Little Rock Culture Vulture Blog Hits a Milestone

Founded in October 2011, the Little Rock Culture Vulture blog passed a milestone today. It has had over 300,000 views during that 7 years and one month.  Considering that it averaged about 10 views a day during the first three months, this accomplishment is a moment to brag.

When it was started, I was unsure if anyone would care. This entry is the 3,874th post on the blog.  Over 10,400 organizations, people, events, pieces of art and works of literature, or historical facts have been featured.

To all the readers and those who post about it on social media, let me say “Thank you!”

Advertisements

LR Culture Vulture turns 7

The Little Rock Culture Vulture debuted on Saturday, October 1, 2011, to kick off Arts & Humanities Month.

The first feature was on the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, which was kicking off its 2011-2012 season that evening.  The program consisted of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90, Rossini’s, Overture to The Italian Girl in Algiers, Puccini’s Chrysanthemums and Respighi’s Pines of Rome.  In addition to the orchestra musicians, there was an organ on stage for this concert.

Since then, there have been 10,107 persons/places/things “tagged” in the blog.  This is the 3,773rd entry. (The symmetry to the number is purely coincidental–or is it?)  It has been viewed over 288,600 times, and over 400 readers have made comments.  It is apparently also a reference on Wikipedia.

The most popular pieces have been about Little Rock history and about people in Little Rock.

Central to Creativity – Will Trice

Trice at Tonys

Trice at the 2014 Tony Awards

Tony winning producer Will Trice used his theatrical performing and producing skills while a student at Little Rock Central High School.

In less than a decade on Broadway, Trice has taken home three Tony Awards and earned eight Tony nominations.

He has earned Tony nominations for producing the plays All The Way* and Wolf Hall; play revivals The Best Man, The Glass Menagerie, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf*, and You Can’t Take It With You; and the musical revivals Porgy and Bess* and Fiddler on the Roof.  (An * indicates a Tony win.)

He has worked with playwrights Gore Vidal and Edward Albee in their final Broadway ventures; actors Al Pacino, James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury, Audra McDonald, Matthew Broderick, Elisabeth Moss, Bryan Cranston, Tracy Letts, Carrie Coon, Elizabeth Ashley, Rose Byrne, Jason Biggs, Marisa Tomei, Bobby Cannavale, Richard Schiff, John C. McGinley, Toni Collette, Michael C. Hall, Cherry Jones and Patti LuPone.

As a producer at Jeffrey Richards Associates, he has also produced national tours and productions in London.

2017 Tony Award predictions

Tony Tony TonyI have struggled with these a lot more this year because so many races are so close.  But here are my thoughts on the 2017 Tony Award potential winners.

Play
A Doll’s House, Part 2, Lucas Hnath
Indecent, Paula Vogel
Oslo, J.T. Rogers
Sweat, Lynn Nottage

Sweat was the early front-runner after picking up the Pulitzer; Oslo has captured every other award since then.  A Doll’s House, Part 2 has run a masterful campaign since the nominations and is likely to be a popular touring vehicle given its cast and set requirements (minimal). There is momentum for Hnath’s play, but Tony voters tend to love Lincoln Center Theater productions, of which Rogers’ play is one.  I think OSLO will triumph.

 

Best Musical
Come From Away
Dear Evan Hansen
Groundhog Day
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

“Great Comet” could be a spoiler, but the race is likely betwixt Come from Away and Dear Evan Hansen.  This is a case of “important” vs. “populist” though both pull at the emotional heartstrings repeatedly.  As much as I would love to see Come from Away win because a friend from college is in the cast (and I think it handles 9/11 without exploiting it), I suspect DEAR EVAN HANSEN will emerge with the silver medallion.

  

Revival of a Play
Jitney
The Little Foxes
Present Laughter
Six Degrees of Separation

Jitney seems to have the edge on this race.  Since it shares the same producer as The Little Foxes, this is one of those rare Tony races without aggressive campaigning.  This is a chance to recognize the genius that was August Wilson over a decade after his untimely death.  The Tony goes to JITNEY

 

Revival of a Musical
Falsettos
Hello, Dolly!
Miss Saigon

Call on Dolly!  It will be HELLO, DOLLY!

