Pulitzers Play Little Rock: NEXT TO NORMAL on Arkansas Rep stage

ndnextThe line “Valium is my favorite color” was uttered on the Arkansas Rep stage in 2012 when the Pulitzer Prize winning musical Next to Normal was performed.

The show was a surprise winner of the 2010 Pulitzer for Drama.  It had not been one of the three finalists selected by the jury, but was picked for the honor by the Pulitzer Board.

With music by Tom Kitt and a book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, Next to Normal is a powerful rock musical about a mentally ill suburban mom who struggles with worsening bipolar disorder and the effects that illness has on her family.

The Arkansas Rep cast featured Deb Lyons as Diana — the mother of the family, Jonathan Rayson as her husband Dan, Kristin Parker and Will Holly as their children, Mo Brady as a friend of the family and Peter James Zielinski playing a pair of physicians.

Helen Gregory was the Musical Director. Other members of the creative team included Mike Nichols (scenic designer), Shelly Hall (costume designer), Michael J. Eddy (lighting designer), M. Jason Pruzin (sound designer) and Lynda J. Kwallek (properties designer).

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.

WINN DIXIE extended at Ark Rep through January 5 — Good seats still available

Due to overwhelming demand for tickets, the Arkansas Rep has extended Because of Winn Dixie another week.  This last week has good seats available, so don’t delay.  From the lyricist of Legally Blonde and the composer of Spring Awakening comes a new musical based on the award-winning novel by Kate DiCamillo.

A World Premiere musical brings a Tony Award-winning creative team to Little Rock this holiday season. Because of Winn Dixie is a new musical based on the heartwarming and award-winning novel by Kate DiCamillo about a young girl and a dog she finds at a Winn Dixie supermarket.

This unique production will include music by Duncan Sheik (Tony and Grammy Award Winner for Spring Awakening), lyrics and book by Nell Benjamin (Tony Nominee for Legally Blonde), direction by John Tartaglia (Tony nominee for Avenue Q) and animal direction by Bill Berloni (a 2011 Tony Honor recipient).

This original production will also be the first pre-Broadway musical starring a live dog in a leading role. Taran (and understudy Cally), both Irish Wolfhounds, have been cast in the title role of “Winn-Dixie,” trained by Broadway’s foremost animal trainer, Bill Berloni.

“It has always amazed me the reaction animals have on an audience,” says Berloni, “When a dog or cat comes onstage, our collective reality is ‘Wait a minute, you can’t get an animal to act, what is it going to do?’ And it brings the audience closer into the piece.”

“This story will melt your heart,” says Bob Hupp. “We are honored that the creative team of Winn Dixie approached us for this world premiere, and I think this project has tremendous potential to introduce a significant new work into the American musical theatre canon, and it all begins right here on our stage, for Arkansas audiences.”

The cast is led by Jonathan Rayson, Julia Nightingale Landfair, Gabe Bowling, Riley Costello, Aisha de Haas, Imari Hardon, Crystal Kellogg, Tari Kelly, Shannon Lamb, Nic Rowe, Douglas Storm and Sydni Whitfield.  Others in the cast include Danny Phillips, Cayla Christina Christian, Reagan Hodson, Dalton Johnson, Molly Russ, and Sam Shaughnessy.

The music director is Jason Hart. Duncan Sheik is the orchestrator and vocal arranger.  The creative team included Mike Nichols (scenery), Marianne Custer (costumes), Michael J. Eddy (lighting), Allan Branson (sound), and Lynda J. Kwallek (props).

Ark Rep presents World Premiere of BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE

From the lyricist of Legally Blonde and the composer of Spring Awakening comes a new musical based on the award-winning novel by Kate DiCamillo.

A World Premiere musical brings a Tony Award-winning creative team to Little Rock this holiday season. Because of Winn Dixie is a new musical based on the heartwarming and award-winning novel by Kate DiCamillo about a young girl and a dog she finds at a Winn Dixie supermarket.

