31 Days of Arkansas Rep: PETER PAN in 1994

Peter Pan flew into the window of the Darling’s nursery in December 1994 on the Arkansas Rep stage.  With a cast of thirty-six, Peter Pan was one of the Rep’s larger productions.

Directed by Brad Mooy, the production featured Steve Wilkerson in the title role. It gained some national press attention, because the role is usually played by women, so Wilkerson’s casting was a bit of a novelty.

Others in the cast were Ed Romanoff, Angie Ohren, Dustin Alford, Matthew Block, Peggy Billo, Tanya Duggar, Gary Taggart, Angie Foresman, and Linda Sue Sanders. The Lost Boys were played by Adam Napper, Bernie Baskin, James Knight, Brian Jones, Kale Ludwig, and Kyle Ludwig.

The pirates were played by Mark Hansen, Joel Gordon, Derek Reid, Shannon E. Farmer, Tony D. Owens Jr., DeJon Mayes, Kenneth Elins, Matt Patton, Eric Harrison and Tom Kagy. Taking on the roles of the indians were Suzan Hart, Rusty Miller, Mikel Brown, Ryan Martine, Patrick McNally, Christina Boatwright, Leslie Goodwin, Tori Petrus and Dennis Glasscock.

Glasscock was the production’s choreographer. Flying for Pan and others was created by Foy, the same firm which was responsible for Mary Martin’s flying in the role on Broadway in 1954. Hans Stiritz was the musical director, Mike Nichols was set designer, and Don Bolinger provided costume design.

The production was so successful, it was nearly sold out before it opened.  Two years later, the Rep reprised it.  There were some different design elements as well as a largely different cast. Wilkerson returned as did Ohren, Dugger, Gordon, Knight, Napper, Alford,  Petrus, and Kagy.

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31 Days of Arkansas Rep: ANGELS IN AMERICA (1996 and 1997)

In 1996, the Arkansas Rep presented Tony Kushner’s Angels in America: Millennium Approaches.  It was one of seven professional theatres granted the rights to do the show that season.  The production ran from February 29 to March 17 of that year.

Directed by Brad Mooy, the production came about due to lobbying of the Broadway producers by Rep Artistic Director Cliff Baker.  There was skepticism in New York as to how Little Rock audiences would respond. And, to be honest, there was skepticism in Little Rock, too.  But the rights were granted, and Little Rock embraced the play.

The next season, the Rep brought Part I back to be joined by Part II for the opportunity experience a theatrical marathon.  The Rep’s production was unprecedented in Little Rock. It was not just a rarity for the Rep, such an undertaking had never been done by any theatre in town.

Directed by Brad Mooy, the 1997 dual production required five weeks of rehearsals (more than the usual amount).  Six of the eight actors from the 1996 production returned for the second go around.

As it had been in 1996, the cast was led by Rep favorite Steve Wilkerson. Others in the cast were Caitlin Hart, Jo Anne Robinson, Jonathan Lamer, Jonna McElrath and Ray Ford. The two new additions were Christopher Swan and Ken Kramer.  They played the roles which Barry Stewart Mann and Fred Baker had played the prior year.

The design team included Mike Nichols (sets), Don Bolinger (costumes), David Neville (lighting), Melissa Wakefield (properties), Rob Milburn (sound), and ZFX Inc. (flying).

31 Days of Arkansas Rep: 1995’s THE RAINMAKER

N. Richard Nash’s romantic drama with comedy, The Rainmaker took over the Arkansas Rep stage in January and February 1995. Following the run in Little Rock, it toured the US through April of that year.

The production was directed by Rep founder and Artistic Director Cliff Fannin Baker. It reunited him with several long-time Rep actors Vivian Morrison, Ronald J. Aulgur, Steve Wilkerson, Richard Glover, and Mark Johnson.

Baker had previously directed Robert Standley in a production of the show, and brought him in to reprise his role as the title character.  Rounding out the cast was Rep newcomer John Stiritz.

The creative team included Mike Nichols (sets), Don Bolinger (costumes), David Neville (lighting) and Chip Salerno (sound).  Salerno also wrote and recorded the music which underscored the production.

31 Days of Arkansas Rep: 1994’s LOST IN YONKERS

Over the years, the Arkansas Rep has produced several Neil Simon plays and musicals.

