A new moniker, but same values|Theater still offering family entertainment

Published 7:49 am Friday, December 4, 2009

Lifestyles & Features Editor

CHOCOWINITY — The name is different, but the family friendly atmosphere is staying the same.
That’s what Angie Lewis is promising after the Grand Ole Gospel in Chocowinity changed its named to Tar Heel Variety Theater, effective this month.
“It will always be good, clean family entertainment,” said Lewis, who owns and operates the theater with her husband, Ronnie. “This is still a place to be uplifted, a place to have good, clean fun. Life can get you down, but this is a place where you can leave it all behind.”
The name change is allowing the Lewis family — their son and daughter also are involved in the venture — to broaden the theater’s fan base and appeal to a wider range of tastes in music.
“Now we can offer a variety of different things, a variety of different concerts and shows,” Lewis said. “We want to bring in a little bit of beach music, bluegrass, country and classic rock. We want to offer a variety of music, as long as it is a family program.”
That last point is especially important to Lewis.
“We are not forgetting the gospel part of it at all. We’re just reaching out to do a variety of programs,” she said. “We’re not going to do anything here that my preacher couldn’t come, sit here and enjoy it.”
At Tar Heel Variety Theater, folks won’t have to worry about what their young children will hear from the stage, Lewis said. Alcohol is not served on the premises, and smoking is banned inside the theater.
The Lewis family has dabbled a bit in more mainstream programs before the name change; for instance, the family hosted the Malpass Brothers earlier this fall and drew a crowd of more than 500 in the audience.
This weekend, the venue will feature Nicky Harris as the headliner for a Christmas dinner-theater show Saturday. Also featured on the playbill are Mark Gray, Beth Ivey, Jimmy Beasley, Dana Hardy and Angie Lewis. And there just may be a surprise guest or two.
Dinner will be served at 5 p.m., and the stage show starts at 7 p.m.
“We’re hoping to do a lot more of the dinner theater-type event,” Lewis said. “We’re serving good, stick-to-your-ribs food like chicken and pastry, ham, string beans, yams and homemade desserts.”
The theater will continue to celebrate the Yuletide season with “A Carolina Country Christmas,” starring Herb Humphreys and the Carolina Country Band on Dec. 12 and Dec. 19. Two shows are scheduled each day, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
After a short break, the theater will reopen Jan. 15 with Eddie Miles. The Lewis family hopes to have regular Saturday shows beginning in February as well as the occasional Friday-night show.
Tar Heel Variety Theater, which opened in 2002, is sticking to its gospel music roots by presenting several special shows throughout the year. Slated to appear next spring are the Booth Brothers, Michael Combs and Ivan Parker.
For more information about Tar Heel Variety Theater and upcoming shows, call 252-975-2117 or visit www.tarheelvarietytheater.com.