31 Days of Arkansas Rep: ANYTHING GOES in 2001

The Arkansas Rep concluded its 25th season with the Cole Porter musical Anything Goes. Directed by Rep founder Cliff Fannin Baker, it featured an onstage orchestra led by then-Arkansas Symphony maestro David Itkin.  (Rep Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp and Itkin had been trying for a while to find a project for collaboration.)

This shipboard romantic farce featured a book by Guy Bolton & P. G. Wodehouse which was revised before the 1934 opening by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse in their first collaboration. In 1987, Timothy Crouse (son of Russel) and John Weidman updated the script for a Lincoln Center Theatre production. It was that version which the Rep presented.

The cast was led by Rep newcomers Heather Ayers and Pat McRoberts. Kelly Vivian, Thomas-David McDonald, Rick Cox, Julie Conners, Marlene Toth and Steve Wilkerson also were featured.

Others in the cast included Bob Hulsey, Amy Curnow, Annie Mistak, Allison Stodola, Sarah Squire, Miranda Vannoy, Pamela Crane, Buddy Reeder, Case Dillard, Christopher Brown, Don Hill, Daryl Minefee, Matt Crowle, Christopher Crane, Scott Duquette and Joe Terry.

Ron Hutchens was the choreographer. Others on the creative team included Mike Nichols (set), Yslan Hicks (costumes), Japhy Weideman (sound), and Leland Jones (lighting).

The production proved so successful that even before its June 1, 2001, opening night, the run was extended a week. It closed on June 24, instead of the original June 17.

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Rocking the Tony Awards – Past Tony nominees at Arkansas Rep

Photo by Peter Kramer/ Getty Images Entertainment

The 72nd Tony Awards take place on Sunday, June 10 at Radio City Music Hall (broadcast on CBS).

Over the years, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre has had several Tony nominees work on stage and backstage.

Among these are:

Julie Andrews, who headlined a 2002 fundraiser for Arkansas Rep.  That evening she shared stories about her life and career.  A two-time Tony Award host, she has been nominated three times for Actress in a Musical: My Fair Lady (1957), Camelot (1961) and Victor/Victoria (1996).

Jane Lanier, who choreographed Ring of Fire at Arkansas Rep.  In 1989, she was nominated as Featured Actress in a Musical for her work in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway.  

Mercedes McCambridge, who appeared in ‘night, Mother at the Rep in the spring of 1986.  She was nominated as Featured Actress in a Play for The Love Suicide at Schofield Barracks for the 1972 awards.

Austin Pendleton, who directed A Loss of Roses at Arkansas Rep.  After appearing in the original cast of Tony winning Best Musical Fiddler on the Roof, he later received a Tony nomination for directing the 1981 revival of The Little Foxes which starred Elizabeth Taylor and Maureen Stapleton.

Jane Summerhays, who starred in the Arkansas Rep production of A Loss of Roses.  In 1987, she was nominated for Featured Actress in a Musical for Me and My Girl.

John Tartaglia, who directed 2013’s Because of Winn Dixie.  He was nominated for the 2004 Tony for Actor in a Musical for his performance in Avenue Q.

Japhy Weideman, who was the Rep’s lighting designer in the early 2000’s.  While he was at the Rep, he lit several shows including The Grapes of Wrath, All My Sons and God’s Man in Texas.  He has received Tony nominations for lighting design for his work on The Nance (2013), Of Mice and Men (2014), Airline Highway (2015), The Visit (2015), and Dear Evan Hansen (2017).

The fact that the Arkansas Repertory Theatre has been able to work with theatre artists of this calibre is a testament to the quality of work it has produced.  Giving the opportunity for Arkansas audiences to have this interaction without leaving the state is one of the values of the Rep.

Repertorium Praeter Theatrum

2017 Tony Award predictions

Tony Tony TonyI have struggled with these a lot more this year because so many races are so close.  But here are my thoughts on the 2017 Tony Award potential winners.

