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Playhouse favorite returns: Smoke on the Mountain runs Sept. 22-Oct. 16
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CUMMING -- One of the most beloved musicals to ever grace the Cumming Playhouse stage is returning again this fall.

“Smoke on the Mountain” — the story of the Sanders, a quirky Christian family band, as they make their return to the Gospel music circuit during a Saturday night church singing in 1938 — begins its four-week run on Sept. 22.

Linda Heard, executive director of the Cumming Playhouse, said “Smoke on the Mountain” was first produced not long after the Cumming Playhouse opened by Playright Productions, a group that has since disbanded after enjoying five sell-out seasons.

“This show was one of the first to really put the Cumming Playhouse on the map,” Heard said. “It remains one of the few shows in the history of the Playhouse to completely sell out almost every performance.”

In 2015, the show was picked up by SwanRise Productions and returned to the Playhouse stage using all local talent. The Skillet Lickers, a multi-generational bluegrass band based in Dacula, was tapped to provide musical accompaniment for the cast.

Audiences who saw the 2015 return of “Smoke on the Mountain” will likely be pleased to see many of the same faces in this year’s show. The Skillet Lickers will be returning, as will most of the cast members.

Glenda Gray, director of this year’s production, said she was thrilled to return to this special show. Last year she portrayed Vera Sanders and will be reprising that role this year in addition to directing.

“‘Smoke on the Mountain’ is truly good for the heart,” Gray said. “In a world that is proliferated with negativity and violent reports, we could all use something to lift our spirits — and this show does just that.

“Filled with hilarity and truly sweet moments of familial devotion, this show is a breath of fresh air for the soul.”

Russ Tanner, a fourth generation member of the Skillet Lickers, said the band members were all equally happy when they heard they had been invited to return this year.

“Many of us had never seen this show before last year’s production,” Tanner said. “But we all fell in love with it after just a few rehearsals.

This is a great group of folks and a show that anybody — especially anybody who grew up in the South — can really relate to, and it is simply hilarious. We were still laughing just as much during the 16th performance as the first performance.”

Gray said another aspect of “Smoke on the Mountain” that makes it so enduring is the spirit of community that has developed among the cast and that the show seems to inspire for audiences.

“All of us in the cast, especially having worked together for two years now, have developed a great bond. We are really like the Sanders in that we have all become a ‘Smoke on the Mountain’ family,” she said. “The true affection that we all have for one another will be apparent to our audiences.”

Heard added that over the years this show, probably more than any other at the Playhouse, has brought the community together.

“It has become like a family reunion or revival that people want to come back to time after time,” she said.

While much remains the same in this year’s production as last, which saw almost sold-out audiences for every performance, Gray said she and the cast wanted to create something even more special this year.

“We have been working really hard to build on the quality that we established last year and to just take it to a higher level,” she said.

“We’ve added a couple more songs, we’ve been working to perfect all of the harmonies, and we’ve done some things that will bring the audience into the show even more.”

She noted that anyone interested in seeing this year’s show should act quickly to get their tickets since they are already selling fast.

“I’m very proud of the cast and crew that breathe life and a deep-seated sense of community into this well-loved musical. The Skillet Lickers add the gift of amazing bluegrass, making this truly a must-see event of the season.”

“Smoke on the Mountain” runs Thursdays-Sundays Sept. 22 to Oct. 16 at the Cumming Playhouse, 101 School Street. Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances begin at 8 p.m., while Sunday performances begin at 3 p.m. Tickets are $27.50, or $25 for seniors or students, veterans, and groups of 25 or more. They can be purchased at www.playhousecumming.com or by calling (770) 781-9178.