In October 1994, Arkansas Rep produced Simon’s only play to win a Pulitzer, Lost in Yonkers.  Though darker in tone than many of his plays, it still provided a host of laughs.

The two boys at the center of the story were played by future filmmaker Graham Gordy and future Broadway producer Will Trice.  The matriarch who presides over the action was played by Anne Sheldon, a Little Rock native who’d left the city after marrying during World War II.

Others in the cast were Lori Wilner, Clif Morts, Elizabeth Aiello and Ed Romanoff.  The production was directed by William Gregg, a guest director at the Rep.  Mike Nichols provided the scenic design, while Don Bolinger was the costume designer.

 

31 Days of Arkansas Rep: 1989’s NOISES OFF

Michael Frayn’s three act satirical farce NOISES OFF pokes fun at the theatrical world.  This Tony nominated play within a play about the production of a British farce NOTHING ON took to the Arkansas Rep stage in June 1989.

Directed by Terry Sneed, the cast featured James Harbour as Nothing On’s director, and Theresa Quick as the leading lady.  Others in the cast were Vivian Morrison, Don Bolinger, Peter Bradshaw, Alan Hanson, Jane McNeill, Carolyn Pugh and Jon Meyer.

The first and third acts take place on the set of Nothing On in a house that was once a 16th century posset mill. The second act shows the backstage happenings during a performance.  The set (which rotated between acts) was designed by Nels Anderson.

The production ran from June 8 to 24, 1989.

31 Days of Arkansas Rep: OVATION! in 1999

Upon his retirement (the first time) from Arkansas Rep, founder and artistic director Cliff Fannin Baker was feted with a special performance celebrating his career with the Rep.  The entire evening was called “Ovation!” and included a pre-performance reception, a special revue celebrating Cliff’s career, and a performance of As Bees in Honey Drown, which Cliff directed.

Ruth Shepherd and Helen Buchanan co-chaired the evening, which took place on September 21, 1999.  Jana Beard was involved in the conception and direction of the performance.

The program started with a welcome from Mimi Dortch, the first Rep Board chair; Bill Rector, a former Rep Board chair who had been instrumental in the move to the Rep’s Main Street location; and Carol Corley, who was the 1999-2000 Rep Board chair.

The performers included Michael Davis, Don Bolinger, Shannon Farmer, Vivian Morrison Norman, Candyce Hinkle, Debbie Rawn, Jana Beard, Debbie Weber, Mary Twedt Cantrell, Mark Johnson, Judy Blue., Jean Lind, and Phyllis Blumenfeld.

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton sent a videotaped message that was played and followed by a video which highlighted Cliff’s career.  Lt. Governor Winthrop Rockefeller presented Cliff with the 1999 Governor’s Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement.  Also that evening, longtime Rep staffers Lynn Frazier and Guy Couch were presented with Cliff Fanning Baker Awards for extraordinary service to the Rep.

After a brief intermission, the evening continued with As Bees in Honey Drown. The show was directed by Cliff and was the final show of the Cliff Fannin Baker era (Part I).

31 Days of Arkansas Rep: THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD opens new theatre in 1988

While audience members were tasked with solving THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD at Arkansas Rep in October 1988, they also had the chance to explore the new home for the Rep. This Tony winning musical marked the opening of the new Main Street location after twelve years in the converted church adjacent to MacArthur Park.

The move to Main Street had been in the works for over three years. It was announced around the same time The Mystery of Edwin Drood was being rehearsed for its original Off Broadway production. In the interim, this musical whodunnit written and composed by Rupert Holmes had transferred to Broadway and won the 1986 Tony Award for Best Musical.

Terry Sneed and Theresa Quick led the cast, which was directed by Cliff Fannin Baker. Others in the cast of 29 included Art Arney, Don Bolinger, Richard Glover, Julianne Griffin, Vivian Morrison, and Debbie Weber.

Sharon Douglas was the pianist and music director. Others on the creative team included Keith Belli (set), Kathy Gray (lighting), and Mark Hughes (costumes).

Audience members actually had three mysteries to solve each night: who killed Drood, who was disguising themself as Dick Datchery, and which lovers would be united at the end.  This meant the actors had to learn a variety of options and endings, and be prepared to perform them at a moment’s notice.