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McLendon part of great story in 'Guys and Dolls'

September 01, 2017

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Christie McLendon is a tiny little blonde with a big smile and an even bigger personality who will bring her special blend of comic acting to the stage in this month’s production of “Guys and Dolls.” The production will hit the stage at the Emma Kelly Theater Sept. 7, 8 and 9.

Local audiences will remember McLendon from past performances. She was a cast member in “Little Shop of Horrors” three years ago, but her breakout performance was in “South Pacific” in early 2016. Both productions were held at the Emma.  McLendon started “South Pacific” as a backup character, but was asked to step up when an understudy dropped out 10 days before the show opened.

“Learn an entire Broadway musical with all these songs and stage directions that I hadn’t even seen in nine days? Um, yes. I can totally do that,” she said, laughing.

And she did. She learned choreography, music and dialogue – and she nailed it.

“I couldn’t have been prouder of myself. I still can’t believe it,” she said.

The performance won her an Emma Award for Breakout Performance in 2015-2016.

Last fall, she starred as Louise Seger in “Always…Patsy Cline,” alongside another local talent, Brandi Harvey, who played Cline. The role was especially challenging, McLendon said, because of the amount of dialogue she had to learn and deliver.

“There was no going back and forth with lines with other people, it was just huge blocks of me talking while she changed costumes and sang something else,” she said.

McLendon is also a part of a traveling troupe that performs as the characters from “The Andy Griffith Show,” which will be performing at the Emma on Oct. 7 She portrays Charlene Darling, part of the infamous Darling family on the show. The group travels to Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina, and performs as part of the “Cruise to Mayberry,” a five-day Carnival cruise. “A Tribute to Mayberry” will begin at 7:30 p.m.

In “Guys and Dolls,” McLendon will be playing the part of Adelaide, a burlesque dancer who is the love interest of Nathan Detroit, the production’s “heart and soul.” The couple has been together for 14 years, but Nathan, played by John Marsh, just can’t seem to commit. The other two main characters are Sky Masterson, the quintessential smooth gambler, played by Joey Simon, and his love interest, girl-next-door Sarah Brown, played by Miranda Winter.

McLendon says she and an ensemble of dancers from their burlesque club, The Hot Box, will have a couple of big dance numbers and songs that the audience will enjoy, as well as the stories of each of the two couples. The dancers include Emma Rivera, Ali Byrd, Alannah Riner and Kinslee Polk.

The audience can look forward to “a good laugh and a great story, and some good dancing,” she added.

The music will be a huge part of this show, and McLendon says the songs will be unforgettable.

“The songs in this are just classic. They’re such iconic songs. People might not remember the plot, but they’ll remember those songs. You’ll go away with those tunes in your head for the rest of the week,” she said.

Classic songs featured in the musical include “A Bushel and a Peck,” “Luck Be a Lady” and “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat.”

McClendon, who is originally from Daisy, now calls Metter home with her husband of 28 years, Mike. The couple has two children: 23-year-old Matt, who’s serving in the military, and 18-year-old Kate, who is starting college this fall.

McClendon first began performing by singing in church. She and Mike attend Trinity Baptist in Nevils, where there is an active drama program. She became involved in it, and discovered that she loved acting. She soon discovered a love for musicals.

“I don’t know which one I like more, the singing or the dancing. That’s why when I try out for something, I’d rather try out for a musical. That way, I get to do both,” she said.

After attending a production of “9 to 5” at the Emma Kelly a few years ago, McLendon said she was shocked to find out that the actors were all local.

“I was so impressed. The singing, the dancing and the sets. I just couldn’t believe that this was just regular old folk. And I thought, heck, I can do that,” she said, laughing. “I can get up there and clown around. That’s been my whole life.”

That started her relationship with the Averitt Center for the Arts and its productions, and now McLendon says she’s willing to audition for just about anything.

“It might be too young, too old. I’m gonna go. There’s stage makeup, so I can look older or younger if I have to,” she said. “I don’t care. I just like to do any theater thing.”

To prepare for her roles, McLendon says she likes to watch videos on YouTube to see how other actresses have interpreted a character. Mike helps her run her lines, and is often her audience as she rehearses. He even helps by singing the counterpoints.

“And he cannot sing,” McLendon said, laughing. “But he’s my biggest fan and he is my audience.”

McLendon says her reward for all her hard work comes two-fold. First, there’s the feeling she gets on stage.

“It’s a feeling you just can’t describe, being on stage, belting out a note that rings true in your own head, and you can see the reaction of the people in the audience and you can tell they’re just into it, and they’re just lost. It’s like the feeling I get when I’m watching a movie that’s really good. I forget I’m in the theater. I forget that those are actors. I feel like I’m in it. When it’s over, I’m just like, oh gosh, I’m not in the movie, I’m in the theater,” she said. 

Her other reward comes when she sees that same feeling reflected on the faces of those in the audience.

“I don’t need people to come up to me afterwards and say, ‘Oh, you did a good job,” or “I really liked that.’ That reaction, the look on somebody’s face, that’s all the affirmation that I have ever needed, in anything I’ve done. If you’re doing good, the faces will show it,” she said.

Other cast members include Jackson Hamilton (Nicely-Nicely Johnson), Joshua Murray (Benny Southwest), Bennon Smith (Rusty Charlie/Waiter/Crapshooter), Amber Wade (Agatha), Brogan McGowan (Calvin/Crapshooter), John Parcels (Arvide), Kevin Kolbe (Harry the Horse), Brooks Adams (Lt. Brannigan), Bennon Smith (Angie the Ox), Brogan McGowan (Joey Biltmore), Ali Byrd (Mimi), Merry Gallagher (Gen. Matilda B. Cartwright) and John Groover (Big Jule). Masters of Ceremonies will be McGowan and Smith.

“Guys and Dolls” opens on Sept. 7, with additional shows on Sept. 8 and 9. The curtain goes up at 7:30 p.m. each night. Tickets are $20, and can be purchased at or by calling (912) 212-2787.


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