Tonight’s Oxford American Local Live – Heather Smith Band at 7:30pm at South on Main

llsom heatherTonight at 7:30pm, this week’s installment of Local Live features the Heather Smith Band!

Presented by the Oxford American magazine, Local Live showcases the best of local and regional music talent and is always free and open to the public. Call ahead to South on Main to make your reservations and ensure a table: (501) 244-9660. Local Live is made possible by the generous sponsorship of Ben and Jane Hunt Meade.

Heather Smith Band, a Little Rock based jazz/pop group, is set to release Stay Away Love, their first full-length album of original songs on May 9. The band originally formed in 2013 and is comprised of Heather Smith (lead vocals), Wythe Walker (keyboard, guitar, harmonica, vocals), Ray Wittenberg, (drums), Bill McCumber (bass), John Gaiser (electric guitar), and Matthew Holland (keyboard).

When asked to describe their genre of music, Smith is hard-pressed. “While we are heavily influenced by jazz of the 1940s and 50s [Rosemary Clooney and Peggy Lee], we also have some definite pop influences; specifically in our contemporary lyrics and the twenty-first century stories we tell in our songs,” Smith said. “It’s sort of a hybrid of jazz and pop that’s timeless with a specifically vintage feel, but also distinctly modern.” Smith and Walker co-wrote all the songs using Smith’s autobiographical lyrics. “All of our songs are based on actual experiences in my life, the good, the bad and the inevitable heartbreaks,” Smith admits sheepishly, “It’s wonderfully cheap therapy.”

Tonight – UALR Songwriter Showcase featuring Tara Johnson and others

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock will feature alumna Tara Johnson and current student performers in its biannual Songwriters Showcase at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 2, in Stella Boyle Smith Concert Hall in the Fine Arts Building.

The program is free and open to the public. Parking will be available in Lot 8 behind the Fine Arts Building.

The first half of the program, sponsored by the Music Department and Office of Campus Life, will feature works by UALR students and songwriters from the community.

Students performers include Heather Smith, Sara Hastings, Robert Lee, Daysha Carr, Susan Robbins, Paula Smith, Stephanie Smittle, and Samuel Byrd.

Johnson, a UALR visiting artist, will perform six of her original Christian songs during the second part of the program including “Walking In Wonderland” and “December’s Songbird.”

Johnson, a native of Alexander, is an author, singer, and songwriter signed with Incubator Creative Group. She has been a featured guest on Voice of Truth radio and Enduring Word radio.

In 2014, Tara wrote the Vacation Bible School music for Bogard Press and was a contributing judge in the 2015 Live It Loud Songwriting Contest in Nashville.

Learn more about Johnson’s music at


NINE a 10

imageOne would be hard pressed to find a stronger volunteer theatre production than the Studio Theatre’s current offering of Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopjt’s Tony Award winning musical NINE. (The term “volunteer” theatre is used because “amateur,” “community,” or “non-professional” belie the quality of the production.)

Rafael Colon Castanera’s production is both visually stunning and full of surprises. The cohesive ensemble is up to the task of telling this compelling, complex tale in an entertaining and enchanting manner. They find the humor and humanity in these sometimes thinly sketched characters and scenarios.

The anchor of the production is James Norris as auteur Guido Contini. He deftly morphs from reality to fantasy while juggling numerous romantic conquests and searching for fulfillment. It is a challenging role because Guido is, at the same time, supposed to be worthy of the audience’s sympathy while also behaving in a unsympathetic manner.  Norris had many touching moments as the man-child desperately seeking something. A fearless actor, he threw himself into the role whether the moment called for romance, humor or desperation. These different moods are also reflected in the wide range of singing styles required of the role–all of which he handled skillfully.

As the younger version of Guido, Price Clark showed maturity beyond his years. His performance of “Getting Tall” at the end wrapped up the show as a lesson to the audience about the challenges and opportunities of getting older. Clark also had a wonderful rapport with both Norris (acting as a mentor to his older self) and Beth Ross as his mother (showing love, respect and embarrassment).

Ross was one of many in the cast who had the chance to showcase a wider range of their talents. Often cast in wisecracking roles, she here displayed a maternal warmth and daffiness as well as weariness and frustration. Likewise Julie Atkins often plays long-suffering, noble women. In this show she had the chance to show her comic skills and her bawdiness as an all-knowing spa proprietor. Often playing heartbreaking heroines, Erin Martinez zealously attacked her role as a tambourine-wielding unapologetically, earthy strumpet.