Play
A Doll’s House, Part 2, Lucas Hnath
Indecent, Paula Vogel
Oslo, J.T. Rogers
Sweat, Lynn Nottage

Sweat was the early front-runner after picking up the Pulitzer; Oslo has captured every other award since then.  A Doll’s House, Part 2 has run a masterful campaign since the nominations and is likely to be a popular touring vehicle given its cast and set requirements (minimal). There is momentum for Hnath’s play, but Tony voters tend to love Lincoln Center Theater productions, of which Rogers’ play is one.  I think OSLO will triumph.

 

Best Musical
Come From Away
Dear Evan Hansen
Groundhog Day
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

“Great Comet” could be a spoiler, but the race is likely betwixt Come from Away and Dear Evan Hansen.  This is a case of “important” vs. “populist” though both pull at the emotional heartstrings repeatedly.  As much as I would love to see Come from Away win because a friend from college is in the cast (and I think it handles 9/11 without exploiting it), I suspect DEAR EVAN HANSEN will emerge with the silver medallion.

  

Revival of a Play
Jitney
The Little Foxes
Present Laughter
Six Degrees of Separation

Jitney seems to have the edge on this race.  Since it shares the same producer as The Little Foxes, this is one of those rare Tony races without aggressive campaigning.  This is a chance to recognize the genius that was August Wilson over a decade after his untimely death.  The Tony goes to JITNEY

 

Revival of a Musical
Falsettos
Hello, Dolly!
Miss Saigon

Call on Dolly!  It will be HELLO, DOLLY!

 

Actor in a Play
Denis Arndt, Heisenberg
Chris Cooper, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Corey Hawkins, Six Degrees of Separation
Kevin Kline, Present Laughter
Jefferson Mays, Oslo

While there is an outside chance that Chris Cooper or Jefferson Mays could stage a coup, the award is KEVIN KLINE’s.  He wears the role like a silk dressing gown.

 

Actress in a Play
Cate Blanchett, The Present
Jennifer Ehle, Oslo
Sally Field, The Glass Menagerie
Laura Linney, The Little Foxes
Laurie Metcalf, A Doll’s House, Part 2

The race is really between Metcalf and Linney.  But when it is that tight, there is an opening for an upset – with either Ehle (who Tony voters love) or Field poised to sweep in.  With both Linney and Metcalf having multiple nominations with no wins and a lot of support for their star turns, it is truly splitting hairs to pick a favorite.  Gut says LAURIE METCALF for creating an original role.  Plus, her other nominations have been for outstanding work in mediocre plays, whereas Linney has been recognized for strong work in better productions.  This is a chance to reward Metcalf for being in a better product.

 

Actor in a Musical
Christian Borle, Falsettos
Josh Groban, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Andy Karl, Groundhog Day The Musical
David Hyde Pierce, Hello, Dolly!
Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen

Andy Karl seems poised to be the 2010s Raul Esparza—that actor who gives it his all and walks away on Tony night empty handed every time.  While he gives it his all (physically) in Groundhog Day the award seems likely to go to wunderkind BEN PLATT who gives it his all (emotionally).

 

Actress in a Musical
Denée Benton, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Christine Ebersole, War Paint
Patti LuPone, War Paint
Bette Midler, Hello, Dolly!
Eva Noblezada, Miss Saigon

From the day her casting was announced, the engravers went to work on etching BETTE MIDLER’s name on this award.

 

Featured Actor in a Play
Michael Aronov, Oslo
Danny DeVito, The Price
Nathan Lane, The Front Page
Richard Thomas, The Little Foxes
John Douglas Thompson, Jitney

Lane was the front-runner early in the season, but since has been in London, he hasn’t been around to make the campaign events.  Though Aronov has his supporters DANNY DEVITO steals the play and will likely take home the trophy.

 

Featured Actress in a Play
Johanna Day, Sweat
Jayne Houdyshell, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Cynthia Nixon, The Little Foxes
Condola Rashad, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Michelle Wilson, Sweat

The Sweat and Doll’s House ladies likely cancel each other out.  CYNTHIA NIXON is likely to add a “Fox” Tony next to her “Rabbit” Tony.

