Sanders family back for holiday sequel
By Andrea Faiad
LANESBORO -- The Sanders family, made popular in the often performed "Smoke on the Mountain" musical, will sing again this holiday season when the sequel "Sanders Family Christmas" opens at the Commonweal Theater Company.
This time around, it's Christmas Eve 1941. Reverend Oglethorpe has invited the more or less devout Sanders Family Singers to perform and witness at the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. Between struggles with electric Christmas lights and sibling rivalries, the family raises the spirits of the tiny congregation, only three weeks after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and President Roosevelt's declaration of war.
"The play is not about war but about what brings people together and what allows people to deal with times of conflict and times of trouble," said Marc Parees, who's making his Commonweal directing debut and whose credits include Boomerang Theater Company and the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab in New York. "There's something interesting about evoking that time in history for us now."
The play features the Commonweal's resident actors (Stela Burdt, Scott Dixon, David Hennessey, Eric Knutson, Eric Lorentz Bunge, Adrienne Sweeney and Jill Underwood,) all of whom play their own instruments for the more than 20 bluegrass tunes and gospel hymns featured in the production.
"It's really exciting whenever people have history together," Parees said about directing the close-knit cast. "There's a richness to what they bring to their interactions with each other that already exists."
Like "Smoke on the Mountain," which found the Sanders family at Mount Pleasant Baptist in 1938, "Sanders Family Christmas" was written by Connie Ray and Alan Bailey.