Archive for August, 2011

Fun photos of our SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN cast in action

Well, SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN is in full swing and it’s going like gangbusters. The show plays through September 10th, so we hope you get your tickets soon. Until then, here are some live-action photos of our amazing cast in action. Once again, these were taken by our terrific in-house photographer Ginny Rodgers. Enjoy!

Reservations are available by calling 817-202-0600 and more information is available by visiting

Another Delightful Review of SMOKE, this by Mark Nobles of the Cleburne Times-Review

More positive word is coming in about SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN. This weekend is nearly full, but there are still seats going forward. Read on for a fun critique of the show.


AMEN CORNER RETURNS TO PLAZA FOR ‘SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN’ by Mark Nobles of the Cleburne Times-Review

It’s a family reunion of sorts whenever the Sanders Family rolls into the Plaza Theatre. They have been making regular appearances from the “Smoke on the Mountain” trilogy since the second-ever show staged by the Plaza in the old location in 2007.

This incarnation of the “Smoke” cast is as good as any of the previous and the fresh faces add life and spark no matter how many times you have seen the past productions.

Jonathan Metting likely has the biggest shoes to fill as he steps into the pivotal role of young Rev. Mervyn Oglethorpe. Metting plays the neophyte reverend with perfect comic timing and his shy enthusiasm is endearing and infectious. With all the attention the Plaza has been getting from area theater awards organizations, Metting should clear off space on his mantle because his performance has to be the highlight of any theater company’s season.

Kevin Poole also has to overcome strong past performances as the Sanders Family patriarch Burl. Poole acquits himself admirably and has a strong clear voice that blends perfectly with the ensemble.

Plaza veteran Camille Shaw steps back into the comic role of June Sanders, the one Sanders that does not sing, with zest and energy. June ‘signs’ many of the songs for the hearing impaired in the audience and her gangly pantomimes are both touching and hilarious.

Darcy Farrington revives her role of Vera Sanders, the matriarch of the clan with her usual brilliance. Farrington doesn’t play Vera so much as she simply seems to be the character.

Twins Denise (the boy) and Dennise (the girl) Sanders are portrayed by Andrew Guzman and Kasi Hollowell. Guzman plays the painfully shy Denise with feeling and depth and Hollowell has one of the strongest voices in a cast full of top shelf singers.

JaceSon P. Barrus is the sly one in the cast as the wayward brother Stanley Sanders. Barrus elicits empathy for the character as he struggles with his love for the gospel and attraction to the wild side of life.

The “Amen Corner” ladies of Myrtle and Maude are aptly played by Taffy Geisel and Corliss Cornils. Geisel has played her role a number of times and is the perfect church lady. Cornils steps into the role of Maude for the first time and provides just the right comic timing and self-righteous disapproval needed for the role.

Cheri Mega, Mike Melody, Parker Barrus and Howard Geisel make up the band and as usual are spot on and delightful.

“Smoke on the Mountain” has become an audience favorite at the Plaza because it is an entertaining, touching and funny musical, perfectly produced and performed.

Seating will be in short supply so make reservations early for the entire family. Just be warned that the audience portrays the congregation of the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church so if you are seated close to the stage you might be pressed into the action.

“Smoke on the Mountain” runs through Sept. 10  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

A fantastic review of SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN from Clyde Berry of The Column by John Garcia

Plaza Theatre Company is proud to be presenting SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN thru September 10th on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 with Saturday Matinees every Saturday afternoon at 3pm. Read on for a wonderful review of the show from The Column by John Garcia critic Clyde Berry. Then be sure to call for reservations before the seats are all gone.

_______________________SMOKE ON THE MOUNTAIN______________________

Reviewed by Clyde Barry, Associate Theater Critic
for John Garcia’s THE COLUMN

Each theatre seems to have certain types of pieces for which they are known. One does family friendly, another shows by youth for youth, this one is known for high production values, while that one is known for doing the gay plays. For the Plaza Theatre Company in Cleburne the Smoke series should be considered a staple. The Smoke trilogy is one of the most frequently produced community shows around, on the same level as Pump Boys and Dinettes, or the Forever Plaid series. It’s a jukebox show, in this case of gospel music, which when combined with minimal technical needs makes it a low cost production with high end grosses.

