Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


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60th Season of Community Theatre of Little Rock

ctlr1956-2016 – Sixty years. It is hard to believe that Community Theatre of Little Rock has been a Central Arkansas staple, delivering dramas, comedies, romances and musicals.

The season kicks off with Ira Levin’s Tony nominated murder mystery Deathtrap.  It runs September 3rd – 6th and 10th – 13th.

Seemingly comfortably ensconced in his charming Connecticut home, Sidney Bruhl, a successful writer of Broadway thrillers, is struggling to overcome a “dry” spell which has resulted in a string of failures and a shortage of funds. A possible break in his fortunes occurs when he receives a script from a student in the seminar he has been conducting at a nearby college—a thriller which Sidney recognizes immediately as a potential Broadway hit. Sidney’s plan, which he devises with his wife’s help, is to offer collaboration to the student, an idea which the younger man quickly accepts.

Next up is the hilarious holiday musical The Great American Trailer Park Christmas Musical.  The holiday cheer runs November 26th to 29th, December 4th to 6th and 11th to 13.

 

It’s holiday time down in Armadillo Acres (North Florida’s premier mobile-living community), and everyone’s filled with warmth and beer. But when a freak bout of amnesia strikes the trailer park Scrooge, neighborly love is put to the test. Be on hand as Betty, Lin, and Pickles jingle all the way with some new neighbors in an all-new, all-trailer-park musical! This companion to the original GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL is just as much of a cat-fightin’, sun-worshippin’, chair-throwin’ good time-—but with tinsel and Keg Nog.

The first show of 2016 is William Inge’s classic Bus Stop.  This romantic comedy-drama runs February 11th-14th and 18th-21st.

In the middle of a howling snowstorm, a bus out of Kansas City pulls up at a cheerful roadside diner. All roads are blocked, and four or five weary travelers are going to have to hole up until morning. Cherie, a nightclub chanteuse in a sparkling gown and a seedy fur-trimmed jacket, is the passenger with most to worry about. She’s been pursued, made love to and finally kidnapped by a twenty-one-year-old cowboy with a ranch of his own and the romantic methods of an unusually headstrong bull. As a counterpoint to the main romance, the proprietor of the cafe and the bus driver at last find time to develop a friendship of their own; a middle-age scholar comes to terms with himself; and a young girl who works in the cafe also gets her first taste of romance.

The next show is the warm-hearted, nostalgic comedy On Golden Pond by Ernest L. Thompson.  It plays from April 14th – 17th and 21st to 24th.

This is the love story of Ethel and Norman Thayer, who are returning to their summer home on Golden Pond for the forty-eighth year. He is a retired professor, nearing eighty, with heart palpitations and a failing memory—but still as tart-tongued, observant and eager for life as ever. Ethel, ten years younger, and the perfect foil for Norman, delights in all the small things that have enriched and continue to enrich their long life together. They are visited by their divorced, middle-aged daughter and her dentist fiancé, who then go off to Europe, leaving his teenage son behind for the summer. In the end, as the summer wanes, so does their brief idyll, and in the final, deeply moving moments of the play, Norman and Ethel are brought even closer together by the incidence of a mild heart attack. Time, they know, is now against them, but the years have been good and, perhaps, another summer on Golden Pond still awaits.

Irving Berlin’s sharp-shooting musical Annie Get Your Gun closes out the season in June 2016. Running June 3rd-5th, 10th-12th, and 17th-19th, it shows why “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

Annie Oakley is the best shot around, and she manages to support her little brother and sisters by selling the game she hunts. When she’s discovered by Col. Buffalo Bill, he persuades this novel sharpshooter to join his Wild West Show. It only takes one glance for her to fall head over heels for dashing shooting ace Frank Butler, who headlines the show. She soon eclipses Butler as the main attraction which, while good for business, is bad for romance. Butler hightails it off to join a rival show, his bruised male ego leading the way, but is ultimately pitted against Annie in a final shoot-out. The rousing, sure-fire finale hits the mark every time in a testament to the power of female ingenuity.