 

Actor in a Play
Denis Arndt, Heisenberg
Chris Cooper, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Corey Hawkins, Six Degrees of Separation
Kevin Kline, Present Laughter
Jefferson Mays, Oslo

While there is an outside chance that Chris Cooper or Jefferson Mays could stage a coup, the award is KEVIN KLINE’s.  He wears the role like a silk dressing gown.

 

Actress in a Play
Cate Blanchett, The Present
Jennifer Ehle, Oslo
Sally Field, The Glass Menagerie
Laura Linney, The Little Foxes
Laurie Metcalf, A Doll’s House, Part 2

The race is really between Metcalf and Linney.  But when it is that tight, there is an opening for an upset – with either Ehle (who Tony voters love) or Field poised to sweep in.  With both Linney and Metcalf having multiple nominations with no wins and a lot of support for their star turns, it is truly splitting hairs to pick a favorite.  Gut says LAURIE METCALF for creating an original role.  Plus, her other nominations have been for outstanding work in mediocre plays, whereas Linney has been recognized for strong work in better productions.  This is a chance to reward Metcalf for being in a better product.

 

Actor in a Musical
Christian Borle, Falsettos
Josh Groban, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Andy Karl, Groundhog Day The Musical
David Hyde Pierce, Hello, Dolly!
Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen

Andy Karl seems poised to be the 2010s Raul Esparza—that actor who gives it his all and walks away on Tony night empty handed every time.  While he gives it his all (physically) in Groundhog Day the award seems likely to go to wunderkind BEN PLATT who gives it his all (emotionally).

 

Actress in a Musical
Denée Benton, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Christine Ebersole, War Paint
Patti LuPone, War Paint
Bette Midler, Hello, Dolly!
Eva Noblezada, Miss Saigon

From the day her casting was announced, the engravers went to work on etching BETTE MIDLER’s name on this award.

 

Featured Actor in a Play
Michael Aronov, Oslo
Danny DeVito, The Price
Nathan Lane, The Front Page
Richard Thomas, The Little Foxes
John Douglas Thompson, Jitney

Lane was the front-runner early in the season, but since has been in London, he hasn’t been around to make the campaign events.  Though Aronov has his supporters DANNY DEVITO steals the play and will likely take home the trophy.

 

Featured Actress in a Play
Johanna Day, Sweat
Jayne Houdyshell, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Cynthia Nixon, The Little Foxes
Condola Rashad, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Michelle Wilson, Sweat

The Sweat and Doll’s House ladies likely cancel each other out.  CYNTHIA NIXON is likely to add a “Fox” Tony next to her “Rabbit” Tony.

 

Featured Actor in a Musical
Gavin Creel, Hello, Dolly!
Mike Faist, Dear Evan Hansen
Andrew Rannells, Falsettos
Lucas Steele, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Brandon Uranowitz, Falsettos

Creel, Rannells and Uranowitz are all well-liked, previous nominees.  Steele gives a flashy performance that has “award-winning” written all over it.  But it looks like Tony may be saying “Hello” to GAVIN CREEL

 

Featured Actress in a Musical
Kate Baldwin, Hello, Dolly!
Stephanie J. Block, Falsettos
Jenn Colella, Come From Away
Rachel Bay Jones, Dear Evan Hansen
Mary Beth Peil, Anastasia

Previous nominees Baldwin and Peil do not appear to be in the mix this year.  The race seems to be between Jones and Colella in what could either be a harbinger of the Best Musical winner or a consolation prize.  Block is poised to be the spoiler in a category that often has spoilers.  The ever-so-slight edge seems to go to JENN COLELLA who has been a game campaigner (and been assisted by her real life counterpart).

 

Direction of a Play
Sam Gold, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Jitney
Bartlett Sher, Oslo
Daniel Sullivan, The Little Foxes
Rebecca Taichman, Indecent

 A case could be made for any of these. At one point Taichman seemed like the frontrunner. Of late, it seems to be a race between Santiago-Hudson and Sher, revival vs. play.  The fact that Jitney is still so memorable several months after it closed is a testament to Santiago-Hudson’s deft work.  It looks like RUBEN SANTIAGO-HUDSON may add a second August Wilson-related Tony to his collection, this time for directing.

 

Direction of a Musical
Christopher Ashley, Come From Away
Rachel Chavkin, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Michael Greif, Dear Evan Hansen
Matthew Warchus, Groundhog Day
Jerry Zaks, Hello, Dolly!

