Tartan Day – BRIGADOON appears in Little Rock for the first time in 1951

April 6 is Tartan Day – a chance to pay tribute to the achievements of Scots in the U.S.  It is also a good chance to wear plaid.

On January 17 and 18, 1951, the Broadway musical Brigadoon materialized at Robinson Memorial Auditorium for its first visit to Little Rock.  This musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe is a Scottish fantasy about a town that materializes for one day every 100 years.

First performed on Broadway in 1947, it was revived at New York City Center in 1950. It was that production that toured in 1951 to Little Rock.  The production was produced by John Yorke (who had worked on the original Broadway production) and brought to Little Rock by Metropolitan Attractions.

The cast was led by future Tony nominee Susan Johnson.  Others in the cast were Elizabeth Early, Robert Busch, Betty Logue and Thaddeus Clancy. All had appeared at City Center, though some in different roles than on the tour.  This touring production featured the original Broadway creative team from 1947 with direction by Robert Lewis, choreography by Agnes de Mille (who won a Tony for it, at the first ceremony), scenery by future Tony winner Oliver Smith, costumes by Tony winner David Ffolkes, lighting by Peggy Clark, and orchestrations by Ted Royal.

Over the years, Brigadoon has resurfaced in Little Rock in community theatre and school productions.  But this was the first time that tartans of the MacLaren, Dalrymple, Brockie and Anderson clans first appeared in Little Rock.

Ballet Arkansas in Concert this weekened

In partnership with the Stella Boyle Smith Trust, Ballet Arkansas is excited to present a three – year concert series, Ballet Arkansas in Concert, which pairs high profile works of classical & contemporary dance with musical accompaniment from world renowned musicians in the Spring of each year.

On May 4th – 6th at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Ballet Arkansas and Van Cliburn International Pianist Dr. Drew Mays take the stage for three stellar performances.

Featuring

  • Pas de deux from Agnes de Mille’s The Other

  • Christopher Wheeldon’s The American

  • Contemporary World Premiere by Artistic Director Michael Fothergill

In between pieces, Dr. Mays will present an engaging and stimulating discussion that highlights the lives of the composers, the finer points of their music, and our collaboration. After the completion of the dancing, Dr. Mays will continue to play a solo concert for Ballet Arkansas audiences to enjoy.

Performances are Friday, May 4 at 7:00pm, Saturday, May 5 at 7:00pm, and Sunday, May 6 at 2pm.  Tickets are $40 for adults, $25 for students/senior citizens.  Tickets are available at the discounted rate of $30 (25% discount) for a group of 5 or more.

PRESENTING SPONSOR
Stella Boyle Smith Trust

EDUCATION SPONSORS
Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield
Janna and David Knight
Marci and Stephen Warren

CONCERT D STEINWAY PROVIDED BY
Steinway Piano Gallery Little Rock

The Toes Will Go On

Ballet ArkansasAs previously scheduled, Ballet Arkansas will present its “Ballet Arkansas in Concert” the weekend of May 4 through 6 at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

Though the Rep is suspending operations effective immediately, that is not altering the Ballet’s planned performances.

Join Ballet Arkansas as they present paramount works by international choreographers, excerpts from beloved classics, and a collaboration with world renowned Van Cliburn award winning pianist, Dr. Drew Mays. 

Featuring works by TONY AWARD winner Agnes de Mille, TONY AWARD winner Christopher Wheeldon, and Michael Fothergill’s WORLD PREMIERE

Tickets for the Ballet are still available for purchase on the Rep’s website.

And don’t forget Ballet Arkansas presents DanceWorks this Saturday from 10am to 4pm at the studio on Main Street.

DanceWorks is a free event that celebrates the impact of dance and the arts in the Little Rock community. Join them for open dance classes in a variety of disciplines, stop in for an open rehearsal and chat with the Artistic Directors, and enjoy a preview of Ballet Arkansas In Concert: With Drew Mays and a new work by Company Artist Paul Tillman to conclude the event. Visit balletarkansas.org to learn more!

Open Dance Classes 10 am- 3 pm
Open Rehearsal and Informal Chat with the Artistic Directors 3-4pm
LIVE Performance 3:30pm!
*Colonial Wine & Spirits will be generously providing celebratory libations at the performance preview!

Little Rock Look Back: OKLAHOMA! first comes to LR

OkLRbill

Program cover from OKLAHOMA!’s February 1948 visit to Little Rock. From the collection of Mary and Booker Worthen.

On March 31, 1943, Alfred Drake sauntered on the stage of Broadway’s St. James Theatre and sang “Oh, what a beautiful mornin'” to launch OKLAHOMA! into not only theatrical history but popular culture as well.

In February 1948, as the original Broadway run was about to mark five years on Broadway, the national tour of Oklahoma! made its way to Little Rock for eight performances. The week-long stay it had in Little Rock at Robinson Center was a record for that building that would last until Wicked came in 2010.  (Hello, Dolly! in 1966 and Beauty and the Beast in 2002 had both equalled the record.)

