghost of Christmas Present – The second spirit to visit Scrooge. (M 35-60)
The Ghost of Christmas Future – The third and final spirit to visit Scrooge, a silent phantom clad in a hooded black robe. (M)
Mr. & Mrs. Fezziwig – The jovial merchant with whom the young Scrooge apprenticed. (M / W 40-60)
Belle – A beautiful woman who Scrooge loved deeply when he was a young man. (W 20-30)
Peter Cratchit – Bob’s oldest son. (M 11-13)
Martha Cratchit – Bob’s oldest daughter. (F 13-15)
Little Fan – Scrooge’s sister in flashback. (F 10-12)
Charity Men – Two gentlemen who visit Scrooge at the beginning of the tale seeking charitable contributions. (M 30-65)
Old Joe, Laundress, Charwoman – People who steal Scrooge’s belongings when he’s dead. (M / W / W 30-65)
Fred’s Wife – Fred’s very high class but fun-loving wife. (W 25-40)
Topper / Topper’s Girl – Party Guests at Fred’s Christmas party. (M / W 20-35)
Double Quartet – Characters who support narration and sing while playing some of the main characters as well. (4M 4F)

Review – Smoke on the Mountain Homecoming

Hey Plaza fans,

Yesterday, Plaza’s production of SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN HOMECOMING received a fantastic review from Mark Nobles of the Cleburne Times-Review. We are so proud of this cast and this show and we know you’re gonna love it too. Most dates still have availability, so make plans soon to see the show. It plays now thru October 23rd. Don’t procrastinate – reserve today.

Here is the review in its entirety for your reading pleasure:

September 15, 2010

‘Smoke’ sequel hits the stage: Can I get an Amen?

By Mark A. Nobles/Special to the Times-Review Wed Sep 15, 2010

Plaza Theatre brings back the Sanders Family gospel singers and all the good folks from the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church for the final act in the “Smoke on The Water” trilogy. Don’t be scared off if you missed the first two installments, “Smoke on the Mountain” and “A Sanders Family Christmas.” Knowledge of the goings-on in the first two plays is not required to enjoying this production.

Set two months after VJ Day in 1945, young Rev. Mervin Oglethorpe and his pregnant wife, June, are set to take off for a new church in Texas. June’s brother, Dennis, is stepping into the Mount Pleasant pulpit and the entire Sanders family has come to see Mervin and June off into the wilds of West Texas.

“Homecoming” features more than 20 songs, mostly old-time gospel numbers, impeccably performed by a strong cast of singers.

For the first two stagings of the “Smoke on the Mountain” trilogy the Plaza managed to keep the cast completely intact. New actors have been cast in some of the roles this go-round.

The two most notable cast changes are in the roles of Mervin and June. Kyle Macy steps in for Kyle Adams as Mervin, and Camille Shaw replaces Danielle Beacham as June.

Macy is superb as Mervin and plays the character with the appropriate dollops of good-hearted goofiness. His rendition with Shaw of “Round up in the Sky” is a highlight.

Shaw has the biggest shoes to fill as Beacham’s June was a hit in the two previous productions. Shaw’s portrayal of June is a little less gangly but every bit as hilarious as Beacham’s. Given the physical demands of the character and the fact that in the play June is eight months pregnant, Shaw’s performance is a revelation.

G. Aaron Siler and Darcy Farrington reprise their roles as Burl and Vera Sanders and are once again spot on in their performances.

The role of wayward Uncle Stanley is a little short-changed in this installment of the trilogy, but JaceSon P. Barrus is once again touching and funny in the role.

Andrew Guzman and Jill Baker play the twins Dennis and Denise and both are exceptional. Baker has a standout moment in the first act with a beautiful rendition of “Children Talk to Angels.”

Judy Barnett and Priscilla Nix play the elderly church ladies Maude and Myrtle. The pair inhabits “Amen Corner” and are constantly nipping at the proceedings and should not be ignored.

The praise band consists of Cheri Dee Mega on piano, Bill Ware on guitar and Mike Melody on bass. This trio is utterly amazing and provides the drive for the entire show.

“Smoke on the Mountain Homecoming” is funny, touching, heart warming and will fill your heart with joy. The show will appeal to everyone in the family from 8 to 80 and you can even sing along with the cast.

“Smoke on the Mountain Homecoming” runs through Oct. 23 at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, with two performances Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. For information, call 817-202-0600 or visit

Season Ticket Open House – 2010

It was a wonderful kick-off to Plaza’s 2011 Season last night as 2010 Season Ticket holders attended the Season Ticket Open House at Plaza Theatre Company. Musical numbers from many of PlazaCo’s 2011 season were sung by the likes of Christine Atwell, David Cook, Milette Siler and Tabitha Barrus as Season Ticket holders got a sneak peek at some of the amazing productions that will take center stage at Plaza in 2011. The food was great and the atmosphere very exciting. Current Season Ticket holders have renewal priority now through October 3rd. On October 4th, Season Tickets will be available to the general public. This year, Plaza will only sale 1,000 Season Tickets, so don’t miss out on your chance to enjoy every show at Plaza at a great discount.

Here are some pix of last night’s event:

Thanks Season Ticket holders, singers and volunteers. The 2010 Season Ticket Open House was a booming success. It’s going to be an amazing year.

Smoke on the Mountain Homecoming – PHOTOS!

These are some lovely shots of SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN HOMECOMING’s opening night. They were taken by Plaza’s favorite photographer Ginny Rodgers. Enjoy. (And come see the show).