Broadway Rocks the Arkansas Symphony this weekend

ASO NewThe Arkansas Symphony Orchestra welcomes Christiane Noll, Capathia Jenkins and Rob Evan for a weekend of Broadway music backed by the ASO.

Under the direction of Associate Conductor Geoffrey Robson, this high energy show brings together exciting vocalists from the Broadway stage performing selections from rock and contemporary Broadway hits. Wicked, The Lion King, Mamma Mia, Rent, The Wiz, The Phantom of the Opera – and many more of your favorites from the stage are featured on this exciting show for all ages!

Act I

  • Rocks Overture (arr. Fleischer)
  • Everybody Rejoice (The Wiz/Smalls)
  • This Is The Moment (Jekyll and Hyde/Wildhorn)
  • Good Morning Baltimore (Hairspray/Shaiman)
  • Jersey Boys Medley
  • Total Eclipse Circle of Life (Lion King/John)
  • Proud Mary (Fogerty)
  • Jesus Christ Superstar Overture (Lloyd Webber)
  • Seasons of Love (Rent/Larsen)
  • You Can’t Stop the Beat (Hairspray/Shaiman)

INTERMISSION

Act II

  • Come Sail Away
  • For Good (Wicked/Schwartz)
  • Anthem (Chess/Andersson/Ulvaeus)
  • I Will Survive
  • Defying Gravity (Wicked/Schwartz)
  • Mamma Mia Medley (Andersson/Ulvaeus)
  • And I Am Tellin’ You (Dreamgirls/Krieger)            
  • Phantom of the Opera (Phantom/Lloyd Webber)
  • Music of the Night (Phantom/Lloyd Webber)

All programs, dates and guest artists subject to change.

Capathia Jenkins, created the role of ‘Medda’ in the hit Disney production of Newsies on Broadway. She made her Broadway debut in The Civil War. She then starred in the Off-Broadway 2000 revival of Godspell. She returned to Broadway in The Look of Love and was critically acclaimed for her performances of the Bacharach/David hits. Ms. Jenkins then created the roles of ‘The Washing Machine’ in Caroline, Or Change and ‘Frieda May’ in Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, where she sang ‘Stop the Show’ and brought the house down every night.

Christiane Noll was nominated for both the 2010 Tony Award and Drama Desk Award and won a Helen Hayes Award for her portrayal of Mother on Broadway in the Kennedy Center Revival of Ragtime. She made her Broadway debut starring in Jekyll & Hyde, creating the role of Emma. Ms. Noll received an Ovation Award for her comedic turn as Hope Cladwell in the National Tour of Urinetown, wowed audiences again as Vanna Vane in the new musical The Mambo Kings, soared as Jane Smart in the American premiere of The Witches of Eastwick, and most recently received another Drama Desk nomination for her work in Chaplin.

Rob Evan has performed in seven leading roles on the New York Stage including the original Broadway cast of Jekyll & Hyde, playing the title roles for three years and over 1,000 performances worldwide. He also appeared on Broadway as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, Kerchak in Disney’s Tarzan, “The Dentist” in Little Shop of Horrors, and Count von Krolock in Jim Steinman’s Dance of the Vampires. Off-Broadway, Rob created the roles of The Dancin’ Kid in Johnny Guitar and the hero Miles Hendon in Neil Berg’s m.

Monday Musings – Jay Clark

Jay ClarkWhen Jay Clark is not on stage at the Arkansas Rep or other local theatres, you will might find him in a pulpit or leading a youth outing at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church.  His “day job” is Pastor with Youth and Their Families at PHUMC.  He is currently an understudy for Vice-Principal Panch in the Arkansas Rep production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. He is set to perform on the 22nd and 23rd this week (Thursday and Friday).  If you saw him in multiple roles in the Rep’s production of Hairspray, you know you’re in for a good show!
After graduating from the American Musical and Dramaitc Academy in New York, Jay worked behind the scenes on Broadway/Off-Broadway productions of The Sunshine Boys(with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman), The Gin Game (with Julie Harris and Charles Durning), Jekyll and Hyde, The Life, and An Evening with Jerry Herman.  He has worked with United Methodist youth in New England, New York City, Arkansas, North Carolina and Nashville.
-My earliest memory was (age and incident)

Maybe watching Aloha from Hawaii. I was only a few years old, but I remember sitting in front of the tv on the bean-bag and watching. It was either this or dancing with a stuffed animal fox.

