Category Archives: Theatre

The Lion is King of Little Rock through May 6

lion-king-ca-logoOn November 13, 1997, THE LION KING opened on Broadway.  It would go on to win six 1998 Tony Awards including Best Musical.  Today it celebrates its 20th Birthday!  It has played 8,325 performances on Broadway.

On April 19, 2018, THE LION KING opens a twenty-three (23) performance run at Robinson Center Performance Hall in the show’s first-ever production in Little Rock.  Celebrity Attractions has brought the show to the Rock.

The twenty-three performances over eighteen days is the longest run a Broadway touring production has ever had in Little Rock.  It eclipses the record of twelve days held by Wicked and The Phantom of the Opera.

More than 90 million people around the world have experienced the awe-inspiring visual artistry, the unforgettable music, and the uniquely theatrical storytelling of this Broadway spectacular “one of the most breathtaking and beloved productions ever to grace the stage.

THE LION KING brings together one of the most imaginative creative teams on Broadway.  Tony Award®-winning director Julie Taymor brings to life a story filled with hope and adventure set against an amazing backdrop of stunning visuals.  THE LION KING also features the extraordinary work of Tony Award®-winning choreographer Garth Fagan and some of Broadway’s most recognizable music, crafted by Tony Award®-winning artists Elton John and Tim Rice.

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Pulitzers Play Little Rock: NEXT TO NORMAL on Arkansas Rep stage

ndnextThe line “Valium is my favorite color” was uttered on the Arkansas Rep stage in 2012 when the Pulitzer Prize winning musical Next to Normal was performed.

The show was a surprise winner of the 2010 Pulitzer for Drama.  It had not been one of the three finalists selected by the jury, but was picked for the honor by the Pulitzer Board.

With music by Tom Kitt and a book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, Next to Normal is a powerful rock musical about a mentally ill suburban mom who struggles with worsening bipolar disorder and the effects that illness has on her family.

The Arkansas Rep cast featured Deb Lyons as Diana — the mother of the family, Jonathan Rayson as her husband Dan, Kristin Parker and Will Holly as their children, Mo Brady as a friend of the family and Peter James Zielinski playing a pair of physicians.

Helen Gregory was the Musical Director. Other members of the creative team included Mike Nichols (scenic designer), Shelly Hall (costume designer), Michael J. Eddy (lighting designer), M. Jason Pruzin (sound designer) and Lynda J. Kwallek (properties designer).

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama being given. To pay tribute to 100 years of the Pulitzer for Drama, each day this month a different Little Rock production of a Pulitzer Prize winning play will be highlighted.  Many of these titles have been produced numerous times.  This look will veer from high school to national tours in an attempt to give a glimpse into Little Rock’s breadth and depth of theatrical history.

New Titles and Old Favorites Mark Celebrity Attractions 2018-2019 season in Little Rock

The 2018-2019 season marks 20 years that Celebrity Attractions has been bringing touring Broadway shows to Little Rock.  Next season’s lineup consists of five musicals including the return of some old favorites and two shows which are new to Little Rock but bring familiar characters.

CA1819JBUp first is JERSEY BOYS, the 2006 Tony winner for Best Musical.  Telling the story of the rise of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, it makes a return visit to Little Rock from October 12 to 14.

Go behind the music and inside the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons in the Tony Award®-winning true-life musical phenomenon, JERSEY BOYS. From the streets of New Jersey to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, this is the musical that’s just too good to be true.

CA1819LNDNext is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s LOVE NEVER DIES.  This is the long-anticipated sequel to The Phantom of the Opera.  It will be on stage at Robinson Center from November 20 to 25, 2018.

Ten years after disappearing from the Paris Opera House, The Phantom has a new life in New York where he lives amongst the joy rides and freak shows of Coney Island. Christine Daaé, now one of the world’s finest sopranos, is coming to perform in New York. In a final bid to win back Christine’s love, The Phantom lures her, Raoul, and their young son to the glittering and glorious world of Coney Island… not knowing what is in store for them….

CA1819FNAnother familiar character returns to Robinson in a new show when Peter Pan comes back. This time, it is FINDING NEVERLAND which explores the origins of the Peter Pan story.  It will be at Robinson on December 22 and 23.

