Venue: Weldon Mills Theatre - Roanoke Rapids, NC
Reviewer / Photographs : Jennifer Smith
After 50 years on the road, the legendary Oak Ridge Boys made a stop at the beautiful Weldon Mills Theatre in Roanoke Rapids, NC on Thursday, November 30 and sang their final musical farewell to a room packed full of love, smiles, laughter, tears, friendship and memories. They said thank you in true ORB style with a magical Christmas show that only reinforced why these men and their band and crew have stood tall above the rest over the years and are loved and appreciated by so many.
The doors opened early and the room filled quickly while waiting for the show to begin with hugs between old friends and introductions between new friends, stories of personal connections with the Boys and the excited anticipation of what memories the night was to bring. You could feel something different in the air, this wasn't a normal performance for the ORB or for those of us in the crowd. This was something difference, the shining star at the top of the tree, the reminder of what Christmas is about - love, hope, new beginnings and a destination within ourselves. The Oaks have been to many destinations over the years but now they begin their final journey back to their families and homes.
This show kicked off with a couple of Christmas tunes, "Let It Snow" and "Christmas Time's A Comin'" then launched into a handful of the hits people were anxious to hear - "American Made", "Leavin' Louisiana" and everyone's favorite, "Elvira". Fans were smiling from ear to ear, cheering, and singing their off key hearts out. That's love right there.
Then, the tone changed and the "snow" began to fall and it was time to bring out the Christmas fun with everyone gathered in front of the flickering "warmth" of the on-stage fireplace to sing their favorite Christmas songs. They rang in the segment with beloved Christmas standards including "Jingle Bells" and "Blue Christmas" and also some other greats like "Christmas Carol", "Christmas Cookies" and "What's What I Like About Christmas."
Here comes Santa Claus ... literally. I LOVE this part of the show. A cardboard Santa Claus comes bopping across the stage bringing in laughs because it's so funny to watch. The kids in the audience were laughing but had no idea that in just a few minutes, the big guy himself would be making an appearance. The stage filled with smoke and just like magic, there he was in all of his bearded red glory - Santa. He greeted the crowd, cracked a few jokes and came down to the front of the stage to play some reindeer games with the children and pulling Santa hats from his bag, putting them on each head and the faces of the children lit up and then he took pictures. What a great way to incorporate children into the night. You rarely see that anymore. That just another reason to love the Oak Ridge Boys, they have the biggest hearts.
Next came the "Rocking Stools", where each of the Boys would sit on a stool in front of the "fire" and told their most personal Christmas memories, bringing tears not only to their eyes but to ours as well. I can tell you with complete honesty that mine were flowing pretty freely. Glad I brought Kleenex. You could hear the emotion and the gratitude as each heartfelt story was told. Joe Bonsall talked about his parents and with tears in his eyes and a passionate voice, recited his composition "Daddy's Christmas Eve", Duane Allen reminded us of the blessing of love with his song "Happy Christmas Eve", William Lee Golden sang about the love of children with "Thank God for Kids" and Richard wrapped up the memories with everyone's favorite, "The Christmas Song". The final segment of the evening brought out the true, original meaning of what this season is all about - the first Christmas eve, the birth of a special baby boy and the ultimate love of Jesus who brought joy to the world.
What a wonderful way to close the book on a true "Down Home Christmas".
Thank you to the Oak Ridge Boys - Joe Bonsall, Duane Allen, William Lee Golden and Richard Sterban, the Mighty Oaks Band - Rex Wiseman, Scotty Simpson, Austin Curcuruto, Ronnie Fairchild, and Darin Favorite, their wonderful crew - Darrick Kinslow (Tour Manager), Marko Hunt, David Boots, Chris Boyd, Steven "Coop" Cooper, Mike "Sweet" Campbell and everyone else in the organization for years of the best quality entertainment and for memories that don't fade. Thank you for the privilege of not just being able to call you friends, but family over the past 15 years and during that time for allowing me the access to review your shows and take pictures.
Thank you to Julie and Allison of Barn Burner Promotions, the best security guys I've ever had the pleasure of working with and the wonderful staff of the Weldon Mills Theatre for such a great experience. Y'all know how to promote and host a show!
The Oaks will be saying thank you for the memories with a few stops into 2024 so be sure to check their website for dates and ticket info and keep up with them on social media.