A Family Affair for 'Guys and Dolls'
Courtesy of Sandhills Community College
When people hear about the Burton family - all seven of them - about to appear in the stage production of "Guys and Dolls" at Sandhills Community College, it isn't long before someone calls them the "Von Burton Family," in homage to the famous Von Trapp family singers.
"The Burtons are so talented. It's a pleasure to see what they can do," says Rick Smith, Sandhills' dean of Institutional Advancement and the producer of the play. "One of the joys of this musical is enjoying the incredible talent in this community, including the Burton family."
"Guys and Dolls" will be performed at the college's Owens Auditorium on Friday, Feb. 22, and Saturday, Feb. 23, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Feb. 24, at 3 p.m.
Set in the 1950s, this award-winning Broadway musical is a lovable look at gangsters, gamblers and other characters of the New York underworld that come up against the Save-A-Soul Mission Band trying to change their ways. Songs include "Luck Be a Lady," "A Bushel and a Peck," "Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat" and other favorites.
"This is the first musical production we have done at Sandhills, made possible in part by a generous grant from the C. Louis Meyer Family Foundation," says Smith. "'Guys and Dolls' features memorable music and lots of energy. It's a good show for the entire community and a chance to see the Burton family and many other individuals debut their talents."
How the Burton family, residents of Carthage, came to participate in the musical could be a play in itself.
Last October, after 16-year old Olivia Burton heard about the production's open auditions, mom Lisa agreed to bring Olivia and her 13-year-old sister Caroline to try out.
"When I complimented the girls on their lovely voices, they said they inherited their talent from their mother," says show director Jennifer Thomas, a music instructor at Sandhills. "They also said, 'If you like how we sound, you should hear our older sister!' I was definitely interested."
Older sister is 20-year-old Casey Burton, a student in the Sandhills Emergency Medical Science program. The younger girls asked Lisa to come in from the lobby where she was waiting and telephoned Casey to come to the auditions right away.
"What voices!" Smith says. "When Casey was auditioning, the hair on the back of our necks was standing up."
"When Casey was auditioning with "The Sound of Music," I couldn't hold back the tears," adds Thomas. "It moved me that much, and I am a hard-sell when it comes to voices."
Needless to say, Casey nabbed a lead role as Sergeant Sarah Brown, the leader of the Mission Band. Lisa plays band member Martha, and Olivia and Caroline show real skills performing as various bobby soxers and dancers.
"I was out of town, and Lisa called me to tell me she and our daughters wanted to be in the play," recalls Paul Burton, a retired Army Special Forces colonel. "Before I knew it, the play needed someone to assume the role of Lt. Brannigan, the cop, and there were openings for our sons. We figured as long as some of us were going to rehearsals, we might as well all go."
Luke Burton, age 13, is playing the role of Mission Band member Calvin, and 11-year old Joseph is playing a newsboy.
"Seeing all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into such a production has been very worthwhile for the kids - and for Lisa and me as well," says Paul.
Remarkably, the Burtons have had little musical training. The siblings have taken musical instrument lessons, and Casey had some voice lessons. Paul hasn't been in a play since high school, and Lisa had a smattering of theater experience in her younger years.
Casey reports she is immensely enjoying being part of "Guys and Dolls."
"I absolutely love everything about being in the performance," she says with enthusiasm. "I get nervous, sure, because I've never done anything like it before, but I have discovered something new I really love."
Casey also says that participating has brought another plus to her family.
"With the ages we all are, there aren't too many activities that the entire family can participate in," she points out. "Being in 'Guys and Dolls' has turned out to be something we can do together."
Casey began her studies in the Emergency Medical Science program at Sandhills in spring 2012, in order to become a paramedic. Like the rest of the Burton children, she had been home schooled for her entire academic life.
"But the transition to Sandhills was fantastic," she says. "Everyone is so nice and caring, it has been a great experience."
It's also a great experience for the people watching the Burton family in the pre-production stages of the play.
"The Burtons show us that putting on this musical is a good example of what community theater is all about," says Thomas. "Lisa brings us fresh baked cookies or bread to rehearsals. What a nice family! It's a pleasure to have them with us as we all work hard, to give the public some good nights of live musical theater."
Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for students, seniors and active military, and can be purchased online. Follow the link from the ad on the college's website or click the tickets icon at the top center of the page. They can also be purchased in the Boyd Library 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays with check or credit cards.
For more information, contact Rick Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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