 

Featured Actor in a Musical
Gavin Creel, Hello, Dolly!
Mike Faist, Dear Evan Hansen
Andrew Rannells, Falsettos
Lucas Steele, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Brandon Uranowitz, Falsettos

Creel, Rannells and Uranowitz are all well-liked, previous nominees.  Steele gives a flashy performance that has “award-winning” written all over it.  But it looks like Tony may be saying “Hello” to GAVIN CREEL

 

Featured Actress in a Musical
Kate Baldwin, Hello, Dolly!
Stephanie J. Block, Falsettos
Jenn Colella, Come From Away
Rachel Bay Jones, Dear Evan Hansen
Mary Beth Peil, Anastasia

Previous nominees Baldwin and Peil do not appear to be in the mix this year.  The race seems to be between Jones and Colella in what could either be a harbinger of the Best Musical winner or a consolation prize.  Block is poised to be the spoiler in a category that often has spoilers.  The ever-so-slight edge seems to go to JENN COLELLA who has been a game campaigner (and been assisted by her real life counterpart).

 

Direction of a Play
Sam Gold, A Doll’s House, Part 2
Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Jitney
Bartlett Sher, Oslo
Daniel Sullivan, The Little Foxes
Rebecca Taichman, Indecent

 A case could be made for any of these. At one point Taichman seemed like the frontrunner. Of late, it seems to be a race between Santiago-Hudson and Sher, revival vs. play.  The fact that Jitney is still so memorable several months after it closed is a testament to Santiago-Hudson’s deft work.  It looks like RUBEN SANTIAGO-HUDSON may add a second August Wilson-related Tony to his collection, this time for directing.

 

Direction of a Musical
Christopher Ashley, Come From Away
Rachel Chavkin, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Michael Greif, Dear Evan Hansen
Matthew Warchus, Groundhog Day
Jerry Zaks, Hello, Dolly!

Good to see Jerry Zaks back in the nominee list for the first time in 22 years.  He and previous winner Warchus will likely remain seated tonight.  Though there is a sense that Greif is overdue for a Tony win (and it has been 21 years since his first nomination), RACHEL CHAVKIN has the advantage for her work steering “Great Comet” over the years and transforming it into a Broadway scale show while shattering a proscenium-bound house.

 

Choreography
Andy Blankenbuehler, Bandstand
Peter Darling and Ellen Kane, Groundhog Day
Kelly Devine, Come From Away
Denis Jones, Holiday Inn
Sam Pinkleton, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

Usually this award goes to either the juggernaut show or the “danciest” show.  Bandstand and Holiday Inn were the two dance shows of the season.  While there is a sense that Pinkleton might win for his working keeping all the Russians moving throughout “Great Comet,” it will most likely be Andy Blankenbuehler picking up his second consecutive (and third overall) Tony for his wartime era dance moves.

 

Book of a Musical
Steven Levenson, Dear Evan Hansen
Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Danny Rubin, Groundhog Day
Irene Sankoff and David Hein, Come From Away

As with Best Musical, it really is a race between “Evan” and “Come.”  There is some thought that Sankoff and Hein might pick this up as a consolation prize, and for creating an appropriate narrative around a 9/11 story.  But Levenson has constructed a book which generates sympathy for a character that could be easily disliked.  With a bullet, the Tony goes to STEVEN LEVENSON.

 

Original Score
Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Tim Minchin, Groundhog Day
Benj Pasek & Justin Paul, Dear Evan Hansen
Irene Sankoff and David Hein, Come From Away

None of the scores are as memorable as last year’s winner Hamilton.  But then, in the 21st century, few of the musicals are “hummable.”  Pasek and Paul have contributed an emotionally powerful but accessible score with pathos and humor (though the same could be said of Sankoff and Hein—except that their score is a bit more pedestrian).  The fact that BENJ PASEK & JUSTIN PAUL are riding the crest of La La Land laurels should deliver them to Tony land.

