Cumberland County Playhouse in a class by itself
“There’s no business like show business like no business I know.
Everything about it is appealing, everything that traffic will allow.
Nowhere could you get that happy feeling when you are stealing that extra bow.”
So go the lyrics of Irving Berlin’s famous song from the musical “Annie Get Your Gun,” which is playing through July 11 at the Cumberland County Playhouse.
Show business has been giving “that happy feeling” for a long time at this playhouse in Crossville.
Open since 1965, the playhouse hosts about 500 performances a year. People in Crossville are justifiably proud that it is rated one of the top 10 professional theaters in rural America and draws nearly 150,000 visitors each year.
With a lot of shootin’ goin’ on, the performance of “Annie Get Your Gun” was pure entertainment. Kellye Cash, a former Miss America from Tennessee, portrayed Annie with a beautiful singing voice and just the right swagger. Britt Hancock as the male lead, sharpshooter Frank Butler, was perfect in the tug-of-war romance with Annie.
Professional singers and actors, along with local child actors, kept everyone amused with corny antics, dance numbers and the tunes we know so well: “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly,” “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun,” “Anything You Can Do” and “The Girl That I Marry.” The set design made the audience feel like it was part of a Buffalo Bill’s Wild West, especially with the flamboyant showman storming around the stage.
Cumberland County Playhouse produces a slate of shows. I’ve noticed that they’ll tackle anything from “Les Miserables” last season to “Diary of Anne Frank,” which had a run earlier this year, to “Shrek The Musical” that continues through Aug. 8. In addition, the 500-seat theater serves as a venue for touring performers like John Corbett, who was a leading man in TV’s “Sex in the City” and “Northern Exposure.” He is a talented musician who will perform Oct. 5.
This top family entertainment attraction on the Cumberland Plateau began with a play staged at the junior high school. Under the tutelage of Paul and Mary Crabtree, it grew into a professional performing arts venue. Paul was an actor, director, producer and composer, and his wife, Mary was an actress and model who chose to live in Cumberland County after years in Hollywood and New York. With community support and corporate donors, the playhouse operates as the only major nonprofit professional performing arts resource in rural Tennessee. It frequently stages new works with ties to Tennessee and Southeastern history and culture. The playhouse is into its 21st year of performing “Smoke On The Mountain,” a musical comedy with Appalachian ties.
Most shows are rated G, with “Gypsy,” set for July 18-Sept. 5, being an exception with a PG rating. Tickets are $26 for adults, $25 for seniors, and $13 for students; group rates are available.
The playhouse is easy to reach, via Interstate 40 exit 317 at U.S. Highway 127. Several national chains have hotels nearby to serve visitors to evening shows. Cumberland Mountain State Park, Chestnut Hill Winery, Stonehaus Winery, and Cumberland Homesteads historic district are surrounding attractions in Crossville.