Off the Beaten Path
Join me on an adventure. Where will we go today?
The first thing I notice is the building. Gorgeous! I walk in and every available space is decorated for Christmas. Pictures are worth more than words so just see for yourself all the "deck the halls."
I am fortunate to be able to catch the Christmas Show at the Carolina Opry Theater. With an ensemble of 15 singers, a clogging group of 4 talented young men, and multiple young lady dancers who would rival the Radio City Rockettes, we spent a mesmerizing 3 hours (intermission). Many of the musicians in the show play multiple instruments, but Gary Brown was awe-inspiring. Gary’s range of instruments includes acoustic guitar, mandolin, lap steel, steel guitar, and the dobro. Trent Wideman also impressed me with the hammered dulcimer, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, vocals, and xylophone. He also participated in a couple of comedy sketches that had the audience in laughter.
I noticed from the box office that multiple artists are playing throughout the following year in 2023 at the Carolina Opry theater, including Dwight Yoakam, Gladys Knight, Blues Traveler, Gaither Vocal Band, and Travis Triff. These are just a sample of upcoming 2023 acts. If I lived closer, I would be here monthly to see the various shows.
Back to the Christmas show, we attended a 1:00 pm matinee. The audience was older and very appreciative of all the music. Calvin Gilmore directs and produces the show. His experience and leadership have grown the Opry from a single show to an award-winning show: the coveted Governor’s Cup (SC's highest tourism award), the state’s most outstanding attraction. Many national news programs featured the show in articles, including CNN, the New York Times, and USA Today. I read all this while waiting for the show to start.
The set is gorgeous! Part of the platform rotates from the grand piano to the stairs. The pianist had to duck his head to clear the top part of the stage. Digital screens add to the overall entertainment.
The show included many short scenes from various movies that matched the music and performers. The lighting contrasted the sets and constantly changed as quickly as the music. One standout of the scene setting and lighting is the Whoville and Grinch scenes. The costumes were gorgeous and well-constructed. Most performers had at least five costume changes during the time.
Brad Long brings charisma to his role as emcee. The show moves so quickly from one number to the next that the role of emcee requires little time. I predict he has a long future in country music and is using this time to polish his stage presence. His tenor vocals are smooth and powerful as he ranges from ballads to rock to country.
One of the 12 finalists in the 2014 season of The Voice graces the stage as Delvin Choice brings his gospel and soul to several numbers. His upper register takes us to heaven. He leads the ensemble and duets with Moses Braxton, another world-class entertainer.
Moses is one of the deepest, richest bass voices. He dominates the stage with a dynamic presence. Moses is a polished, experienced performer and interacts well with Delvin and other cast members. He also sports fabulous bling clothing with matching sequined footwear.
Christie Templeton is adorable as a little Who and rocks out the stage on several numbers with her big, commanding voice. There was so much music that it is hard to remember now, but she rocked out a sequinned jumpsuit with a tattooed Santa who rolled in on a motorcycle.
Gary Brown is a tall, lanky singer who doubles as a musical director, triples, quadruples. Heck! He played acoustic guitar, mandolin, and vocals and was the musical director. Gary is an imposing man. Kevin Hughes is also a triple threat as music director, vocals, piano, trumpet, trombone, bass guitar, and vocals. The talent in the band is as strong as any orchestra seen in my years of audience community theater. Kevin White’s work on the saxophone provided a jazz flair to several songs. Brian Daggett simply sat in the back corner and provided the driving beat for the entire show. His innovative drumming helped set the various themes, whether a couples dance, a rocking song, or a gospel song. Eric Gumm provides vocals and plays the program's electric bass, guitar, and harmonica.
Colton Carson is another talented, versatile musician with a keyboard, trumpet, and vocals. Gary Baker thrilled me with his acoustic guitar and lead guitar work.
My long-term friend, Chastity Croft Sorrells, brought tears to my eyes with her gospel renditions. She dazzled on stage in leading the ensemble. She supplied backup vocals to several singers. Her stage presence shines across the stage.
Another artist who shines is Tangena Church. All three female main vocals had strong, belting voices and a vast vocal range. The three blended well on several numbers. I was delighted to see the women holding their own with the robust male lead singers.
All That! The clogging Group has four male members. These words fail to convey just how good these guys are at clogging. They looked familiar, so a quick review reminded me they were on America’s Got Talent, Season One, with Mike Curtis and Mark Clifford. Reading the bios, these guys have dominated all the clogging competitions for decades. It is inspiring that after competing, the friends and competitors formed the clogging group All That!
The prominent four women dancers could be Radio City Rocketettes with perfect kicks and form. Alexa Peragine serves as the dance captain and lead dancer. Elizabeth Hite and Molli Cason are polished with beautiful dance forms. Taryn Martin caught my eye many times when everyone was on stage. She has so much charisma that comes through in her dance. All the dancers show love for dance and seem to enjoy every number. They add a lot to the performances of the vocals. I was particularly impressed with the fans used to frame Delvin in one of his numbers.