Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area

Three shows closing this weekend in Central Ark

Fiddler ACTTonight, Fiddler on the Roof continues at the Argenta Community Theatre.  It runs through Sunday evening.  Tickets range from $30 to $50.  Directed by Bob Hupp of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Fiddler on the Roof is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The show opened on Broadway in September 1964. Choreographers are Christen Burke Pitts and Kristof Waltermire, with Kurt Kennedy as music director.


Rent CTLRTwo other productions are closing this weekend.  Community Theatre of Little Rock’s Rent closes on Sunday at the new Studio Theatre space.  Winner of both the 1996 Pulitzer Prize and Tony for Best Musical, Jonathan Larsen’s musical is an updated version of La Boheme.  Directed by Frank O. Butler with music direction by Matthew Tatus, tickets for this production range from $8 to $18.


Next-to-Normal_smThe Weekend Theater’s Next to Normal, also a Pulitzer Prize winner, closes on Sunday, as well.  The story of a family dealing with the mother’s mental illness, it is both heart-wrenching and humorous.  Directed by Ralph Hyman, with music direction by Lori Isner, tickets range from $16 to $20.

Little Rock Look Back: Oscar Hammerstein II

OHIIOn July 12, 1895, Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein, better known as Oscar Hammerstein II was born. He spent his entire professional life working in the theatre.  One of the musicals he wrote was South Pacific, which featured a character from Little Rock.

In the source novel, Tales of the South Pacific, Forbush is from rural Arkansas.  When Hammerstein, Richard Rodgers and Joshua Logan were adapting it for the stage, they moved the character to Little Rock (or “Small Rock” as the French planter Emil De Becque mistakenly refers to it).

Little Rock is referred to throughout the show.  One song, “My Girl Back Home” contained musical references to Arkansas’ capitol city.  That song was cut before South Pacific opened on Broadway.  It was, however, included in the movie version.  It was also reinstated and included in the 2008 Broadway revival.

Mary Martin won a Tony for originating the role of Nellie Forbush on Broadway. One of the actors who succeeded her was Cloris Leachman. Kelli O’Hara received a Tony nomination in 2008 for the Broadway revival.

South Pacific became the second musical to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It also became the first winner of the Pulitzer for Drama to be based on another Pulitzer prize winner — James Michener won the Pulitzer for Tales of the South Pacific.

Hammerstein’s creation of a character from Little Rock caused problems when the show was being performed in late 1957 and for a few years after.  With the 1957 desegregation crisis still fresh in people’s memories, a show about a woman from Little Rock facing her own racial prejudices was sometimes a bit much for audiences. Apparently some audiences would boo when Little Rock was mentioned.  But Rodgers and Hammerstein did not change her hometown.

At the 1999 celebration marking the 50th anniversary of South Pacific opening on Broadway, a proclamation from then-Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey was read.  It paid tribute to Nellie Forbush as an ambassador (albeit fictional) for Little Rock. The proclamation noted that her optimism, forbearance and ability to change for the better were emblems of Little Rock.  Since these were attributes which Mr. Hammerstein himself exhibited, one suspects he would be pleased.

Hammerstein died in 1960 during the run of The Sound of Music (which like South Pacific starred Mary Martin).

For those wanting to see an Oscar Hammerstein II show on his birthday or during his birth month, South Pacific has just started a run in Benton at the Royal Players.

LR native and 3 time Tony winner Will Trice headed back to Broadway as a producer of revival of YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU.

YCTIWY bwayThree time Tony winner (and Little Rock native) Will Trice is heading back to Broadway this fall as a producer of an all-star revival of the Pulitzer Prize winning comedy You Can’t Take It with You.

The cast will be led by two time Tony winner James Earl Jones.  Additional casting was announced yesterday.  The production will mark a reunion from the recent revival of The Best Man for Jones with actress Elizabeth Ashley and producers Jeffrey Richards and Trice.

The Little Rock Central alum has won a Tony for each of the past three seasons. This marks the first announced project for the Trice for the 2014-2015 season.

First performed on Broadway at the height of the Great Depression, it has not been revived on Broadway since 1983.  You Can’t Take It with You, by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, celebrates the American spirit as well as spirited family life.  Others in the cast, which is to be directed by multiple Tony nominee Scott Ellis, are Tony nominee Kristine Nielsen, Tony nominee Reg Rogers, Tony nominee Annaleigh Ashford, Theatre World winner Crystal A. Dickinson and stage veterans Byron Jennings and Julie Halston.

Trice at the 2014 Tony Awards

Trice at the 2014 Tony Awards

Mark Linn-Baker, who has cut his teeth on both stage and TV, is also in the cast. Others in the show include Marc Damon Johnson and Patrick Kerr. Three time Tony winner Jason Robert Brown is composing music for the play.

Performances will start at New York’s Longacre Theatre on August 26 with an official opening night of September 28.

Trice’s Tony Awards came for the 2014 Best Play All the Way, 2013 Best Play Revival Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and the 2012 Best Musical Revival Porgy and Bess.  He also received a nomination for 2012 Best Play Revival for The Best Man.  This past year, of the 26 Tony Awards presented, seven went to shows produced by Jeffrey Richards and Will Trice.