Performances are at the Studio Theatre at 328 W. 7th Street.  Curtain times are: Thursday, Friday and Saturday Nights, 7:30 pm and Sunday Matinees, 2:00 pm.

 


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Back to School Cinema: FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH

FasttimesEvery so often a film comes along which seems to launch most of the cast into various levels of stardom.  1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High is one of those movies.

Amy Heckerling directed Cameron Crowe’s script of life in a California high school.  While Sean Penn may have been the breakout star of the movie for his stoner Spicoli, he was hardly the only actor to make a mark with it.  Judge Reinhold, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Phoebe Cates all saw their profiles rise due to this film.

Nicolas Cage, Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards and Forrest Whitaker, though in minor roles, also appear in the movie.  Others in the cast included Tony Award winners Ray Walston and Brian Backer, Robert Romanus, Scott Thomson, Vincent Schiavelli, Amanda Wyss, D. W. Brown, Taylor Negron and Nancy Wilson (Mrs. Cameron Crowe).

Episodic in nature, this film celebrates and commiserates the challenges of life in high school. It examines classes, dating, and bad jobs.


Back to School Cinema: DEAD POET’S SOCIETY

Dead_poets_societyWith students returning to school, this week the Culture Vulture will feature seven favorite films about the high school experience.  Up first is 1989’s Dead Poets Society.

While it can be a bit melodramatic, Peter Weir’s movie (from Tom Schulman’s script) captures not only the generational split between students and their teachers & parents, but also the seismic shifts that were happening in the US in the late 1950s. The movie takes place just prior to the JFK-Nixon election time.  It sets the stage for the dichotomy of feelings those candidates represented.

When it first came out, it had a tremendous influence on me.  I appreciated the references to history and literature, the Ralph Lauren designed clothing, the tremendous use of plaid in set decoration and the breathtaking scenery.  The actors playing the students were my age, though playing slightly younger (I was in college, they were playing prep school seniors).  Though I confess, I was not much of a Walt Whitman fan, and still am not.

Robin Williams is stellar as a combination Mr. Chips and Pied Piper who bucks the system at Welton Academy. Though the part was not written for him, he made it his own. It showcased not only his comic talents but also his ability to show pathos.  Even when he is hamming it up for his students, Williams shows a bit of restraint – he keeps his character grounded in 1959.

The actors playing the students had great chemistry – they functioned as a complete unit. They have gone on to varied levels of success.  Robert Sean Leonard has won a Tony and alternated between stage and TV with a few films.  Ethan Hawke was, for a while, a leading actor of his generation and has received Oscar nominations for acting and writing. Josh Charles has worked fairly steadily, especially on TV in shows like “SportsNight” and “The Good Wife.”  James Waterston has also kept busy in various acting roles.  Gale Hansen, who was so magnetic in this film, has disappeared from acting.  Allelon Ruggiero and Dylan Kussman, too, have had only a few credits.

The movie also proved to be a breakout for Kurtwood Smith. He followed up this hellish dad with a kinder version in “That 70’s Show.”  Norman Lloyd, who played the headmaster, celebrated his 100th birthday in November 2014.  He still takes a few acting roles and attends events.  (When I first watched it, I would never have predicted that 25 years later Williams would be dead and Lloyd would be turning 100.)  Several other character actors pop up as faculty members and parents.  (One of my favorites, John Cunningham, plays Ethan Hawke’s father.)

This being a movie that came out in the summer, I was was pleased when it received four Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Actor (Williams), Director (Weir) and Original Screenplay (Schulman).  On Oscar night, Schulman walked home with the trophy.

The ending of the film gives me goosebumps each time – even though I know it is coming.  There are so many other moments I enjoy – the kicking of the ball while reciting inspirational quotes accompanied by Beethoven is certainly another.  And I can still recite Puck’s final speech in A Midsummer Night’s Dream because I learned it from this movie.