-When I was in high school and imagined my adulthood, I thought I would be…

An actor, no doubt. Plus I wanted a fulfilling life.

-Star Wars, Star Trek, Battle of the Network Stars, or Dancing with the Stars?

Battle of the Network Stars.

-I most identify with the Winnie the Pooh character of…

Tigger…although I have my Christopher Robin moments.

-The performer I’d drop everything to see is…

Dead or alive? George Burns, Jack Benny, Don Rickles, The Rat Pack – I tend to be old school.

-My first paying job was…
digging ditches and house footings for my grandpa. Then as a radio dj for KRLW in Walnut Ridge
-A book I think everyone should read is….
anything by Dostoevsky
-My favorite season is…
Fall
-We are all geeks (or experts) about something. My field is….
Theatre

Tony Awards Week – Tony Titles at Arkansas Rep

ark repNext year the Arkansas Repertory Theatre celebrates its 40th anniversary season.  Since its first season, the Rep has often programmed plays and musicals which have been recognized with the Tony for Best Play or Best Musical of the season.

Many other Rep productions have been titles which have also won Tony Awards in some Broadway production.  But this list only looks at those which won or were nominated for the Tony for Best Play and Best Musical.

The first Rep production was The Threepenny Opera.  While it did not win the Tony for Best Musical, it goes on this list because it received a Special Tony in 1956 for its production.  The original production in the 1930s ran for just a few performances. So this production was not eligible for the Best Musical award. But it was so outstanding, it received a Special Tony.

That 1976-77 season also included a Best Play winner – The Persecution and Assassination of Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, which took home the silver medallion for Best Play in 1966.

Rep SalesmanOther Tony Best Play winners produced by the Rep have been:

(Tony Year; Title; Rep season)

  • 1949 – Death of a Salesman – 2012-13
  • 1955 – The Diary of Anne Frank – 1977-78; 1981-82
  • 1960 – The Miracle Worker – 2004-05
  • 1963 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – 1978-79
  • 1965 – The Subject Was Roses – 1981-82
  • 1973 – That Championship Season – 1984-85
  • 1979 – The Elephant Man – 2008-09
  • 1981 – Amadeus – 1995-96
  • 1984 – The Real Thing – 1986-87
  • 1985 – Biloxi Blues – 1987-88
  • 1986 – I’m Not Rappaport – 1989-90
  • 1987 – Fences – 2006-07
  • 1990 – The Grapes of Wrath – 2000-01
  • 1991 – Lost in Yonkers – 1994-95 (featuring future Tony winner Will Trice in the cast)
  • 1993 – Angels in America: Millennium Approaches – 1995-96; 1996-97
  • 1994 – Angels in America: Perestroika – 1996-97
  • 1997 – The Last Night of Ballyhoo – 1998-99
  • 1998 – Art – 2001-02
  • 2001 – Proof – 2002-03 (written by LR Hall graduate David Auburn)
  • 2005 – Doubt – 2007-08
  • 2008 – August: Osage County – 2014-15
  • 2010 – Red – 2013-14
  • 2012 – Clybourne Park – 2013-14

 

Next season the Rep will produce Peter and the Starcatcher which was nominated for Best Play in 2012.  Other Best Play nominees produced by the Rep include: Barefoot in the Park; Broadway Bound; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Crimes of the Heart; Frost/Nixon; The Gin Game; Glengarry Glen Ross; Having Our Say; Home; Lend Me a Tenor; A Lesson from Aloes; ‘Night, Mother; The Night of the Iguana; Noises Off; The Piano Lesson; The Rainmaker; A Raisin in the Sun; The Retreat from Moscow; Talley’s Folly; The 39 Steps; and A Walk in the Woods.

The Rep also produced House of Blue Leaves six years before it was nominated for Best Play at the Tonys. In addition, it produced All My Sons which received a Special Tony for playwright Arthur Miller at the first ceremony and is sometimes erroneously listed as being the Best Play of 1947. There was none that year.

