Robinson Redux – April

RCMH AprilWhile Robinson Center Music Hall is closed for renovations, the Culture Vulture is taking a monthly look at past performances. Today’s entry looks at Aprils from 1940 to 2010 in years that end in a “0” or “5.”

Edward Everett Horton kicked off April 1940 at Robinson Auditorium on the 1st with the comedy Springtime for Henry. The performance was marred by the sound of the new building’s air conditioning system, which was being used for the first time during a performance.  Five years later, on April 1, 1945, the auditorium was home to An Evening of Sigmund Romberg which featured the composer in person with performers singing some of his songs.  April 1945 also saw a performance of Earl Carroll Vanities (the 3rd) and Carmen featuring the Metropolitan Opera singers (the 16th.)

Tenor James Melton performed on April 25, 1950.  In April 1955, the lineup included William Bendix in The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial on the 23rd. The next night the Spring Music Festival took place. It featured school children performing.

On April 25 1960, The Coasters, Bo Diddley, LaVerne Baker and others. The month ended with a youth concert aimed at children. April 1970 included a production of Arthur Miller’s The Price (the 6th), the Southwest Regional Ballet Festival (April 11) and drummer Buddy Rich (April 18).  In April 1975 (the 6th) Hair returned to Robinson for one performance. This time there was no controversy such as had met the first visit a few years earlier.

April 1985 was very busy. On the 13th, there was a Ballet Festival Gala. April 20 & 21 featured an Arkansas Symphony Orchestra classical concert.  A touring production of the musical Gigi performed on the 22nd.  It starred Louis Jourdan (who had appeared in the Oscar winning film, albeit in a different part), Betsey Palmer and Taina Elg. The ASO was back on April 28 with a children’s music concert.

Cathy Rigby flew into Robinson Center with a tour of Peter Pan from April 10 to 12.  On April 4, 1995, the Community Concert Association brought the Russian Seasons Dance Company for a performance.  The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra performed Verdi’s Requiem Mass in Memory of Manzoni on April 8 & 9, 1995. Singer Millie Jackson wrote and appeared in the play Young Man, Older Woman, which played on April 30 of that year.

Several Contemporary Christian music acts performed on April 3. The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra closed their 1999-2000 season on April 8 & 9 with a concert featuring Carolyn Brown on flute. On April 27, 2000, President Clinton headlined a memorial service for civil rights activist Daisy Bates.

April 2005 was full of a variety of performances. Natalie Cole was in concert on April 3 with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.  On William Shatner narrated David Itkin’s Exodus with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra on April 9 & 10, 2005. Arkansan Kyle Dean Massey starred in the tour of 42nd Street which started its performances at Robinson Center on April 18, 2005. In conjunction with an exhibit at the Old State House Museum, a gospel concert featuring the Racy Brothers and the Hunter Brothers closed out April 2005 on the 30th.

David Itkin bid farewell to conducting the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra in April 10 & 11, 2010, with a performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony.  On April 15, the Electrify Your Strings! concert took place. Comedian Gabriel Iglasias and his Fluffy Shop Tour stopped at Robinson on April 24.

Dancing and Romancing on tap this weekend with Arkansas Symphony

joan_kirby_artist_1Just in time for the Valentine’s Weekend, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra (ASO), Philip Mann, Music Director and Conductor, presents the third concert in the 2014-2015 Acxiom Pops Live! Series: Dancing and Romancing.

Broadway and Hollywood combine under the baton of ASO Associate Conductor Geoffrey Robson for a romantic and entertaining evening of song and dance with two veterans of the Broadway stage: Joan Hess and Kirby Ward. Inspired by the likes of Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly and Eleanor Powell, this evening will put a song in hearts and have patrons dancing in the aisles. The Pops Live! Series is sponsored by Acxiom. The concert sponsor is UAMS.

Kirby Ward originated the role of Bobby Childs in the London production of Crazy for You (and is heard on the cast album). His Broadway credits include Show Boat, Woman of the Year and Never Gonna Dance.  Joan Hess recently starred on Broadway in Mamma Mia! Other Broadway roles include Crazy for You; Kiss Me, Kate; Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Bells Are Ringing.  She is also a veteran of national tours of Sunset Boulevard, Crazy for You, 42nd Street and Beehive.

The concert is held at the Pulaski Academy Connor Performing Arts Center, 12701 Hinson Road, Little Rock, AR, on Saturday, February 14, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, February 15, 2015 at 3:00 p.m.

Tickets are $19, $35, $49, and $58; active duty military and student tickets are $10 are can be purchased online at; at the Connor Performing Arts Center box office beginning 90 minutes prior to a concert; or by phone at 501-666-1761, ext. 100. All Arkansas students grades K-12 are admitted to Sunday’s matinee free of charge with the purchase of an adult ticket using the Entergy Kids’ Ticket, downloadable at the ASO website.

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 49th season in 2014-2015, under the leadership of Music Director Philip Mann. ASO is the resident orchestra of Robinson Center Music Hall, and performs more than sixty concerts each year for more than 165,000 people through its Stella Boyle Smith Masterworks Series, ACXIOM Pops LIVE! Series, River Rhapsodies Chamber Music Series, and numerous concerts performed around the state of Arkansas, in addition to serving central Arkansas through numerous community outreach programs and bringing live symphonic music education to over 26,000 school children and over 200 schools.

ROCKing the TONYS – Rocco Landesman

Rock the Tonys

Rocco Landesman on stage at the Arkansas Rep

Rocco Landesman on stage at the Arkansas Rep

Rocco Landesman

Little Rock connection: Visited Little Rock in 2012 in his capacity as chair of the National Endowment for the Arts for the Obama Administration.

Tony Awards connection: As a Broadway producer, won Tony awards for the musical Big River (which opened on this day in 1985), The Grapes of Wrath (1990 Best Play), City of Angels (1990 Best Musical), Guys and Dolls (1992 Best Revival), Angels in America: Millennium Approaches (1993 Best Play), Angels in America: Perestroika (1994 Best Play), Love! Valour! Compassion! (1995 Best Play), The King and I (1996 Best Musical Revival), Titanic (1997 Best Musical), Death of a Salesman (1999 Best Play Revival), Proof (2001 Best Play), The Producers (2001 Best Musical), 42nd Street (2001 Best Musical Revival), Into the Woods (2002 Best Musical Revival), Jersey Boys (2005 Best Musical), Hair (2009 Best Musical Revival) and Kinky Boots (2013 Best Musical).  He has been nominated for 33 additional Tony Awards.