Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Quality Live Theatre in East Tennessee!

Recently, we were part of a large group who drove over to Crossville so we could experience a live theatre production right here in East Tennessee.  We carpooled with our friends, Mari and Ed, and I followed my practice of driving the back roads instead of the boring expressways.  The scenery along TN Rte. 68 from Sweetwater Tennessee over to US 27 and Crossville was very soothing and, as most scenery is in this part of the country, it was beautiful as well.

This is the entrance to the Cumberland County Playhouse.  The playhouse was the ‘brainchild’ of Paul and Mary Crabtree.  It was built in 1965 after a terrific reception of a play produced at a local junior high school by Paul Crabtree entitled “The Perils of Pinocchio”.  The town of Crossville, along with Cumberland County, decided that they should introduce a bit of culture to the area, while simultaneously creating an venue that could create some jobs and build local tourism.  The successful project was quite an accomplishment for a town with a population at the time of only 5,000 and with a county wide population that only totaled 25,000.

This is a partial view of the lobby area.  The Cumberland Playhouse is one of the 10 largest rural professional theaters in the USA.  This non-profit organization has 2 indoor and 2 outdoor stages, an operating budget of almost $2 Million and it attracts about 145,000 visitors/theater goers per year!

This is the snack bar at one side of the lobby.  Roughly 85% of revenues for the Cumberland County Playhouse result from earned income rather than via donations although there has been some publicity lately that indicated that the theater is experiencing some financial difficulties due to our ongoing stagnant economy.  That problem was echoed in the front of our theatre program.  The Playhouse supports a resident professional company with a staff of 16 plus roughly 100 visiting professionals and a significant group of volunteers.  About 50% of the theater’s income is paid out to the artists.  It’s interesting to note that the theater has been managed and directed by the Crabtree family since it's founding...

This view is of the stage and part of the audience… It was a full house for our matinee performance!  There were several groups in attendance, including some young people from a local summer camp. 

The play that we saw was a classic…”Oklahoma!”.   It was very well staged and presented.  The talent evident in the cast’s singing, dancing and acting surpassed what we expected for a ‘country’ playhouse.  The couple shown on the cover of the program pictured above are Nathanial Hackmann and his new bride, Nicole Beque Hackmann… They starred as Curly and Laurey, the lead characters in the play.  Both are very talented!  Jason Ross, who played the itinerant and randy peddler, ‘Ali Hakim’, had a plum role and he gave a great, (and very funny!), performance.      

This was definitely a professional production… No amateur hour here at the Cumberland County Playhouse!   In addition to "Oklahoma!", there are 2 other shows that are ongoing at the theatre complex right now… They are the “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Chicago – The Musical”.  Laurie and I will definitely attend a performance of "Chicago"!

Upcoming shows include the long running bluegrass and gospel favorite, “Smoke on the Mountain”, (a ‘backwoods comedy’), “Dearly Departed” and “Dreamgirls”.  For more information, the Cumberland County Playhouse website can be found at  The theatre is located at 221 Tennessee Avenue, near the airport, in Crossville, Tennessee.  Phone: 931-484-5000.    


  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the Cumberland County Playhouse. It's personally one of my favorite places to go see theatre in Tennessee. Of course it doesn't hurt that I only live about an hour from Crossville. :)
    I do travel to NY as often as possible and other than the size of the theater, I find the talent very much comparable. I hope you come back to visit soon!