There are those who would think that a gospel revue would be too churchy, judgmental, or otherwise not suited to their theatrical tastes. The Smoke series is undeniably Christian but is neither confrontational nor condemning. The characters in Smoke, namely the Sanders Family Singers, and the Rev. Oglethorpe are dynamic creations that captivate beyond singing.

Their personal stories and relationships are equal parts of the story, and often color the songs performed. Punctuated by monologues that are motivational as well as historically interesting, the book balances well the singing as well as the speaking. Expect the usual church announcements, town busy bodies, and small town bickering, all amusing for anyone who has attended a small town church. For those still uncertain, if the music of “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou” is enjoyable, then this will be, too.

Set in the Great Depression (with ironic similarities to now) the Sanders Family arrives at the Mt. Pleasant Baptist church where a young preacher still earning the respect of his congregation has invited them to perform. The Sanders vehicle flips over en route to the church, and the Rev. stalls a bit for time. Eventually the family shows up and between various solos, trios, and group numbers the family introduces themselves to the audience through various anecdotes.

In the Plaza production a few things are different from the scripted piece. First, instead of playing their own instruments there is a pit made up of “cousins” costumed and interacting with the cast. Plaza usually uses tracked music for their larger musicals but this live sound is quite good. It also frees up the cast to be able to perform without having to hide behind an instrument all evening, making more elaborate staging possible. Also, two church ladies have been added to the cast that are referred to in the script. Sitting in one corner they react and occasionally provoke reactions during the show adding another layer of audience interaction. The audience in the show is treated like the congregation so expect interaction throughout the night.

JaceSon Barrus’ set design uses foam church windows and random planks attached to the walls to establish the inside of the church. A painted wood floor has a few benches and stools ready for the singers to enter. In one corner a piano overlooks the proceedings – a simple and effective design that quickly establishes an accurate location.

The show begins with the arrival of the church ladies (Taffy Geisel and Corliss Cornils) who warm up the audience and improv their way to their corner. Eyes should be kept on them throughout the show, they stay busy. The band waits in the corner as the Reverend shows up and stalls for time while establishing the time and place.

Eventually the Sanders’ trickle in, explain the car accident, and the show within the show begins. A few things need to be sorted out though for logistical reasons. If the musicians are part of the family, how do they arrive early? Also, how do all of the props they use during the singing arrive ahead of time as well? For having been in a vehicle that overturned, everyone is remarkably put together, even folks whose hairdos they say have been ruined. In their rush to the church, how does everyone find time to primp? Also, everyone seems to know exactly where they are going and doing when they arrive; odd for a place they’ve never been to before.

Kevin Poole is the father of the Sanders clan. His Burl Sanders is genial and warm, a man determined to live by his principals even when it makes things harder. Poole ‘s vocals are solid and there is a believable chemistry between he and his wife Vera, played by Darcy Farrington.

Farrington maintains the lovable stern qualities of Vera Sanders but is not afraid to let her have moments of awkwardness or surprise. She is able to discipline her kids with a snap and a look, and has all the credibility of the mother that should not be crossed. Farrington has most of the ballads in the piece and delivers them with a simple honesty and heart that is very moving, and grounds the show in the sincerity of the music.

As the rebellious brother Stanley, JaceSon Barrus manages to sulk, smirk, and sing supportively with his family. Barrus has many moments of shtick with the Rev. who has become infatuated with some of the Sanders ladies. Stanley is the one who is redeemed in each show, showing the most regret for past transactions.

Playing the twins (at this performance) are Kasi Hollowell and Andrew Guzman as Denise and Dennis. Denise is starting to become the rebellious teen, as much as one can in the late 1930’s. Hollowell succeeds in capturing not only Denise’s innocence, but her growing confidence and ambition without resorting to cliché. Her solo singing is good as well. As Dennis, Andrew Guzman captures the shyness and nervousness of the insecure boy with a solid physical character. He looks down, stoops, and maintains a nervous face. When Dennis breaks out, it’s fun but Guzman smartly takes Dennis back to his less secure state for a realistic character.

As the Rev. Oglethorpe, Jonathan Metting brings to life a quirky, enthusiastic, goof. Metting’s facial expressions accurately capture the youthful effusiveness of the character even when relegated to watching large portions of the show from the sidelines. His comedic timing delivers many great moments of awkward revelation.

Lastly, as June Sanders the non-singing sister, Camille Shaw earns many well deserved laughs. June uses a partially made up sign language to translate the performance for the hearing impaired. With lots of percussive props, Shaw slips in and out of numbers, giddily signing and mugging away to get the attention or goat of any of her family present. She has an easy chemistry with her sister and mother, and her physical character serves her antics well.

