Christmas on the Mountain
Reviewed by David Kashimba

It’s Christmas Eve, 1941, two weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and in the Pisgah Mountains of North Carolina (adjacent to the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee), the Sanders Family singers join Reverend Oglethorpe and his congregation to praise the Lord in scripture and song at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. The Sanders’ son Dennis, who recently became a young preacher, has just joined the military and is trying to come to grips with both loving his fellow men and killing them in the context of war. Like many young men from all wars, he trusts in the mysterious ways of the Lord and rallies behind the American flag, his family and a musical tradition.

In Christmas on the Mountain, Willows Theatre presents a comic musical, rich in the sounds of southern Appalachian blue grass, gospel and traditional Christmas music. This is a long-awaited sequel to the original Smoke on the Mountain. Since its premiere in 1988 at Princeton’s McCarter Theatre, Smoke on the Mountain has become one of the most produced musicals in history, running virtually nonstop coast-to-coast and received international productions in England, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand. With its 31-song score, Christmas on the Mountain is destined to be a holiday hit for many Christmases to come.

In addition to great music and great performers, Christmas on the Mountain has a down home quality that touches your heart as well as your funny bone. It brought back memories for me of when I was on training maneuvers with the 6th Special Forces in the Pisgah Mountains in 1969. I was amazed at how every member of every family in that area could play at least one instrument professionally. Children of all ages would start jamming with their parents and the resulting harmony was all good enough for the Grand Ole Opry.

Since the audience is also part of the congregation, you get the chance to participate in this fine production. For tickets or more information call (925) 798-1300 or visit the Willows’ website at

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