Antisha Anderson-Scruggs was audacious and bodacious as one of Guido’s mistresses. She was bawdy but never crass as she flaunted her sexuality. Anderson-Scruggs also displayed depth as her character faced disappointment with resolve and a new-found strength.

As another mistress, Rachel Warnick elegantly captured the persona of a classic European beauty who is no longer content with being a trophy. She was grateful and forgiving toward Guido, but resolute nonetheless to pursue her new life.

Mary Ann Hansen put the gal in Gallic as a gamine French film producer. She relished her moments in the spotlight and evoked a bygone era as she celebrated a past career (and joyously took the audience along on this reflective journey). Amy Young and K. L. Martin played her entourage; the pair enjoyably insulted, threatened and otherwise antagonized Guido each in her own way.

Elena McKinnis, Bailey Lamb and Moriah Patterson were a protean trio who functioned as a sort of Greek chorus (or was it Italian chorus?) playing various parts and keeping action moving.  Together with Martin, these performers showcased their dancing talents as showgirls during the musical within a musical numbers.

Heather Smith was Guido’s long-suffering wife. While clearly in love with him, she was also weary of her stagnant life.  A high point of her performance was her sung defense of him to the press in which she is convincing them of his sincerity, while also trying to convince herself.

As director, Castanera elicited layered performances from each of the actors and kept the action moving seamlessly.  As designer, he used a deceptively simple, classically elegant scenic design as a framework for the action. Tyler Herron’s transformative lighting and Greg Wirges’ evocative sound design reflected the many different moods and settings.

The orchestra led by music director Bob Bidewell played almost nonstop through this cinematic, nearly operatic production. This lush score has many moods which were ably performed without overpowering the actors.

The costumes by Castanera are almost worth the cost of admission by themselves. Each character was uniquely clad in black attire that reflected their character down to minute details. It is safe to say this show has the most intricate and lavish costumes of any volunteer theatre production in Little Rock history. For the “film” sequence, Castanera mixed some white in with the black and created fantastic, over the top ensembles (again often with unique and humorous touches). The wigs by Robert Pickens were the same quality as the costumes. Together, wigs and costumes helped define the characters without distracting from the actors’ performances.

As a musical, NINE has challenges. In the wrong hands the characters can be vapid and unlikeable.  It is also vocally demanding. Much like the source material (a semi-autobiographical Italian film), it has moments of absurdity and a plot which wavers between linear and concept. But NINE also has enormous warmth, heart and joy. The Studio Theatre’s production captures these merits without betraying the complexities of the characters. NiINE is another step forward in the development of both The Studio Theatre as well as volunteer theatre in Central Arkansas.

NINE continues April 4, 9-12 and 16-19. Performances are at 7pm except for Sundays, which are at 2pm.

NINE next at Studio Theatre

The 1982 Tony winning Best Musical Nine takes the stage oimagef the Studio Theatre tonight to begin a three week run.

Written by Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit, and based on Fellini’s autobiographical 8 1/2, it tells the story of Guido Contini, a filmmaker, and the women in his life.

This production is directed by Rafael Colon Castanera with musical direction by Bob Bidewell.  Castanera also designed the set and costumes as well as co-choreographed the musical with Bailey Lamb.  Tyler Herron designed the lighting and served as assistant director.  Robert Pickens designed the wigs, Greg Wirges designed the sound, and Cara Smith is the stage manager.

The cast includes Antisha Anderson-Scruggs, Julie Atkins, Price Clark, Mary Ann Hansen, Bailey Lamb, Elena McKinnis, K. L. Martin, Erin Martinez, James Norris, Moriah Patterson, Beth Ross, Heather Smith, Rachel Warnick and Amy Young.

Performances are tonight (an opening night gala), Saturday (April 4), April 9 through 12 and April 16 through 19.  Showtimes are 7pm on Thursdays through Saturdays, and 2pm on Sundays.