Playwright J.M. Barrie struggles to find inspiration until he meets four young brothers and their beautiful widowed mother. Spellbound by the boys’ enchanting make-believe adventures, he sets out to write a play that will astound London theatergoers. With a little bit of pixie dust and a lot of faith, Barrie takes this monumental leap, leaving his old world behind for Neverland, where nothing is impossible and the wonder of childhood lasts forever. The magic of Barrie’s classic tale springs spectacularly to life in this heartwarming theatrical event.

CA1819EThe music of Andrew Lloyd Webber returns to Robinson for the second time in the season with EVITA.  Winner of the 1980 Tony for Best Musical, this show (with book and lyrics by Tim Rice) will be at Robinson from March 15 to 17, 2019.

Eva Perón used her beauty and charisma to rise meteorically from the slums of Argentina to the presidential mansion as First Lady. Adored by her people as a champion for the poor, she became one of the most powerful women in the world—while her greed, outsized ambition and fragile health made her one of the most tragic. Evita tells Eva’s passionate and unforgettable true story, and features some of theater’s most beautiful songs, including “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” and “High Flying, Adored.”

TCA1819SOMhe last show of the Celebrity Attractions season at Robinson Center is the Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II classic THE SOUND OF MUSIC.  Winner of the 1960 Tony for Best Musical, it will be at Robinson Center from May 24 to 26, 2019.

This classic musical is 59 going on 60 in the year 2019.  With a book by Pulitzer winners Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse and songs by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Robinson Center will truly be alive with the sound of music.  The spirited, romantic and beloved musical story of Maria and the von Trapp Family will once again thrill audiences with its Tony®, Grammy® and Academy Award®-winning Best Score, including My Favorite Things, Do-Re-Mi, Climb Ev’ry Mountain, Edelweiss and the title song.

Tickets will go on sale first to current subscribers and then to new subscribers.  Individual tickets will go on sale closer to each show’s arrival in Little Rock.  Information is available at the Celebrity Attractions website.

Pulitzers Play Little Rock: Top Dog/Underdog at The Weekend Theater

TopDog-UnderDog-Poster-SmallWhile the Sondheim-Weidman musical Assassins is playing currently at The Weekend Theater, it is not the only title produced there with characters named Lincoln and Booth.

Suzan-Lori Parks’s Top Dog/Underdog is a two character play featuring brothers named Lincoln and Booth.  Winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, this is a darkly comic fable of brotherly love and family identity.

The play tells the story of Lincoln and Booth, two African American brothers whose names were given to them as a joke, foretelling a lifetime of sibling rivalry and resentment.

In 2014, The Weekend Theater presented the play.  The brothers were played by Byron Thomas Jr. and Jermaine McClure.  The latter also directed the play.

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama being given. To pay tribute to 100 years of the Pulitzer for Drama, each day this month a different Little Rock production of a Pulitzer Prize winning play will be highlighted.  Many of these titles have been produced numerous times.  This look will veer from high school to national tours in an attempt to give a glimpse into Little Rock’s breadth and depth of theatrical history.

Pulitzers Play in Little Rock: Lunt and Fontanne in THERE SHALL BE NO NIGHT

ThereShallBeOn the eve of the US entry into World War II, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne returned to Little Rock in the national tour of Robert E. Sherwood’s Pulitzer Prize winning There Shall Be No Night.  It played at Robinson Memorial Auditorium on Monday, November 24, 1941.

Set in Finland in the time leading up to and during the start of the Russian invasion, it looked at the impact of impending war on a family.  Between the time it premiered in March 1940 and the tour in 1941, so many European countries experienced the horrors of war as countries were overtaken and troops were either killed or pressed into service by the enemy.  A program note in the playbill outlined much of this and noted how the script had not been updated to reflect the changes in world events.  (When Robinson opened in February 1940, the Russian invasion of Finland was a top international story.)

Joining Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne were many members of the original Broadway cast including Sydney Greenstreet, Thomas Gomez, Elisabeth Fraser, and Maurice Colbourne.  Also from the original cast was a young actor who played the Lunts’ son, Montgomery Clift.

The play was directed by Mr. Lunt.  The sets were by first time Broadway designer Richard Whorf.  He would go on to have an illustrious career as a theatrical designer.  He had been an actor on Broadway and was a member of the unofficial Lunt-Fontanne repertory company of actors.  The costumes were by Valentina, who often designed costumes for Miss Fontanne.

