EDITOR’S NOTE: This was written by Gay Guercio, one of the original dancers in the chorus line of the Medicine Show.
The Mississippi Medicine Show is a finger-snapping, toe tapping, fun~filled evening of entertainment.
Natchez Little Theatre and veteran cast members are bringing a Natchez original to the stage this week with a revival of the Mississippi Medicine Show. Directed by Burnley Cook, whose vision was to bring back the gags and comedy and Southern songs that made the show famous, the show will perform at 7:30 pm August 8, 9, 10 and a Sunday August 11 matinee at 2 p.m. at Natchez little Theatre.
The show started in 1976 but really took off when Weeta Colebank, a Natchez business owner who was well-known for her community involvement and personal flair, became the flamboyant "Dr. Morphineus Codeine Shingles" who sells the potent elixir of life medicine. Sam Jones plays Dr. Shingles in his exuberant, vibrant style. Dr. Shingles comedic foil is Bennie Boone who plays her name sake character. Originally she played one of the dancers but was promoted to Weeta's sidekick. Unfortunately the dancers are not being reprised this year but we are there in spirit!
Twenty talented performers make up the total production including Joseph Simmons who is the youngest cast member and plays the role of a fishing boy who shouts "Here comes the Showboat"!
The Mississippi Medicine Show played for Fall Pilgrimage for over 23 years and delighted thousands of Natchez visitors, not to mention its road performances in New Orleans, San Antonio, Texas, Philadelphia, Pa, Arab, Alabama and aboard the steamboat, The Delta Queen, as it cruised from Vicksburg to Natchez. The show so delighted its audiences that it was called back for 17 performances during the New Orleans World's Fair in 1984.
The Mississippi Medicine Show derives its name from the traveling shows which traversed the country, both by wagon and steamboat, during the last century. These shows would lure audiences with dancing girls, singers, bands, jokes and stories. When they had gathered an audience, the Master of Ceremonies, a remarkably flamboyant character, would then proceed to hawk the "medicine", usually a cure~all tonic of questionable ingredients.
Burnley Cook is not only director and a fantastic piano player; he is also reprising Clarence Ferguson's famous magic act. Clarence once performed for the Queen of England! Actually the woman said, "If he's a musician, I'm the Queen of England."
Other original cast members include Donald Shupe and Joe Wild. A wonderful gospel choir and lots of audience involvement make the show a funny, spirit-lifting success.
Join the talented cast and crew of the Mississippi Medicine Show for performances August 8 through the 11th at Natchez little Theatre Playhouse on Linton Avenue. For tickets and information, call 601-442-2233 or natcheztheatre.org.