After making headlines recently with the change in ownership and appointment of Martha Wilkinson as Artistic Director, and following the success of their January/February mounting of THE ODD COUPLE, Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre continues its next 50 years revitalized momentum with SEEING STARS IN DIXIE, a seemingly lighthearted southern comedy with surprising character depth and ever-present social and societal preconceptions. Following a successful run, the show ends its run with performances now through Sunday, March 19 at Nashville’s longest-continuing dinner theatre located at 8204 Highway 100, Nashville, TN 37221.
Playwright Ron Osborne perfectly captures the sprit, the appeal, and yes, even a stereotype and stigma or two of the south, but presented with the right amount of laughs, emotion and surprises, especially at the hands of Chaffin’s talented cast, SEEING STARS IN DIXIE provides a blissfully entertaining evening of theatre, and don’t forget the dinner…since the aforemetioned invigoration, Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre has regained its rightful place as the Nashville area’s leader in dinner theatre. The food is simply delicious. While the pre-show buffet still features way too many options, the presentation and taste are now unparalleled within the dinner theatre community of Tennessee.
Directed by Everett Tarlton, who also designed the set, SEEING STARS IN DIXIE takes place in 1956 Natchez, Mississippi during the filming of RAINTREE COUNTY, the Elizabeth Taylor/Montgomery Clift Civil War epic.
While the behind-the-scenes happenings of the actual filming of RAINTREE COUNTY–Clift had a head-on collision with a tree resulting in face-changing plastic surgery that delayed filming; meanwhile, Taylor suffered an irregular heartbeat reportedly due to demerol shots given to treat hyperventilation from her binding period costumes–might make for a juicier plot, SEEING STARS IN DIXIE instead revolves around news that the filmmakers are casting a local to appear alongside the violet-eyed actress during a single scene in the film.
News of a chance at stardom piques the interest of Clemmie, star-struck owner of Clemmie’s Tea Room, where all of the action of the play takes place. On the subject of the tea room itself, thanks to the keen eye of Tarlton and the talented construction and technical direction of BJ Rowell and Bradley Moore, the set is, hands down, my favorite set to ever grace the stage at Chaffin’s. From the seemingly insignificant detail of a period-accurate tube radio and the inclusion of table cloths and cream and sugar bowls on the dinner theatre’s lower level of seating, to the lace window treatments that extend beyond the stage and even pre-RAINTREE COUNTY Elizabeth Taylor movie posters like FATHER OF THE BRIDE, RHAPSODY , GIANT and others lining the walls of the theatre space, Tarleton and company perfectly enwrap the audience in Clemmie’s world.
Speaking of Clemmie, Lynda Cameron-Bayer plays her with a sweetness and charm befitting the owner of a small-town tea room frequented by a handful of friends and customers. Clemmie’s lack of self-confidence and presence of self-doubt present an interesting parallel to her fascination with the escapism of the movies and her desire to be part of that glamourous life. Anyone who’s ever favored the evasion of life’s realities for the comforting soft glowing flicker of a movie theatre’s elusive illusions, will surely relate to Cameron-Bayer’s unanticipated depth as Clemmie.
Joy Tilley Perryman lives up to her real-life first name as she’s simply a joy to watch in the role of Tootie, the town’s busy-body with an Elizabeth Taylor-esque appetite for romantic dalliances. Not only does Tootie enjoy tooting her own romanticized horn, she also owns the local newspaper where she writes about all the latest gossip, oh and did I mention she may or may not have gotten her name because she tends to pass gas with no warning or apologies? As Tootie, Tilley Perryman (in her 19th year in Chaffin’s shows) lights up the stage with her bubbly personality and mischievous nature.
Offering Clemmie moral support and a touch of unrequited romantic interest is the show’s sole male character Glease, played to perfection by Scott Stewart. One might wonder why Glease would frequent what–by society’s directives–is a generally perceived as a ladies tea room, but as subplots emerge, character histories and secrets are revealed, Glease’s rightful place among the tea room inhabitants comes to light. Let’s just say that fans of Taylor and Clift’s off-screen friendship might be pleasantly surprised by the relationship between Glease and Clemmie. To that end, Stewart is the epitome of the southern dandy and the unconditional love between his Glease and Cameron-Bayer’s Clemmie is a wonderful bonus.
Assisting Clemmie in preparing for her audition is former beauty queen/wannabe weather girl, Jo Beth, played by Joy Todd. Previously seen in Chaffin’s 2016 holiday offering, GLAD TIDINGS, Todd’s Jo Beth is patient and kind as she instructs Clemmie in such key tasks as balancing a book on one’s head while walking and the ultimate timeless southern girl’s secret weapon…big hair and just he right amount of makeup. All these things come together to turn plain-jane Clemmie into the belle of the ball.
Of course you can’t have a Cinderella story without a villain. Enter Jenny Norris-Light as Marjorie. Having recently seen Norris-Light play the brilliantly bitchy Velma Von Tussle in Expression City’s all-too-brief mounting of HAIRSPRAY, I never doubted for a moment that she would present SEEING STARS‘ self-proclaimed society maven, Marjorie to the hilt. As expected, Norris-Light does not disappoint. Dressed to the nines in the show’s best costumes–complete with fabulous hats–courtesy the show’s costumer, Jamie Lynn Scott, Norris-Light’s Marjorie simply thrills the stage in each and every scene. Add to that her ever-present snide, her judging glances, a villainous laugh and penchant for delivering perfectly timed jabs as she brilliantly, hilariously masticates the scenery like a toasty scone served alongside a brimming-hot cup of Clemmie’s finest Earl Grey, and you’ll understand why Cameron-Bayer’s Clemmie has her work cut out for her as she clamors for the spotlight.
SEEING STARS IN DIXIE continues at Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre with shows through Sunday, March 19. Dinner and Show tickets (including dinner, show, coffee/tea/soft drink options) are $50 for Adults and $30 for Students and Children. Show Only tickets are $30 and include your choice of beverages. Thursday Brown Bag Matinees are $19. Thursday-Saturday dinner buffet is sever from 6-7:30 p.m. with the performances starting at 8 p.m.; Sunday buffet from noon until 1:30 p.m. with show starting at 2 p.m. and Thursday brown bag matinee beginning at noon. For tickets or more information, call 615.646.9977. Up next at Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre is THE NERD running March 23-April 23. Click Here to visit Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre’s all-new website at www.chaffinsbarntheatre.com, or follow them on Facebook,Twitter and Instagram.
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