By the time Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s first show made it to Little Rock, they were working on their fourth stage show, South Pacific, which had a leading character from Little Rock.

To get Robinson Auditorium ready for Oklahoma!, the Auditorium Commission had to spend $2,000 on upgrades.  That would be the equivalent of just under $21,000 today.

Oklahoma! opened at Robinson on Monday, February 9, 1948.  With eight performances, approximately 24,000 tickets were on sale during the run of the show.  There was a cast of 67 actors and 28 musicians.  The cast was led by Ridge Bond, Carolyn Adair, Alfred Cibelli Jr., Patricia Englund, and David Morris.  Mr. Bond had relatives who lived in Little Rock.  He was a native of Claremore, Oklahoma, which was the town in which the story took place.

OkAdLR

Ad in ARKANSAS GAZETTE on February 8, 1948.

While they were in Little Rock, the stars of the show made an appearance at Reed Music on February 10.  The music store (located at 112 and 114 East 7th Street–across the street from the Donaghey Building) was promoting the sale of the Oklahoma! cast albums, sheet music, and recordings of songs from Oklahoma! by other singers.

Both the Arkansas Gazette and Arkansas Democrat carried reviews of the show.  Another item, which appeared in the paper that week was a syndicated column which noted that the film rights for the show had been sold. It was speculated that the star would be Bing Crosby.  It would actually be 1955 before the film was made, and Mr. Crosby had no connection to that movie.  By the time it was made, the stars were Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones.  Mr. MacRae would appear in Little Rock for the 1963 opening of the Arkansas Arts Center.  Ms. Jones has made several concert appearances in Little Rock over the years.

Little Rock had seen its fair share of top Broadway shows on tour.  Prior to Robinson’s opening and since then, many well-known actors and popular shows had played Little Rock.  But just as it had been on Broadway, Oklahoma! in Little Rock was more than a show — it was an event!

Over the years, Oklahoma! has been performed by schools, churches, community theatres, dinner theatres, and colleges.  National tours have come through Arkansas again.  People have become jaded or dismissive of it, because they have seen it performed so often — and sometimes badly.  So it is hard to understand the excitement that was felt by Little Rock audiences in 1948 when they first saw it on the stage of Robinson Center.

But 75 years later (and 25 years after it was commemorated by the US Postal Service with its own stamp), Oklahoma! is still doing fine.  Countless new generations sing the songs and say the lines.

Two upcoming cultural events in Little Rock are a testament to the genius that helped create Oklahoma!  In May, Ballet Arkansas will present a dance piece which was the final dance created by Agnes de Mille.  Before choreographing Oklahoma!, Miss de Mille was already making her mark in the world of ballet.  She alternated between the two for decades.  At the 1993 Tony Awards, Miss de Mille accepted a special Tony upon the show’s 50th anniversary milestone.

The second connection to Oklahoma! will take place in February 2019.  The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra is bringing Oscar “Andy” Hammerstein III, grandson of the beloved librettist and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, to host a celebration of some of America’s most cherished music from the stage.

TARTAN DAY Little Rock Look Back: BRIGADOON comes to Robinson

April 6 is Tartan Day – a chance to pay tribute to the achievements of Scots in the U.S.  It is also a good chance to wear plaid.

On January 17 and 18, 1951, the Broadway musical Brigadoon materialized at Robinson Memorial Auditorium for its first visit to Little Rock.  This musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe is a Scottish fantasy about a town that materializes for one day every 100 years.

First performed on Broadway in 1947, it was revived at New York City Center in 1950. It was that production that toured in 1951 to Little Rock.  The production was produced by John Yorke (who had worked on the original Broadway production) and brought to Little Rock by Metropolitan Attractions.

The cast was led by future Tony nominee Susan Johnson.  Others in the cast were Elizabeth Early, Robert Busch, Betty Logue and Thaddeus Clancy. All had appeared at City Center, though some in different roles than on the tour.  This touring production featured the original Broadway creative team from 1947 with direction by Robert Lewis, choreography by Agnes de Mille (who won a Tony for it, at the first ceremony), scenery by future Tony winner Oliver Smith, costumes by Tony winner David Ffolkes, lighting by Peggy Clark, and orchestrations by Ted Royal.

Over the years, Brigadoon has resurfaced in Little Rock in community theatre and school productions.  But this was the first time that tartans of the MacLaren, Dalrymple, Brockie and Anderson clans first appeared in Little Rock.

ROCKing the TONY AWARDS – Agnes de Mille

Rock the Tonys

Photo by courtesy Anderson Ferrell

Photo by courtesy Anderson Ferrell

AGNES DE MILLE

Little Rock connection: In 1951 she and her dance troupe performed at Robinson Auditorium.

Tony Awards connection: Won Tony Awards for Choreography for Brigadoon (1947) and Kwamina (1962). Was nominated for a Tony for choreographing Goldilocks.  In 1993, accepted a special Tony for the 50th anniversary of Oklahoma!