Bob Gunton Returns to Cumberland County Playhouse to Headline 48th Season

December 5
8:19 PM 2011


Bob Gunton, the musical theater star who was Tony Award-nominated for his turn as Broadway's original Juan Peron in Evita, returns to his Tennessee theatrical roots next May in one of the highlights of the 2012 season at Cumberland County Playhouse which is announced today. Gunton stars in Walking On Water, "an evening of musical theater and song," opening May 18 at the Crossville theater where he debuted in 1965 in Tennessee, USA!, Paul Crabtree's musical homage to his home state.

The premiere of Gunton's show will run through June 16 at "Tennessee's Family Theatre." In more than four decades on Broadway and in Hollywood, Gunton has appeared in over a hundred films and TV shows, including memorable turns as the Warden in The Shawshank Redemption and Secretary of Defense Kanin in 24. Broadway triumphs include Tony-nominated portrayals of Juan Peron in Evita and the title role in Sweeney Todd, as well as roles in Happy End, Passion, Working and Roza. Now Gunton "comes home" to The Playhouse, where he began as Johnny Timberlake in Paul Crabtree's original Tennessee, USA!

Gunton's appearance at The Playhouse will highlight a year of premieres and American theater favorites to highlight CCP's 48th season. According to Jim Crabtree, producing artistic director at the Playhosue, the 2012 season opens with a revival of Pultizer Prize-winner Alfred Uhry's Driving Miss Daisy, starring Playhouse favorites Carol Irvin and Michael Ruff, opening January 21 in the Adventure Theatre.

Rodgers and Hammerstein's iconic musical about the singing Von Trapp Family-The Sound of Music-takes to The Playhouse's mainstage on February 10. The Sound Of Music features the CCP company and scores of singers from across Tennessee as the Grand Choir and Children's Choir of Salzburg Abbey, as CCP gathers "a hundred nuns" and children to sing at Maria's wedding, the Salzburg Festival, and more. Set in Austria on the eve of World War II, "this production of the sweeping classic combines the joy of a great musical with the dramatic power of an adventure film, as a family struggles to escapes the oncoming Nazi regime."

Joe DiPietro's adaptation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, set to a score of Elvis Presley hits-All Shook Up!-hits the stage in March. In DiPietro's jukebox musical, "A young wanderer discovers a small town where fun seems 'outlawed,' and shakes things up with music, dance and romance. With hits like 'Heartbreak Hotel,' 'Can't Help Falling in Love' and many more, he fills the town with joy and its young people with hope… and gives the older generation something to sing about, as well!"


The Mainstage lineup includes two Tennessee Premieres: Nashville native Jeremy Benton returns to the Volunteer State from Broadway to direct and choreograph the new Ginger Rogers musical Backwards in High Heels; and the first revival of John Briggs and Paul Mrozcka's musical Cowboys since its world premiere at Cumberland County Playhouse some 30 years ago.

Also on the Mainstage is spring's dance and musical show Wonderland, created by students and faculty of The Playhouse Performance Education Center, under the direction of Jennifer Austin.

Meredith Willson's rousing favorite The Music Man and a holiday production of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, headline Playhouse programming for the summer and the 2012 holiday season.

The Adventure Theater's lineup features The Playhouse premiere of Five Guys Named Moe, a bright, tuneful, dance-filled musical featuring the hits of Louis Jordan, the "King Of The Jukebox." Five Guys will be directed and choreographed by Harry Bryce (Crowns, Dreamgirls). Rounding out the Adventure Theatre's roster are the love story See Rock City and the church-politics dramatic comedy The Moving of Lilla Barton (which originated at Alabama Shakespeare Festival) , along with the return of Smoke On The Mountain and A Sanders Family Christmas. Two fall shows remain to be announced, as several new musicals are considered.

Tickets, memberships and gift certificates for 2012 Playhouse productions, plus selected concerts at Crossville's Palace Theater, and Southern Stars Symphonic Brass, are available online at or by calling (931) 484-5000.

The Cumberland County Playhouse is now the only major non-profit professional performing arts resource in rural Tennessee, and one of the 10 largest professional theaters in rural America. It serves more than 145,000 visitors annually with two indoor and two outdoor states, young audience productions, a comprehensive dance program, a concert series and touring shows. The Playhouse is the only non-profit professional performing arts organization in Tennessee that wholly owns and operates its own major performance facility.

Combining a resident professional company and a staff of 16 with more than 100 visiting professionals and a large volunteer corps, The Playhouse draws professionals from across the country and volunteers from a dozen Tennessee counties. Over 50% of all revenues are expended for professional artist compensation. The Playhouse has been managed and directed by two generations of the Crabtree family since 1965. 

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Jeffrey Ellis Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 25 years. He is the recipient of the Tennessee Theatre Association's Distinguished Service Award for his coverage of theatre in the Volunteer State and was the founding editor/publisher of Stages, the Tennessee Onstage Monthly. He is a past fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center and is the founder/executive producer of The First Night Honors - the history of which can be traced to 1989 and the first presentation of The First Night Awards - which honor outstanding theater artisans from Tennessee in recognition of their lifetime achievements and also includes The First Night Star Awards and the Most Promising Actors recognition. Midwinter's First Night honors outstanding productions and performances throughout the state. An accomplished director, Ellis helmed productions of La Cage Aux Folles, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and An American Daughter, all in their Nashville premieres, as well as award-winning productions of Damn Yankees, Company, Gypsy and The Rocky Horror Show. Ellis was recognized by The Tennessean as best director of a musical for both Company and Rocky Horror. In 2015, he directed William Inge's Picnic for Circle Players and Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years for VWA Theatricals, with The Larry Keeton Theatre's production of Beth Henley's The Miss Firecracker Contest set for spring 2016.

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