It was a 1963 station wagon with six musicians and their equipment.
When Tony Butala reminisces about the beginning of The Lettermen, a legendary vocal trio, he remembers crisscrossing America, playing upwards of 200 shows a year in the early 1960s. Starting the ensemble in 1957, Butala created one of the most successful acts of an era where vocal style and intricate songwriting reigned supreme.
On a recent crisp early winter evening, hundreds of folks from around Western North Carolina and beyond converged onto the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts in Franklin.
“This year, 2013, was a great year for us,” said Paul Garner, manager of the SMCPA. “We’re always going to strive to do better, always step it up, always wanting to treat artists better, always wanting to treat our patrons better. We have a great year planned for 2014.”
You’ve sung it in the shower, in the car with the windows rolled down, at weddings, in karaoke bars, and perhaps just because you simply can’t get it out of your head.
“All Out of Love” by Air Supply is a melody that’s inescapable. It overtook the world and, decades later, still resonates deeply in those who continue to support the beloved classic soft rock group.
We’ve all done it.
At a middle school dance, high school prom, college formal, wedding reception, anniversary celebration, New Year’s Eve or perhaps on your kitchen floor during a lazy Saturday morning.
It’s “The Twist,” and Western North Carolina better watch out.
The Golden Dragon Acrobats will grace the stage of the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 6. Tickets are $15 to $20.
The Golden Dragon Acrobats feature performers who have been trained in acrobatics since early youth and have appeared around the globe in more than 65 countries since inception in 1985. They are the only Chinese acrobatic company touring year-round in the United States
They combine acrobatics, traditional dance, spectacular costumes, ancient and contemporary music and theatrical techniques to present a unique show for all ages.
866.273.4615 or visit greatmountainmusic.com.
Everybody loves a classic. At least that’s what the minds behind Franklin’s Overlook Theater Company were banking on when they put together the lineup for their 2011 season.
They’ll be putting on shows that embody every definition of the word classic, from the Broadway staple “Guys n’ Dolls” to adaptations of some of the world’s most beloved children’s books in “Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss” and “Narnia,” a two-act version of the Chronicles of Narnia.
The company will be taking on musical classics as well, opening the season with “Delovely,” a celebration of Cole Porter’s timeless tunes, following the yellow brick road to a production of MGM’s “The Wizard of Oz” and listening to the hills come alive with the Julie Andrews hit, “Sound of Music.” They’ll end the season channeling a modern comedy classic with a rendition of Disney’s side-splitting tale of sorcery in the Middle-Eastern sands, “Alladin.”
Creative Director Scotty Corbin said that the troupe arrived at the idea after seeing the stress and worry that the still-slumping economy is bringing into American life. He wants the company’s shows this year to be a haven where people can come enjoy the good, simple fun of a timeless production, a space to step away from the stress of modern life, if only for a few hours.
“Everything has to do with a good, old-fashioned time in the theater,” said Corbin. “We want this year to be able to provide a place where people can laugh and clap and have a good time in the theater.”
And maybe, he said, even be a part of it themselves.
The company was started back in 1996, when Corbin and a few friends decided to stage a show in a barn, to general appreciation from attendees and performers alike. The show grew into a tradition, that grew into a passion, that grew into a company that now has a state-of-the-art venue to call home. They bounced around to different stages around the Macon County area, but with the opening of the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts, they’ve found a permanent nesting place that is ideal for their busy calendar.
Putting on such a full season of ambitious shows takes a veritable army of cast, crew and volunteers that are a mix of amateur, professional and semi-professional thespians. For a full-on Broadway musical like “Guys n’ Dolls,” the company will need up to 80 people to pull off the show every night, and they’re proud to say that they pull participants from all walks of life.
“A lot of these young people who come, they started at a young age and every year we see the improvement that takes place,” said Nikki Corbin, who heads up marketing and publicity for the company. “It’s allowing people the opportunity to be able to perform and to be able to do something that we love to do, to discover the talent within.”
The company, she said, is committed to fostering that artistic discovery and expression within the community, offering a shared experience for the audience, the cast and crew and the local community.
That, said Scotty Corbin, is what drives their desire to keep costs low. The shows they’re gearing towards children and families — “Aladdin” and “Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss,” just to name a couple — are just $10 per adult ticket. For larger, mainstage-style productions like the “Wizard of Oz” and “Guys n’ Dolls,” they’ll top out their ticket prices at $13 in an effort to keep it affordable for anyone who wants to have the magical experience of live theater.
“It’s all about letting the community have a great experience together,” said Scotty Corbin. “We want to make it extremely affordable so as many people as possible can come. You can bring your entire family hopefully for the price of one ticket at a larger venue.”
For every show, they hold open auditions that will be listed in advance online and announced through their e-mail list, and Corbin encourages anyone who is interested to come out and give it a shot.