 

THEREP_MEMPHIS (no credits)-page-001The 1971 Best Musical Company was part of the Rep’s inaugural season in 1976-77.  Other Tony Best Musicals winners produced by the Rep have been:

(Tony Year; Title; Rep season)

  • 1951 – Guys and Dolls – 1989-90
  • 1952 – The King and I – 2006-07
  • 1956 – Damn Yankees – 1999-2000
  • 1957 – My Fair Lady – 2004-05
  • 1960 – The Sound of Music – 2001-02
  • 1964 – Hello, Dolly! – 2007-08
  • 1967 – Cabaret – 2001-02
  • 1975 – The Wiz – 2011-12
  • 1976 – A Chorus Line – 2005-06
  • 1977 – Annie – 2002-03
  • 1978 – Ain’t Misbehavin’ – 1984-85; 2004-05
  • 1980 – Evita – 1989-90; 2010-11
  • 1986 – The Mystery of Edwin Drood – 1988-89
  • 1987 – Les Miserables – 2008-09; 2013-14
  • 2003 – Hairspray – 2010-11
  • 2004 – Avenue Q – 2012-13
  • 2010 – Memphis – 2014-15 (produced at Rep and on Broadway by LR native Remmel T. Dickinson)

In addition, the Rep has produced staged concert versions of 1958 Best Musical The Music Man and 1973 Best Musical A Little Night Music in collaboration with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.

Next season the Rep will produce The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee which was nominated for Best Musical in 2005.  Other Best Musical nominees produced by the Rep include: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas; Blues in the Night; Chicago; Dreamgirls; Five Guys Named Moe; The Full Monty; Gypsy; Into The Woods; Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; Mary Poppins;  Next to Normal; Oh What A Lovely War; Once On This Island; Peter Pan; Pump Boys and Dinettes; Quilters; Side by Side by Sondheim; Smokey Joe’s Café; Stop the World, I Want To Get Off; Sweet Charity; West Side Story; and The Who’s Tommy.

A Sparklejollytwinklejingley Show!

THEREP_ELF (no credits)-page-001The holidays are here. And if you need to get into the Christmas spirit, I suggest you buy, beg or bargain to get a ticket to see Buddy the Elf and his friends in the musical Elf which is playing at the Arkansas Rep through January 4.

This frothy, fun, friendly show has but one aim – to entertain.  And how it does succeed.

With a smart, witty, heart-filled book by Tony winners Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers, Hairspray) and Bob Martin (The Drowsy Chaperone, TV’s “Slings & Arrows”), the story works on several different levels. (Incidentally, Meehan takes a swipe at his other Christmas-NYC set musical Annie with a joke, while Martin seems to be aping The Drowsy Chaperone by having the story open with a man in a chair). The score by Tony nominees Chad Beguelin and Matthew Sklar (The Wedding Singer) ranges from toe-tapping to heartstring-pulling.

Elf is, of course, based upon the eponymously named film.  Disclaimer – I’ve not seen the movie.  I do not get Will Ferrell’s appeal, so steer clear of most movies starring him.  But love of the movie is not necessary to enjoy the stage musical. The book, score, cast and production values take the audience on a wild sleigh ride of holiday fun regardless of familiarity with the source material.

As Buddy the Elf, Ethan Paulini is a chief reason for the show’s appeal. He is rarely off stage, and somehow manages to keep a high level of energy throughout. His ebullient Buddy is both naïve and knowing. Whether singing, dancing or acting, he never overplays the part or goes for cheap laughs.  Through his performance, one believes that he really does charm his way into everyone’s hearts regardless of their age or gender.

As the object of Buddy’s affection, it is a joy to watch Alyssa Gorgone’s Jovie transform from guarded to glowing.  She deftly handled her songs and dances.  Gorgone and Paulini have a nice chemistry together as the court each other.

David Hess moves from blustery to boasting in his portrayal of Buddy’s dad.  Anna Lise Jensen is a delight as his long-suffering wife whose struggle to find her own place mirror’s Buddy’s quest.  As Buddy’s younger half-brother Price Clark is a joy to watch. He is neither precocious nor cloying. Instead, he is a believable kid who is concerned about his parents and is thrilled to have a new brother.

Tessa Faye stops the show as Deb the secretary as she comically aids Buddy and leads the office in a rousing production number. Kyron Turner and Tanner Wilson make the most of their scenes as harried employees hoping for a holiday miracle. J. B. Adams bookends the show as an avuncular, folksy Santa Claus.