Good to see Jerry Zaks back in the nominee list for the first time in 22 years.  He and previous winner Warchus will likely remain seated tonight.  Though there is a sense that Greif is overdue for a Tony win (and it has been 21 years since his first nomination), RACHEL CHAVKIN has the advantage for her work steering “Great Comet” over the years and transforming it into a Broadway scale show while shattering a proscenium-bound house.

 

Choreography
Andy Blankenbuehler, Bandstand
Peter Darling and Ellen Kane, Groundhog Day
Kelly Devine, Come From Away
Denis Jones, Holiday Inn
Sam Pinkleton, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

Usually this award goes to either the juggernaut show or the “danciest” show.  Bandstand and Holiday Inn were the two dance shows of the season.  While there is a sense that Pinkleton might win for his working keeping all the Russians moving throughout “Great Comet,” it will most likely be Andy Blankenbuehler picking up his second consecutive (and third overall) Tony for his wartime era dance moves.

 

Book of a Musical
Steven Levenson, Dear Evan Hansen
Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Danny Rubin, Groundhog Day
Irene Sankoff and David Hein, Come From Away

As with Best Musical, it really is a race between “Evan” and “Come.”  There is some thought that Sankoff and Hein might pick this up as a consolation prize, and for creating an appropriate narrative around a 9/11 story.  But Levenson has constructed a book which generates sympathy for a character that could be easily disliked.  With a bullet, the Tony goes to STEVEN LEVENSON.

 

Original Score
Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Tim Minchin, Groundhog Day
Benj Pasek & Justin Paul, Dear Evan Hansen
Irene Sankoff and David Hein, Come From Away

None of the scores are as memorable as last year’s winner Hamilton.  But then, in the 21st century, few of the musicals are “hummable.”  Pasek and Paul have contributed an emotionally powerful but accessible score with pathos and humor (though the same could be said of Sankoff and Hein—except that their score is a bit more pedestrian).  The fact that BENJ PASEK & JUSTIN PAUL are riding the crest of La La Land laurels should deliver them to Tony land.

 

Orchestrations
Bill Elliott and Greg Anthony Rassen, Bandstand
Larry Hochman, Hello, Dolly!
Alex Lacamoire, Dear Evan Hansen
Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

This category is always hard to predict unless there is a mega-juggernaut.  Malloy could be recognized here for his work in all three categories in which he is nominated.  Elliott & Rassen made the Big Band era come alive in a Broadway show.  Lacamoire could be a back-to-back winner.  But my money is on LARRY HOCHMAN, since Herman’s tuneful score is not eligible.

 

Scenic Design of a Play
David Gallo, Jitney
Nigel Hook, The Play That Goes Wrong
Douglas W. Schmidt, The Front Page
Michael Yeargan, Oslo

Yeargan’s set is simplicity; Schmidt’s is overstuffed.  Gallo created a seedy 1970s Pittsburgh. But I think the Tonys will go right for NIGEL HOOK’s self-destructive set.

 

Scenic Design of a Musical
Rob Howell, Groundhog Day
David Korins, War Paint
Mimi Lien, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly!

MIMI LIEN turned a proscenium house into an interactive environmental wonderland.  The Tony goes to her.

 

Costume Design of a Play

Jane Greenwood, The Little Foxes
Susan Hilferty, Present Laughter
Toni-Leslie James, Jitney
David Zinn, A Doll’s House, Part 2

Please let this be the year that JANE GREENWOOD finally wins a competitive Tony.  It HAS been 52 years since her first nomination after all.  Plus her costumes were spot-on and gorgeous.

 

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Linda Cho, Anastasia
Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly!
Paloma Young, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Catherine Zuber, War Paint

While the always reliable (and worthy of recognition) Santo Loquasto may well pick up the Tony for Dolly—the costume design Tony often goes to shows about fashion.  CATHERINE ZUBER has a field day with her clothing for War Paint, and I think that may be the ticket for her to get another Tony.

 

Lighting Design of a Play
Christopher Akerlind, Indecent
Jane Cox, Jitney
Donald Holder, Oslo
Jennifer Tipton, A Doll’s House, Part 2

Lighting plays a key role in the action of Indecent.  I think that will be why CHRISTOPHER AKERLIND will win the Tony.

