Nancy performed as a switchboard operator in the Montreat Madness musical July 9, in Montreat, N. C. The show was reviewed in the New York Times Theater section. View Excerpts of Nancy’s Performance by clicking on the video!
New York Times Review
One of the strange things about leaving our penthouse in Manhattan, where we are absorbed in the fast moving pace of the theater district and where The New York Times is about the only thing that we really take for granted about reality, is to fly down to someplace called Montreat and actually discover that some amazing dramatic and musical talent can be found there. The discovery is itself a little unsettling. The people there seem to be absorbed in something that has been called the Montreat Madness. Actually, we first thought that it must be a type of mental disease, a phobia that appears to take hold of Presbyterians who have dropped into a sort of soul constriction. Perhaps it comes from overdoing what they refer to as doing things decently and in order. It actually does appear to be a delectable sort of manic joy that comes upon some of these folks when they have a chance to enter into the deep, dark memories of their youthful years. The remarkable thing that we observed is that, to an astounding degree, all of these folks have a mild but very hilarious form of eccentricity in their genes. It all works out to producing a truly great show.
We settled into our seats that were in a cavernous building referred to as Anderson Auditorium. No sooner were we there than a jubilant sounding band, something to do with Tarnished Brass, began to lift our spirits and a long line of the most extraordinarily attired people began to come down the aisles and to climb up the stairs onto the stage. The spirit of good times was immediately picked up by the audience and the whole place seemed to be abounding in glee and anticipation.
It was even by Broadway standards a decidedly gala entrance. We had to admit to ourselves that it even exceeded the grandeur of the triumphal march of the elephants in the opera Aida when it played in the Metropolitan Opera.
And you couldn’t believe those radio commercials. There were these four guys that seemed to be related, descendants of some mythic ancestor named J. Rupert McGregor, and therefore known as the McGregor Brothers. Our friends back at The New York Times could never have imagined that some of the most well known product brands were offered for sale down here. And they still probably are back in some of the more remote hollows. At first the automobile of choice seemed to be the Oldsmobile (of blessed Detroit memory). The appeal of an Oldsmobile had a lot to do with someone named Lucile who captured everyone’s attention. Perhaps, who knows, they are also still the vehicles of choice for the moon shiners in these parts. For there was an apparent but mysterious and unexplained link between a Presbyterian sense of true manliness and illegally distilled liquor in the mountain glens.
A rousing declaration of “Let’s Build Montreat,” punctuated by soloist Genevieve was far more enthusiastic than any rendition of The Marseilles that was ever heard in Paris on Bastille Day.
These early settlers in Montreat really had to contend with some problems. There was much talk about some strange telephone business called “party lines” and much interest in either recruiting or arming a vigorous force that was referred to as the Suffragettes and that, for all we know, might have been composed of Appalachian ladies with progressive ideas. When we had a chance to glance at the handsomely designed program again we recognized that all of this was inspired by the desire to celebrate the 100th anniversary of a fantastic organization called the Summer Club and that it was dedicated to the special contributions of the Women of Montreat through the years.
Believe you me; we could hardly accept what our eyes told us about the amazing costumes. When we saw that lovely lady in a dress that was so pale green that it made us recall the times when we ate slices of Key Lime Pie in Florida, we thought that the Paris designers would go green with envy themselves. And what could we possibly think when we saw that dowager looking lady decked out in Sunset Boulevard gloves and a fox fur around her neck that would send all of the Fifth Avenue style setters into deep feeling of inferiority? And, we have just got to say it, those wild hats! We have not seen hats to equal those chapeaus since we slipped down to Baltimore to check out the traveling road show of the Moscow Circus Review. And, then, like a vision of loveliness from the Wimbledon tennis tournament women’s finals a tennis player who undoubtedly broke all of the records had been persuaded to join the show.
It was a little hard for us to grasp at first, being from the North where standards are a little looser, but there had apparently once been a problem of some kind associated with swim suits around Lake Susan. At this point, in order to set things straight once and for all, a figure with all of the magnificence associated with a real assurance of authority named Dr. Anderson, but who seemed to be referred to buy those who knew him best as “Sam,” appeared to take things under firm control. Frankly, he got all of us to thinking that we had better go over our own wardrobes when we returned home. The soloist and the children brought a new sense of balance to the whole thing and combined charm with respectability in an entirely convincing way.
