Creative Class of 2015: Justin A. Pike

Justin PikeDirector, actor, theatre-man-about-town Justin A. Pike has worked with just about every theatrical organization in Central Arkansas.  When he is not director, choreographing, designing, producing, and/or acting in a show, he can generally be found in the audience watching one.

Currently, a production of The Rocky Horror Show, which he directed, is being performed at the Lantern Theatre in Conway.  Later this week, Reefer Madness opens at The Studio Theatre in downtown Little Rock.  Pike serves as the Artistic Director of that theatre.

Listing all of his roles at various Central Arkansas theatres would take much space.  Among some of his more recent efforts are directing Xanadu at The Studio Theatre, starring in The Music Man for the Royal Players, directing Legally Blonde for the Royal Theatre, acting in Baby for Community Theatre of Little Rock, and directing Footloose for the Royal Players.  He is equally at home working with comedies, dramas and musicals.

 

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.

 

The Studio Theatre offers six musicals in 2015-2016; one show still remains in current season

studioThe Studio Theatre has announced the shows for their second season.

Up first, however, is Dogfight which will close out the first season.  Adapted from the 1991 movie of the same name, Dogfight is a story of compassion, heartbreak and redemption. 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 in downtown.

The 2015-2016 season includes six musicals.  Four of them will be making their Little Rock premieres. One of the other musicals will have its first non-touring production in Little Rock.

The new season kicks off on October 22 with a show filled with scary tales about the evils of doing bad. It is the satire Reefer Madness based on the non-satirical but unintentionally hilarious 1936 movie of the same name.

This musical, written by Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney, premiered in Los Angeles in 1998 and Off Broadway in 2001.  The Studio Theatre production will be directed by Ryan Whitfield.  The show will run from October 22 until October 31.

The Studio Theatre had a hit in 2015 with Jason Robert Brown’s The Last Five Years.  In January 2016, they will present his first musical Songs for a New World.  This song cycle premiered Off Broadway in 1995 and has become a popular show throughout the US.  The musical style of the score varies broadly. The thing that unites the songs is the concept of making a choice or taking a stand.

The production will be directed by Monica Clark Robinson.  Songs for a New World will run January 21 to 24.

Once upon a time, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine wrote a musical based on the Grimm Brothers’ folk tales.  Into the Woods will be the third show next season.  Opening on Broadway in 1987, it may have lost the Tony for Best Musical to The Phantom of the Opera, but it has not suffered as a popular musical.

This production of Into the Woods will run from March 10 to 26.  It will be directed by Rafael Castanera, who beautifully directed Nine earlier this year.

Based on the Alice Walker novel and the Steven Spielberg movie, The Color Purple will be the fourth musical of the season.  Running from May 12 to 22, it will be directed by Crystal Mercer.

After it premiered in Atlanta in 2004, it made it to Broadway the following year.  The show has a book by Pulitzer winner Marsha Norman. The songs are by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray.  The show was nominated for 11 Tonys and won one.

The 1980s hair bands will be honored by the 5th show as Rock of Ages takes the stage. Directed by Justin A. Pike, it will run from July 14 to 24. With a book by Chris D’Arienzo, the musical features songs from Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Poison and Europe.

Rock of Ages first played Off Broadway before transferring to Broadway.  It closed in January 2015 after playing more than 2300 performances on Broadway.

The final musical of the 2015-2016 season is James and the Giant Peach. Based on the Roald Dahl book, this musical features a score by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.  The pair were nominated for a Tony for their score of the musical version of A Christmas Story.

This show will run from August 11 to 21.  It will be directed by Mark Burbank.  He is also directing Dogfight which features a score by Pasek and Paul.

(This is not connected to the production offered by the Arkansas Arts Center a few seasons back.)

XANADU is magical fun

Edith Hamilton’s Mythology was never like this.  The god, goddesses, muses and mythical creatures that romp and skate through Xanadu are having more fun than I remember from my studies in high school and college.

Based on the 1980 Olivia Newton-John/Gene Kelly flop of the same name (and lifting some pages from the equally floptastic Clash of the Titans) the stage musical aspires only to be a tongue-in-cheek, eye-winking, breezy, entertainment.  What the book, by Douglas Carter Beane, lacks in plot believability, it makes up with jokes and heart.

xanaduAs main muse Clio and her Australian alter-ego Kira, Courtney Speyer brings a light-hearted touch to the role. She spends most of the show on roller skates, which is no easy task.  Speyer charms not only her leading man but also the audience as she sings, dances and jokes her way through the story.

Kevin Crumpler plays the object of her affection. With bright eyes, a broad gleaming smile, and a cheery personality, he is an obvious match for Speyer. His pleasant and powerful singing voice is nicely used throughout the show as well.  Crumpler has a deft comic timing which was put to good use, especially in moments when Sonny’s dimwittedness and naiveté get the best of him.

Greg Blacklaw is equally at home as a harried businessman as he is as Zeus.  Though he spends more time as the former, the latter is actually fleshed out more by the book. Regardless, Blacklaw brings gravitas when necessary as well as a sense of nostalgia and longing to the roles.

Though everyone in the cast seems to be having fun, undoubtedly the two having the most fun are Amy Young and Gabi Baltzley as two scheming evil muses (representing tragedy and epic poetry).  They mug, leer, giggle, cackle, and chew scenery (Baltzley quite literally) as they sing and zing while throwing stumbling blocks in the way of the hero and heroine.

