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Sierra Rep presents Sanders Family Christmas
Church based musical welds holiday music and Bible versus humor
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This fun cast will keep their audience laughing in the Sanders Family Christmas musical production in Columbia. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Sierra Repertory Theater ushers in the holidays with faith, family and fun in Sanders Family Christmas, set for November and December at the Fallon House Theater in Columbia State Historic Park.

The story takes place on Christmas Eve, 1941. The Great Depression is coming to a close. The threat of war looms. A family living in the rural town of Mount Pleasant, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, is about to say goodbye to their only son, who is shipping out with the U.S. Marine Corps. But before he goes, the family - the Sanctified Sanders Family Singers - heads up the annual Christmas celebration at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church.

Directed by Frank H. Latson, a past Sierra Rep artistic director, the nostalgic comedy promises toe-tapping music and heart-felt humor.

"It's sweet and funny, and I think everybody's going to have a good time," Latson said.

The play is the second in a series of three shows featuring the Sanders Family Singers. The first, Smoke on the Mountain, played off-Broadway and took its name from a Psalm in the Bible. It tells the story of a Saturday-night Gospel Sing at the church. Sanders Family Christmas takes place three years later and features many memorable holiday songs. Among them: Bill Monroe's "Christmas Time's A Comin'" and Kenny Rogers' and Dolly Parton's "With Bells On."

There are comical characters and feel-good fun.

"It's the perfect Christmas show," said Sierra Rep's Education Director Ralph Krumins, who has seen the play at other venues. "It's not heavy and it's not drama, but it still has some nice, subtle messages and morals to it."

The plot revolves around the Reverend Oglethorpe and the Sanders family, who attempt to raise the spirits of the flock (the audience) in an energetic gospel sing-along. Characters include Uncle Stanley; father Burl; mother Vera; twins Dennis and Denise; and sister June (she doesn't sing, she signs).

The impending war is ever-present. That theme should resonate with everyone, whether they remember World War II or not, Latson said.

"For older groups, of course it will be nostalgic," he said. "But talking about sending boys off to war is always relevant. It's universal. It goes on all the time. There's so much emotion involved."

Sanders Family Christmas opened Nov. 14 and runs through Dec. 21 at the Fallon House Theatre in Columbia State Historic Park. Friday performances begin at 7 p.m., Saturday evening shows begin at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees begin at 2 p.m. and Thursday performance times vary between 2 p.m. and 7p.m. General admission ranges from $26 to $32, with senior, student and child rates available. The show is rated G.

For more information or reservations, call Sierra Rep's box office at 532-3120 or visit

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