Photos by Kathryn E. Darden for ChristianActivities.com.
The picturesque mountains that surround Pigeon Forge were an appropriate setting for The
Mayberry Reunion at the Country Tonight Theatre which brought some of the charm of
Mayberry to the stage on June 28. If you have seen one Mayberry Reunion, you would be familiar
with much of the material since the actors apparently do the same skits at every reunion
show. However, as different actors are able to make each reunion, the skits do vary based
upon who shows up, and much like watching the reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show,” there is a
certain charm in anticipating the familiar punch lines.
Several of the same actors I had seen in Nashville last year showed up for the Pigeon forge
show: George Lindsey “Goober,” Betty Lynn “Thelma Lou,” and Howard Morris “Ernest
T.”, but this show brought in some of “The Andy Griffith Show” cast and guest stars I
had not seen before including Jean Carson “Daphne” (Fun Girl) ,as well as Barbara
Stewart and Ronnie Schell of “Gomer Pyle” fame who also had guest roles on “The Andy
Griffith Show.” We all missed Elinor Donahue who became ill shortly before show and decided not to risk traveling.
George Lindsey and Ronnie Schell are truly professional entertainers, continuing to
perform on shows and on stage year after year, and their skits reflected the years invested
in perfecting their craft. Betty Lynn had a little laryngitis and could not sing but her
genuine warmth as she shared some of her Mayberry experiences more than compensated
for the loss of a song. Jean Carson was wonderfully vampy as Daphne proving a Fun Girl
need never stop being a doll.
Christian Activities readers may remember popular 80’s Christian rock group David and the
Giants. The talented drummer for this popular group was Keith Thibodeaux who not only played
Little Ricky on “I Love Lucy” but also played one of Opie’s best friends, Johnny Paul
Jason on “The Andy Griffith Show.” Keith, who has gone on to write the book “Life After Lucy” and to manage the Ballet Magnificat, performed a rockin’ drum solo for the crowd
even weaving in a little Mayberry theme song in the middle.
Almost stars in their own rights, Barney impersonator David Browning and Floyd impersonator Allan Newsome kept things rolling, appeared in skits, emceed, signed autographs, posed for photo ops, and seemed to be everywhere at once.
Afterwards the audience was able to have autographs signed and pictures taken with the
cast in the lobby. Most of the cast were either warm and friendly or at least professional to
the fans who waited in lines to speak with them or get an autograph.
The only damper on a
lovely evening was the belligerence of Howard Morris who forgot that he himself said it
was “all about the fans” when he was on stage, opting to drop his charade of down-home
friendliness after the show. On the show Ernest T. threw “rocks;” from stage he threw sponges; but at the autograph session he hurled verbal
abuse and ill temper at fans who not only paid to get into the show but paid again to stand
in line to get his autograph.
Even these shenanigans could not detract from a fun evening. All in all it felt like a little bit
of Mayberry had come to the mountains of Pigeon Forge — a beautiful setting for a fun
evening of nostalgia.
Related Stories:Mayberry Events
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Just As He Is: Andy Sings Gospel
“Mule Days” Is a Kick!
A Touch of Mayberry Comes to Nashville
Christian Activities Mayberry Special Edition
Archive of Past Mayberry Articles
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