Art of the Bar, a handmade holiday market at South on Main today

South on Main presents
Art of the Bar : A Handmade Holiday Market
Sunday, December 14
2 – 8 PM

Festive Cocktails crafted by Barman David Burnette
Christmas Carols from John Willis & Friends
Holiday Treats from Chef Matthew Bell & Chef Matthew Lowman

Featuring Work From:
Altered Polishes
Art by Lois/Painted by Fire
Bang-Up Betty
Bathhouse Soapery & Caldarium
Dimestore Diamonds
Erin Lorenzen
Hunter-May Pottery
Artist Jason Jones
Little-Biscuits Illustrated Portraits
Little Rock Bottle Co
Morgan Hill Creative
Postmodern Press
Roll&Tumble Press
Sew Arkansan

Among the musicians performing with John Willis (from 6pm to 8pm) will be Amy Garland, Amy McBryde, Late Romantics, Sarah Stricklin, Phillip Rex Huddleston, Bryan Frazier, Mitchell Crisp, Stephanie Smittle, Heather Smith, Will & Maddie, Paula Gribble, Genine Perez of Lagniappe, Isaac Alexander and Jason Weinheimer


Final Weekend of FOOL FOR LOVE

foolforloveJust in time to get prepared for April Fool’s Day, Precipice Theater is presenting Sam Shepard’s FOOL FOR LOVE.  The final three performances are tonight and tomorrow at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2pm.

A dark comedy, the “fools” in the play are battling lovers at a Mojave Desert motel. May is hiding out at said motel when an old childhood friend and old flame, Eddie, shows up. Eddie tries to convince May to come back home with him and live in the trailer on the farm they always wanted to buy. May refuses because she has started a new life and knows that if she goes back to Eddie their relationship will repeat the same destructive cycle it has before. The play, and the characters, unravel as old battles are waged again, and dark secrets are brought to light.

Presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Services, Inc.

A portion of all proceeds to benefit The Wolfe Street Foundation

Eddie: Ricco Ardemagni
May: Heather D. Smith
Martin: Cory Cotham
Old Man: Mark Troillett
Old Man: Paul Seminara
Live Music: Charlotte Taylor & The Music Factory: Wythe Walker, Ray Wittenberg, Bill McCumbe.

Adults: $ 14.00
Students/Seniors – $11.00
The Public Theater – 616 Center Street, Little Rock

STREETCAR and METAL in LR this weekend

Two Little Rock theatre groups present offerings to heat up cold winter nights this weekend.

THE METAL CHILDRENThe Weekend Theatre, in its 20th anniversary season, presents award winner Adam Rapp’s play Metal Children.  Rapp, who is one of the most prolific playwrights today, tells the story of a small town ripped apart by a debate over a book.

When a young adult novel about teen pregnancy is banned by the local school board, it ignites a fierce and violent debate over abortion, religious beliefs, and modern feminism. A directionless New York City author arrives in town to defend the book and finds that it has inspired a group of local teens to rebel in strange and unexpected ways. The book also inspires a swarm of teenage pregnancies, a horde of pig-masked vigilantes terrorizing the populace, a suicide, and at least one murder attempt. A timely and unforgettable drama about the failure of urban and heartland America to understand each other, The Metal Children explores what happens when fiction becomes a matter of life and death.

The play is directed by Justin A. Pike (who most recently directed Annie for the Royal Players in Benton).   The cast includes Don Bright, Wendy Darr, Anna Findley, Augusta Fitzgerald, Duane Jackson, Grace Lytle, David Monteith, Samantha Porter, Donna Singleton and Evan Tanner.

The production opened last weekend and continues on Fridays and Saturdays through January 26.  The shows take place at the Weekend Theatre located at 7th and Chester.

Precipice Theatre Prepares for Opening of 'A Street Car Named Desire'One of Little Rock’s newest theatre groups, Precipice Theatre, presents Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize winner A Streetcar Named Desire.  The world of Blanche, Stanley, and STELLLLLLLAAAAA are brought to life amid the sweltering heat of New Orleans. Things are hardly what they seem in a world where a paper lantern is used to transform a plain lightbulb and light may hide more than the darkness.

The show opened last night and continues on through Sunday, January 27.  There are two performances today (2pm and 7:30pm) and a matinee tomorrow at 2pm.  Doors open 30 minutes prior to the performance.   Streetcar is being performed at the Public Theatre located at 616 Center Street.  To reserve tickets, send an email to and let us know your name, number of seats needed, and which performance you will be attending.

The production has been directed by Paul Seminara, Cory Cotham and Jennifer S. Walker.  The cast includes Heather D. Smith, Ricco Ardemagni, Rachel Bland, Paul Seminara, Brent Wood, Caitlin Selacavich, Jennifer S. Walker, Steve Sullivan, Cory Catham, Andy Stanley and Tracy Crain.