Festival Shows in the News



An interview with John Fionte, New Works Director at Cumberland County Playhouse, about their upcoming production of 2011 Festival show Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge, by Peter Mills and Cara Reichel, playing Aug. 23-Oct. 26.

A pitch-dark comedy with the kick of moonshine, Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge transplants J.M. Synge’s classic The Playboy of the Western World to 1930s Appalachia. Bluegrass music and backwoods mayhem abound in this coming-of-age story about a slapdash murder, a whirlwind romance and a most unlikely hero.

What drew Cumberland County Playhouse to Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge?
Producing Director Jim Crabtree first became aware of Golden Boy in 2009 through the authors’ agent, and he asked me to pay particular attention to it when the show was presented in the 2011 Festival. We both felt that Golden Boy‘s rural Appalachian setting, combined with its bluegrass score, made the show something worth investigating.
Why is it a great show for your audience?
The Cumberland Plateau is a part of rural Appalachia. This region is fiercely proud of its rich musical heritage…and of the Scots-Irish roots of its culture. Peter Mills’ compelling score celebrates both the contemporary bluegrass musical idiom, along with that music’s deep Celtic roots. Additionally, our audience loves shows with onstage musicians, as is evidenced by the perennial popularity of Smoke on the Mountain, which is in its 19th consecutive year here at the Playhouse. Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge has all of that, and it’s fresh, new and exciting. I hope it appeals to Smokefans and beyond.
Are there any special approaches you are taking to the show?
Just as Pete and Cara wrote a play that’s an intricate blend of the traditional and the contemporary, I’ve tried to give equal weight to both of those things in terms of the production. The choreography, staging, design aesthetic… all those choices are firmly grounded in Synge’s Playboy of the Western World, but filtered through a contemporary eye. I’ve also been careful to always consider Golden Boy‘s Irish roots. While it’s not particularly present in Playboy, Synge was part of an Irish literary tradition that was steeped in a sense of enchantment, of magical realism. I’ve tried to bring a sense of that to Golden Boy.
What are you most excited about when Golden Boyfinally hits your stage?
I’m eagerly anticipating that first audience reaction. Golden Boy is so full of things that our rural Tennessee audiences love; but it’s also full of surprises, of fresh new sights and sounds. I think it will be an electric experience.
Why should people check out the Playhouse and Golden Boy?
Cumberland County Playhouse is truly a gem that’s nestled in a rural part of the country, so it remains undiscovered to some people. It’s always a joy to hear first-time patrons express their surprise and delight to find such professionalism and exceptional production values in a small town. I hope that audiences will experience the same sense of excitement and delight when they experience Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge for the first time. It’s really a remarkable musica,l and it deserves to be discovered by a much wider audience.

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