New shows, and returning favorites in 2019-2020 Celebrity Attractions season at Robinson Center

The five shows in the Celebrity Attractions 2019-2020 Broadway season in Little Rock were announced. They include four musicals and one play.  Two returning titles and three which will mark their debuts in the Little Rock market.

Up first is Jimmy Buffet’s Escape to Margaritaville. (November 1 – 3, 2019). It features many of Buffet’s standards as well as some original songs he wrote for the show.

Next is Wicked. Returning to Little Rock for the first time since 2013 (and the first time in the renovated Robinson Center Performance Hall), Wicked will kick off 2020 when it plays from January 1 through 19.

Waitress made Broadway history when it became the first musical with an all-female creative team.  With songs written by Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles, it is inspired by Adrienne Shelley’s film of the same name. It will be in Little Rock from February 21 to 23 of 2020.

The Play that Goes Wrong lives up to its title. It concerns a troupe of actors performing a murder mystery where everything that could go wrong does. Repeatedly. It is a long-running hit in both London and New York.  It will be in Little Rock on March 28 and 29 of 2020.

Finally, the Memory will Live Again as Cats returns to Little Rock. It has been several years since this Andrew Lloyd Webber-T.S. Eliot musical has been at Robinson Center. It will be there from June 5 to 7 of 2020.

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NO TEARS SUITE, commissioned by OXFORD AMERICAN performed today at Little Rock Central High School

In September 2017, Oxford American premiered a 60-minute jazz composition entitled No Tears Suite, written by Little Rock jazz pianist Chris Parker and vocalist Kelley Hurt. The duo created the work in honor of unity on the 60th anniversary of the Little Rock Central High School desegregation crisis.

In this reprisal, Parker and Hurt will again be joined by five exceptional jazz artists, including GRAMMY-winning jazz drummer Brian Blade, who played in the original 2017 ensemble, in addition to fifteen members of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra who will premiere the new, expanded symphonic arrangements of the No Tears Suite written by GRAMMY-nominated arranger, composer and bassist Rufus Reid.

This FREE performance starts at 3pm in the Roosevelt Thompson Auditorium at Little Rock Central High School.  Tickets may be reserved here.

The artists include:
Geoffrey Robson, conductor
Kelly Hurt, vocalist
Chris Parker, piano/composer
Rufus Reid, bass/arranger
Brian Blade, drums
Bobby LaVell, tenor saxophone
Marc Franklin, trumpet
Chad Fowler, alto and baritone saxophones

NO TEARS SUITE, commissioned by OXFORD AMERICAN being performed tonight

In September 2017, Oxford American premiered a 60-minute jazz composition entitled No Tears Suite, written by Little Rock jazz pianist Chris Parker and vocalist Kelley Hurt. The duo created the work in honor of unity on the 60th anniversary of the Little Rock Central High School desegregation crisis.

In this reprisal, Parker and Hurt will again be joined by five exceptional jazz artists, including GRAMMY-winning jazz drummer Brian Blade, who played in the original 2017 ensemble, in addition to fifteen members of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra who will premiere the new, expanded symphonic arrangements of the No Tears Suite written by GRAMMY-nominated arranger, composer and bassist Rufus Reid.

The program starts at 8pm tonight at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, 501 W 9th Street.  Tickets may be purchased here.

The artists include:
Geoffrey Robson, conductor
Kelly Hurt, vocalist
Chris Parker, piano/composer
Rufus Reid, bass/arranger
Brian Blade, drums
Bobby LaVell, tenor saxophone
Marc Franklin, trumpet
Chad Fowler, alto and baritone saxophones

THE BOOK OF MORMON at Robinson Center from February 12 to 17

Hello!

THE BOOK OF MORMON, winner of nine Tony Awards® including Best Musical has been brought to Little Rock by Celebrity Attractions. Performances begin Tuesday, February 12 and continue through Sunday, February 17. Show times are at 7:30pm each evening with matinees on Saturday and Sunday.

THE BOOK OF MORMON features book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone.  Tony Award-winner Lopez is co-creator of the long-running hit musical comedy, Avenue Q.  The musical is choreographed by Tony Award-winner Casey Nicholaw (Monty Python’s Spamalot, The Drowsy Chaperone) and is directed by Nicholaw and Parker.

THE BOOK OF MORMON is the winner of nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score (Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, Matt Stone), Best Book (Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, Matt Stone), Best Direction (Casey Nicholaw, Trey Parker), Best Featured Actress (Nikki M. James), Best Scenic Design (Scott Pask), Best Lighting Design (Brian MacDevitt), Best Sound Design (Brian Ronan) and Best Orchestrations (Larry Hochman, Stephen Oremus); the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical; five Drama Desk Awards including Best Musical, the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album; four Outer Critics Circle Awards, including Best Musical, and the Drama League Award for Best Musical.

THE BOOK OF MORMON features set design by Scott Pask, costume design by Ann Roth, lighting design by Brian MacDevitt and sound design by Brian Ronan.  Orchestrations are by Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus.  Music direction and vocal arrangements are by Stephen Oremus.