From beleaguered New Yorkers to bored Macy’s elves to depressed Santas, the ensemble fill the stage with delightful characters. Hannah Eakin, Allison Stearns, Jason Samuel, Jimmy Kieffer, Anthony Bryant, Chris McNiff, Jack Doyle, Samantha Harrington, Tatiana H. Green, Marisa Kirby, Eric Mann, Kennedy Sample and Mary Katelin Ward have enough vigor, vim and verve to make the cast seem much larger than it actually is.

The elves are played by the younger members of the cast. These kids are having fun – and why not? They get to spend the show in two of the most magical settings imaginable: The North Pole and New York City at Christmas.  They very ably perform their production numbers and create memorable characters without stealing focus from Buddy and Santa.  Addison Dowdy, Gunner Gardner, Reagan Hodson, Anna Beth Jeane, Ethan Marbaise, Max McCurdy, Danny Phillips, Grace Pitts, Corbin Pitts, Niall Prochazka, Marisol Sela, and Madison Stolzer were welcome additions to the production.  Most of these performers are seasoned veterans of the Rep’s Summer Musical Theatre Intensive. They show that their talent works in the wintertime too.

Nicole Capri directed Elf with a light, comic touch. She neither glosses over nor smothers the audience with the heart in the show, she trusted her performers and the story to bring it out.  She keeps the show moving at a brisk pace while allowing for enough quiet moments that it does not seem frantic.  Marisa Kirby’s creative, crowd-pleasing choreography put the actors through their paces.  Together Capri and Kirby fashioned production numbers which allowed each performer to stand out as an individual character while still part of a seamless ensemble.

Elf’s magical world was ably served by Shelly Hall’s colorful costumes, Dan Kimble’s lighting, Allan Branson’s sound and Lynda J. Kwallek’s props.  One of the joys of the show is undoubtedly the songs. Credit for that goes largely to Mark Binns, the show’s musical director.  He leads the orchestra as they play the peppy, tuneful score. He also deserves credit for helping the actors maximize their sounds as they perform the songs while executing Kirby’s inventive choreography.

Though based on a 2000s movie, Elf is really a throwback to 1950s and 1960s workplace musicals. There are the buffoonly bullying boss, the comic-relief secretary, the dancing office boys and office girls, the disconnected wife and kids, and, of course, the outsider hero who saves the day and wins the heart of the leading lady. The show also offers dancing Santas, prancing elves, and a travelogue’s worth of New York City settings.

Elf doesn’t ask the audience to think too hard or to get wrapped up in cloying sentimentality. It merely wants to entertain as it allows the audience an escape from daily strife.

No matter your holiday of choice at this time of the year, the Rep is giving audiences a present with Elf!

Don’t WAIT UNTIL the show is DARK – Final two performances of thriller at Arkansas Rep

THEREP_WAITUNTILDARK (no credits)-page-001Frederick Knott’s Tony-nominated thriller Wait Until Dark plays its final two performances today on the stage of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

This masterfully constructed tale of suspense will keep Rep audiences on the edge of their seat (but you still have to pay for the entire seat).

A sinister con man and two ex-convicts are about to meet their match. They have traced the location of a mysterious doll to the Greenwich Village apartment of Sam Hendrix and his wife, Susy. With murder afoot, a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues, as Susy discovers the only way to play fair is to play by her rules.

The cast is composed entirely of Rep veterans. It includes Amy Hutchins (It’s a Wonderful Life), Nate Washburn (Henry V), Michael Stewart Allen (Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, Romeo & Juliet), Robert Ierardi (Clybourne Park), Craig Maravich (Death of a Salesman), Michael Lowe (Les Miserables, Hairspray), David Tennal (Clybourne Park, Les Miserables), Reagan Hodson (Because of Winn Dixie), and Ella Moody (White Christmas).

The production is directed by Robert Hupp. Others on the production team include Mike Nichols (set), Marianne Custer (costumes), Yael Lubetzky (lighting), Allan Branson (sound), Lynda J. Kwallek (props), and D. C. Wright (fight choreography).

Show times are 2pm and 7pm.

