*** This appeared in the Bristol Herald Courier on Jan. 16. ***
WYTHEVILLE, Va. - Audiences have been sparse for Wohlfahrt Haus' current offering of Smoke on the Mountain due more than likely to blizzards, icy roads, seasonal depression, nauseating politics, pocketbooks left gasping for air following the holidays or some combination of all of these. The truth is, though, that this lively, funny and invigorating show could be just the ticket for helping one weather this winter of our discontent.
Whether you are of a religious bent or not, you'd be hard-pressed not to like the live music because, well, frankly because gospel music flat rocks. All of the seven performers play most all sorts of instruments including banjo, guitar, piano, mandolin, dog house bass, autoharp, cowbells and a big jar of dried pinto beans. The cast includes Andrew Woodruff, Pam Pendleton, Nicholas Landmesser, Josey Montana McCoy, Emily B. Woods, Mattew Frusher and the marvelous Jessica DeHart as June.
Songs include "The Church in the Wildwood," "No Tears in Heaven," "I Wouldn't Take Nothing for my Journey Now," "Bringing in the Sheaves," "Life's Railway to Heaven" and some dozen or so more.
And, although being a comedy as well as a musical, Smoke on the Mountain remains very respectful of country religion even while taking a few good-natured swings at "hard shell" Baptists and Bridge-playing Methodists.
Like a lot of you, I have seen Smoke on the Mountain at least a couple of times, but I never fail to enjoy it because every production is just different enough to be interesting.
Wohlfahrt Haus also puts out a pretty good feed although it's nothing compared to "All Day Preaching and Dinner on the Ground" at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. Of course, in addition to hot coffee, tea and soft drinks, Wohlfahrt Haus does offer potables that you'd never catch a good Baptist drinking.
Smoke on the Mountain "testifies" through March 6, 2011, then, on March 11 it's off down the mighty Mississippi with Huck and Jim in Roger Miller's Big River.
Wohlfahrt Haus is located just off Interstate 81 in Wytheville, Va. For dates, times and reservations, call 1-888-950-3382 or 276-223-0891.