Berloni and Tartaglia with two of the dogs

This unique production will include music by Duncan Sheik (Tony and Grammy Award Winner for Spring Awakening), lyrics and book by Nell Benjamin (Tony Nominee for Legally Blonde), direction by John Tartaglia (Tony nominee for Avenue Q) and animal direction by Bill Berloni (a 2011 Tony Honor recipient).

This original production will also be the first pre-Broadway musical starring a live dog in a leading role. Taran (and understudy Cally), both Irish Wolfhounds, have been cast in the title role of “Winn-Dixie,” trained by Broadway’s foremost animal trainer, Bill Berloni.

“It has always amazed me the reaction animals have on an audience,” says Berloni, “When a dog or cat comes onstage, our collective reality is ‘Wait a minute, you can’t get an animal to act, what is it going to do?’ And it brings the audience closer into the piece.”

“This story will melt your heart,” says Bob Hupp. “We are honored that the creative team of Winn Dixie approached us for this world premiere, and I think this project has tremendous potential to introduce a significant new work into the American musical theatre canon, and it all begins right here on our stage, for Arkansas audiences.”

The cast is led by Jonathan Rayson, Julia Nightingale Landfair, Gabe Bowling, Riley Costello, Aisha de Haas, Imari Hardon, Crystal Kellogg, Tari Kelly, Shannon Lamb, Nic Rowe, Douglas Storm and Sydni Whitfield.  Others in the cast include Danny Phillips, Cayla Christina Christian, Reagan Hodson, Dalton Johnson, Molly Russ, and Sam Shaughessy.

The music director is Jason Hart. Duncan Sheik is the orchestrator and vocal arranger.  The creative team included Mike Nichols (scenery), Marianne Custer (costumes), Michael J. Eddy (lighting), Allan Branson (sound), and Lynda J. Kwallek (props).

Arkansas Rep’s premiere of revival of PAL JOEY closes today

PalJoeyToday is the last chance to catch the Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s world premiere revival of Pal Joey.

Kicking off the 2013-2014 season, Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s Pal Joey has been reimagined by Tony winner Peter Schneider.  He and Rep Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp have assembled a stellar cast and creative team to bring this classic tale to a new life.  The Rodgers and Hart songs are woven into a new book by Patrick Pacheco based on the stories of John O’Hara.

Peter Schneider is the Tony Award-winning producer of the internationally acclaimed Broadway musical The Lion King. He produced the award-winning documentary, “Waking Sleeping Beauty,” about Disney animation from 1984-1994, a decade within his 17-year tenure at the company where he served as President of the animation department and, later, as Chairman of the studio.

A new score has been enhanced with other memorable songs from the Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart catalog, such as “The Lady Is a Tramp” and “Sing for Your Supper,” intermingled with gems from the original 1940 show like “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and “I Could Write a Book.” This Pal Joey explodes on stage with timeless jazz favorites, stunning tap dance numbers and plenty of sparkle while exploring morality, race, class and the timeless relationship between power and sex.

The cast is led by Clifton Oliver in the title role.  Playing the women vying for his attention are Erica Hanrahan-Ball and Theatre World Award winner Stephanie Umoh.  Jonas Cohen plays an added complication to the mix.  Others in the cast are Danielle Erin Rhodes, Jeffrey Johnson II, Elise Kinnon, Jordy Lievers, Joel Pellini, Ian Jordan Subsara and Matthew K. Tatus.  Michael Reno serves as the Musical Director and leads the band accompanying Joey.

Joining Schneider, Pacheco and Reno in the creative team are choreographer Dan Knechtges, scenic designer David Potts, costume designer Rafael Colon Castanera, props designer Lynda J. Kwallek, lighting designer Michael J. Eddy and sound designer Allan Branson.

Performances today are at 2pm and 7pm.

