31 Days of Arkansas Rep: 1988’s PAGEANT

While originally envisioned as a potential first show in the new Main Street home for Arkansas Rep, the world premiere of the musical PAGEANT took place instead at the Rep’s original home at 11th and McAlmont Streets.  (The new theatre space would not open until October 1988.)

Conceived by Cliff Fannin Baker (who would direct as well), this show featured a series of vignettes exploring a variety of aspects of beauty pageants – competing in them, watching them, having daughters in them, etc. The songs were all written by Michael Rice (who had previously composed The Good Woman of Setzuan at Arkansas Rep). The various scenarios in the libretto were authored by Baker, Jack Heifner, Romulus Linney, Kent R. Brown, Hank Bates, and Mary Rhode.

The seven women in the cast (who were on stage the entire time) were played by Kimberly Ann Cunningham, Brenda Kaye Westbrook, Mimmye Goode, Julianne Griffin, Karen Heck, Vivian Morrison, and Margaret Wyatt-Kinney.  Cunningham and Westbrook had both previously competed in beauty pageants. The creative team included Mike Nichols (sets), Mark Hughes (costumes), and Kathy Gray (lighting).

The production ran from January 21, 1988 through February 21, 1988.

It has since been retitled American Beauty and is available for licensing.

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31 Days of Arkansas Rep: 1985 World Premiere of THE GOOD WOMAN OF SETZUAN

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre set the American regional theatre world abuzz with its world premiere of a musical version of Bertolt Brecht’s The Good Woman of Setzuan.

Director Cliff Fannin Baker received many telephone calls from his colleagues who were surprised that the Brecht estate had given its authorization for a musicalization to a small professional theatre in Little Rock.

The songs were written by Arkansas native Michael Rice using as a libretto the Eric Bentley translation of the original Brecht work. Rice also served as music director, leading a seven member orchestra as it played the nineteen songs he wrote.

As director, Baker used many Brechtian techniques to stay true to the story. These included music, neon signs, and non-traditional costuming for some of the characters.  Speaking of costumes, Little Rock fashion designer Connie Fails designed the clothing for the production.

Others on the creative team included Michael R. Smith (a set that was described as “dazzling, trashily opulent”) and Kathy Gray.

The title character was played by Vivian Morrison (now Vivian Norman). Other leading roles were played by Mark Johnson, Terry Sneed, Dianne Tack, and Mychael McMillan (in drag).  Playing a trio of gods were Ronald J. Aulgur, Scott Edmonds, and Candyce Hinkle. Others in the cast included Jean Lind, Ruth Shepherd, Kathryn Pryor, Judy Trice, Carol Ann Connor (now McAdams), Ginny Pace, and Jeff Bailey.

The production took place at the Arkansas Arts Center Theatre instead of the Rep’s facility on 11th Street.  With a cast of twenty and extensive set changes, the production needed more space than the Rep’s home could accommodate.

The Good Woman of Setzuan opened on June 13 and ran through June 22.

Final Weekend of AVENUE Q at Ark Rep

Avenue-QThe Arkansas Repertory Theatre closes out the 2012-2013 season with the Tony winning musical Avenue Q.  The production runs through June 30

Avenue Q is an adult, laugh-out-loud puppet musical that tells the timeless story of a recent college grad named Princeton who moves into a shabby New York apartment all the way out on Avenue Q. There, he meets Kate (the girl next door), Christmas Eve, Trekkie Monster, Gary Coleman and other colorful types who help Princeton finally discover his purpose in life.

The cast includes Will Holly, Bailey Means, Kathleen Choe, Jimmy Kieffer, Ethan Paulini, Shaleah Adkisson, Chad Burris and Leah Monzillo.  Lauren McClendon, Henry Melhorn and Mary Katelin Ward are understudies.

The production is directed by Robert Kolby Harper.  Rick Lyon, who worked on and starred in the original production of Avenue Q is the puppet designer and puppet coach.  The other members of the design team include Christopher Pickart (scenery), Shelly Hall (costumes), Daniel Davisson (lighting), Allan Branson (sound), Lynda J. Kwallek (properties) and Mike Nichols (technical director).  Michael Rice is the music director.

Avenue Q features a Tony winning book by Jeff Whitty and a Tony winning score by Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez.  It was originally directed by Fayetteville native Jason Moore (who received a Tony nomination for his direction).

AVENUE Q at Arkansas Rep

Avenue-QThe Arkansas Repertory Theatre closes out the 2012-2013 season with the Tony winning musical Avenue Q which begins performances this week.  Avenue Q, which won three 2004 Tony Awards including Best Musical, opens on Friday, June 7 following previews on June 5 & 6.  The production runs through June 30

Avenue Q is an adult, laugh-out-loud puppet musical that tells the timeless story of a recent college grad named Princeton who moves into a shabby New York apartment all the way out on Avenue Q. There, he meets Kate (the girl next door), Christmas Eve, Trekkie Monster, Gary Coleman and other colorful types who help Princeton finally discover his purpose in life.

The cast includes Will Holly, Bailey Means, Kathleen Choe, Jimmy Kieffer, Ethan Paulini, Shaleah Adkisson, Chad Burris and Leah Monzillo.  Lauren McClendon, Henry Melhorn and Mary Katelin Ward are understudies.

The production is directed by Robert Kolby Harper.  Rick Lyon, who worked on and starred in the original production of Avenue Q is the puppet designer and puppet coach.  The other members of the design team include Christopher Pickart (scenery), Shelly Hall (costumes), Daniel Davisson (lighting), Allan Branson (sound), Lynda J. Kwallek (properties) and Mike Nichols (technical director).  Michael Rice is the music director.

Avenue Q features a Tony winning book by Jeff Whitty and a Tony winning score by Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez.  It was originally directed by Fayetteville native Jason Moore (who received a Tony nomination for his direction).

Fireflies and Shooting Stars at Wildwood

firefliesandshootingstars_coverFireflies and Shooting Stars, a children’s book written by Ed Raarup, will have a special presentation at Wildwood with selected readings and song performances from the book featuring Michael Rice, Raarup, Scott Eck and Little Rock’s own Vivian Norman.

There will also be an inspiring presentation by Scott Eck, singer/actor and original designer of Firefly Field, an all-accessible playground for children.

The event will take place today at 2pm at Wildwood Park for the Arts.  There is no admission charge.

The book and songs were written by Raarup and illustrated by Lindsay D. Nery.  This story book has ten chapters, over 80 colorful illustrations and an original soundtrack CD with 12 Songs.  It has been described as “a starlit, magical ride of courage, truth and hope for children of all ages!”

The book was inspired by the song “Fireflies and Shoooting Stars” by Little Rock native Michael Rice.

The book/CD will be available for purchase. A portion of sales will be donated to help fund the development of Firefly Field – an all-accessible playground in Little Rock for kids of all abilities.