Ramblin' Rhodes: Newberry Opera House has new director, new lineup

Molly Fortune is the new executive director of the Newberry Opera House.

The Newberry (S.C.) Opera House that so many Augusta-area residents love to patronize is under a new executive director for the first time in 19 years.


Molly Fortune, formerly restoration and operations director of the fabulous Fox Theatre in Atlanta, last fall accepted the Newberry job vacated in September 2015 by long-time director Deborah Smith.

Smith and Fortune have been friends for more than 15 years, and Smith urged Fortune to take the Newberry position when Smith decided to retire.

But you can expect another great season filled with internationally famous acts performing in the very intimate 426-seat former vaudeville house building that opened in 1882.

Fortune was born and reared in Atlanta, and graduated from Converse College in Spartanburg, S.C.

Her work at the Fox Theatre included supervising the departments of production, maintenance, operations, restoration, housekeeping, guest experience, security, tours and internet technology.

You can find the complete 2016-2017 season at newberryoperahouse.com and can obtain a season booklet by either calling (803) 276-6264 or writing Fortune at Newberry Opera House, 1201 McKibben St., Newberry, SC 29108.

Here is a sampling of the lineup:

COUNTRY: Gene Watson, 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9; Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives, 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10; Larry Gatlin & The Florida Boys, 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18; Shenandoah, 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18; Thom Bresh, 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20; Crystal Gayle Christmas Show, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17; Jimmy Fortune (formerly of The Statler Brothers), 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15; Classic Nashville Country Revue, 3 and 8 p.m. Friday, April 28; John Conlee, 7 p.m. Friday, May 12.

BLUEGRASS: Texas fiddlers The Quebe Sisters, 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15; Gibson Brothers, 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8; The Willis Clan, 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15; Balsam Range, 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27; Dailey & Vincent, 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19; 3 On A String, 3 p.m. Sunday, March 26; Sierra Hull, 8 p.m. Friday, April 21.

CLASSIC ROCK: The Legendary 5th Dimension with Florence LaRue, 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2; Leon Russell, 8 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22; Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs, 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30; Tinsley Ellis, 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21; Chubby Checker, 3 and 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23; The Embers, 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 14; The Lettermen, 3 and 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20; The Tams, 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 29; The Stylistics, 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 2; Delbert McClinton, 8 p.m. Saturday, March 4; The Clovers, 8 p.m. Saturday, March 25; The Diamonds, 8 p.m. Saturday, May 6.

There also are a lot of classical offerings, touring musicals and plays, gospel music artists, children’s shows and other good stuff on tap. So be sure and visit the website or request a brochure for the full season.


MARTY STUART’S PHOTOGRAPHS: The Morris Museum of Art, 10th at Reynolds, will be having an exhibit of photographs taken by country music star Marty Stuart on display from Sept. 9 to Nov. 27.

The Grammy Award-winner himself will be at a reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9, opening the exhibit. He then will perform for the museum’s Budweiser True Music Southern Soul & Song series at the Imperial Theatre.

Also on display will be some expensive costumes made by “designer to the stars” Manuel Cuevas whose creations have been worn by Elvis Presley (the famous gold lamé suit), Gram Parsons, Johnny Cash and many other celebrities. Caitlin Arabis, manager of Manuel American Designs, will be giving a talk during the Morris reception.

Tickets to the reception are $10 for museum members and $20 for others.

Tickets for the Imperial show by Stuart and his band, The Fabulous Superlatives, are $28, $23 and $15 purchased at the Imperial Theatre box office, 745 Broad St., or by calling (706) 722-8341 or online at imperialtheatre.com.


BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK: You are going to be hearing a lot about this movie in the coming months, because it was directed by Oscar-winning Ang Lee who also directed Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Being released on Veterans’ Day, Nov. 11, it is based on the book by Ben Fountain and centers on a military squad who became heroes after a fierce battle in Iraq and their being honored and exploited during a Dallas Cowboys football game.

My special interest is that a sister of the main character Billy Lynn is being played by Atlanta-based actress Laura Lundy Wheale, who is the wife of Atlanta lawyer and Augusta native Patrick Wheale and the daughter-in-law of former local Superior Court Judge Duncan Wheale.

Laura, who has a law degree herself, was born in Birmingham, Ala., and grew up in Cedartown, Ga. She also has a role playing a reporter in the movie Sully directed by Clint Eastwood.


CATCHY THEME SONG: There seems to be an increasing number of TV shows and commercials that use bluegrass and country music recordings.

One of the best ones is used by the Cook’s Country from America’s Test Kitchen food show. I looked it up, and the theme song is Right Between Your Eyes recorded by a bluegrass group called Hot Buttered Rum.

Different websites say the song was written by the band during a visit to a California river near San Francisco, and that it is a reminder “you can find peace of mind by channeling a beautiful place or person who brings you the bliss you cherish in your life.”