Sometimes you just need to get away for a couple of hours, even if you don’t travel all that far from home. That’s exactly what happened for Evelyn and me last Saturday (Jan. 18th) as we joined another couple for an evening of dinner theater at the Smyrna Opera House, about 15 minutes from our home.
We should have known that the program was going to be just plain silly. After all, would you expect longhair, upper-echelon music and acting from a show titled “Hank and Heidi’s Hillbilly Hoedown”? It was pretty much what we anticipated. (I might add that this was our first visit to the Smyrna Opera House, our “maiden voyage” with this venue.)
We met our friends Barry and Barbara in the lobby before the doors even opened. Once it was time to find our assigned table, we climbed the staircase to the second floor where a small theater was arranged with circular tables that seated nine. You could tell that work had been done recently on the interior. Kathy, a church friend who has had longtime connections with the Opera House, told me that the entire interior had been redone at considerable cost about five years ago, and it showed. The window dressings were elegant. The crown molding had been retouched with gold accents. It had the feel of an historic edifice suddenly come to life once again.
The show actually began before we had dinner because Hank and Heidi, it turned out, were engaged to be married, and we were all invited to the “weddin’.” A bridal party straight from Hazzard County processed in, dungarees and all (and I use the antiquated word “dungarees” intentionally). Uncle Buford officiated, his silver flask never leaving his hand. The brief ceremony continued through the exchange of vows, and once Heidi became Mrs. Hank Huckleberry, the reception began (i.e., the buffet dinner).
The food was outstanding. And, no, it wasn’t roadkill. It wasn’t even possum and collard greens. It was a fine chicken dinner with all the fixin’s, including a nice selection of desserts.
Once we guests had finished eating, the ceremony picked up with Hank and Heidi’s first dance. From there, things veered off the traditional track. For example, after the newlyweds finished their dance, it was time for the “hairy chest” contest. I had nothing to worry about, since I would not have qualified in the first place, but graciously, three men had been pre-selected to compete. I still can’t figure out why it was called a hairy chest contest, since none of them took his shirt off. Instead, they presented their best dance! The wedding guests were then asked to show by applause which fellow they thought danced best. Hairy chest? Maybe someone from the southern parts of the country can help me make the connection.
There was dancing following the formalities. The actors spread out among our tables and invited us to dance with them. One bridesmaid, Sugar Sweets, invited me to the dance floor. About early-20-ish with blond braids, country-style shirt and denim shorts, she looked about as much like Daisy Mae Yokum as a living person could look. As much as I enjoyed being asked by a “darlin’” like her to dance, I really enjoyed the next dance – with wife Evelyn – even more. The evening ended with a sing-along: “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” and “Friends in Low Places.”
In all honesty, the acting felt rather amateurish, as though there were no actual script, but perhaps a Cliffs Notes version of the story to be filled in with as much ad libbing as the actors could muster. But that’s OK – it was supposed to be all for fun anyway. (And did I mention that the dinner was superb!)
With this being our first experience with the Smyrna Opera House, will we think about returning? Probably. After all, one future program will be a tribute to The Drifters, and to judge a program like that based on what we saw last Saturday would be to compare apples to kumquats.