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Ritz proves ‘Right Place’

Big things can happen in a small town. On Thursday night, the Camellia City’s historic Ritz Theatre was the “right place” for the hundreds of patrons who turned out for the premiere show of the Greenville Area Arts Council’s 2008-2009 season.

“The Right Place” was a mix of high-energy concert (via homegrown talent Kevin Sport and his band) and talk show (with Sport interviewing former Alabama and Auburn standouts Tyler Watts and Joe Cope, along with country hit-maker John Berry), concluding with an outstanding set by Berry and Bobby McKee.

The multitude of cameras, speakers, lights and other equipment brought into the Ritz (with the assistance of Naomi Pryor’s Advanced Theatre students at Greenville High School) marked this production as something out of the ordinary for the city: a locally staged production to be aired on national TV.

The show is slated to premiere on Direct TV this fall, and continue to air on the new Country Adventures Network in spring 2009.

“We were so excited to be able to have this opportunity,” Pryor said on Wednesday, as she supervised the students transporting in truckloads of special equipment to the stage.

“Earlier, Kevin (Sport) came in and just sat on the stage and explained the process of making a show, then invited everyone to ask questions. It was a great experience for them,” Pryor said.

Thursday night, the GHS students, sporting their own “The Right Place” T-shirts, returned to help hand out programs and greet attendees.

Audience members got to see a video of a very familiar place: Greenville itself, featuring shots of the courthouse, City Hall, Confederate Park and other local landmarks. Sport appeared in the video in places like GHS Tiger Stadium and Court Square Café, lauding the people who encouraged him along the way, from “Miss Patty” at the café to Greenville High School teachers like Millie McDonald, Rose Ellis and Bobbie Gamble.

After performing a number of songs from his debut CD, “That’s Enough,” Sport talked individually with Watts, Cope and Berry about their own dreams and aspirations as they sought “the right place” in their own lives.

All seemed to agree, whether it was playing football for a top team or seeking a career in music, it was in their blood from an early age.

Berry and McKee performed several of Berry’s songs on amplified acoustic guitars, including hits “Your Love Amazes Me,” “Standing on the Edge of Forever” and “Kiss Me in the Car” and a couple of tunes from his newest CD.

The piece de resistance was Berry’s final number, a request from Sport: “O Holy Night.”

Berry’s haunting a cappella rendition of the Christmas classic brought audience members to their feet.

“Now that was amazing,” said audience member Susan Murphy. “What a gift that man has!”

GAAC members enjoyed an array of appetizers from sweet potato fries to corn and bean salsa with cornbread on the torch-lit patio at The Chef’s Table following the show. Local talents Troy Reid and Billy Studstill sang and played on their guitars to entertain those mixing and mingling in the comfortable night air.

For those who missed Thursday night’s show or who want to hear more Christmas music from him, Berry will be returning with his band to Greenville for a holiday show on November 17 at 7 p.m. at the Ritz. Look for additional information in upcoming editions of The Greenville Advocate.

The next Greenville Area Arts Council performance is The Platters, set for October 27 at the Ritz.