Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre Smoke on the Mountain

By • Oct 13th, 2009 • Category: Reviews
Smoke on the Mountain by Connie Ray, Musical Arrangements by Mike Craver and Mark Hardwick
Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre
Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre, Woodbridge, VA
Through November 29th
$41.95-$44.95(Adults)/$35(Ages 11-15)/$25/Ages 10 and under)
2:30, with one intermission
Reviewed October 10th, 2009

Smoke on the Mountain is a Saturday evening church service of personal “testimonies” pieced together with gospel music. It is driven by characters rather than plot, which can be a liability when not all the characters are engaging. The music was generally good. Visually, set design and dressing were decent, but costumes left something to be desired. Lazy Susan did not deliver the “expert” Broadway-scale production that its site claims.

Individual characters telling their stories gave the evening a disjointed feeling. There was no real conflict, climax, or overarching moral to be found. The actors and audience were led through an aimless Saturday night singing to its lackluster conclusion. This show caters to a niche crowd of folks who can recognize and appreciate Baptist denominational rules.

I didn’t like this production’s interpretation of the script, it was too weak and slow. The evening had a lot of sitting without much action or movement. There was a lot of soul in the script and I’m not sure it was done justice by a cast of white folks with fake southern drawls.

George Rouse (Pastor Mervin Oglethorpe) looked dead on his feet through the entire performance. His eyes followed other characters robotically which had the effect of being downright creepy. Kathleen McCormack (Denise) did not have a lot of facial expression and her body acting was very minimal. Cathy Kidwell‘s portrayal of Vera Sanders left me puzzled, because I could never quite figure out her character’s personality. However, her recorded-piano-playing acting was very convincing. Jan Forbes (Burl Sanders) and Jeffrey Bryce Davidson (Stanley Sanders) both appeared comfortable in their roles and made their characters believable. Despite minimal dialogue, Katherine Lipovsky (June Sanders) was my favorite actor. Her facial expressions and silent acting made her character the most engaging.

Soloists were good in voice quality, pitch, and tone, but not always in volume. Ensemble numbers were especially nice because the voices of the singers blended pleasantly. I’ve observed far too often that a group of very good soloists can make a bad ensemble, but that was happily not the case here.

The vocalists had obviously practiced a lot with the authentic sounding, old-timey piano recording. Their comfort was evident and made for some delightful performances. The Sanders men played their guitars onstage. Forbes also played two other stringed instruments which demonstrated his versatility and reinforced the musical nature of the Sanders family.

Visually, the set was well constructed. There was no question that it was a little, old-time church. The way it was dressed confused me as it seemed odd to have random chairs onstage that were never used for anything. An antique pulpit gave the production an added sense of authenticity, but blocked the whole upstage area and forced the actors to the front six feet of the stage.

The costumes were all right, but not fabulous. For a professional dinner theater, costuming seemed rather thrown together. There was no continuity of dress in style, color, or personality among the Sanders family. Pastor Oglethorpe’s costume was very appropriate, especially his waistcoat. As with its acting, this production had its trials sprinkled with blessing.

The idea behind Smoke on the Mountain is quaint, but not for a dinner theater. The Lazy Susan promised a Broadway quality production, but I would not pay to see this on Broadway any day.

Since Lazy Susan is a dinner theater, I suppose it behooves me to address the “dinner” aspect of the evening. The bar opens at 6pm for cocktails (if you like citrus, you should try the Magna Grande), but dinner is not served until 7pm with the show following at 8:30pm (or earlier if the house is small). The food was not quite “atrocious” as had been reported to me, but the buffet was hit-and-miss. Everything was palatable, but those with discerning tastes may find the selection wanting.


  • Pastor Mervin Oglethorpe: George Rouse
  • Burl Sanders: Jan Forbes
  • Vera Sanders: Cathy Kidwell
  • Stanley Sanders: Jeffrey Bryce Davidson
  • Denise Sanders: Kathleen McCormack
  • June Sanders: Katherine Lipovsky

Production Staff

  • Director: Jim Mumford
  • Producers: Harold E. Gates, Glenn D. Gates
  • Stage Manager: George Rouse
  • Musical & Vocal Director: John Edward Niles
  • American Sign Language Consultant: Amy Fournier
  • Lighting Designer: Jeanne Forbes
  • Set Construction: Reggie Eusebio, Aaron Richardson
  • Set Painting/Set Dressing: Karol Kaldenbach, Linda Shaw
  • Technical Staff: Aaron Forbes, Jeanne Forbes, Jesse Forbes
  • Costumes: Reggie Eusebio, Jennifer Pelath

Disclaimer: Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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is a student of Speech and Communication at Northern Virginia Community College. She has been involved in the performing arts since the age of five when she debuted as the Little Red Hen on an elementary school stage. Her career includes both national and international ensemble performances with semi-professional choirs, various roles in community and college musicals (both onstage and off), as well as co-directing drama camp for Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, VA.

One Response »

  1. First of all, I feel I should say that I attend Lazy Susan productions often, and I enjoy them very much. As some shows are better and more entertaining than others (such is life), this show is actually very charming and quaint. I fear, though, that Ms. Davis didn’t put a lot of effort into researching the background. Yes, “Smoke on the Mountain” is a bit of an obscure show. It was never meant for Broadway, and therefore can not be compared to a Broadway production. And dinner theatre is the *perfect* venue as it is an intimate setting. The story is based loosely on the Carter family (there’s even a “June”, hmm…) and is set in the back hills of NC, in the late *1930s*. It is not a Baptist church from the “nowadays.” These people were poor and didn’t have much, nor were they “worldly wise.” They were also in a *church* in the *1930s*. If you expected dancing and “holy rollers” you should have looked for a show a couple of decades down the road. All of that being said, I find it a little bit racist, actually, to say that the music/show couldn’t be done justice by a “cast of white folks with fake southern drawls.” In regarding your comment about the food, it’s okay to not enjoy it. We all have different tastes, but to comment that the food was “not quite “atrocious” as had been reported to me” doesn’t seem very objective, and actually left me wanting as to your credibility. I’m sorry that the show wasn’t to your liking. I brought my entire *church-going* family to see it, and everyone enjoyed it immensely. The audience that night, which seemed to be a couple of different church groups of different denominations) also seemed quite entertained, even hugging the actors and thanking them profusely on the way out the door. Some even commented on how closely it was to a real church service! I’m not sure when you saw the show, but maybe you should go back and reevaluate with this extra information. Maybe then, we could take your review a little more seriously.