Become “Bewitched” as PAL JOEY opens at Ark Rep tonight

PalJoeyThe Arkansas Repertory Theatre kicks off its 2013-2014 season tonight with a musical that is already generating national buzz.
Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s Pal Joey has been reimagined by Tony winner Peter Schneider.  He and Rep Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp have assembled a stellar cast and creative team to bring this classic tale to a new life.  The Rodgers and Hart songs are woven into a new book by Patrick Pacheco based on the stories of John O’Hara.
After previews earlier this week, the production opens officially tonight and runs through September 29.

Edgy for its time, Pal Joey is perhaps best known for the 1957 film version starring Frank Sinatra. Director Peter Schneider’s production breathes new life into this classic tale and brings a modern day relevance to the story that unfolds amidst this richly romantic score.“Arkansas Repertory Theatre is the perfect environment for the artistic collaborative process required to reinvent a musical,” says Schneider. “I am thrilled to partner with Arkansas Rep and Bob to present the world premiere of this exciting new version of Pal Joey.”

Peter Schneider is the Tony Award-winning producer of the internationally acclaimed Broadway musical The Lion King. He produced the award-winning documentary, “Waking Sleeping Beauty,” about Disney animation from 1984-1994, a decade within his 17-year tenure at the company where he served as President of the animation department and, later, as Chairman of the studio.

A new score has been enhanced with other memorable songs from the Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart catalog, such as “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “Sing for Your Supper,” and “Glad To Be Unhappy” intermingled with gems from the original 1940 show like “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and “I Could Write a Book.” Also included from the original 1940 score is the song “What is a Man?” This Pal Joey answers that question in the most provocative and unexpected ways, exploding on stage with timeless jazz favorites, stunning tap dance numbers and plenty of sparkle while exploring morality, race, class and the timeless relationship between power and sex.

The cast is led by Clifton Oliver in the title role.  Playing the women vying for his attention are Erica Hanrahan-Ball and Theatre World Award winner Stephanie Umoh.  Jonas Cohen plays an added complication to the mix.  Others in the cast are Danielle Erin Rhodes, Jeffrey Johnson II, Elise Kinnon, Jordy Lievers, Joel Pellini, Ian Jordan Subsara and Matthew K. Tatus.  Michael Reno serves as the Musical Director and leads the band accompanying Joey.

Joining Schneider, Pacheco and Reno in the creative team are Tony nominated choreographer Dan Knechtges, scenic designer David Potts, costume designer Rafael Colon Castanera, props designer Lynda J. Kwallek, lighting designer Michael J. Eddy and sound designer Allan Branson.

Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday evening performances are at 7 p.m., Friday, Saturday evening performances are at 8 p.m. Sunday Matinees performances are at 2 p.m.

The Band of Brothers: HENRY V at Arkansas Rep

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre kicks off its 37th season with William Shakespeare’s Henry V.  Directed by Producing Artistic Director Robert Hupp, this production is the first of Shakespeare’s History plays to be produced at the Rep.

The production reunites Hupp with actors Avery Clark and Nikki Coble from the Rep’s widely acclaimed production of Hamlet in 2010.  The cast is an amalgam of seasoned Rep veterans and newcomers.  It includes Jason Collins, Jason Guy, Peter Leake, Joe Menino, Irungu Mutu, Richard Prioleau, Paul Romero, Mitch Tebo, Ed Lowry, DC Wright, Bill Jones, Sheila Glasscock, Fang Du, Ashton Crosby, Michael Bartholmey, Nate Washburn and Andrew Curzon.

Other members of the creative team include scenic designer Mike Nichols (beginning his 30th season at the Rep), costume designer Marianne Custer, lighting designer Michael J. Eddy, props by Lynda J. Kwallek and sound designer Jim Spencer.  Ellen Mandel returns to the Rep as composer of the show’s original score.

Henry V runs through September 23.

On September 10, the “Reel Classics with the Rep” series at Laman Library will feature the Kenneth Branagh film version of Henry V at 6pm.

