Can you think of a better time or place for the foot-stomping musical “Smoke on the Mountain” than a summer night at Hackmatack Playhouse in Berwick, Maine?
Set in a tight-knit community that feels right at home in Hackmatack’s barn theater, this musical comedy placed in 1938 rural Tennessee has a small cast and a ton of music.
“This is a really good show for our venue,” said Michael Guptill, executive producer, “It has a country feel to it and is a genuine down-home bluegrass show.”
“Smoke on the Mountain,” the solo show at Hackmatack for their 50th anniversary season, will run Friday, July 29 through Saturday, Aug. 20.
The heartwarming script revolves around the Sanders Family, a band of traveling bluegrass musicians who work in a world where, as Guptill puts it, “people trade bible verses as insults.” The family makes a stop for a Saturday night Gospel concert at a church in the Tennessee hills. During their time at the Gospel concert, hearts are opened, motives revealed, and many laughs are shared.
Jeff Seabaugh, a veteran director at Hackmatack, was motivated to direct this show in part because of his own roots in the south.
“I spent a lot of my life in the South. I know these characters well and the music is so uplifting and exciting,” said Seabaugh, who grew up in Arkansas and went to school in Memphis, Tenn. “And the message of community and family unity is a theme that I always look for in projects.”
When Seabaugh first came to Hackmatack in 1987, he felt an immediate connection to the down-to-earth community and the rural landscape, including Hackmatack’s large fields of livestock, which now consist of bison, chickens, and a rare species of pigs.
“The dedication to family, community, and live music that Michael instills in the energy of Hackmatack resonates with me and is the theme of ‘Smoke on the Mountain,’” said Seabaugh.
For the last five years, Seabaugh has taught theater at the Urban Institute of Mathematics in New York City. Before that, he taught at a junior high school in the Bronx and has worked with theater students in the greater New York area.
Some of his favorite directing experiences have been at Hackmatack, where he directed, “All Shook Up”, “Bye Bye Birdie”, “Driving Miss Daisy”, “Oliver”, and “The Music Man” among other shows.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hackmatack Playhouse, many well-loved veterans of the stage are returning to star as members of the musically talented Sanders family who will be playing their instruments live from the stage.
Emily Zentis of Nashua, NH, will woo the audience by simultaneously acting and playing the piano on stage, while also serving as the production’s music director. She will be joined by her husband, Jacob Zentis, in addition to other local favorites such as Billy Butler and Linette Miles, Hackmatack veterans much loved by audiences for their diverse acting skills and musical abilities.
“Smoke on the Mountain,” will run July 29 to Aug. 20, with shows Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 pm and matinees at 2 pm on Thursdays, with a special 2 pm matinee on Wednesday, Aug. 3. More information and tickets are available by calling 207-698-1807 or at www.hackmatack.org