Mark and Erin Reunited – tonight at the Lobby Bar

Image may contain: text

Join Mark Binns & Erin Martinez Warner at the Lobby Bar as they reunite for an intimate evening of friendship, love, and MUSIC!

The Lobby Bar is a cover-free, family-friendly environment. Just come out and enjoy the tunes!

Mark & Erin will be joined by longtime friends and collaborators Pat Lindsey on drums, Brian Wolverton on bass, and Barry McVinney on reeds.

Willy Wonka Jr. opens tonight at Arkansas Rep

Image may contain: textA local cast of 39 young actors will present Willy Wonka Jr. on the MainStage at Arkansas Repertory Theatre this summer. The production, which runs June 21-30, is based on the classic tale by Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

“We were amazed by the level of interest and talent at auditions,” said Anna Kimmell, Director of Education at The Rep, who is the production’s director and choreographer. “These students are serious about theatre – many of them plan to pursue acting professionally. Prepare to be ‘wowed’ by their talents.”

Tickets start at $15 and are available at, by phone at (501) 378-0405 or by visiting the Box Office at 601 Main Street in Little Rock.

Willy Wonka Jr. is a musical adaptation of the story about enigmatic candy manufacturer Willy Wonka, who stages a contest by hiding golden tickets in five of his scrumptious candy bars. Whomever comes up with these tickets will win a free tour of the Wonka factory, as well as a lifetime supply of candy. Four of the five winning children are insufferable brats, but the fifth is a likeable young lad named Charlie Bucket. The children must learn to follow Mr. Wonka’s rules in the factory – or suffer the consequences!

“This production features many of the iconic songs from the 1971 film,” Kimmell said. “But we’re also putting our own Rep-spin on this classic by adding imaginative, theatrical elements to the design and staging. It will be a perfect mix of ‘nostalgic’ and ‘new’ to entertain the young and the young at heart.”

The cast includes Lucas Bachus (Grandpa George), Collin Carlton (Charlie Bucket), Jacob Grinder (Augustus Gloop), Izzy Hammonds (Mrs. Bucket), Emla Holsted (Mrs. Beauregarde), Jackson Karl (Phineous Trout), Tania Renee Kelley (Veruca Salt), Caitlyn Olivia Luna (Grandma Josephine), Isabella Nguyen (Violet Beauregarde), Jesse Niswanger (Grandpa Joe), Cabe Parrish (Mrs. Gloop), Corbin Pitts (Mike Teavee), Will Porter (Willy Wonka), Alexandra Powell (Grandma Georgina), Anna Reynolds (Ms. Teavee), William Romain (Mr. Bucket), and Grant Wild (Mr. Salt).

Featured dancers are Sela Booher, Chaelie DeJohn, Amaya Hardin, Caroline Perry, Grace Pitts, and Nate Westerman. The Ensemble includes Eliah Boles, Adelaide Bricker, Emilea Derden, Chelsea Elise Franklin, Robert Gatlin, Alex Harkins, Lauren Lasseigne, Chloe Grace Luna, Betsy McClure, Taylor Moore, Charlie Mulhollan, Emily Pyron, Melody Small, Miles Tillemans, Magnolia Vincent, and Walt Wenger

The design and creative team includes Anna Kimmell, director/choreographer; Mark Binns, musical director; Zachery Ingersoll, assistant director; Mike Nichols, scenic designer; Holly Payne, costume designer; Lynda J. Kwallek, properties designer; Josh Anderson, lighting designer; and Luke Mitchell, sound designer. The production manager is Joshua Marchesi and the production stage manager is Merit Glover. Adrian Griffey is the assistant stage manager.

The show will go on! Ark Rep production of PETER AND THE STARCATCHER opens tonight

 Despite the snow which caused many cancellations this morning, the Arkansas Repertory Theatre production of PETER AND THE STARCATCHER opens tonight.  Think you know all there is to know about Peter Pan? Think again.

This Tony winning play by Rick Elice is based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.  In this swashbuckling prelude to J. M. Barrie’s fantasy classic, the secret history of the Boy Who Would Never Grow Up is revealed with theatrical panache.

Based on the popular Dave Barry books, and mixing British pantomime with playful elements of childhood make-believe, this raucous adventure journeys into the forgotten realms of the imagination filled with mermaids, fierce natives, pirates and magic. 

