BY RUTH RICE

RRICE@TRIBDEM.COM

A member of one well-known musical family will help retell the story of America’s first family of country music.

Carrie Tillis, daughter of Mel Tillis and sister of Pam Tillis, will portray one of the Carter daughters, of the famous Carter family, in “Keep on the Sunny Side” to be performed Tuesday through Sept. 2 at Mountain Playhouse, Jennerstown.

“I thought my family was the first family,” she joked. “It’s all relative. My dad is old school, and Pam is part of today’s country scene.”

While Tillis has performed with her father and sister, she has always loved musical theater and seeks out roles such as the one she landed at Jenners-town.

“This show blends what I know innately as a person and performer,” Tillis said. “It brings my art and country music together, and it’s the best of both worlds.”

Tillis will play Janette, one of the younger Carter children.

The story of the Carter family is told through her eyes.

Tillis made her playhouse debut earlier this season in “42nd Street.”

“Keep on the Sunny Side” spans more than 60 years, from the day in June 1914 that A.P. Carter meet his future wife, Sara, to the 1970s, when the Carter family was the first group to be elected into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“We jump in and out of time periods, but it’s seamless,” Tillis said. “We all stay on stage most of the time.”

Written by Douglas Pote, “Keep on the Sunny Side” was first presented at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Va., in 2003.

Songs recorded by the Carters featured in the show are “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” “Wabash Cannonball,” “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” “Wildwood Flower” and the title song, “Keep on the Sunny Side.”

Tillis said the production depicts how the well-known songs came to life and how the Carters’ music and lives affected each other.

“I like the way the songs are woven into the script,” Tillis said. “This isn’t a revue of the songs. There might be some (songs) the audience isn’t so familiar with.”

Tillis will be joined by Larry Tobias, who is part of this season’s resident company at the playhouse, as the legendary A.P. Carter.

Kathy Calahan will play Carter’s wife, Sara.

Tillis said her family hopes to see her perform locally.

“They consider it a monumental role,” Tillis said.

Before coming to Jenners-town to perform in “Keep on the Sunny Side,” Tillis was informed that her father will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame this fall.

“It’s a longtime dream of his,” Tillis said.



On stage

What: “Keep on the Sunny Side,” a musical about the Carters.

When: Tuesday through Sept. 2.

Show times: 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays and 3 p.m. Sundays.

Where: Mountain Playhouse, Jennerstown.

Tickets: $8 to $35.

Information: 629-9201.

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