Theater review: “Snowbound” by Asheville Community Theatre

Tom Godleski's Snowbound at Asheville Community Theatre. Photo by Tommy Propest

For anyone longing for the experiences of Christmas during simpler times, Asheville Community Theatre has just the show for you. Tom Godleski’s Snowbound is a sweetly nostalgic slice of Western North Carolina country life, served up like grandma’s homemade pie. The show contains classic holiday songs as well as originals. The production runs through Sunday, Dec. 18.

Local musician and storyteller Godleski brings the song stylings of his band, Buncombe Turnpike, and unites with members of local bluegrass group Sons Of Ralph to deliver a one-of-a-kind experience. The show also resonates with anyone who can remember growing up celebrating the holidays during the mid-20th century. ACT director Mark Jones helps Godleski’s script transcend its subtle simplicity and delivers a production that has audiences clapping along while smiling from ear to ear.

The story starts on Christmas Eve, 2016, as a father tells his children a tale of his grandfather’s Christmas in 1955, in a small train depot in Marshall. People have gathered as they come and go for the holidays, including a group of musicians on their way to Knoxville. As snow falls outside, delays occur, and this assortment of folks find themselves stuck longer than expected. They pass the time by sharing stories, playing songs, and getting to know one another. Amid the tapestry of tales and laughs comes a railroad executive with some bad news. Plan are in place to close down the small depot, as it is too out-of-the-way and too small to maintain. The Dickensian Scrooge comparison is a simple enough one to make, but this is but one small part of the myriad stories being shared.

Among multiple plotlines running concurrently are a pair of young romances and a stranded Children’s Choir. It is more of a hodge-podge of tales strung together around a central conceit, and even though there might be a few too many threads running through the show overall, that is easy to overlook. The production is simply too charming and earnest for anything to be held against it.

Donnie Dalton’s Mr. Gable is that bearer of bad news who finds himself stranded with the others. He comes to admire them as they turn their plight into a celebratory night of community, song and sharing. Dalton lends the right amount of grumpiness and conflict to the show. It is perfect casting: He looks the part, and resists playing it as a stereotypical curmudgeon. Waylon Wood lends a lovable teddy-bear quality as the depot’s conductor. He desperately wants to keep the place going, and endeavors to prove to Mr. Gable that it is a worthwhile pursuit, despite the economic reality and changing times. Carla Pridgeon is a standout as the grandmotherly Vernie, with her cutting wit and wisdom. She lends a strong matronly charm to the show.

The folksy allure onstage spills over into the audience throughout the evening. The cast and musicians are clearly having fun, and it becomes infectious.

WHAT: Snowbound by Tom Godleski
WHERE: Asheville Community Theatre, 35 E. Walnut Street, ashevilletheatre.org
WHEN: Through Sunday, Dec. 18, with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. $12-22

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About Jeff Messer
playwright, actor, director and producer, Jeff Messer has been most recently known as a popular radio talk show host. He has been a part of the WNC theatre scene for over 25 years, and actively works with and supports most of the theatres throughout the region. Follow me @jeffdouglasmess

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