31 Days of Arkansas Rep: LES MISERABLES in 2008

The 33rd season of Arkansas Rep opened with its most expensive and expansive production to date – the Tony winning LES MISERABLES.

Rep Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp helmed the production.  With a cast of 29 actors, most of whom played multiple parts, there were over 500 costume pieces, designed by Rafael Colon Castanera. The expansive musical was properly fitted into the Rep’s intimate space due to the scenic design of Robert Kovach.

Douglas Webster and Christopher Carl led the cast as Valjean and Javert, respectively. Maria Couch, Chris Newell, Jeanine Pacheco, Evan Shyer, Nina Sturtz, Mike Accardo and Catherine Smitko played other principal roles.

The cast also included Shelby Kirby, Julia Landfair, Molly Russ, Gracie Stover, Kelsie Adkisson, Michael Bartholmey, Conly Basham, Dustin Beam, Susan Belcher, Luke Bridges, Hannah Bruce, Andrew Buck, Kyle Huey, Mark Ludden, Jeremy Matthey, Laura Medford, Rick Qualls, Matthew Tatus, Pittman Ware and Tyler Whiteside.

Others on the creative team were M. Jason Pruzin (sound), Michael Eddy (lighting), Lynda J. Kwallek (props), Robert Harper (choreography), and D. C. Wright (fight choreography).

The production ran from September 12 through October 12 of 2008.  In March 2014, Webster and Carl returned to the show at Arkansas Rep, again directed by Hupp.

See the BEE

Rep Spelling BeeF-U-N is all the spelling you need to know to go see The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. This musical comedy with heart and smarts is running now through November 8 at Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

A 2005 Tony winner for Best Book of a Musical, Spelling Bee (as it shall hereafter be abbreviated) explores the twists and turns of both the eponymous academic competition and the struggle known as adolescence. While William Finn’s score may not be as strong as some of his other shows, it is a mixture of peppy and heart-felt songs that illuminate the chaos and character of each competitor.

There are six main competitors in the Bee. Each of the adult actors playing these juvenile spellers does a masterful job of balancing the demands of the roles. They must portray youngsters, without it becoming a parody. Ethan Paulini creates yet another endearingly offbeat character at the Rep as Leaf Coneybear. Tessa Faye’s Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre shifts seamlessly between exuberance and frustration. Laura Dadap aptly showcases her many talents as overachiever Marcy Park.

As Chip Tolentino, Tommy Martinez is so clean-cut and charming that his character’s unfortunate physical condition is endearing and not creepy. Conly Basham brings warmth, pathos, and heart to the role of Olive Ostrovsky, which keeps the character from straying into the realm of the pitiful or maudlin. As William Barfee (pronounced Bar-fay, except by everyone else on stage), Patrick Halley embraces the profound oddities and quirks in the character without making him grotesque.

Playing the adults are the warm Andi Watson as a former spelling bee champion intent on reliving her glory days, the officiously hilarious Scott McLean Harrison as a frustrated and frustrating Assistant Principal, and Correy West as a community service grief counselor. Watson and Harrison are kept on their toes throughout the show as they must interact with the guest spellers from the audience.

This is no cookie-cutter production of Spelling Bee. Director Nicole Capri has crafted a production that plays to the unique strengths of each of the actors. She keeps the show moving at a good pace, while allowing it to slow down enough for the audience and actors to enjoy the moments of bliss and melancholy. Capri obviously created a rehearsal environment encouraging the actors to take risks and to have fun.

Musical Director Mark Binns again excels in serving the score, singers and the audience. Mike Nichols’ set recreates a school gymnasium down to the ropes dangling from a ceiling. Shelly Hall’s costumes capture the personalities of each character in a fresh way. Dan Kimble’s lighting and Allan Branson’s sound design are vital to reflecting the different moods and moments as the story sometimes shifts to different planes of consciousness. Lynda J. Kwallek’s props ensure the show has a lived-in look.

