The Union Recorder

November 26, 2013

CURTAIN CALL: Many thanks for play’s recent success

Tom Toney
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — “Life is like a mountain railroad, with an engineer that’s brave.  We must make the run successful, from the cradle to the grave...”

The doors of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church (which swing on open hinges) have been closed for now and Allen’s Market will return to its normal trappings.   

The Milledgeville Players’ production of “Smoke on the Mountain” has finished its run.  And there are a lot of folks I want to acknowledge.

First up are our good friends at Allied Arts who partnered with us for this production, helped with ticket sales, and allowed us the use of Allen’s Market, which works so wonderfully for the rural Baptist church setting needed for this play.

Now most of the cast I have mentioned before in this column but as you used to see as the banner at the end of a Universal Studios movie, “a good cast is worth repeating.” So thanks to the wonderful Ken Garland, Leeann Kelley, Leanne Branch, Randy Newton, Daniel Wilkinson and Shelby Cloud.   It was truly an honor and privilege to work with all of you in this production.

Three cast members who I have not mentioned before are Sally Pratt, Ruby Werts and Kay Newton who played Miss Maude and Miss Myrtle.   Well, not all at the same time.  That would have been silly, and heaven forbid that “Smoke on the Mountain” ever get silly.   But they were all involved at one point or another as the little church ladies who were somewhat “bothered” by the idea of some singing family act from another town coming into their church.  Great job, ladies.

John Geist did a wonderful job directing this group of disparate individuals, as he has done in the past with previous Sanders Family plays.  By the end of the run, this cast truly felt like a family and much of that feeling is due to John letting us interact and, to some extent, “do our own thing” to develop each character.  He helped make it a great experience.

The BOBs (box office babes) were wonderful, not only in terms of keeping track of ticket sales, but also in making people feel welcome, providing pickles and hot chocolate during intermission, and performing their own unique versions of “Filling Station” and the Blood Medley in the back regions of Allen’s Market in order to “help out” the cast.  Their enthusiasm was contagious for all.

Zach Pursley was a tremendous help to John as stage manager.  Though this is a small play in terms of sets and props, there are still things that need to be done, and Zach was great in making sure certain details of the sets and lights were taken care of.

Two individuals were not formally “named” members of the cast, though we provided them with names. “Smoke on the Mountain” requires a certain number of musicians and we “augmented” the official cast with Cousin Zach and Cousin Tom.

Zach Jordan played bass and helped set the tempo for so many songs.   Zach has played bass before with the Milledgeville Players, most recently as part of the pit orchestra for “Kiss Me Kate.” Zach is a wonderful young fellow who is a physics major at Georgia College, plays bass in several GC musical groups, and serves in the National Guard. And having that stand-up bass just adds so much to the sound of the Sanders Family plays.

Tom Hicks joined the cast this time around to add his guitar and mandolin playing expertise to the musical mixture.   Tom plays with a number of local bands and really became a part of the family of this play.   He has a great picking style and ended up singing lead in several songs that made up the Transportation Medley.

Finally, many thanks to our audience. To paraphrase my character of Burl “we couldn’t of asked for no better.” Of the eight performances, six were complete sell-outs.   The only two that weren’t were only short of sell-out status by a few seats.   

Based on conversations I had with folks after the play, we had people there from Dublin, Macon, Woodbury, Gainesville, Blairsville, Cobb County, and towns I had never heard of including some place I was told was near the Georgia-Tennessee line.  They had all heard of the Milledgeville Players production of “Smoke on the Mountain” and wanted to be part of it.   And that is quite a compliment.

It was a lot of work but a lot of fun.  So, one more time, “the Sanders Family says thank you.”

Oh, wait a minute.  This column is supposed to inform you about upcoming events, not just dwell on what has already taken place!    So allow me to saunter in that direction.

Actually, this Thanksgiving week is pretty quiet in terms of plays and music.  But things will kick in big-time next week, so let me give a couple of advance notices.

On Friday, Dec. 6, the GC Music Department will present its annual holiday music concert, starting at 7:30 p.m. in Russell Auditorium.

This show will feature performances from the university chorus, wind symphony orchestra, Max Noah Singers, jazz band, women’s ensemble, a smattering of electronic music, and other assorted ensemble groups.

Always a crowd pleaser, and a major fundraiser for the GC Music Department in terms of scholarships for music students, mark it on your calendars now. Besides, it’s always fun to see how many people can fit onto the Russell Auditorium stage at one time!

The following Monday, Dec. 9, will have more holiday music coming at you as the Milledgeville Singers Guild presents their Xmas concert starting at 7 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church on Log Cabin Road.   

The title is “Joyous Voices” and will include traditional favorites as well as new classics like “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” Well, since that particular fave of mine came out in 1953, I’m not sure if you can consider it a “new classic”.  But it certainly is my top 10 Yuletide tunes.

More on both of these copious concerts next week.

So get ready for some great musical holiday entertainment.  And many thanks again for making “Smoke on the Mountain” a great success and a wonderful experience for all those involved.

Cousin Tom kicks off the final song of the Transportation Medley with “Life Is like a Mountain Railroad.” And I actually had someone come up to me after the final Sunday performance telling me how much that song meant to her. Her father was a train engineer and would sing that song.  She had not heard it in any other context for years until she attended the final performance of “Smoke on the Mountain.”

“Watch the curves, the hills, the tunnels, never falter, never fail.  Keep your hand upon the throttle, and your eye upon the rail.”

Catch you on the flip side.

Contact Tom Toney at