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


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.

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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, held during Labor Day Weekend, which honor oustanding theater artists in Tennessee in recognition of their lifetime achievements and includes The First Night Star Awards and the Most Promising Actors. Midwinter's First Night, held the first Sunday in January after New Year's Day, honors outstanding productions and performances throughout the state. Further, Ellis directed the Nashville premiere of La Cage Aux Folles, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and An American Daughter, as well as award-winning productions of Damn Yankees, Company, Gypsy and The Rocky Horror Show, with Ellis honored by The Tennessean as best director of a musical for both Company and Rocky Horror.

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