While the show may have a message about the value of every person, it is not a “MESSAGE” show. It is intended to be fun. The Arkansas Rep production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee gets the gold cup for providing an enjoyable, entertaining, and enlightening outing at the theatre.

Premiere of new production PROJECT ELAN next on stage at Arkansas Rep

Project êlan small2Project Élan is a brand-new, original, culture-current musical that seeks to shed light on the individual and universal needs of the millennial generation. Digital and uniquely undefinable, this generation seeks to find answers in an unpredictable world. And although they may appear to be an age overrun by technology and isolation, their dreams are timeless. The millennial generation still longs for the most basic of human needs – safety, hope and love.

Conceived and directed by The Rep’s Resident Director and Director of Education, Nicole Capri, Project Élan is written by Capri and seven SMTI alumni and staff including. The production, which opens on the 10-year anniversary of The Rep’s Summer Musical Theatre Intensive (SMTI) program, features approximately 50 of the best past and present alumni from the last decade of the program.

Project Élan features a diverse musical score with original songs from almost every genre of music – contemporary-alternative, acoustic-folk, urban-rock, indie-pop, jazz-fusion, Nashville-sound, progressive-Broadway and sunshine-pop.

The word “élan” – is defined in several ways — “to live in the moment,” “to live with reckless abandon and enthusiasm,” “confidence,” and “spirit.” The writers of this piece seek to produce a relevant and relatable musical that speaks to the heart of all generations.

Public previews begin tomorrow with the official opening night on Friday, May 8. The production runs through May 16.

The creative team includes:

  • Nicole Capri – conception, director, choreographer, writer
  • Mark Binns – writer, musical director
  • Bobby Banister – writer
  • Conly Basham – writer
  • Sam Clark – writer
  • Robert Frost – writer
  • Jimmy Landfair – writer
  • Charity Vance – writer
  • Marisa Kirby – choreographer
  • Stephen K. Stone – choreographer
  • Drew Posey – set designer
  • Shelly Hall – costume designer
  • Dan Kimble – lighting designer
  • Lynda J. Kwallek – props designer
  • Travis Mosler – video designer
  • Beth Thiemann – stage manager

‘Project elan’ at Arkansas Rep

Project êlan small2Today at 1pm and 7pm, the Arkansas Rep’s Young Artists will perform a new work in progress.
Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s Resident Director and Director of Education, Nicole Capri has assembled a talented team of young musicians and writers to create a brand new, all-original musical, Project élan. This new musical will feature a mix of new songs from a wide variety of genres including contemporary-alternative, acoustic-folk, indie-pop, Nashville-sound and many more.

This year’s summer program will be unlike anything past participants have experienced before at The Rep. Project élan’s summer performances will be a-work- in-progress. Traditionally, The  Rep’s Young Artists have nine days to learn the songs, script and choreography for a summer production;  however, when the young artists arrived in July for rehearsals, the script will not be complete. Young artists will be heavily involved in script, storyline, design and character development. New script, music and staging changes will be made daily.  Audience members will also be encouraged to give feedback, complete surveys and directly interact with the actors and creative team.

The Rep offers two summer programs as part of its Summer Musical Theater Intensive (SMTI) training program for aspiring young artists in Arkansas.The SMTI creative team is comprised of professional directors, choreographers, musicians, designers and writers. 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 involves intensive daily rehearsals culminating in a public workshop performance of a selected musical or musical revue.
Two weeks ago, the older students in SMTI performed Project élan. This weekend it is the time for the younger participants.

The project is overseen by Nicole Capri (director/choreographer) and Karen Q. Clark (music director).  The writers are Bobby Banister, Conly Basham, Sam Clark, Robert Frost, James Ebel Landfair and Charity Vance.  The choreography team includes Stacy Hawking, Sydney Ippolito, Marisa Kirby, Stephen K. Stone and Capri.  Christy Hawking is the assistant to the director and Beth Thiemann is the stage manager.