Life With Ferris: Signal Mountain Playhouse Consistently Delivers High-Caliber Performances

Monday, September 27, 2021 - by Ferris Robinson
The Signal Mountain Playhouse cast of Bye Bye Birdie
The Signal Mountain Playhouse cast of Bye Bye Birdie

Fall is officially here and summer is officially behind us. One of the best parts of July for me is the Signal Mountain Playhouse’s summer play. I hope you didn’t miss it. “Bye Bye Birdie” was an absolute delight in every way, starting with the venue. The Signal Mountain Playhouse stage is nestled in the woods near the town hall, and every summer folks make their way down a wide path under a canopy of trees to place their chairs and save their spots. 

The plays are performed twice a year, one play in summer and another in winter, and these plays are not what you might expect from a collection of volunteer actors who do not consider themselves to be professional. I would differ. These productions are consistently of Broadway caliber, but instead of honking horns and big city noise of traffic, you hear the crickets in the forest and see the twinkling of fireflies as the stars come out overhead.

For nearly five decades, the Signal Mountain Playhouse has been attracting children to participate in plays since 1972, and youth of all ages have performed in them. Most hailing from Signal, parents have gladly transported their enthusiastic offspring up this mountain from all over the city, including East Brainerd, Hixson and Lookout Mountain. To witness the pride and accomplishment on those youthful faces after stellar, and sometimes life changing, performances is well worth it.

The 2021 play, “Bye Bye Birdie.” is about a heartthrob enlisting in the Army, and Noah Huseman nailed Elvis down to the pelvic thrusts and deep nasal musical notes and constant curled upper lip that just drove the teenaged girls to distraction. Portraying Conrad Birdie on stage, Noah also served as musical director, and the song and dance numbers were amazing!

Nicholas Hartline conducted the all-volunteer orchestra, and the melody of saxophones, drums, guitar, cello, violins, bass, trumpets and clarinets wafted out over the evening sky. Nicholas also conducted the orchestra for “Shrek,” “Willie Wonka” and “Annie,” in previous SMPH summer plays.

Choreographed by Lindsay Fussell, the dance numbers were incredible! I’m not sure what would define regular song and dance, but this wasn’t it. Noah performed “You Gotta Be Sincere” in the most perfect insincere manner, growling, “Suffer” and “Hug me” as he gyrated about the stage and adorable teenaged girls shrieked in unison at the top of their lungs and fell flat out. 

In “One Hundred Ways,” Shandra Burnette imagines 100 ways to kill her boss/boyfriend when he “done her wrong” one time too many, and the mob scene was my favorite of all the scenarios of this macabre and hilarious number, with Eli Binder playing the part of mob boss perfectly. Afterwards, I had to clutch my sides during “The Shriner Ballet” number as I belly laughed at the unexpected and hilarious performance. Incredible!

And Shandra was in fine form as Rose Alverez, the proficient secretary/girlfriend of her boss and Conrad’s manager. Surely her performance with the Shriners is somewhere on YouTube. Her not-ready-to-commit beau and boss, Albert Peterson, was played by Roger Cass, who is chief architect at Unum by day and navigating the stage at night – at least during the month of July.

Dennis Parker played the father of the girl chosen to receive Conrad’s last kiss before being shipped overseas. Livid for all sorts of reasons, including the fact that Conrad seemed to take up residence in his home and his wife swooned over the heartthrob, as well, he changed his tune when he heard his family was going to be on the “Ed Sullivan Show.” Again, the transition of the frustrated, about-to-snap father to an obsequious Ed Sullivan groupie has got to be on YouTube, as does Dani Sibold Clark in her role of Albert Peterson’s mother. Really, her transition from a frumpy long-suffering clinging mother to a thwarted seductress in knee-highs is beyond hilarious.

Director Allan Ledford claims this was his swan song, and if so, he certainly poured himself into it. The timing of every word, every nuance, every snarl, every expression, and really every single thing was perfect. Packed with quick, clever dialogue and stop-it-right-now-or-I’ll-wet-my-pants humor, this play flew by. 

