The Natural State Brass Band in concert today

Image may contain: textThe Natural State Brass Band presents its pre-Memorial Day concert on May 19 at 3 p.m. at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church, 4823 Woodlawn, in Little Rock.

Admission is free.

Selections will include “American Overture,” “A Sinatra Salute!,” “Joshua Swings the Battle,” “Under the Boardwalk,” “John Williams: Epic Themes,” “Armed Forces Salute,” “America, the Beautiful,” and “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Rock the Oscars 2019: Leo Robin and Jule Styne

Lyricist Leo Robin with composer Jule Styne working together on the score of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the time of the original production in 1949.

Lyricist Leo Robin with composer Jule Styne working together on the score of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the time of the original production in 1949.

Perhaps the most famous song about Little Rock is “(I’m Just a) Little Girl from Little Rock.”  Written by Leo Robin and Jule Styne, it first appeared on Broadway in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes where it was sung by Carol Channing.  When the title was made into a movie, it was sung by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell.

Because it was not written for the screen, the song was not eligible for an Oscar.  However, the duo who wrote it had their fair share of Oscar nominations and wins.

Robin, earned ten nominations between 1934 and 1953.  As a lyricist, he collaborated with seven different composers in earning these nominations. His one Oscar came for “Thanks for the Memory” from The Big Broadcast of 1938.  In the film it was sung by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross.  It would be associated with Hope the rest of his life.

Styne also earned ten nominations; his were between 1940 and 1968.  Seven of the nominations were for collaborations with Sammy Cahn.  (There were three other partners with whom he shared nominations, too.)  His win came for “Three Coins in the Fountain” from the film of the same name.  In the movie it was sung by an uncredited Frank Sinatra during the opening title sequence. During the closing credits, an unnamed chorus repeated the song.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes received no Oscar nominations, though Charles Lederer did receive a Writers Guild of America nomination for screenplay of an American Musical.  Though Jane Russell introduced an Oscar winning Best Song in Paleface (“Buttons and Bows”) and Oscar nominated Best Song in Son of Paleface (“Am I in Love”) she never received an Oscar nomination.  Monroe never received one either.  Only co-star Charles Coburn had any luck with Oscar.  He received three nominations, winning once.

Rocking the Tonys: Baryshnikov at Robinson (part 2)

One of the presenters at Sunday’s 72nd Tony Awards is Mikhail Baryshnikov.  Twenty-nine years ago, he himself was a 1989 Tony nominee for Actor in a Play (for playing a man-turned-cockroach in an adaptation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

In 1985, Baryshnikov returned to Little Rock to perform again at Robinson Center under the auspices of Ballet Arkansas.   He had performed here two years earlier, as well.

Among the dancers who joined him in the program was future Tony nominee Robert LaFosse.  He would be nominated for a 1989 Tony as well. But he was up for Best Actor in a Musical for his performance in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway.  Other dancers in the company were Cynthia Harvey, Susan Jaffe, Leslie Browne, Elaine Kudo, Cheryl Yeager, Amanda McKerrow, Deirdre Carberry, Bonnie Moore, Valerie Madonia, Ross Stretton, Peter Fonseca, Gil Boggs, John Gardner, and John Turjoman.

The company danced to pieces choreographed by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Marius Petipa, future Tony Award winner Twyla Tharp, Lisa de Ribere, and La Fosse.  The music composers included George Gershwin, Jacques Offenbach, Frederic Chopin, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Hector Berlioz, as well as composers who wrote songs for Frank Sinatra.

While Ballet Arkansas did not have any dancers perform during the evening, the organization presented it and was able to receive the proceeds which exceeded the expenses.  For several years in the 1980s, the Ballet would either commence or conclude their season with such an performance. In fact, the 1985 Baryshnikov program contained a promotion of a 1986 visit by Alvin Ailey’s dance company.

Whereas the 1983 Baryshnikov appearance had been sponsored by the Arkansas Democrat, this time, the rival Arkansas Gazette was the sponsor.

 

Rock the Oscars: Leo Robin and Jule Styne

Lyricist Leo Robin with composer Jule Styne working together on the score of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at the time of the original production in 1949.

Perhaps the most famous song about Little Rock is “(I’m Just a) Little Girl from Little Rock.”  Written by Leo Robin and Jule Styne, it first appeared on Broadway in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes where it was sung by Carol Channing.  When the title was made into a movie, it was sung by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell.

Because it was not written for the screen, the song was not eligible for an Oscar.  However, the duo who wrote it had their fair share of Oscar nominations and wins.

Robin, earned ten nominations between 1934 and 1953.  As a lyricist, he collaborated with seven different composers in earning these nominations. His one Oscar came for “Thanks for the Memory” from The Big Broadcast of 1938.  In the film it was sung by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross.  It would be associated with Hope the rest of his life.

