If you liked Smoke on the Mountain, you'll love He Keeps Me Singing!
A common complaint of senior citizens who attend church is that old hymns are never sung anymore. It’s all contemporary music with drums (played loudly), electric guitars and keyboards as organs are becoming more extinct than preachers who wear suits. Many of the elders claim that worship services have turned into rock concerts. Those who miss the traditional style of worship will enjoy the journey back in time, to the 1950’s, with “He Keeps Me Singing’ at La Comedia through November 1.
After attending the show on Friday night, my wife and I went out of town for the weekend, so we missed church on Sunday. However, I felt no need to repent as I’d already received my weekly dose of religion from “He Keeps Me Singing.” The show is more like a church service than a musical, and depending on where you go it might be even better than worship at your church. Substitute paying the bill with the offering and they are basically the same. No fear Catholics, if alcohol is required there are options from the bar.
The plot has about as much depth as a children’s sermon, but the music delivers a message that rivals Billy Graham in strength. From the rendition of ‘Old Rugged Cross’ to ‘Precious Memories’ there’s enough spirit to warm even the coldest of hearts. Of course the sweet potato soufflé always makes a person feel good too, but in a different way. There’s no convoluted love story to follow in “He Keeps Me Singing” as the only relationship of much significance is between the audience and Jesus.
The setting is a revival led by the Hathaway’s, including Reverend Virgil (Greg Haywood). I’d consider visiting Rev. Virgil’s church sometime, just so I could hear one of his sermons. If nothing else he would at least keep my attention as it’s never known what he’s going to say next. Making his La Comedia debut, Haywood appears to be a God send in the role.
Like God is dependable, so is Chris Kramer who can always be trusted to excel in whatever part he’s given. This time its as Zeke, the weird uncle that every family has, though most of them can’t carry a tune. The entire Hatfield family is blessed with musical talents, from the matriarchs Orval (Andy Woodruff) & Opal (Karie-Lee Sutherland) to the granddaughters Sarah (Gracie Adkins/Ashley Shamp) and Roberta (Ava Quinn Newkirk/Cleo Runge). The cast not only has great range with their voices, but also with the instruments they play, including the harmonica, mandolin, fiddle, accordion and yes, even an organ.
A couple of the musical high points include Christopher Wren as Jimmy Ray performing two classic hymns. First with ‘How Great Thou Art’ he proves himself as a possible candidate for the annual singing of ‘O Holy Night,’ if for some reason Dustin Farris is unavailable. Second, Wren touches the soul by playing ‘Amazing Grace’ on his saxophone, before the vocalists join in. It provides a moment of divine inspiration.
Anyone who enjoys old hymns and yearns to hear them again will not want to miss “He Keeps Me Singing.” The show continues through November 1.
Mike Woody is a life long resident of Dayton, and has a passion for writing, which is good because he doesn't excel at much of anything else, except eating.
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