Embark upon a treacherous ocean voyage as Molly, a young Starcatcher aboard the good ship Neverland, races to escape the comical clutches of the dread pirate Black Stache. Accompanied by a trio of Lost Boys from a British orphanage, she is soon marooned on a not-so-deserted island filled with otherworldly enchantments and exhilarating danger around every turn. Each breathtaking adventure leads them closer to the mysterious origins of the Peter Pan you know and love.

Peter and the Starcatcher will be presented as a co-production with TheatreSquared in Fayetteville, Ark. The Rep presents the regional premiere of this award-winning play as a perfect outing for young and old alike. It opens tonight and runs through Februry 14. 

The cast includes Seth Andrew Bridges, Marc Carver, Patrick Halley, Carey Hite, Garrett T. Houston, Bryce Kemph, Hugh Kennedy, Steve Pacek, Faith Sandberg, Jason M. Shipman, Nathaniel Stahlke and Bruce Warren.  Moriah Patterson and Garrett L. Whitehead are understudies. 

The production is directed by Mark Shanahan.  Other members of the creative team are Music Director: Mark Binns; Fight Director: D.C. Wright; Set Designer: James J. Fenton; Properties Designer: Brodie Jasch; Lighting Designer: Martin E. Vreeland; Costume Designer: Trish Clark; and Sound Engineer: Allan Branson.

THE LITTLE MERMAID swims into Ark Rep for holiday season

LittleMermaidFrom the creators of Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Little Shop of Horrors, the Arkansas Rep presents Disney’s The Little Mermaid, an enchanting musical features an infectious score that includes the popular songs “Part of Your World,” “Under the Sea” and “Kiss the Girl.”

Adapted from the beloved fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen into one of Disney’s most popular animated films of all time, The Little Mermaid is now a lavish theatrical spectacle you won’t want to miss. Plunge into the colorful depths of an undersea wonderland as The Rep’s stage is transformed into an aquatic playground underscored by a funky Calypso beat. The musical features a book by Pulitzer Prize winner Douglas Wright and a score by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater.

“A heart warming musical for the entire family,” said Bob Hupp. “From Hans Christian Anderson to Disney to The Rep, generations have fallen in love with the young mermaid who dreams of love and life on land. This musical has it all: a great story, lush designs and all the songs you sang with your kids. You’ll certainly want to make The Little Mermaid part of your world this holiday season.”

The show opens tonight and runs through Sunday, January 3.  Performances are at 7pm with Sunday matinees at 2pm.

The production is directed by Melissa Rain Anderson in her Arkansas Rep debut. Other members of the creative team are Adam Cates (choreography), Mark Binns (music director), Shoko Kambara (scenery), Rafael Colon Castanera (costumes), Robert Denton (lighting), Allan Branson (sound), Lynda J. Kwallek (properties), Robert Pickens (wigs) and 2 Ring Circus (aerial and circus direction).

Katie Emerson plays the title character and Shayne Kennon is her prince. Others in the cast include Cornelius Davis (Sebastian), Jack Doyle (Grimsby), Jared Green (Flotsam), Zach Green (Jetsam), Amy Jo Jackson (Ursula), Ben Liebert (Scuttle), Evan Tyrone Martin (King Triton) and DJ Plunkett (Flounder). Rounding out the cast are Anthony D. Bryant, Kacie Burns, Taylor Collins, Lani Corson, Audra Cramer, Joshua Dean, Ben Franklin, Luke Grooms, Samantha L. Harrington, Sydney Ippolito, Shaun Repetto and Molly Rosenthal.

Some of the performances are already sold out, so act quickly on buying tickets.


See the BEE

Rep Spelling BeeF-U-N is all the spelling you need to know to go see The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. This musical comedy with heart and smarts is running now through November 8 at Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

A 2005 Tony winner for Best Book of a Musical, Spelling Bee (as it shall hereafter be abbreviated) explores the twists and turns of both the eponymous academic competition and the struggle known as adolescence. While William Finn’s score may not be as strong as some of his other shows, it is a mixture of peppy and heart-felt songs that illuminate the chaos and character of each competitor.

There are six main competitors in the Bee. Each of the adult actors playing these juvenile spellers does a masterful job of balancing the demands of the roles. They must portray youngsters, without it becoming a parody. Ethan Paulini creates yet another endearingly offbeat character at the Rep as Leaf Coneybear. Tessa Faye’s Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre shifts seamlessly between exuberance and frustration. Laura Dadap aptly showcases her many talents as overachiever Marcy Park.