 

Lighting Design of a Musical
Howell Binkley, Come From Away
Natasha Katz, Hello, Dolly!
Bradley King, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Japhy Weideman, Dear Evan Hansen

While I would love to see former Arkansas Rep lighting designer Japhy Weideman pick up his first Tony tonight, I think the multitude of lightbulbs and light fixtures of “Great Comet” will push BRADLEY KING into the winner’s circle.

RobinsoNovember: Carol Channing brings HELLO, DOLLY! to Little Rock

50 years ago tonight, on November 15, 1966, Carol Channing opened a six day stint in HELLO, DOLLY! at Robinson Auditorium.  She would play 8 sold out shows over those six days.

Channing, who had won the 1964 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role in this show, had recently returned to the national tour.  She had just wrapped filming THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE (for which she would receive an Oscar nomination). She had specifically requested that Little Rock be added to the tour.

Her breakout role was in 1949’s GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDS. In that show she introduced the song “Little Girl from Little Rock.”  Since it had helped make her a star, she had long felt an affinity for the Arkansas capital.  Therefore when she rejoined the tour, she required that LR be one of her stops before she left the tour.

While in Little Rock, Channing was entertained at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion and feted at parties.  She was made an honorary citizen of Little Rock, as well.

But she was here to perform. And perform she did. She was rarely known to miss a performance and always gave her utmost.  Bill Lewis, in his review in the ARKANSAS GAZETTE, stated “To hear Channing sing ‘Hello, Dolly!’ Is one of the great experiences of all musical theater to date…”

In assessing the show’s run in Little Rock (which would be seen by more than 20,000 people), Lewis summed up what many felt at the time — and to hear the reminiscences from a half century later, it still is a heartfelt sentiment — “A week’s too little.”

Arkansas Heritage Month – Little Rock’s Jeff Nichols at Cannes

NicholsLittle Rock native Jeff Nichols’ latest film, Loving, premieres at Cannes today. The film showed at 8:30 am and 11:30 am Cannes time. (That would be at 1:30am and 4:30am, Little Rock time). It also shows at 7pm Cannes time (12 noon, Little Rock).

Loving, which was written and directed by Nichols, tells the story of the Mildred and Richard Loving, an interracial married couple who were sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958. It is set for national release in November and is being distributed by Focus Features.

Nichols was first brought the project by Martin Scorsese. A 1997 graduate of Little Rock Central High, he was intrigued by the story and the opportunities it provided him as a filmmaker.

The film stars Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as the central couple. Others in the cast include Michael Shannon, Nick Kroll, and Bill Camp.  Edgerton, Shannon and Camp are part of Nichols’ informal repertory company of actors. Interestingly, Shannon and Camp are both nominated for Tony Awards in the same category (Featured Actor in a Play) for work they have done on Broadway this spring in American classics: Shannon in O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night and Camp in Miller’s The Crucible.

This is Nichols’ third film to screen at Cannes, following 2012’s Mud (which like Loving was in contention for the Palm d’Or) and 2011’s Take Shelter (which won the top prize at Cannes’ Critics Week).  His first feature film was 2007’s Shotgun Stories.

With Loving’s screening at Cannes, Nichols is in a select group of directors to have one film screen at the Berlin International Film Festival (where he showcased Midnight Special) and another at Cannes in the same year.

Arkansas Heritage Month – Tony Awards nominations with Will Trice

Trice at the 2014 Tony Awards

Trice at the 2014 Tony Awards

Trice at last year's Tony Awards (photo by Lisa Pacino)

Trice at 2013 Tony Awards (photo by Lisa Pacino)

The Tony Awards nominations were announced today.  Little Rock native Will Trice picked up his eighth nomination as a Broadway producer with year’s nod for the revival of Fiddler on the Roof.

Trice has earned previous Tony nominations for producing the plays All The Way* and Wolf Hall; play revivals The Best Man, The Glass Menagerie, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?*, and You Can’t Take It With You; and the musical revival Porgy and Bess*.  (An * indicates a Tony win.)

This season, Trice was a producer of four different shows: Sylvia with Matthew Broderick and Annaleigh Ashford; China Doll with Al Pacino; Fiddler on the Roof with Danny Burstein, Jessica Hecht and Ben Rappaport; and American Psycho with Benjamin Walker and Alice Ripley.