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama being given. To pay tribute to 100 years of the Pulitzer for Drama, each day this month a different Little Rock production of a Pulitzer Prize winning play will be highlighted.  Many of these titles have been produced numerous times.  This look will veer from high school to national tours in an attempt to give a glimpse into Little Rock’s breadth and depth of theatrical history.

Pulitzers Play Little Rock: PROOF at Arkansas Rep

Proof RepFourteen years after graduating from Little Rock Hall High School, David Auburn received the 2001 Pulitzer Prize in Drama for his play Proof.  In September 2002, Arkansas Repertory Theatre produced Proof while the original Broadway run was in its final months.

The production at Arkansas Rep was directed by Producing Artistic Director Robert Hupp.  The cast featured Amy Tribbey, Scott Barrow, Jessica Henson and Curt Karibalis.  (Barrow met his future wife, the former Amy Sabin, while in Little Rock during the run of this show.)

The set, a very realistic craftsman house back porch, was designed by Mike Nichols.  On opening night he was lauded because the production marked his 20th anniversary with the Rep. (In 2018, Nichols is still serving as Technical Director and Resident Scenic Designer for the Rep.)

Auburn was unable to come to Little Rock to see the production. His wife was set to give birth to a child during the run of the show.

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama being given. To pay tribute to 100 years of the Pulitzer for Drama, each day this month a different Little Rock production of a Pulitzer Prize winning play will be highlighted.  Many of these titles have been produced numerous times.  This look will veer from high school to national tours in an attempt to give a glimpse into Little Rock’s breadth and depth of theatrical history.

Putting the LIT in Pulitzer

two_medalsThe 2018 Pulitzer Prizes are announced later today.  Over the years, there have been several Pulitzer winners with connections to Little Rock.

In 1939,  Little Rock native John Gould Fletcher, a scion of a politically prominent family, won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his work Selected Poems.  He appears to be the first Pulitzer Prize winner with Little Rock connections.

The 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama went to South Pacific. With a leading lady who is from Little Rock, this Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Joshua Logan musical explores race against the backdrop of World War II.  It is based on James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific, which won the 1948 Pulitzer for Fiction. (Because it was a collection of interrelated short stories, the category was changed from Novel to Fiction from that year onward.)  But in the Michener book, Forbush is not from Little Rock.  In fact, she is not even from Arkansas, but hails from Alabama.

The Arkansas Gazette made Pulitzer history in 1958 by winning both the Public Service and Editorial prizes in the same year. This was the first time that one organization had received both awards in the same year.  These were for the coverage of and response to the 1957 integration of Central High School by the Little Rock Nine.  J. N. Heiskell was the paper’s owner and editor, while Harry Ashmore led the editorial page.  Relman Morin of the Associated Press received the Pulitzer for National Reporting for his coverage of the events at Central.  Apparently Will Counts of the Arkansas Democrat was the jurors’ choice to receive the Pulitzer for Photography. But the Board opted to give the prize to another photographer.  Some speculate that the Pulitzer Board did not want to give four prizes in the same year for the same story.

Current Little Rock resident Paul Greenberg won the 1969 Pulitzer for Editorial Writing.  at the time, he worked for the Pine Bluff Commercial.   In 1986, he was a finalist in the same category.  Greenberg moved to Little Rock to join the staff of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 1992.  While no longer the Editorial Page Editor, Greenberg continues to write columns for the newspaper.

Former Little Rock resident Richard Ford received the 1996 Pulitzer for Fiction for his novel Independence Day.  As a young boy of eight, and for several years after, Ford spent much time at Little Rock’s Marion Hotel with his grandparents.  In making the presentation, the Pulitzer Board noted it was, “A visionary account of American life, Independence Day reveals a man and country with unflinching comedy and the specter of hope and even permanence…”

The Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2001 went to David Auburn.  A 1987 graduate of Hall High School, Auburn was recognized for his play Proof.  The Pulitzer Board described Proof thus: “This poignant drama about love and reconciliation unfolds on the back porch of a house settled in a suburban university town, that is, like David Auburn’s writing, both simple and elegant.”  Auburn also served as a 2014 juror for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.  While a student in Little Rock, Auburn participated in theatre at the Arkansas Arts Center.