 

Orchestrations
Bill Elliott and Greg Anthony Rassen, Bandstand
Larry Hochman, Hello, Dolly!
Alex Lacamoire, Dear Evan Hansen
Dave Malloy, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

This category is always hard to predict unless there is a mega-juggernaut.  Malloy could be recognized here for his work in all three categories in which he is nominated.  Elliott & Rassen made the Big Band era come alive in a Broadway show.  Lacamoire could be a back-to-back winner.  But my money is on LARRY HOCHMAN, since Herman’s tuneful score is not eligible.

 

Scenic Design of a Play
David Gallo, Jitney
Nigel Hook, The Play That Goes Wrong
Douglas W. Schmidt, The Front Page
Michael Yeargan, Oslo

Yeargan’s set is simplicity; Schmidt’s is overstuffed.  Gallo created a seedy 1970s Pittsburgh. But I think the Tonys will go right for NIGEL HOOK’s self-destructive set.

 

Scenic Design of a Musical
Rob Howell, Groundhog Day
David Korins, War Paint
Mimi Lien, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly!

MIMI LIEN turned a proscenium house into an interactive environmental wonderland.  The Tony goes to her.

 

Costume Design of a Play

Jane Greenwood, The Little Foxes
Susan Hilferty, Present Laughter
Toni-Leslie James, Jitney
David Zinn, A Doll’s House, Part 2

Please let this be the year that JANE GREENWOOD finally wins a competitive Tony.  It HAS been 52 years since her first nomination after all.  Plus her costumes were spot-on and gorgeous.

 

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Linda Cho, Anastasia
Santo Loquasto, Hello, Dolly!
Paloma Young, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Catherine Zuber, War Paint

While the always reliable (and worthy of recognition) Santo Loquasto may well pick up the Tony for Dolly—the costume design Tony often goes to shows about fashion.  CATHERINE ZUBER has a field day with her clothing for War Paint, and I think that may be the ticket for her to get another Tony.

 

Lighting Design of a Play
Christopher Akerlind, Indecent
Jane Cox, Jitney
Donald Holder, Oslo
Jennifer Tipton, A Doll’s House, Part 2

Lighting plays a key role in the action of Indecent.  I think that will be why CHRISTOPHER AKERLIND will win the Tony.

 

Lighting Design of a Musical
Howell Binkley, Come From Away
Natasha Katz, Hello, Dolly!
Bradley King, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Japhy Weideman, Dear Evan Hansen

While I would love to see former Arkansas Rep lighting designer Japhy Weideman pick up his first Tony tonight, I think the multitude of lightbulbs and light fixtures of “Great Comet” will push BRADLEY KING into the winner’s circle.

Tony Awards Week – Japhy Weideman

Weideman

Weideman

Last month former Arkansas Rep resident lighting designer Japhy Weideman was recognized with an Obie Award for his continuous outstanding lighting design Off Broadway.  While he was at the Rep, he lit several shows including The Grapes of Wrath, All My Sons and God’s Man in Texas.

Sunday, Weideman is nominated for the Tony for Lighting Design of a Play for Airline Highway. He is also nominated for the Tony for Lighting Design of a Musical for The Visit.  In an even rarer feat, both shows opened the same night.  He is one of a handful of people to ever have two shows open on the same night.

Weideman was nominated in 2013 for Lighting Design of a Play for The Nance which starred Nathan Lane.  Last season he was nominated for his design of Of Mice and Men which starred James Franco, Chris O’Dowd, Leighton Meester and Jim Norton.

Other Broadway credits include The Snow Geese and a Lincoln Center production of The Scottish Play which starred Ethan Hawke.  This season he also designed the lighting for a revival of The Heidi Chronicles which starred Elisabeth Moss, Jason Biggs and Bryce Pinkham.   One of the producers of that revival was Little Rock native Will Trice.  Weideman and Trice will reunite next season in a revival of A. R. Gurney’s comedy Sylvia which is to star Tony winner (and current nominee) Julie White and two-time Tony nominee Annaleigh Ashford.

Arkansas connections to 2015 Tony nominations

Rock the TonysLittle Rock native Will Trice picked up his sixth and seventh Tony nominations this morning. He was nominated as a producer for Best Play nominee Wolf Hall, Parts 1 & 2. He was also nominated for being a producer of Best Revival of a Play nominee You Can’t Take It with You.