Kara Barnes’ costumes are period appropriate with suits for the men, and dresses for the ladies. The twins are in matching denim and red, a nice touch. Even the musicians in the pit are dressed up. Cameron Barrus and William Young’s light design is basic but effective. A basic wash serves most of the show but sly shifts into area isolation with subtle color shifts highlight the serious portions of the evening without being obtrusive.

Music Director Cheri Dee Mega has done a great job preparing the cast for this performance. The harmonies are tight, voices clear, and diction good. Howard Geisel has a fun fiddle solo in the middle of one number; it would be nice to hear solos from the others as well.

Smoke on the Mountain is a fun romp through a lovable and slightly dysfunctional family gospel concert. Many of the cast have been in Smoke productions before and are therefore able to slip into these characters quite easily. This helps the “family” really have a believable dynamic even with new cast members. If any quibbles are to be found, it is that sometimes the hijinks garner such laughs that the songs sometimes get lost in the fun.

Bringing up the sound levels of the singing would help compensate for the audience laughter, especially for those who really want to hear the music. While the director note hints that this may be the last Smoke production for quite some time, it would be worth the trip to see what show has helped put this theater on the map.

AUDITIONS – Crazy For You

Crazy for You

August 15th and August 16th, 2011

Call backs are August 20 at 9am to 12pm.
Directed by Jay Lewis
Choreography by Courtney Sikora
Musical Direction by Soni Barrus


Click here to make an audition appointment

Auditions for Plaza Theatre’s production of CRAZY FOR YOU will be held August 15 and 16. Performers should bring a song in their key that best displays their vocal talents and an accompanist will be provided. Tapes are allowed, but no accapella. All roles are open and ages range from 15-70. There are some non-singing/dancing roles available. The production runs five weekends starting Oct. 14th. Dancers should bring appropiate clothes/shoes to dance in for the Saturday callbacks.

CRAZY FOR YOU is a big, splashy, old fashioned, family musical using songs from George & Ira Gershwin original production of ‘GIRL CRAZY’ with the book rewritten by Ken Ludwig (LEND ME A TENOR/MOON OVER BUFFALO fame) and sprinkled in added hits written by the Gershwins used in Astaire/Rogers movies of the 30’s. Memorable Gershwin tunes include I Can’t Be Bothered Now, Bidin’ My Time, I Got Rhythm, Naughty Baby, They Can’t Take That Away from Me, But Not for Me, Nice Work if You Can Get It, Embraceable You and Someone to Watch Over Me.

All roles are open.

Bobby Child (Baritone) – Lead – Age 25-40.
Dreams of performing in the Zangler Follies. Triple threat with charisma. Must be able to tap and partner dance. Polly Baker

Polly Baker (Soprano/Mezzo) – Lead – Age 20-30.
Must partner dance and sing very well. A warm girl-next-door type. Owns the Gaiety Theatre along with her father.

Lottie Child, Bobby’s mother – Age 45-65.
Funny character – Spoken role. Will read at auditions.

Irene Roth (Mezzo) Age 25-35.
Supporting Role. Must move very well. Sophisticated, air and wit.
Society debutant, intent on marrying Bobby and his money.

Lank Hawkins (Baritone/Bass) Age 30-45.
Supporting role. Does not sing solo. Old fashioned villain type
with excellent comic timing. Physical comedy is required. Deadrock’s saloon owner, wants to buy the Gaiety Theatre.

Bela Zangler (Baritone) Age 30-45.
Supporting Role. European accent and sophistication. A bit lecherous.

Everett Baker (Baritone) Age 45-65.
Polly’s father. Warm and wonderful.

Tess – Age 22-32.
Great dancer with long legs and showgirl’s looks. Bela Zangler’s young & pretty mistress.

Patsy – Showgirl with high pitch voice. Comic relief. Must sing/dance

Follies Girls/ Showgirls – Must sing and dance.

Eugene Fodor (Baritone) Age 32-60.
Funny character role. British tourist.

Patricia Fodor (Soproano) Age 30-50.
Funny character role. British tourist.

Cowboy Trio – Mingo, Moose and Sam –
Must sing, tight harmony. 2 tenors and 1 baritone.

Cowboys – Must sing and dance.