Little Rock Look Back: Richard Rodgers

richard_rodgersOn June 28, 1902, Richard Rodgers was born.  He grew up to become a composer, producer and arts educator. For his talents he was recognized with two Pulitzer Prizes, a Kennedy Center Honor, and seven Tony Awards.

He is featured on this blog, because one of his shows was the musical South Pacific.  The fictional heroine was Little Rock native Nellie Forbush.  Through the success of the show, this “cock-eyed optimist” represented Little Rock to the world.  Rodgers composed a song called “My Girl Back Home” which contained references to Little Rock.  It was cut from South Pacific before it opened on Broadway in April 1949.  However it was used in the movie version and appeared in the 2008 Broadway revival.

The works of Rodgers have been performed by the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Arkansas, Wildwood Park for the Arts, Little Rock Wind Symphony and many other cultural organizations.  Numerous tours of Richard Rodgers musicals have been performed at Robinson Center Music Hall since it first opened in 1940.

PIPPIN to do, just for you at Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre

PrintThe Broadway smash hit Pippin is coming to central Arkansas!  This winner of the 2013 Tony for “Best Musical Revival” is the story of a young man (who happens to be the son of the great King Charlemagne) and his  journey to find where he belongs in the world, his “Corner of the Sky.”  With a cast of colorful characters, lively dancing, soulful tunes from Stephen Schwartz (Wicked), and direction and choreography by North Little Rock-native Jeremy Williams, this musical will have you mesmerized from beginning to end.

Performances started earlier this month and continue today at 2pm, at 2pm & 7:30pm on Wednesday, June 25 and 2pm & 7:30pm on Friday, June 27. It is performed at the Reynolds Center on the UCA campus.

Garrett Whitehead plays the title role. Others in the cast are Evan Tyrone Martin, Dan Matisa, Matthew Holcomb, Holly Ruth Gale, Laurie Pascale, Kelly Karcher, Drew Price, Jonathan Altman, Rebecca Kuo, Hannah Moulder, Moriah Patterson, Fernando Quinones, and Benjamin Stidham.

CAROLINE, OR CHANGE continues at The Weekend Theater

Caroline-or-Change_smWinner of the Laurence Olivier Award and the Lucille Lortel Award for Best New Musical, Caroline, or Change centers its action on the Gellman family and their African-American maid, Caroline. It is now playing at The Weekend Theater.

It is 1963 in sleepy Lake Charles, Louisiana. Caroline is drifting through her life as a single mother of four working in a service job to a white family. A fragile, yet beautiful friendship develops between the young Gellman son, Noah (who has lost his mother), and Caroline. Noah’s stepmother Rose, unable to give Caroline a raise, tells Caroline that she may keep the money Noah leaves in his pockets. Caroline balks, and refuses to take money from a child, but her own children desperately need food, clothing and shoes.

Regardless of the circumstances, whether it is the death of President Kennedy, her daughter’s growing activism and misunderstood dismissal of what she perceives to be Caroline’s choice to remain a maid, her son’s enlistment in Vietnam, a fight with a newly college-bound friend, or a spin with the dryer, Caroline remains unflappable.

The show features a book and lyrics by Pulitzer and Tony winner Tony Kushner (who based it partially on his own childhood in Louisiana) and music by Tony nominee Jeanine Tesori.  It is directed by Matthew Mentgen and features music direction by Lori Isner.

The cast is led by Satia Spencer in the title role with Johnika Wright, Diondre Wright and Daveon Coleman as her kids. The Gellman and Stopnick families are played by Alex Harkins, Mary Ann Hansen, David Weatherly, Erin Martinez, Adam Smith and Drew Ellis. Caroline’s friends, both human and otherwise, are played by Antisha Anderson Scruggs, Katherine Yacko, Adriana Napolitano, Haley Coughlin, Kenneth Gaddie, Steven Young and Sarah Dailey.

The show continues Friday, Saturday and Sunday this weekend and next.

Thrice Trice, or Tony Toni Tone


Last night at the 68th Tony Awards, Little Rock native Will Trice (pictured above at the ceremonynwith his sister Kathryn Pryor and mother Judy Trice) earned his third Tony as a producer, in as many years. Robert Schenkkan’s political drama All the Way was named Best Play. In accepting the award, lead producer Jeffrey Richards paid special tribute to Will.

Last year, Will won a Tony for producing a revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and in 2012 he earned the rotating silver medallion for a revival of Porty and Bess.

There were 26 Tonys handed out last night, Will was a producer of four shows which won Tonys. these accounted for seven of the awards. over one quarter of the Tonys last night went to shows he produced.

Best Play – All the Way
Actor in a Play – Bryan Cranston, All the Way
Actress in a Play – Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
Score – Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County
Orchestrations – Jason Robert Brown, The Bridges of Madison County
Lighting Design of a Play – Natasha Katz, The Glass Menagerie
Sound Design of a Play – Steve Canyon Kennedy, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill


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