The cast is rounded out by Tye Davis, Adriana Napolitano, Bridget Davis and Brian Earles. These proteans zip between the 1940s, 1980 and Ancient Greece all the while singing and dancing. Earles had a cameo as Hermes that was both deadpan and saucy — not an easy feat.

Multi-hyphenate Justin A. Pike directed the show. (The artistic director of the Studio Theatre, he also designed the scenery and co-designed the lighting.) He kept the story going briskly without making it seem rushed. With the slight book, it cannot afford to drag lest the audience think too hard. Trusting his actors and audience, he doesn’t skip over the jokes in the book, but he also doesn’t hammer them home. This understanding of audience and of actors’ abilities are marks of his adroitness as a director.

Hannah M. Sawyer’s costumes pay homage to both Ancient Greece and 1980. Let’s face it, with flowing light fabric, there really wasn’t too much different between the two.  Sawyer creates a unique look for each muse in both color and style.  She also created attire which allowed a variety of movement. Her 1940s clothes were classic and avoided the temptation to be caricatures. On the other hand, her mythical creatures were over-the-top and the hilarious.

Bob Bidewell’s music direction maximized the vocal abilities of the singers.  The singers’ voices blended well together in the variety of vocal styles in this score.  This music from 1980 is not the strongest, which offers its own set of challenges. Bidewell and the cast succeeded in making it work on stage.  He also led the four-piece orchestra through Jeff Lynne and John Farrar’s score.

Xanadu plays today at 2pm. It resumes performances July 16 to 18 at 7pm and the 19th at 2pm.  It is like a summer cocktail – frothy, light, a touch sweet and refreshing.

XANADU skates into Studio Theatre

xanaduThe 1980 movie musical FLOP Xanadu was reimagined as a stage musical in 2007 and became a surprise smash on Broadway.  It has now skated into the Studio Theatre for a summer run.

The bubblegum pop score of Jeff Lynne and John Farrar has been augmented by a book by Douglas Carter Beane. He combined the original movie story with a touch of Clash of the Titans (another early 1980s movie disappointment) and added a great deal of humor and campy fun.

Directed by Justin A. Pike, the musical features a cast of Courtney Speyer, Kevin Crumpler, Greg Blacklaw, Gabi Baltzley, Amy Young, Tye Davis, Adriana Napolitano, Bridget Davis and Brian Earles.

The creative team team features choreographer Sara Adams, musical director Bob Bidewell, costume designer Hannah M. Sawyer and stage manager Danette Scott Perry.  In addition to directing, Pike designed the sets and co-designed the lighting with Michael Goodbar.

Performances began on July 9 and continue through July 19.  Curtain time is 7pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2pm on Sunday.

9 TO 5 closes out 59th season of CTLR

9to5musicalWhat better way to end your 59th season than with a show with a 5 and a 9?  The Community Theatre of Little Rock presents the musical 9 to 5 through June 21st at The Studio Theatre (320 West 7th Street).

Performances are at 7:30pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and at 2pm on Sunday afternoons.

9 to 5 is written by Patricia Resnick, who co-wrote the movie screenplay, with songs by Dolly Parton.  Parton received a Tony nomination for her score.

Set in the late 1970s this hilarious story of friendship and revenge in the Rolodex era is outrageous, thought-provoking, and even a little romantic.  Pushed to the boiling point, three female co-workers concoct a plan to get even with their boss. In a hilarious turn of events, Violet, Judy and Doralee live out their wildest fantasy – giving their boss the boot! While Hart remains “otherwise engaged,” the women give their workplace a dream makeover, taking control of the company that had always kept them down.

The cast is led by Bridget Davis, Becky McAlister and Karena White as the main trio of women working hard to get ahead in the workplace. They are joined by Duane Jackson as the sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical, bigot of a boss from Hell and Cheryl Troillett as his lackey.  Others in the cast include Chuck Massey, Chase Cundell, Jeremiah Herman, Leon Baggett, Rachel Garrett Bland, Mark Burbank, Jerry Davidson, Katy Fraley, Amanda Garrison Gilmore, Shann Nobels, Tanner Oglesby, Michael Pete, Jennifer Jackson Restum, Hannah M. Sawyer, Danny Troillett, Bruce Ward, Olivia Witcher and Jerry Woods.

The production is directed by Justin Pike with Jo Murry serving as music director.

Acclaimed musical BABY is latest offering of CTLR

Baby CTLRThe latest offering of the Community Theatre of Little Rock (now in its 58th season) is BABY.  This Tony nominated musical from acclaimed duo Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire, examines how parents-to-be experience the emotional stresses and triumphs, as well as the desperate lows and the comic highs that accompany the anticipation and arrival of a baby.

BABY tells the story of three couples on a university campus as they deal with the painful, rewarding and agonizingly funny consequences of this universal experience. There are the college students, barely at the beginning of their adult lives; the thirtysomethings, having trouble conceiving but determined to try; and the middle aged parents, looking forward to seeing their last child graduate from college when a night of unexpected passion lands them back where they started.

The cast is led by Miki Thompson, Jeremy Elliot, Elizabeth Reha, Bob Bidewell, Erin Murphey Martinez and Justin Pike.  Others in the cast are Pammi Fabert, Mary Ann Hansen Cheryl Troillett, Duane Jackson, Danny Troillett, Case Dillard, Libby Smith and Doug Robillard.  The production was directed by Michael Henderson with music direction by Matthew Mentgen.  Jerry Woods is the executive producer.

The show opened last weekend and continues through March 2.  Show times are 7:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays; Sunday matinees are at 2pm.