We were jubilant seeing the Sanders family once again at Temple Theatre in Sanford, NC. They were last seen this past March in Smoke on the Mountain. The Sanders Family Christmas is one of three musicals — among the most performed musicals in the past 20 years, according to Wikipedia — with book written by Connie Ray, conceived by Alan Bailey, with musical arrangements by John Foley and Gary Fagin.
Director/choreographer Peggy Taphorn brought back five of the cast we saw before for this show, and four more who were equally vivacious and talented. This time America has entered the Second World War, so a bit of a pall is in the air at Christmas time, as Dennis Sanders has joined the U.S. Marine Corps and will leave for boot camp shortly.
Despite this, spirits are high, and kept high with the oncoming of the holiday and the wonderful country carols and noels that they harmonize. The Sanders Family Christmas is “Hee Haw” in the chapel as the family brings its strings and other musical devices along with country humor, Bible-quotation competitions and family secrets into the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church for one more night of singalong and preaching.
Stephen N. Moore assumes the role of Pastor Oglethorpe with a sense of devotion and sadness as he mourns the loss of his mother, but Moore has a witty comic style which transcends gloom and keeps us laughing. Burl Sanders is played this time by Richard Daniel, whose fine voice and musicianship made him a delight to hear. The father of twins and the non-singing June and brother of Stanley, and the patient and loving husband of Vera, leads the family troupe as it travels and preaches the Word.
Libby McNeill Seymour gives us Vera Sanders, who plays piano and spouts Good Book quotes at the drop of a hat. Seymour lends a powerful singing voice to the ensemble and has captivating comic style.
Stanley Sanders, the black sheep of the family, is played by Ken Griggs, whose singing voice is just beautiful, and whose expressions as his past is revealed by his young niece are priceless. Dennis Sanders (the boy twin) is played by impish Sean Powell, who also excels in several instruments as well as singing robustly.
Jennie Malone is the musical director who also plays the girl twin (Denise) in a sprightly manner. She plays a wide range of instruments, including accordion, bass fiddle, and washboard, and sings with a magnificent soprano voice.
Marvelously creative Greta Zandstra gives us June Sanders, who “signs, not sings,” with imaginative body motions and hilarious interpretations for people who are deaf, whether there are any in the audience or not. She really is falling-on-the-floor-laughing funny; and Bonita Cox and Holly Hight are the “amen corner” for the church, as Miss Maude and Miss Myrtle.
It has become routine to be entertained before the show by the Temple Teens, a gaggle of 20 or so young people who serenade the audience members as they take their seats, and the tradition is well served in this show as the present old familiar pop Christmas songs — such as great rendition of “Santa Baby” — along with standard carols. Be sure to get there early enough to catch their stylings. It would be a jolly Christmas present to yourself or friends to enjoy this seasonal enchantment.
SECOND OPINION: Dec. 4th Sanford, NC Sanford Herald preview by Zach Potter: http://www.sanfordherald.com/news/sanford/x761896334/Beloved-family-back-at-Temple-for-Christmas; and Nov. 30th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/11/29/4362893_holiday-stage-shows-for-triangle.html.
Temple Theatre presents THE SANDERS FAMILY CHRISTMAS at 8 p.m. Dec. 6, 2 p.m. Dec. 7, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 11, 8 p.m. Dec. 12 and 13, 2 p.m. Dec. 14, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 18, 8 p.m. Dec. 19 and 20, and 2 p.m. Dec. 21 at 120 Carthage St., Sanford, North Carolina 27330.
TICKETS: $21 Thursday and $25 Friday-Sunday ($14 students). For single-ticket discounts, click http://www.templeshows.com/ticketinfo/ticketinfo.php.
BOX OFFICE: 919-774-4155, firstname.lastname@example.org, or https://www.vendini.com/.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): http://www.templeshows.com/ticketinfo/grouppackagesandsales.php.
2014-15 SEASON: http://www.templeshows.com/showsandevents/fullseason14-15.php.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.templeshows.com/, https://www.facebook.com/TheTempleTheatre, and https://twitter.com/TempleTheatreNC.
The Sanders Family Christmas (2000 musical): http://www.samuelfrench.com/p/2131/sanders-family-christmas (Samuel French Inc.).
Connie Ray (Chapel Hill, NC-born playwright): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connie_Ray (Wikipedia).
Peggy Taphorn (Temple Theatre artistic director and director and choreographer of this show): http://www.templeshows.com/about/templestaff.php (Temple Theatre bio) and https://www.facebook.com/peggy.taphorn.7 (Facebook page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.