The Original Broadway Cast Recording for THE BOOK OF MORMON, winner of the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, is available on Ghostlight Records.

Ticket buyers are reminded that for Celebrity Attractions’ productions, Celebrity Attractions and Ticketmaster are the only official retail ticket outlets and the only way to guarantee that you are paying face value for legitimate tickets.  Ticket buyers who purchase tickets from a ticket broker or any third party should also be aware that Celebrity Attractions is unable to reprint or replace lost or stolen tickets and is unable to contact patrons with information regarding time changes or other pertinent updates regarding the performance.

Rock the Grammys – Jimmy Driftwood

Image result for jimmy driftwoodThe 61st Grammy Awards are tonight.  Over the years, many Arkansans and those with Arkansas connections have been Grammy winners and nominees.

But the first Arkansan to win a Grammy took place at the second Grammy ceremony on November 29, 1959 – Jimmy Driftwood.

Born in Timbo as James Morris in 1907, he later studied what is now John Brown University before graduating with a teaching degree from what is now the University of Central Arkansas.

In his 20s, he alternated between teaching school and traveling the country as a drifter.  In 1936, he both got married and returned to Arkansas as well as wrote the song “The Battle of New Orleans” to help explain history to a class he was teaching.

By 1957, he had changed his name to Jimmy Driftwood, both publicly and legally.  That year, a Nashville, TN, song publisher learned of him and offered him his first record deal.  That first record did not sell particularly well.  But he did start getting notice.

Driftwood left Arkansas for Nashville and became popular by his appearances on programs including the Grand Ole Opry, Ozark Jubilee, and Louisiana Hayride. He was invited to sing for Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev as an example of traditional American music during the leader’s 1959 state visit to the United States. He became a member of the Opry in the 1950s.

In 1959, he had six songs on the popular and country music charts including Johnny Horton’s recording of “The Battle of New Orleans.” It was that recording that was named “Song of the Year” by the Grammys. That award goes to the songwriter, which meant Driftwood took home the trophy.  He later won three other Grammys.

By the 1960s, he alternated his time between touring and spending more time in Northwest and North Central Arkansas.  In April 1963, he held the first Arkansas Folk Festival in Mountain View.  He later helped established the Ozark Folk Center, which is now part of the Arkansas State Park system. He was also active in defeating the plan to dam the Buffalo River and in efforts to establish the Buffalo National River and the preservation of the Blanchard Springs Caverns.

Due to his knowledge of folk music, Driftwood served on the Advisory Committee of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and worked with the National Geographic Society.

His final years were spent in Fayetteville. He died there of a heart attack in 1998.

This weekend at the Clinton Center – Fusion 2019: Arts+Humanities Arkansas looks at “The Mighty Mississippi: A Mosaic of America’s Growth”

Fusion: Arts + Humanities Arkansas The third edition of FUSION: Arts + Humanities Arkansas takes place on February 10 and 11 at the Clinton Presidential Center.

There is a Fusion public symposium, The Mighty Mississippi: A Mosaic of America’s Growth, on Sunday, February 10, at 5:30 p.m. The program will include a keynote address featuring nationally-recognized photographer, filmmaker, and folklorist Tom Rankin; a Delta Blues musical performance by Grammy Award-winning musician David Evans; and special performances by the Arkansas Symphony Youth Orchestra Jazz Ensemble and North Little Rock High School theater students.

While flowing more than 2,300 miles through ten states and defining eight state borders, the Mighty Mississippi River is an imperative physical aspect that continues to play an integral role in the shaping of our nation’s economics, politics, geography, and culture.

An accompanying exhibit will take you on a journey down the Mississippi River as you view dozens of artifacts and ephemera, including first editions of Mark Twain’s novels, The Prince and the Pauper and The Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court; original Norman Rockwell lithographs from Twain’s works; the Epiphone guitar and playing knife of Helena native and famed blues guitar player Cedell Davis; and more.

RSVP for the Fusion Public Symposium

Fusion: Arts + Humanities Arkansas
The Mighty Mississippi: A Mosaic of America’s Growth
Sunday, February 10, 2019
Doors Open: 5 p.m. | Program Begins: 5:30 p.m.

Reception and exhibit tours to follow the program
Clinton Presidential Center, Great Hall
Fusion 2019 is made possible because of the generous support of the Quapaw Tribe, Centennial Bank, and the Little Rock Port Authority.

LR Culture Vulture turns 7

The Little Rock Culture Vulture debuted on Saturday, October 1, 2011, to kick off Arts & Humanities Month.

The first feature was on the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, which was kicking off its 2011-2012 season that evening.  The program consisted of Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4 in A, Op. 90, Rossini’s, Overture to The Italian Girl in Algiers, Puccini’s Chrysanthemums and Respighi’s Pines of Rome.  In addition to the orchestra musicians, there was an organ on stage for this concert.

Since then, there have been 10,107 persons/places/things “tagged” in the blog.  This is the 3,773rd entry. (The symmetry to the number is purely coincidental–or is it?)  It has been viewed over 288,600 times, and over 400 readers have made comments.  It is apparently also a reference on Wikipedia.

The most popular pieces have been about Little Rock history and about people in Little Rock.