We have no idea what goes on during the worship services down here (we have heard some rather far fetched tales), but we really couldn’t get over our sense of astonishment concerning what passes for “sky boxes” in this auditorium. The announcers and the telephone operators were lifted so high up in front that there was a good chance that they could have been some kind of visitation of angelic forces sent down here to provide a final review of the Lake Susan dress code that the lifeguards had actually been ordered to enforce.
We looked at one another. When has anyone ever used Ajax or Ipana for cleansing purposes? When the McGregor Brothers crooned their harmonic endorsements of such products we could only hope that no one got the two products mixed up and used Ajax on their teeth. If they did they would have had to put in an emergency call to Dr. Gene or Dr. Bill immediately. What really made us feel a little nervous was the lurking presence of a sneaky figure that approached us all as sort of a demonic Dr. Decay. It was a good thing that a lithesome Gracie appeared periodically as the laugh coach and applause counselor to help us to keep on tract.
And how could anyone forget the charm and mesmerizing tones of the Anderson Sisters: Karen, Jane, Margaret, and Margaret. It was said that they they could melt the hearts even of the hikers who set out for Mt. Mitchell and decided to stay up in the stony hills surrounding this amazing place.
You would have thought that General George Washington himself had come back from the dead to lead another flotilla across the Delaware when the Stouthearted Men tramped and saluted their way across the stage. And one of us, I am not sure which at the moment, had to reach for a Kleenex tissue and wipe away a tiny tear when two missionaries fell in love right before our eyes. The bride had a veil that Cinderella’s fairy godmother would have died for and the groom had a ring in one hand and a Bible in the other. The parson was suitably solemn and united Bill and Karen in a wedding that gave a whole new perspective to missionary work.
There were some clouds around us that evening so the children’s club encouragement for us to let the sunshine in and to open up our hearts and to face life with a cheerful grin was especially well received, even by the Calvinists on hand who had apparently suffered the ill effects of occasional bouts of spiritual melancholia.
Then like the Sphinx being drawn by a thousand Egyptians into the desert, a dream boat of an automobile glided mysteriously onto the stage. White wall tires spinning, laughing ladies riding, one could only imagine that with five gold coins or more this luxurious chariot would have found it way into next year rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas. But then a blonde bombshell in a dazzling red dress, some haunting combination of Dinah Shore and, yes even so, Marilyn Monroe, convinced us all to trade whatever we might currently be driving for a new Chevrolet.
To our astonishment then, in the midst of this frolicking hoopla, there was a call for a spiritual revival that would exceed all former revivals. The sounds of “hallelujah, glory, and revive us again” echoed and reverberated through the auditorium. Swaying women moved by spiritual anticipation and hands that were set ablaze with trembling provided certain evidence that true celestial forces were once again on the loose in Montreat. Song leaders Nan and Karen put more rambunctious directing into it than Robert Shaw ever imagined for his chorale. An upbeat melodious parson brought the spirit filled crowd to a fever pitch, and everyone felt extremely good about the prospects for Montreat’s future.
With the noble tones of the trombones, the buoyant punch of the trumpets, the mellow vibes of flute and euphonium, the stirring drums, the resounding rumbles of the bases and the racing keyboards of Director Currie and Assistant Director Thompson the music transported us all to another time. Announcers Steve and John were every bit as good as any one in the Big Apple, and the switchboard operators, Nancy and Kitty, would be able to put AT&T computers out of business The stage sets, we will argue with anyone, could go to the West End in London any time. Super Director Currie could give up doctoring for full time theatrical creativity right now. It would surely cure whatever ailed you. And then we heard about someone named Judy. She was evidently the dynamo that kept it all moving. So here it is, readers of The Times. There were at least 175 people that came together to bring this to us. We have seen it. We have experienced it. We have loved it. And we have pronounced it to be very good.