I was fortunate to have teachers to inspire me at all levels of schooling.  Though none asked me to stand on desks, I was challenged, cajoled and even on a few times chastised.  And I am the better for it.

 


Single Tickets On Sale at Ark Rep on Monday

ScottishPlayThe 2015-2016 season is the 40th one for the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. The audience gets the gifts.  It is not too late to subscribe, but for those wanting single tickets, the wait is almost over.  Single tickets go on sale on Monday, August 17.

The season kicks off with William Shakespeare’s Scottish play about the Thane of Cawdor and his wife Lady M. The cauldron the witches stir is not the only toil and trouble on the heaths and moors of Scotland.  It will run September 11-27.

SpellingBeeNext up is the Tony winning musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. This tuneful, witty musical with book by Rachel Sheinkin and songs by William Finn, will play from October 16 to November 8.

TheLittleMermaidDisney’s The Little Mermaid will be the holiday show running from December 4 to January 3.  It will be a regional premiere of this musical featuring a book by Pulitzer and Tony winner Doug Wright and a score by the Oscar winning team of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, with additional lyrics by Glenn Slater.

Starcatcher2016 will start off with another regional premiere–Peter and the Starcatcher.  This prequel to the Peter Pan stories is by Rick Elice. Though a play, it does have some songs by Wayne Barker and Elice.  This winner of  five Tony Awards will be on stage from January 15 to February 7.

BridgesThe regional theatre premiere of The Bridges of Madison County will take place on the Arkansas Rep stage from April 8 to May 1.  This musical has a Tony winning score by Jason Robert Brown and a book by Pulitzer and Tony winner Marsha Norman.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 11.49.51 AMThe main stage season will conclude with a world premiere play Windfall.  Directed by Tony winner Jason Alexander, this comedy by Scooter Pietsch looks at greed among a group of office workers.  It will run from June 10 to 26.

The artwork for the shows for the 40th anniversary season was created by Marty Baragiola of Baragiola Creative.


The Studio Theatre offers six musicals in 2015-2016; one show still remains in current season

studioThe Studio Theatre has announced the shows for their second season.

Up first, however, is Dogfight which will close out the first season.  Adapted from the 1991 movie of the same name, Dogfight is a story of compassion, heartbreak and redemption. Winner of the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical in 2013, Dogfight runs August 20- August 23 at The Studio Theatre located at 320 West 7th Street in downtown.

The 2015-2016 season includes six musicals.  Four of them will be making their Little Rock premieres. One of the other musicals will have its first non-touring production in Little Rock.

The new season kicks off on October 22 with a show filled with scary tales about the evils of doing bad. It is the satire Reefer Madness based on the non-satirical but unintentionally hilarious 1936 movie of the same name.

This musical, written by Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney, premiered in Los Angeles in 1998 and Off Broadway in 2001.  The Studio Theatre production will be directed by Ryan Whitfield.  The show will run from October 22 until October 31.

The Studio Theatre had a hit in 2015 with Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years.  In January 2016, they will present his first musical Songs for a New World.  This song cycle premiered Off Broadway in 1995 and has become a popular show throughout the US.  The musical style of the score varies broadly. The thing that unites the songs is the concept of making a choice or taking a stand.

The production will be directed by Monica Clark Robinson.  Songs for a New World will run January 21 to 24.

Once upon a time, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine wrote a musical based on the Grimm Brothers’ folk tales.  Into the Woods will be the third show next season.  Opening on Broadway in 1987, it may have lost the Tony for Best Musical to The Phantom of the Opera, but it has not suffered as a popular musical.

This production of Into the Woods will run from March 10 to 26.  It will be directed by Rafael Castanera, who beautifully directed Nine earlier this year.

Based on the Alice Walker novel and the Steven Spielberg movie, The Color Purple will be the fourth musical of the season.  Running from May 12 to 22, it will be directed by Crystal Mercer.