Styne also earned ten nominations; his were between 1940 and 1968.  Seven of the nominations were for collaborations with Sammy Cahn.  (There were three other partners with whom he shared nominations, too.)  His win came for “Three Coins in the Fountain” from the film of the same name.  In the movie it was sung by an uncredited Frank Sinatra during the opening title sequence. During the closing credits, an unnamed chorus repeated the song.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes received no Oscar nominations, though Charles Lederer did receive a Writers Guild of America nomination for screenplay of an American Musical.  Though Jane Russell introduced an Oscar winning Best Song in Paleface (“Buttons and Bows”) and Oscar nominated Best Song in Son of Paleface (“Am I in Love”) she never received an Oscar nomination.  Monroe never received one either.  Only co-star Charles Coburn had any luck with Oscar.  He received three nominations, winning once.

Little Rock Look Back: Frank Sinatra at 100

FAS 100Frank Sinatra never made a public appearance in Little Rock, or even Arkansas. But his musical genius continues to be felt throughout the state.

100 years ago today he was born in Hoboken, New Jersey.  Over the years he went from idol of the bobby-soxers to major Hollywood heavyweight and then to musical mentor.  He was also a businessman and record executive. Though sometimes in headlines because of his personal life, his talent was so overwhelming that any personal failings seemed to be quickly overlooked.

He came up as an admirer of FDR and was a close friend of JFK. In later years, he tended to be associated with GOP candidates, but usually befriended whoever was in the Oval Office.

Upon his death in May 1998, former Little Rock resident President Bill Clinton issued a statement.

Hillary and I were deeply saddened to hear of the death of a musical legend and an American icon, Frank Sinatra. Early in his long career, fans dubbed him ‘The Voice.’ And that was the first thing America noticed about Frank Sinatra: that miraculous voice, strong and subtle, wisecracking and wistful, streetwise but defiantly sweet. In time he became so much more. Sinatra was a spellbinding performer, on stage or on screen, in musicals, comedies and dramas. He built one of the world’s most important record companies. He won countless awards, from the Grammy — nine times — to the Academy Award, to the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And he dedicated himself to humanitarian causes.

“When I became president, I had never met Frank Sinatra, although I was an enormous admirer of his. I had the opportunity after I became president to get to know him a little, to have dinner with him, to appreciate on a personal level what fans around the world, including me, appreciated from afar.

“Frank Sinatra will be missed profoundly by millions around the world. But his music and movies will ensure that ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes’ is never forgotten. Today, I think every American would have to smile and say he really did do it his way.

FAS tieIn 2013, as part of an exhibit of photography and artifacts of jazz musicians, the Clinton Presidential Center featured one of Sinatra’s bowties. It is pictured here.

Arkansas Rep’s premiere of revival of PAL JOEY closes today

PalJoeyToday is the last chance to catch the Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s world premiere revival of Pal Joey.

Kicking off the 2013-2014 season, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s Pal Joey has been reimagined by Tony winner Peter Schneider.  He and Rep Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp have assembled a stellar cast and creative team to bring this classic tale to a new life.  The Rodgers and Hart songs are woven into a new book by Patrick Pacheco based on the stories of John O’Hara.

Peter Schneider is the Tony Award-winning producer of the internationally acclaimed Broadway musical The Lion King. He produced the award-winning documentary, “Waking Sleeping Beauty,” about Disney animation from 1984-1994, a decade within his 17-year tenure at the company where he served as President of the animation department and, later, as Chairman of the studio.

A new score has been enhanced with other memorable songs from the Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart catalog, such as “The Lady Is a Tramp” and “Sing for Your Supper,” intermingled with gems from the original 1940 show like “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and “I Could Write a Book.” This Pal Joey explodes on stage with timeless jazz favorites, stunning tap dance numbers and plenty of sparkle while exploring morality, race, class and the timeless relationship between power and sex.

The cast is led by Clifton Oliver in the title role.  Playing the women vying for his attention are Erica Hanrahan-Ball and Theatre World Award winner Stephanie Umoh.  Jonas Cohen plays an added complication to the mix.  Others in the cast are Danielle Erin Rhodes, Jeffrey Johnson II, Elise Kinnon, Jordy Lievers, Joel Pellini, Ian Jordan Subsara and Matthew K. Tatus.  Michael Reno serves as the Musical Director and leads the band accompanying Joey.

Joining Schneider, Pacheco and Reno in the creative team are choreographer Dan Knechtges, scenic designer David Potts, costume designer Rafael Colon Castanera, props designer Lynda J. Kwallek, lighting designer Michael J. Eddy and sound designer Allan Branson.

Performances today are at 2pm and 7pm.