In addition, they’ve got a local talent show that’s become a staple of their season, and, he said, they’re excited to see the quality performances that locals bring to the table this year.
As they go into the 2011 season, Scotty Corbin is excited about where theater in Western North Carolina is going, and he hopes that this season of classics will help solidify his company as a classic part of the region’s entertainment scene.
“Not only is it an entertainment venue, it’s a place where people can come nurture their talents and grow and learn,” Corbin said. “The sky’s the limit the way we’re looking at it. We just want everything we do to be as top quality as we can possibly be and hopefully each time make it better.”
For more information, visit www.greatmountainmusic.com or call 828.349.5856.
• “De Lovely,” (a dinner show featuring music of Cole Porter) Feb 3, 4, 5
• “Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss,” March 1 and 3
• “The Sound of Music,” April 14, 15, 16, 17
• “Who’s Got Talent,” a local talent competition, May 31
• “Guys and Dolls,” June 23, 24, 25, 26
• “Narnia” (a two-act play based on the Chronicles of Narnia), Aug. 4, 5, 6, 7
• “Who’s Got Talent,” Sept. 27
• “The Wizard of Oz,” Nov. 3, 4, 5, 6
• Disney’s “Aladdin,” Dec. 13 and 15
The renowned Oak Ridge Boys will play at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 17 at the Smoky Mountain Performing Arts Center in Franklin.
The Oak Ridge Boys have carved out a huge following with their unmistakable four-part harmony. They have produced dozens of hit songs including “You’re the One in a Million,” “I’m Settin’ Fancy Free,” “Sail Away,” and “Elvira.“
The group has earned just about every industry accolade available, including Grammy, Dove, ACM, and CMA awards. Their newest albums, “The Boys are Back,” and “The Oak Ridge Boys: A Gospel Journey,” are now available.
For ticket information visit www.greatmountainmusic.com or call 828.524.1598.
The Isaacs, an award-winning family group from Tennessee, will perform at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts in Franklin at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 6.
The Isaacs began singing 30 years ago and are based out of LaFollette, Tenn. The vocalists are Lily Isaacs, Ben Isaacs, Sonya Isaacs and Rebecca Isaacs Bowman. Playing their own acoustic instruments and joined by other band members, the Isaacs have a unique style that blends tight, family harmony with contemporary acoustic instrumentation that appeals to a variety of audiences.
Their musical influences emerge from all genres of music including bluegrass, rhythm and blues, folk, country, contemporary, acoustic and southern Gospel. They perform frequently at the Grand Ole Opry, are active members on the Gaither Homecoming Videos and Concert Series and travel throughout the year performing internationally.
The Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts, located in Franklin, is a modern 1,500 seat facility featuring a state-of-the-art, concert-grade sound system.
To purchase tickets to any performance at The Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts, to get more information, or to see a schedule of coming events, go to GreatMountainMusic.com or call 866.273.4615.
Rhonda Vincent and Gene Watson will perform Oct. 29 at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts in Franklin. They will perform their No. 1 single, “Staying Together,” and other duets, as well as both artists performing full shows with their individual bands.
Famously crowned as “the new queen of bluegrass” by the Wall Street Journal, and indeed the most decorated musician in that field, Vincent’s music is actually much more inclusive and accessible than that banner would suggest, incorporating savvy contemporary touches while drawing deeply from the haunting mountain soul of classic Monroe-styled bluegrass. The presence on Taken of special guests ranging from Dolly Parton to Richard Marx to Little Roy Lewis affirms Vincent’s wide-ranging vision.
Vincent, this year’s Bluegrass Entertainer of the Year and eight times Female Vocalist of the Year, headlines this super show with her band of super pickers, “The Rage.”
Watson is a singer in country music’s grand tradition and has the skill to give powerful vocal performances and draw all the emotion from his selected material effortlessly. Gene has remained true to his Texas music roots for the best part of 30 years and is a standard bearer for honest, traditional country music.
Tickets from $20 to $30 on sale at the Center’s box office, Dalton’s Bookstore in Franklin and Waynesville, at GreatMountainMusic.com or call 866.273.4615
Gospel group, Blue Ridge, will host a unique night of music beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 23 at The Smoky Mountain Center of the Performing Arts in Franklin.
Blue Ridge will perform all their songs including the hits “One Nation,” “I’m Going to Heaven” and “Back to the Well.” In addition, Blue Ridge will perform alongside a 200-voice gospel choir. The choir will be singing their own favorites as well as backing Blue Ridge on many of their gospel and patriotic favorites.
Blue Ridge is a versatile music group that began as an outgrowth of a county-wide youth group in Franklin, and has since crisscrossed country with their contagious style of gospel music.
Tickets $10. For information visit GreatMountainMusic.com or call 866.273.4615.