After it premiered in Atlanta in 2004, it made it to Broadway the following year.  The show has a book by Pulitzer winner Marsha Norman. The songs are by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray.  The show was nominated for 11 Tonys and won one.

The 1980s hair bands will be honored by the 5th show as Rock of Ages takes the stage. Directed by Justin A. Pike, it will run from July 14 to 24. With a book by Chris D’Arienzo, the musical features songs from Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Poison and Europe.

Rock of Ages first played Off Broadway before transferring to Broadway.  It closed in January 2015 after playing more than 2300 performances on Broadway.

The final musical of the 2015-2016 season is James and the Giant Peach. Based on the Roald Dahl book, this musical features a score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.  The pair were nominated for a Tony for their score of the musical version of A Christmas Story.

This show will run from August 11 to 21.  It will be directed by Mark Burbank.  He is also directing Dogfight which features a score by Pasek and Paul.

(This is not connected to the production offered by the Arkansas Arts Center a few seasons back.)


ONCE ON THIS ISLAND presented by Ark Rep SMTI junior students tonight and this weekend

Rep SMTI OOTIThe Tony nominated musical Once on This Island, by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, is being presented tonight, tomorrow and two times Saturday by the senior level students in the Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s Summer Musical Theatre Intensive (SMTI).

Performances are at 7pm tonight (Thursday the 6th), Friday and Saturday with a 1pm matinee on Saturday the 8th, as well.  Tickets are $10 and may be purchased by calling the Rep box office or stopping by in person. You can also order them online .

Once on This Island is based on the 1985 novel My Love, My Love; or, The Peasant Girl by Rosa Guy.  Set in the French Antilles, it mixes Caribbean mythology with elements of Romeo and Juliet as well as Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.  It was nominated for 8 Tony Awards in 1991.  Four years later, it won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical in London.

Summer Musical Theatre Intensive (SMTI) is The Rep’s annual training program for aspiring young artists in Arkansas.  Under the direction of Capri, SMTI is an intensive, audition-based theatre training program designed exclusively for motivated young artists who are serious about the arts and musical theatre.

The SMTI staff is comprised of professional directors, choreographers, musicians and designers. Daily rehearsals are structured similarly to a professional summer stock experience and include instruction in musical theatre techniques, multi-media, costume and stage make-up, dance and vocal coaching.

Each session – broken into Select (ages 10 – 12), Junior (ages 13-15) and Senior (ages 16-23) – involves intensive daily rehearsals culminating in a public workshop performance of a selected musical or musical revue.


ONCE ON THIS ISLAND presented by Ark Rep SMTI senior students tonight and this weekend

Rep SMTI OOTIThe Tony nominated musical Once on This Island, by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, is being presented tonight, tomorrow and two times Saturday by the senior level students in the Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s Summer Musical Theatre Intensive (SMTI).

Performances are at 7pm tonight (Thursday the 23rd), Friday and Saturday with a 1pm matinee on Saturday the 25th, as well.  Tickets are $10 and may be purchased by calling the Rep box office or stopping by in person.

Once on This Island is based on the 1985 novel My Love, My Love; or, The Peasant Girl by Rosa Guy.  Set in the French Antilles, it mixes Caribbean mythology with elements of Romeo and Juliet as well as Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.  It was nominated for 8 Tony Awards in 1991.  Four years later, it won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical in London.

Summer Musical Theatre Intensive (SMTI) is The Rep’s annual training program for aspiring young artists in Arkansas.  Under the direction of Capri, SMTI is an intensive, audition-based theatre training program designed exclusively for motivated young artists who are serious about the arts and musical theatre.

The SMTI staff is comprised of professional directors, choreographers, musicians and designers. Daily rehearsals are structured similarly to a professional summer stock experience and include instruction in musical theatre techniques, multi-media, costume and stage make-up, dance and vocal coaching.

Each session – broken into Select (ages 10 – 12), Junior (ages 13-15) and Senior (ages 16-23) – involves intensive daily rehearsals culminating in a public workshop performance of a selected musical or musical revue.

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