The Rep will also host a Student Actor Workshop with the cast from 1pm to 4pm on September 15.  This workshop for high school and college students ages 15-22. The Student Actor Workshop will cover on-stage combat, blocking and dissecting the language of Shakespeare’s Henry V for a modern audience. The workshop will be led by professional actors Avery Clark and Nikki Coble who play the roles of Henry the Fifth and Katherine in The Rep’s production of Henry V.The workshop is free and space is limited. 

Arkansas Rep’s NEXT TO NORMAL

Deb Lyons in NEXT TO NORMAL. Photo by Dero Sanford

One of the best lines in the American Theatre in the 21st century is “Valium is my favorite color.”

It comes from the musical Next to Normal which opens tomorrow night and runs through May 27 at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.  In addition to winning the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama (one of the few musicals to nab that prize), it also won three 2009 Tony Awards.

With music by Tom Kitt and a book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, Next to Normal is a powerful rock musical about a mentally ill suburban mom who struggles with worsening bipolar disorder and the effects that illness has on her family. The Arkansas Rep production is directed by Nicole Capri. The cast features Deb Lyons as Diana — the mother of the family, Jonathan Rayson as her husband Dan, Kristin Parker and Will Holly as their children, Mo Brady as a friend of the family and Peter James Zielinski playing a pair of physicians.  Zielinski was last seen at the Rep in The Full Monty.

Helen Gregory is the Musical Director. Other members of the creative team include Mike Nichols (scenic designer), Shelly Hall (costume designer), Michael J. Eddy (lighting designer), M. Jason Pruzin (sound designer) and Lynda J. Kwallek (properties designer).

In conjunction with this production, there are several special events.

MainStage Sponsorship Night

Tuesday, May 8 | 7 p.m.

Preshow Panel, Foster’s | 6 p.m.

Arkansas Repertory Theatre, 601 Main Street, Little Rock

Chenal Family Therapy has purchased a “Night at The Rep” and will host a MainStage Sponsor Night on Tuesday, May 8. A portion of the ticket sales for this performance will benefit a number of local non-profit ministries in the Little Rock area. Prior to the show, Chenal Family Therapy will host a panel discussion in Foster’s on the overlap of faith and psychology, featuring prominent local therapists, ministers and professors. Tickets are $35 for general admission seating. For more information or to purchase tickets to this night, contact Chenal Family Therapy at (501) 781-2230 or email Events@ChenalTherapy.com.

SIGN INTERPRETATION

Wednesday, May 9 will be sign interpreted for the hearing impaired.

Reel Classics with The Rep: “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”

Monday, May 14 | 6:00 p.m.
2801 Orange, North Little Rock 

Reel Classics With The Rep runs the second Monday of every month at Laman Library, 2801 Orange in North Little Rock and is free to the public. Call the Laman Library at (501) 758-1720 for more information.

MainStage Sponsorship Night

Tuesday, May 15 | 7 p.m.

Preshow Reception, Rep Lobby | 5:30 p.m.

Conversation with Clinicians after the Performance

Arkansas Repertory Theatre, 601 Main Street, Little Rock

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Psychiatric Research Institute has purchased a “Night at The Rep” and will host a MainStage Sponsor Night on Tuesday, May 15. This event is open to the public. Tickets are $40. For more information or to purchase tickets to this night, contact Cary Wilson at (501) 526-8100 or visit the first floor reception area at the UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute.

MainStage Sponsorship Night

Tuesday, May 22| 7 p.m.

Preshow Reception, Rep Lobby | 6:00 p.m.

Arkansas Repertory Theatre, 601 Main Street, Little Rock

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s Young Artist Guild has purchased a “Night at The Rep” and will host a MainStage Sponsor Night on Tuesday, May 22. This event is open to the public. Tickets are $25. For more information or to purchase tickets to this night, contact The Rep Box Office at (501) 378-0405.