Kenny Sexton, president and producer of the American Mountain Theater, lost no time in getting the 2009 season off to an uproarious start. As sound and light manager Matthew Scott slowly bathes the stage in multi-colored lighting, the already in-place cast brings the theater alive with music of some of the great artists of the 1950s.
Following the musical opening, Sexton and his fall guy Dennie Franks take off on a hilarious dialog of nonsensical humor poking fun at each other, the cast and crew, and life itself. Following their 10 minutes or so of good-natured fun, it's back to a variety of oldies-but-goodies country and pop music. Gospel selections featuring lyrics and music penned by Beverly Heckel Sexton brings the first part of the emotional joy ride to a close.
Over the past two years, those who have attended the AMT have become accustomed to and expect part of the show to include impersonations of the famous. This year is no different. I won't, of course, reveal all those that are targets for these misrepresentations, but take my word, they will have you holding your sides and viewing their antics through tear-filled eyes of laughter.
The show is totally new and fresh except for the great fiddle player John Cochran's version of the "Orange Blossom Special." Sexton said, "Our audiences would be disappointed if we dropped it. We're keeping it in the show because no matter how many times they've heard it before, they want to hear it again." Folks, if you can sit still through this one, you are made of stone. Beverly Sexton let her sense of humor be her guide as she rearranged the lyrics of Hank Snow's "I've Been Everywhere." It's a riot.
Those who so enjoy the astonishing energy and love for entertaining of Jeremiah Franks (the one who did the ever-so popular "Toaster Song") are in for another treat. He and his brother, Joel, join forces for a side-bustin' episode of the Blues Brothers, just to mention one. While Joel is accompanying his brother in this hilarious routine, Sexton takes over the drums revealing yet another of his many talents.
There have been some changes in the cast. Mark Hamrick is no longer with the group but his replacement, Brad Gum, from metropolitan Montrose, takes over. Brad will astonish you with his talent on lead guitar. Rachael Franks and Ishah Maria are no longer with the group either. Susie Heckel is sporting a new hairdo and is lovelier than ever. Sexton also incorporated the projection of scenes against the backdrop appropriate to the songs or skits taking place on stage.
It should be mentioned, too, that Producer Sexton gave his band members a raise this year. "Yep," he said, "I gave each one of them a raise - they're about 18-inches higher than they were last year." During the off-season, Sexton had a riser built on the stage for the band members. This does a lot for their visibility - and provides a convenient place of Jeremiah to sit down and rest after some of his energy-sapping songs and dances.
The heart-stopping, fun-filled show concludes, as in years past, with a tribute to our country's veterans. The tribute is a bit longer than in years past and is a heart-touching, emotional finale that brings everyone to there feet.
Regular flagship performances are scheduled at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays during April; Thursdays through Saturdays in May; Wednesdays through Saturdays from June through September; and every night except Sunday in October.
Adult season passes are now available. They are being offered at the discounted price of $60 through April 30. On May 1, they will cost $70. Season passes admit only the purchaser. Guest reservations should be made as far in advance as possible. They do not include the Christmas shows or the special Gospel Series that will be featured throughout the summer.
For more information, call the box office at 304-630-3040, or by visiting their website at .
Gov. Joe Manchin III will be the keynote speaker at the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet on Thursday. A social hour beginning at 6 p.m. sponsored by Allegheny Insurance Services will precede the gala affair.
The awards presentation ceremony will commence at the American Mountain Theater at 7 p.m. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the AMT cast and crew will present a mini version of this year's Flagship Show.
Awards, and sponsors of those awards, are, Employer of the year, The Inter-Mountain; Large Business of the Year, The Davis Trust Co.; Small Business of the Year, Huntington National Bank; Chamber Person of the Year, Chamber of Commerce; Citizen of the Year, Citizens National Bank; Business Community Spirit Award, Ceramics with Class; Lifetime Achievement Award, Bialek Nationwide Insurance; Educator of the Year, Davis Health System; Non-Profit Business of the Year, Yorkey & Associates, Inc.; Star awards, Tunnel Mountain Bed & Breakfast and Riverside Retreat and The American Mountain Theater. Star awards recognize outstanding performance by a chamber member.
The public is invited. For reservations and tickets, call the chamber office at 304-636-2717
A diverse group of subjects was covered at the Randolph County Convention and Visitors Bureau meeting on March 23. Officials of the CVB are working with The Art Medium for new signage at the visitors center. The new sign, when completed, will supposedly include an event sign that will be visible as passersby approach Elkins from U.S. 33.
American Travel Centers has been contracted to maintain the CVB's Web site for the coming year. A total of $3,000 has been allocated for an upgrade and new design of the Randolph County Web site.
The CVB, working with local motorcycle enthusiasts, developed and new motorcyclist brochure highlighting exciting touring rides in Randolph and adjoining counties. According to CVB President Chelley Depp, brochures have been distributed to the 31 Harley Davidson dealers and shops in West Virginia and surrounding states. They have also sent several thousand of them to visitors centers, travel shows and conventions in many other states. More brochures, 10,000 of them to be exact, have been ordered. Depp said the brochure has been one of the most requested that she's seen in "quite a while. It's flying off the shelves according to state visitors centers."
Executive Director Brenda Pritt noted that the State Association of CVBs will have its annual Education Conference April 21-22 at Stonewall Jackson Resort.
According to Pritt, the RCCVB office continues to answer an average of 100 calls per day and manages a Web site that had 89,000 visits of over seven minutes in August 2008. She also noted that the CVB board consists of 12 individual from a cross-section of the community who serve staggered two-year terms. The board meets once a month and board members are provided a current and comprehensive financial statement and report of current advertising activities.
The next CVB board meeting will be at 11:45 a.m. April 27. The location will be announced as the date of the meeting nears.