As Chip Tolentino, Tommy Martinez is so clean-cut and charming that his character’s unfortunate physical condition is endearing and not creepy. Conly Basham brings warmth, pathos, and heart to the role of Olive Ostrovsky, which keeps the character from straying into the realm of the pitiful or maudlin. As William Barfee (pronounced Bar-fay, except by everyone else on stage), Patrick Halley embraces the profound oddities and quirks in the character without making him grotesque.

Playing the adults are the warm Andi Watson as a former spelling bee champion intent on reliving her glory days, the officiously hilarious Scott McLean Harrison as a frustrated and frustrating Assistant Principal, and Correy West as a community service grief counselor. Watson and Harrison are kept on their toes throughout the show as they must interact with the guest spellers from the audience.

This is no cookie-cutter production of Spelling Bee. Director Nicole Capri has crafted a production that plays to the unique strengths of each of the actors. She keeps the show moving at a good pace, while allowing it to slow down enough for the audience and actors to enjoy the moments of bliss and melancholy. Capri obviously created a rehearsal environment encouraging the actors to take risks and to have fun.

Musical Director Mark Binns again excels in serving the score, singers and the audience. Mike Nichols’ set recreates a school gymnasium down to the ropes dangling from a ceiling. Shelly Hall’s costumes capture the personalities of each character in a fresh way. Dan Kimble’s lighting and Allan Branson’s sound design are vital to reflecting the different moods and moments as the story sometimes shifts to different planes of consciousness. Lynda J. Kwallek’s props ensure the show has a lived-in look.

While the show may have a message about the value of every person, it is not a “MESSAGE” show. It is intended to be fun. The Arkansas Rep production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee gets the gold cup for providing an enjoyable, entertaining, and enlightening outing at the theatre.

Creative Class of 2015: Mark Binns

mark binnsComposer, arranger, vocal coach, musical director, pianist, teacher, performer.  Mark Binns is all of these things.

He has been involved with Arkansas Repertory Theatre for six seasons now as a keyboardist, musical director and composer. Mark has been the Rep’s musical director for White Christmas, Les Miz, Memphis, and Elf. He has is currently at work on their upcoming The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.  For the Rep, he has also worked on their Summer Musical Theatre Intensive for several years.

In addition to the Rep, he often works with the Studio Theatre and Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre.  Other regional Musical Director credits include Hairspray, Oliver!, Cinderella, Pippin, The Last Five Years and Fiddler on the Roof. He has composed original music for the University of Central Arkansas’ production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle and served as Vocal Director/Arranger for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday Fantasy.

When not working on a show, he can often be found performing at the Lobby Bar, the Afterthought or any number of other venues in Little Rock.

Toil and Trouble, Sound & Fury, Damn Spots on stage at Arkansas Rep

ScottishPlayMurder, madness and magic haunt every shadowy corner in the most powerful of William Shakespeare’s great tragedies.

After receiving an ominous prophecy on a blood-soaked battlefield, the Thane of Cawdor and his ambitious wife claw their way to the Scottish throne, and damned be all who stand in their way! Each step closer to fulfilling his royal Fate leads the General deeper and deeper into a fiendish quagmire of carnage and corruption, from which none can survive; not even him.

“The original House of Cards. It’s fitting to start off a milestone season with the English language’s greatest author,” said Bob Hupp, Producing Artistic Director at Arkansas Repertory Theatre. “Shakespeare keeps us honest, and tests our mettle when we seek to tell great stories that demand to live on a stage. I’ve been reading and seeing productions of this play for more than 30 years, now I’m ready to direct it for you this fall.”

Join The Rep as it casts a spell on Arkansas audiences with this powerful production that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The cast is lead by Michael Stewart Allen and Jacqueline Correa as the scheming couple.  Others in the cast are Ryan Allen, Oliver Archibald, Adam Cook, Courtney Bennett, Christina Clower, Berkeley Courtney-Moore, Brooklyn Courtney-Moore, Heather Dupree, Cary Hite, Robert Ierardi, Damon McKinnis, Joseph J. Menino, Gregory Myhre, Seth D. Rabinowitz, Jacques Roy, Marisol Sela, Kurt Benjamin Smith, Mitch Tebo, David Tennal and Damian Thompson.

The production is directed by Rep Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp.  Other members of the creative team are Mike Nichols (scenery), Marianne Custer (costumes), Dan Kimble (lighting), Allan Branson (sound), Lynda J. Kwallek (props), Rob Pickens (wigs), Geoffrey Kent (fight director), Mark Binns (composer), Paige Martin Reynolds (dramaturg/assistant director) and Katie M. Dayley (AEA stage manager).

The production opens tonight and runs through September 27.