Precipice Theatre presents Tony winning farce LEND ME A TENOR this month

No photo description available.Winner of three Tony Awards and four Drama Desk Awards, Ken Ludwig’s farce LEND ME A TENOR is set in September 1934. Saunders, the general manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company, is primed to welcome world-famous Tito Merelli, known as Il Stupendo, the greatest tenor of his generation, to appear for one night only as Otello.

When Merelli is unexpectedly incapacitated, Max, the Opera Director’s meek assistant, is given the daunting task of finding a last-minute replacement. Chaos ensues — including a scheming soprano, a tenor-struck ingenue, a jealous wife, an intrusive Opera Guild chairwoman, and an over-zealous bellhop!

Performances are at The Studio Theatre on 10-13 and 17-20. The theatre strongly recommends purchasing tickets in advance at https://centralarkansastickets.com/organizations/precipice-theatre

The production is directed by Heather Norris and assistant directed by Paul Seminara.  The cast includes Case Dillard, James Norris, Ricco Ardemagni, Beth Ross, Amy Young, Jennifer Walker, Anthony Nguyen and Heather Norris.

Pulitzers Play Little Rock: DOUBT at the Studio Theatre

TST DoubtIn 2016, the Studio Theatre presented John Patrick Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize winning Doubt. It was not the first theatre in Little Rock to present the play in the 12 years since it had debuted.  But the taut, riveting, and somewhat ambiguous story is one that offers audiences plenty of reasons to return to it.

As the Studio Theatre summarized it:

Did he or didn’t he? Doubt, a Parable, follows the story of the staff at a Catholic school in the Bronx, New York. It begins when Sister James, a young sister who recently started teaching at the school, becomes concerned that the relationship between a priest, Father Flynn and a student may have become inappropriate. Sister James confides this fear to the principal, Sister Aloysius, who becomes determined to find out the truth about what happened and to protect the boy.

Bob Bidewell directed the play. The quartet of actors in the cast were Karen Q. Clark (cast against type), James Norris, Angela Bloodworth-Collier, and Jessica Lawson.  Brandon Nichols was the assistant director and Andrew Jordan designed the lighting.

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama being given. To pay tribute to 100 years of the Pulitzer for Drama, each day this month a different Little Rock production of a Pulitzer Prize winning play will be highlighted.  Many of these titles have been produced numerous times.  This look will veer from high school to national tours in an attempt to give a glimpse into Little Rock’s breadth and depth of theatrical history.

Pulitzer plays Little Rock: GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS

GGR PrecipiceDavid Mamet’s scalding comedy Glengarry Glen Ross focuses on small-time, cutthroat real estate salesmen trying to grind out a living by pushing plots of land on reluctant buyers, in a never-ending scramble for their share of the American dream.

With cutting language and well-developed characters, Glengarry Glen Ross has been popular among theatres since it debuted.  In January 2018, Precipice Theatre brought this play back to the Little Rock stage.

Directed by Heather Norris, the cast included Ricco Ardemagni, Larry Lapaglia, James Norris, Paul Seminara, Neil Gillespie, Scott Minor, Terry D. Norris, and Anthony Nguyen.

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama being given. To pay tribute to 100 years of the Pulitzer for Drama, each day this month a different Little Rock production of a Pulitzer Prize winning play will be highlighted.  Many of these titles have been produced numerous times.  This look will veer from high school to national tours in an attempt to give a glimpse into Little Rock’s breadth and depth of theatrical history.

Musical DOGFIGHT up next at The Studio Theatre – this weekend only

(LtoR) Koty Mansfield, Payton Justice, Ethan Patterson, Xavier Jones, Ben Mills, Chase Cundall

(LtoR) Koty Mansfield, Payton Justice, Ethan Patterson, Xavier Jones, Ben Mills, Chase Cundall

The Studio Theatre presents the regional premiere of Dogfight, a story of compassion, heartbreak and redemption adapted from the 1991 movie. With music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (James and The Giant Peach, A Christmas Story) and book by Peter Duchan, Dogfight offers audiences the winning combination of a great musical score, an unexpected love affair and a genuine soul.

It’s November 21, 1963. On the eve of their deployment to the small but growing ‘little conflict’ in Southeast Asia (and unbeknownst to them, also the eve of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination), three young, fresh and cocky Marines are looking forward to one final night of partying. They set out to find the ugliest girl to bring to the “dogfight”, a cruel game where the men put up money for a party and a cash prize for whoever brings the ugliest girl. But when Corporal Eddie Birdlace meets Rose, an awkward and idealistic waitress he enlists to win the cruel bet with his fellow recruits, she rewrites the rules of the game and teaches him the power of love and compassion. Dogfight is a powerful and haunting musical about the end of the age of innocence in the 60’s.

Winner of the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical in 2013, Dogfight runs August 20- August 23 at The Studio Theatre located at 320 West 7th Street. Performances are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, August 20, 21 and 22, 2015 at 7 PM and Sunday August 23, 2015 at 2 PM. Ticket price is $20 for Adults and $15 for Students, Senior Citizens and military (with valid id). Seating is general admission. Tickets can be purchased at www.eventbrite.com.

Due to mature themes, adult content and strong language, this production is not recommended for young children.

The cast is led by Ben Mills and Kayla Walker. Others in the cast include Payton Justice, Koty Mansfield, Bridget Davis, Ethan Patterson, Xavier Jones, Chase Cundall, James Norris, Georgeann Burbank and Jennifer Restum.  Rounding out the cast are Rachel Caffey, Brooke Melton and Hayley Coughlin.

The production is directed by Mark A. Burbank.  Bob Bidewell is the music director.  Others on the crative team include Hannah M. Sawyer, Anthony McBride, Stacey Johnson, Sarah Scott Blakey and Tye Davis.  Justin A. Pike is the Artistic Director of The Studio Theatre.

 

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.