Each of the past three years, Trice has earned a Tony. On June 7, he’ll find out if there will be another silver medallion or two to add to his mantle.

Wolf Hall Parts 1 & 2 was the most nominated play picking up eight nominations.  In addition to Best Play, it was nominated for Actor in a Play (Ben Miles), Featured Actor in a Play (Nathaniel Parker), Featured Actress in a Play (Lydia Leonard), Director of a Play (Jeremy Herrin), Scenic Design of a Play (Christopher Oram), Costume Design of a Play (Christopher Oram) and Lighting Design of a Play (Paule Constable & David Plater).

You Can’t Take It with You picked up a total of five nominations.  In addition to Revival of a Play, it was recognized for Featured Actress in a Play (Annaleigh Ashford), Director of a Play (Scott Ellis), Scenic Design of a Play (David Rockwell) and Costume Design of a Play (Jane Greenwood).

A third title which Trice produced received a Tony nomination.  Elisabeth Moss was nominated for Actress in a Play for her performance in the revival of The Heidi Chronicles.

Another Arkansas connection to the Tonys is Japhy Weideman. A few seasons back, he was a lighting designer at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.  This marked the third year he received a Tony nominations for his lighting design. This year, he picked up a Tony in both Lighting Design of a Play (for the play Airline Highway) and Lighting Design of a Musical (for the musical The Visit).  Incidentally, both of these productions opened on the same night. That put Weideman in rarefied company of having two shows opening on the same night.

ROCKing the TONYS – Japhy Weideman

Rock the TonysJaphy Weideman

Japhy

Photo courtesy of Shevett Studios

Little Rock connection: Designed the lighting for several shows at Arkansas Repertory Theatre including The Grapes of Wrath, All My Sons and God’s Man in Texas.

Tony Awards connection: Received a 2013 nomination for his lighting design of The Nance.  This season he has been represented on Broadway with The Snow Geese, Macbeth and Of Mice and Men. The latter play, starring James Franco, Chris O’Dowd, Leighton Meester and Jim Norton, opens on Broadway tonight.

TONY AWARDS tonight — Some Arkansas connections

TonyAwards-328x253.328.254The American Theatre Wing and Broadway League present the 67th Antoinette Perry Awards – also known as the Tony Awards – tonight. They will be aired on CBS (THV11 in Central Arkansas) at 7pm CDT.

There are a few Arkansas connections to this year’s nominees of the best of Broadway.

Arkansas natives and previous Tony winners Will Trice and Remmel T. Dickinson are each nominated again this year for producing. Trice is one of the producers of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, nominated for Best Revival of a Play. Dickinson is a producer of Best Musical nominee Matilda. Both of those productions received multiple Tony nominations.

Tony winner Roger Horchow of Texas was married for nearly 50 years to Little Rock native Carolyn Pfeifer, until her 2009 death. Horchow and his daughter Sally are both nominated for producing the revival of Annie which is currently pleasing crowds on Broadway.

Chet Walker is nominated for his choreography for the revival of Pippin. Walker’s parents live in Maumelle. He has been a guest instructor for the Arkansas Dance Network. (Thanks to Christen Burke Pitts–herself an outstanding choreographer–for pointing out this Arkansas connection.)

Japhy Weideman is nominated for Best Lighting Design of a Play for his work on the new play The Nance. This is his first Tony nomination and his first season to be lighting plays on Broadway. He has previously received acclaim for his work Off Broadway. Weideman has been a lighting designer at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre in the past.

One final nominee with an Arkansas connection. A couple of years ago, the Clinton School of Public Service brought actor Holland Taylor to Little Rock to discuss her play Ann about Texas Gov. Ann Richards. At that point in time, Ms. Taylor was performing the play throughout the country, but she did not know if it would be performed in New York. It made it to Broadway this season, and she received a Tony nomination for Actress in a Play for her work.

Whether these nominees win or lose tonight, it is a testament to Little Rock’s cultural richness that there are several nominees this year with connections to The Rock.