All I can say is, don’t miss the next one.

* * *

Ferris Robinson is the author of three children’s books, “The Queen Who Banished Bugs,” “The Queen Who Accidentally Banished Birds,” and “Call Me Arthropod” in her pollinator series. “Making Arrangements” is her first novel. “Dogs and Love - Stories of Fidelity” is a collection of true tales about man’s best friend. Her website is ferrisrobinson.com and you can download a free pollinator poster there. She is the editor of The Lookout Mountain Mirror and The Signal Mountain Mirror.


Ferris Robinson
Ferris Robinson

Dunkin’ And International Towing Museum Team Up For Broad Street Trunk-Or-Treat

Hunter Museum's Spectrum Is Back In Person Nov. 11 And 13

Kiwanis Of Dalton's Pancake Day Is Nov. 6


Dunkin’ franchisee network Bluemont Group LLC and the International Towing Museum are teaming up to offer the community a fun night of trunk-or-treating on Saturday, Oct. 23. Participants can ... (click for more)

The Hunter Museum's annual Spectrum fundraiser is back in person and set for Nov. 11 and 13. The Silent Auction Cocktail Party will be held on Thursday, Nov. 11, at 6:30 p.m. The evening will ... (click for more)

The annual Kiwanis Club of Dalton Pancake Day is returning this year after taking a year off due to concerns over Covid. Pancake Day 2021 will include a new location but the same great experience ... (click for more)



Happenings

Dunkin’ And International Towing Museum Team Up For Broad Street Trunk-Or-Treat

Dunkin’ franchisee network Bluemont Group LLC and the International Towing Museum are teaming up to offer the community a fun night of trunk-or-treating on Saturday, Oct. 23. Participants can get in the spooky spirit with this drive through Trunk-or-Treat Path, enjoying more treats than tricks. It will be held from 5-7 p.m. Local companies and organizations that will line the ... (click for more)

Hunter Museum's Spectrum Is Back In Person Nov. 11 And 13

The Hunter Museum's annual Spectrum fundraiser is back in person and set for Nov. 11 and 13. The Silent Auction Cocktail Party will be held on Thursday, Nov. 11, at 6:30 p.m. The evening will feature a diverse selection of artworks from across the country in the silent auction and an after-party with DJ. Tickets are $125 and available here . The Gala and Live Auction is set ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Steam Logistics To Add 400 Jobs And Renovate John Ross Building; Firm Will Seek 9-Year Office PILOT Tax Break

Steam Logistics officials announced that the company will expand its existing operations in downtown Chattanooga, creating more than 400 new jobs. Founded in 2012, the Chattanooga-based logistics business will invest $6.8 million to expand its operations into the historic John Ross building, which will adjoin Steam Logistics’ existing offices at the corner of Broad and Fourth ... (click for more)

58-Year Old Woman Shot On Emma Kate Drive Late Monday Afternoon

A 58-year old woman was shot late Monday afternoon on Emma Kate Drive. At approximately 5:36 p.m., Chattanooga Police responded to the 2000 block of Emma Kate Drive on a report of a person shot. Upon arrival, officers located a woman suffering from gunshot wounds and secured the scene. The victim was transported to a local hospital by Hamilton County EMS with non-life threatening ... (click for more)

Opinion

Tennessee Fans Hit A New Low - And Response (2)

Tennessee Vols fans hit a new low at the end of the UTK vs Ole Miss last evening. Maybe Lane Kiffin did us wrong when he left Knoxville for his dream team back in 2009, however, the crass and repulsive behavior of a large number of Tennessee fans didn’t reflect on Kiffin, it reflected on the great state of Tennessee. Has society really reduced itself to believing that reducing ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Beware Of The Cobra

Over the weekend my “Morning Readings” included a lesson that economists teach called the Cobra Effect. Jon Miltimore is the Managing Editor of the Foundation for Economic Education in Atlanta and his ‘FEE.org’ is a highly respected conservative libertarian economic think tank. In his story you are about to read, he claims economists around the world speak often on The Cobra Effect. ... (click for more)