The Higher the Hair, the Closer to Heaven’s cast members Leslie Davidson, Alicia Davis, Judy Turnbow and Belle Lenius tease Jason Jacobi during rehearsal. photo by Susan W. Showalter

Brown County Live Entertainment

by Susan W. Showalter

Great music and passionate enthusiasm are alive and well in the Nashville Follies Musical Theatre located at 227 S. Van Buren Street in Coachlight Square where the owners of the newest professional entertainment company, Brown County LIVE Entertainment, have been creating and rehearsing their first production. The Higher the Hair, The Closer to Heaven is a celebration of music made famous by great ladies of country music and it features singers, dancers and actors from all over the State of Indiana.

Partners Doug May and Susan Christenberry worked together last fall to produce, direct and manage the highly successful Theatre Brown County’s production of “Abe Martin’s Dinger of a Day”. Susan has a theater degree from Indiana University and Butler University. She moved to Nashville in 2000 to take over the operation of the Nashville shop, For the Birds. She describes the new show, which includes 31 songs by popular artists including Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Faith Hill, Lee Ann Womack and others, as having “something for everyone.”

“The cast are former “beauticians” from The Higher the Hair, the Closer to Heaven Beauty Barn and Boutique who go on the road to sing, dance and “tickle the funny bone”…it’s a fun filled festival for the whole family,” said Susan. “We wanted that Brown County country flavor. The cast interacts with the audience which can join in by singing the familiar songs or by dancing in the aisles.”

Doug, who was a creative executive for 15 years with the Walt Disney Company, is the producer, writer and director.

“This is a show about a show…a show within a show. The key is we are here to have fun! The cast has to have fun for the audience to have fun,” he said. “This show is fun and it touches your heart. I basically have taken some great country songs and created a skeleton of a show and the muscles, skin and so forth are added during the rehearsals. Changes are made everyday. There is a constant molding and rebuilding.”

Doug, who grew up in Bedford and graduated from Indiana University’s Theater Department, acted and directed throughout the United States before joining Disney where he worked at various international locations. After over 500 live shows Doug returned to Indiana and settled in Nashville where he and his wife Vicki own The Primitive Shed and the Countryside Cabin shops.

The exceptional and highly qualified cast of singers, dancers and actors includes Indianapolis residents Jason Jacobi and Whitney Thetford. Cast members from Bloomington include Leslie Davidson and Rebecca Keith. Columbus residents included in the casts are Alicia Davis, and Judy Turnbow. Mooresville resident Doug Leeper, who has been a member of the Nashville Follies cast for over 7 years with major roles in 20 musical productions, appears in the casts. Minnesota native Belle Lenius is also in the show.

Two Nashville residents are included in the casts. Jolie Mullin has performed in numerous productions throughout the United States as an actress, comedian and as a Sweet Adeline. Marsha Placke, a local business owner who has performed extensively with choirs, bluegrass and country bands, and barbershop quartets, completes the group. The show’s one original song, “The Higher the Hair, the Closer to Heaven”, was written in collaboration by Emerson and Cheryl Martlage.

Brown County Live Entertainment’s Creative Musical Director is Kari Palma of Martinsville. Choreographer for the new group is Anni Hine of Indianapolis. The Set Designer is Rick Armstrong of Bloomington and the Costume Designer is Vicki May of Nashville. The Technical/Audio Designer is Chris Coolidge of Martinsville. Tom Christenberry of Nashville is the Production Associate, and the Props Master is Barbara Steininger, also of Nashville.

The Brown County Live Entertainment’s show season runs from April 1st through December 23rd with the shows running in a repertory format. The Higher the Hair, the Closer to Heaven opens April 1st and runs through November 6th.

The Road to Gnawbone, the second original musical, is based on the Bob Hope/Bing Crosby “road to” movies, opens July 3rd and runs through November 5th. The final production of the season, A Brown County Christmas, capturing the “magic” of Christmas in song, opens November 20th with performances through December 23rd. Shows will be presented on Sundays, Thursdays and select weekends from April through December, with daily performances in October.

“Emotional experience is what entertainment is about…touching the heart and soul of the audience,” said Doug. “We love what we do… and hopefully the audience will love it too”.

Reservations and tickets can be obtained by calling 812-988-2101 or 800-304-8588 or by visiting the web site at <> “click” Brown County LIVE Entertainment. Special dinner/show packages are available.

For More Information please call Doug May or Susan Christenberry at the numbers listed above.