Celebrate Mississippi’s Birthday with Centerstage Theatre; You’ll be glad you did

Cast of ‘Mississippi Saturday Night’ Mary Jackson, Hadley Hill, Natalie Collins, Ruthie Wilder.
Cast of ‘Mississippi Saturday Night’ Mary Jackson, Hadley Hill, Natalie Collins, Ruthie Wilder. Ginny Russum

Music can evoke the best feelings and memories in us, and “Mississippi Saturday Night” does just that.

This year, Mississippi celebrates its 200th birthday as a state, and Centerstage Theatre in Biloxi offers a “jukebox musical” that honors our state’s legendary singers and songwriters.

Some of the singers represented are Jimmy Buffett, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bobby Gentry, Faith Hill and, of course, Elvis Presley.

Most of us are familiar with those singers, and we expect to hear their songs. However, we might not expect to hear some of the songs made famous by Mississippi songwriters.

Most of us probably don’t realize their Mississippi roots. This show demonstrates emphatically why Mississippi is known as the “Birthplace of America’s Music.”

Upon entry into the theatre, the audience is greeted with another impeccable Centerstage set depicting a classic representation of a good ole honky tonk.

And what honky tonk would be complete without a live band?

The production opens with Hadley Hill, WLOX Gulf Coast Idol winner, singing “Ode to Billie Joe.” It only gets better from there.

Before you know it, you will be singing along to such great hits as “Mustang Sally,” “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places” and “Great Balls of Fire.” Some of our favorite Coast performers give us all “the feels” with these and other songs.

Notable performances include Sean Harding’s rendition of “You Send Me,” by Mississippian Sam Cooke; Natalie Collins singing “Neither One of Us,” made famous by Gladys Knight and the Pips as written by Jim Weatherly of Pontotoc; and Ruthie Wilder bringing down the house with Kitty and Neil Stallings’ “Hurricane,” a song written for an original production at Centerstage.

But perhaps the most moving is Estic Rodriguez-Jackson’s version of Sam Cooke’s Civil Rights Era anthem, “A Change is Gonna Come.”

Mississippi is known for its music, culture, hospitality, and even tumultuous times. One thing is for certain, however; there is great diversity among us all.

This company of singers not only exemplifies that diversity, it also promotes pride and unity. Conceived by Debra Atkinson, David Delk and Chuck White, “Mississippi Saturday Night” is a celebration of the artistry endowed by the state’s native citizens.

Delk explains, “We started investigating who was born in Mississippi, and the obvious was Elvis Presley and Jimmy Buffett. But then when we dug deeper we realized there are so many other people and talents born in our beautiful state.”

This exposition of talent grants us a small glimpse into what treasures Mississippi holds.

Attendance of this celebration will give you much more in value than a couple hours of entertainment. Through this musical review, you will relive some of your fondest memories of growing up, spending great times with your family and friends, dancing with your sweetheart, singing along on road trips and marking the milestones in your life. It’s about hometown heroes, pride, diversity, life and love.

Despite what the world may sometimes think of Mississippi, this production proves, great things come from Mississippi.

Mississippi Saturday Night

Presented by: Centerstage Theatre

Where: 2670 Rue Palafox, Biloxi

Showtimes and dates: Opened Thursday and runs Friday-Thursday and Nov. 17, 18, 19; Nightly shows curtain 7:30 p.m., Sunday matinees curtain 2 p.m.

Cast List: Teri Carter, Natalie Collins, Vicki Dukes, Allen Farrington, Mary Jackson, Rebecca Harding, Sean Harding, Hadley Hill, Estic Rodriguez-Jackson, Wayne Stephens, Ruthie Wilder

Production Crew: Director/Artistic Director/Set Design: Chuck White; Music Director: Debra Atkinson; Choreography: Jennifer Densing; Lighting Design: Sharon Bush; Sound Design: Kage Laney; Theatre Manager: Ginny Russum; Stage Manager: Amy Carter; Assistant Stage Manager: Saumari Davis; Set Building and Painting: John Poelma, Chuck White; Set Dressing: David Delk, Chuck White; Lighting Crew: Carrie Ferguson-Bellew, Kenny Broy, Katie Broy, Nathan Broy, Kim Bush, Sharon Bush; Costume Consultation: Becky Green, Ginny Russum, the Cast; Publicity Design: David Slatten; Publicity Production: Ryan Reinike

Band: Piano: Allen Cahela; Guitar: Todd Durbin; Bass guitar: Jefferson Rogers; Drums: Karen Rice

Ticket Prices: $24.50 General Admission; $21.50 Senior, Student, Military/Fire/Police/EMS; Reservations recommended

Reservations/details: 228-388-6258