'Sandbar Serenade' pays tribute to Bluffton's favorite hangout

February 15, 2011 

The May River Theatre is taking a page out of summertime in Bluffton and putting it onstage.

The original musical revue "Sandbar Serenade" pays tribute to the May River sandbar and the Carolina beach music that evoke memories of good times to Blufftonians and beyond. For decades, the sandbar off Myrtle Island has been a place to relax in the sun, barbecue, fish and, in earlier days, dance the shag.

The show runs from Friday to March 6 for eight performances.

The revue was inspired by Beth Woods, a native of Hampton, who spent summers in Bluffton and still makes regular trips to the sandbar. Now in her 40s, Woods is a member of the theater's board and suggested the 10-year-old company put good use to the music of The Tams, The Drifters and other East Coast beach bands.

"I told them we'd be crazy if we didn't do something about the sandbar because it's universal to Bluffton, and we have so much great beach music," Woods said.

Development of the show was put in the hands of the director/chorographer team of Lowell and Kim Roberts. Lowell Roberts played the lead role in May River Theatre's production of "Pal Joey" and also performed in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." This is his directorial debut. Kim Roberts has a background in dance.

The married couple live on Wilmington Island near Savannah and moved there from Memphis in 2006. They are familiarizing themselves with the revue's Carolina music, which goes back as far as the 1940s.

"I was thinking 'Smokey Joe's Cafè' meets Myrtle Beach," Lowell Roberts said about his interpretation of "Sandbar Serenade."

Lowell Roberts and May River Theatre regular Mike Palermo will make guest appearances. Area shag dancers fill out the cast at any given performance, Lowell Roberts said.

"We're incorporating elements of the shag into some of the movements," Kim Roberts said. "A lot of what the cast will do is sing. It's really about the songs. There's a lot of creativity going on."

Ted Seaman, the company's longtime music director, will put his own touch on The Embers' "I Love Beach Music," The Tams' "Be Young, Be Foolish, But Be Happy," The Dominoes' "Sixty Minute Man" and other songs from the 1940s through the 1980s.

The cast includes veterans of May River Theatre: Rob Tillison, Kelley Alcorn, Darby Ward, Chierie Smith, Filip Belka, Pete Zeleznik and Katelynn Alcorn, and newcomers Michelle Pem, David Carothers and Alec Bishop.

"The great thing about the sandbar is it brings people together, because obviously you've got your neighbors who you can go out there and have a drink with," said 24-year-old Bishop, a first-time performer with the company.

"This is back when you had the distiller here in Bluffton, of course, and back when it was just the Piggly Wiggly and the ABC store."

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