CCAC Night of Chocolate a Sweet Success

Thursday, February 12, 2015
Cathy Norred (second from right) as Billie Body, talks with the mime played by McKain Holman. Other cast members included, from left: Jessie Cobb as Magee, Gerald Hartsfield as Colonel Muckel and Susie McCarroll as the senior counselor for Outward Ho!

If anyone needed affirmation regarding the benefit of the arts to a community, he could have found it in abundance Saturday at the Rector Community Center when the Clay County Arts Council presented its 14th annual Night of Chocolate, benefitting the ongoing mission with profits funding scholarships and arts programming.

The winter entertainment event featured the comedic, three-scene murder mystery No Body to Murder by Edith Weiss through special arrangement with Pioneer Drama Services of Englewood, Colo.

Obvious to the packed house of 200 patrons was the exuberance of the cast and crew, a perfect blend of two communities, Rector and Piggott. The arts, unlike some endeavors, unite people for a common goal with competition and rivalries vanishing under the cooperative umbrella. Seventeen actors in varying age ranges and from an array of backgrounds brought skill and willingness to the stage under the expert direction of Gail Burns, president and founder of the Council.

Rector's newly-elected mayor, Teresa Roofe, welcomed the crowd and remarked how both her sons had benefitted from the arts program in the Rector schools. State Rep. Joe Jett offered the invocation prior to the buffet dinner. Larry Norred entertained throughout dinner on the keyboard with a variety of dinner music.

A sellout crowd dined on delicious entrees of roast beef and baked chicken, steamed broccoli with cheese sauce, baby carrots, Wisk Signature salad and bread. To underscore the meal catered by The Traveling Wisk of Kennett, the guests enjoyed an array of chocolate desserts including the unending cascade of richness flowing from the chocolate fountain.

As the guests finished their desserts, Burns introduced the performance for the evening. Many participants made their stage debut Saturday evening, but the dinner crowd would never know it from the quick-paced comedic action. She called for the audience to be "generous" with their laughter and applause. Indeed, spontaneous laughter, chuckles and applause threaded through the evening as each scene unfolded.

Told in three parts, an attempted murder highlighted the plot. The various tables had opportunity to view the potential murder weapons as they were displayed in the great hall. When intermission arrived, each table voted on who might be the potential murderer and what weapon could have been used. No table guessed both correctly, so the gifts for the winning table were added to the door prizes furnished by local sponsors.

The Clay County Arts Council mission reached a peak as communities came together in common spirit to provide funds for arts programming in the local schools and scholarships for students planning to further their education in one of the many ways arts impact people. Community businesses donated door prizes to lend excitement to the event. Sixteen lucky attendees went home with gifts furnished by Cate's Pharmacy in Corning, Madpie's Tea Room and Flea Market and Suzy's in Piggott, Joel Boyd Artwork, Above and Beyond Salon, Barbara Hamilton of Hamilton Farms, and Honeysuckle and Home in Rector.

The audience and cast applauded the crew for their management of music, sound effects, lighting and stage microphone connections. Joey Pruett, David Romine, and Adam Romine worked their magic. Marvin Gatewood built and painted the window and window seat. Peggy Grimes fashioned and donated the stage's new border drape. All on-stage furnishings were provided courtesy of Madpie's Tea Room and Flea Market of Piggott. John James served as ticket chair and assigned tables for ease in seating. Kim Romine created the numbered table tents. Tracy Horton expertly used her make-up and hair design skills. Jane Gatewood highlighted the event with posters, updates to the Facebook page, and designed the program.

Performing No Body to Murder from Rector were Jane Gatewood as Mrs. McGarragher, the oh, so sweet, matronly innkeeper for the Come On Inn of Nova Scotia; Jessie Cobb, son of Jason and Heather Cobb, as Magee, the down-in-the-back butler who never answers the door; Charles Grimes as the weird and scary gardener who cuts weeds with an axe (weapon of choice); Debbie Adams as Dr. McCandlish, the nervous doctor (culprit) who cut off only one wrong leg; Ronda Haney as Countess De Mir, a feisty, crabby, snooty matron who threw a fellow passenger into the ocean; Gerald Hartsfield as gung-ho, vision-challenged Colonel Muckle who must look left and right when leading his troops as a retired Marine. Tracy Horton and Susie McCarroll provided plenty of laughs as two senior counselors for Outward Ho! These two never sold enough Bulgar and Wheat Bits to go camping in Switzerland; Kathy Fowler played Cecily, who was way too cheerful and colorful a person to murder anyone; Bridgette Scott played Hilda, who couldn't keep her comb away from anyone's hair, especially her own. Peggy Grimes highlighted as Greta, the very famous, retired, glamorous self-absorbed actress with a trained thespian eye.

Rounding out the cast from Piggott were two hysteria-prone, clueless maids from the Come On Inn of Nova Scotia -- Nina and Nancy played by Missy Norred and Tonya McHaffey-May. Dot, the cook who made disgusting lemonade and stewed tomatoes, came to life through Patty McHaffey. Cathy Norred played Billie Body, a love interest, aerobics instructor, the real inspector, whose unconscious, believed-to-be-dead body was stored inside the window seat. A business woman who carried a trophy noting her accomplished career was played by Tracy Cole. A terrible, annoying, but most endearing mime came to life when McKain Holman took the stage. The fake inspector and real escaped convict Pat Menace was played by Dakota Burr.

To add an exclamation point to the evening, Elvis made a surprise appearance. The Inn was expecting the Elvis Impersonators Convention the following week, but as the harried guests exited to their rooms and the culprits were hauled to the police station, another knock at the door suggested more hilarity. "Hunka-Hunka Burning Love" echoed through the great hall as Kirby Johnson took the stage and wowed the crowd. Mrs. McGarragher was overcome with glee and began the curtain call when she captured one of Elvis' red scarves. The cast joined her in a rocking dance as each took a bow and was greeted with a standing ovation from the audience. After a group bow, the cast danced from the stage to more Elvis music and remained down front to receive accolades from family and friends.

Oh, What a Night: A Night of Chocolate!

The production was filmed by Your Hometown Channel TV (YHCTV) and a DVD can be ordered for $20 each by calling 877-566-2121 for information.

The next CCAC, Inc. event is the Art Show for school age art students -- March 14, followed by the Giant Puppet Show (Rip Van Winkle) on April 20 and the Celebration of the Arts on June 6. To become a supporting member, persons may call 870-240-3014.

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