No Longer a Wait – WAIT UNTIL DARK opens tonight at Arkansas Rep

THEREP_WAITUNTILDARK (no credits)-page-001Frederick Knott’s Tony-nominated thriller Wait Until Dark opens tonight on the stage of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

This masterfully constructed tale of suspense will keep Rep audiences on the edge of their seat (but you still have to pay for the entire seat).

A sinister con man and two ex-convicts are about to meet their match. They have traced the location of a mysterious doll to the Greenwich Village apartment of Sam Hendrix and his wife, Susy. With murder afoot, a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues, as Susy discovers the only way to play fair is to play by her rules.

The cast is composed entirely of Rep veterans. It includes Amy Hutchins (It’s a Wonderful Life), Nate Washburn (Henry V), Michael Stewart Allen (Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, Romeo & Juliet), Robert Ierardi (Clybourne Park), Craig Maravich (Death of a Salesman), Michael Lowe (Les Miserables, Hairspray), David Tennal (Clybourne Park, Les Miserables), Reagan Hodson (Because of Winn Dixie), and Ella Moody (White Christmas).

The production is directed by Robert Hupp. Others on the production team include Mike Nichols (set), Marianne Custer (costumes), Yael Lubetzky (lighting), Allan Branson (sound), Lynda J. Kwallek (props), and D. C. Wright (fight choreography).

The show runs through November 9th.  Show times are 7pm on Wednesday, Thursday and Sundays, 8pm on Friday and Saturday and 2pm on Sunday matinees.

 

Arkansas Rep 2012-2013 season

It is Spring Break throughout Arkansas. So this is a good time to take a break from the current arts season and look ahead to next year.

Rich stories and rewarding shows are the bounty that awaits Arkansas Repertory Theatre audiences during the 2012-2013 season, the Rep’s 37th year. Robert Hupp, the Rep’s producing artistic director, recently announced the lineup.

The season kicks off on September 7 with William Shakespeare’s Henry V This will be the first of Shakespeare’s “History” plays to be staged at the Rep in its history.  Following the overwhelming success of Hamlet last season, it is pleasing to see the Bard return to the Rep’s lineup.  It will run through September 23, 2012.

Next up is the annual Young Artists’ production.  This edition of the revue is entitled Singin’ on a StarIt will run from October 24 through November 3, 2012. Though the show is still being written, it promises to feature Arkansas’ best and brightest students in songs and dances which will enchant audiences of all ages.

It is guaranteed that Little Rock will see a White Christmas in December 2012 because the Rep will be producing the stage version of the Irving Berlin classic White Christmas from November 30 through December 30, 2012.  In addition to the classic Berlin tunes from the film, a treasure trove of other Berlin classics is also included.

As 2013 kicks off, the Rep presents the play Gee’s Bend.  Set in the eponymously named Alabama town, it tells the story of the women who make quilts there. The play is not about the quilts themselves (though they are works of art which have been displayed in many top art museums), it is instead about the remarkable lives of the women who make them.  Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder’s play will run from January 25 through February 10, 2013.

As the Rep marches into the third month of 2013, it will present the world premiere of a new musical version of Treasure Island.  This production, which emphasizes the adventure and mystery of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale, features a book by Brett Smock (who will also direct) and Carla Vitale with songs by Corinne Aquilina (who served as musical director/conductor for last season’s Hairspray at the Rep).  It runs from March 8 through March 31, 2013. (This world premiere is the reason the title of this entry is written in “Pirate.”)

Arthur Miller’s prize winning Death of a Salesman is up next at the Rep.  This classic tale explores the American Dream in the middle of the 20th Century as the Loman family copes with hope and despair.  During its original Broadway run, it received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Best Play recognition from the Tony Awards and the New York Drama Critics Circle.  “Attention must be paid” from April 26 through May 12, 2013.

Avenue Q is one of the smartest, funniest, and bawdiest musicals over the last decade. Written by Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez, it irreverently tells the story of a group of 20 and 30somethings in New York City as they cope with the onset of adulthood. Some of the characters are played by humans while others are portrayed by puppets — but this is not for the kids; it is definitely an adult show (it includes full puppet nudity).  This 2004 Tony winner for Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score, ran for over 1000 performances on Broadway and is now enjoying a healthy Off Broadway run.  The Rep’s brand new production will run from June 7 – 30, 2013.