Pulitzers Play Little Rock: CTLR’s production of RENT

CTLR RentJonathan Larson’s through-sung updated La Boheme was an instant success from its first Off Broadway preview.  Unfortunately with his death that day, Larson never enjoyed the success.  After a long Broadway run, the rights were made available for other productions.

Though not the first to present Rent in Little Rock, the Community Theatre of Little Rock closed out its 58th season in 2014 with a production of this winner of the 1996 Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

The cast included Michael Goodbar, Ryan Whitfield, Charles Holloway, Jeremiah Herman, Angel Monroe, Brittany Sparkles, Kelsey Padilla, Jess Carson, David Weatherly, Courtney Williams, Douglas Hammon, Elijah Ash, Manny Urban, Brian Christopher Roberson, Robert Warner, Claudia Moskova-Cremeens, Ashley McPhearson, Vivian Murray-Colyer, Nichole Henry, Allison Bode, Courtney Speyer, Makayla Ealy, and Beth Ross.

The production was directed by Frank O. Butler.  Matthew Tatus was the Music Director, while the producers were Liz Clark and Jerry Woods.

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.

Little Shop of Horrors continues at The Studio Theatre

LSOHTSTThe second production of The Studio Theatre is the award winning 1983 musical Little Shop of Horrors.  Featuring book and lyrics by Oscar winner Howard Ashman and music by Oscar winner Alan Menken it is based on an early film from Roger Corman.

The cast includes Sharayah Wallace, Jess Carson, Denai Brown, Jeremiah James Herman, Gabi Baltzley, Jeremy Hall, David Weatherly, Duane Jackson and Mark Burbank.

The show is directed by Michael Henderson with music direction by Matthew David Mentgen.  Brandon Nichols is the choreographer.

The show opened on Thursday, September 11.  It continues tonight, September 18-20 and September 25-27 at 7:30pm.  On September 21, there is a special 5pm performance.

Tickets are $20.

AIN’T NOTHING BUT A THANG continues at the Weekend Theater

2262749picThe Weekend Theatre’s latest production is Marlin T. Tazewell’s Ain’t NothingBut a Thang.  The production opened last weekend and continues this weekend and next.  Performances are at 7:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

Tickets are $16 for general admission, and $12 for students and seniors age 65 and older. Tickets can be purchased at www.weekendtheater.org or, based on availability, at the door. For information only, call 501-374-3761.

Director Liz Clarke was searching for a modern play to submit for Black History Month when she found Tazewell’s script last year and was intrigued by the story line. And once she read it, she was convinced it was something she wanted to direct.

Winner of the 1999 National AIDS Fund/CFDA-Vogue Initiative Playwriting Award, this gripping drama is the story of one black family struggling to survive, and remembering that each new curve life throws them “ain’t nothing but a thang” with which all of them must deal.

“The main theme of the play revolves around the decisions we make and the end result of these decisions. There is no ‘bad guy’ in this play,” Clarke says.

Rachel (Kelani Campbell), the mother of the family, struggles with drug use and thoughts that she isn’t good enough, hasn’t done enough, and isn’t loved by her kids. Oldest son Matt (Marquis Bullock) left home to pursue a college degree and better himself; he loves his family, but can’t allow himself to be drawn back in to their drama, no matter how guilty he feels about leaving. Middle son Kintai (Micheal Lowe), styles himself as a “dealer in higher plains of existence” – that is, a dope dealer. The youngest, 14-year-old Amber (Jess Carson), has been promiscuous and because of that, has contracted HIV, and just wants to know if someone cares if she lives or dies.

Also in the Fazes family orbit are Sara (Wendy Darr) Amber’s best friend, and Caveman (Justin Pike), a pal to Matt and Kintai.

And as the drama unfolds, the choices are … not so easy, really. “This play is not black or white – it is muddied shades of gray,” Clarke says. “Everyone in ‘Ain’t Nothing But a Thang’ is presented with a fork in the road and it’s their choice as to which road to take. “