Final Few Days for CHICAGO at Arkansas Rep

Image may contain: indoorThere are just a few performances (each with only a few seats) left in the Arkansas Repertory Theatre production of Chicago. 

The musical—book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse; music by John Kander; lyrics by Fred Ebb—is based on a play of the same name by Chicago Tribune reporter and playwright Maurine Dallas Watkins. Ron Hutchins directs and choreographs Chicago which runs through March 24. Tickets are available online at TheRep.org.

The story, set in the mid-1920s Jazz Age, follows the murder trial of Roxie Hart and her slick-talking attorney, Billy Flynn. Roxie quickly becomes the most popular celebrity in Chicago, dethroning fellow inmate Velma Kelly. This legendary musical takes a tantalizing look at how the allure of fame remains a fundamental motivation for those willing to sacrifice their scruples for the spotlight.

Chicago earned five Tony Awards, a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album, seven Drama Desk Awards and two Olivier Awards (for the British production).

The Arkansas Rep cast includes Adriana Milbrath, Daisy Hobbs, Felicia Dinwiddie, Christopher Johnstone, Matt Allen, Z. Spiegel, Matty Rickard, Erik Joshua Clack, Nicholas Karl Brown, Brian Earles, Anthony Bryant, Frederick Webb Jr., Madeleine Corliss, Joi Hester, Rachel Perlman, Sydney Ippolito, Allison Wilson and Sarita Crawford.

The design and creative team includes Trish Clark, costume designer; Lynda J. Kwallek, properties designer; Mike Nichols, resident set designer/technical director; Michael Rice, musical director; and Marty Vreeland, lighting designer. The production manager is Joshua Marchesi and the stage manager is Colin JB. Phillip T. Perez is the assistant stage manager.

Tickets may be purchased online at TheRep.org, by phone at (501) 378-0405 or by visiting the Box Office at 601 Main Street in Little Rock.

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Razzle Dazzle and All that Jazz as CHICAGO opens at Arkansas Rep

Image may contain: indoorArkansas Repertory Theatre opens its 2019 Season with the Tony Award-winning production, Chicago. 

The musical—book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse; music by John Kander; lyrics by Fred Ebb—is based on a play of the same name by Chicago Tribune reporter and playwright Maurine Dallas Watkins. Ron Hutchins will direct and choreograph Chicago which runs Feb. 20-March 24. Tickets are available online at TheRep.org.

The story, set in the mid-1920s Jazz Age, follows the murder trial of Roxie Hart and her slick-talking attorney, Billy Flynn. Roxie quickly becomes the most popular celebrity in Chicago, dethroning fellow inmate Velma Kelly. This legendary musical takes a tantalizing look at how the allure of fame remains a fundamental motivation for those willing to sacrifice their scruples for the spotlight.

Chicago earned five Tony Awards, a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album, seven Drama Desk Awards and two Olivier Awards (for the British production).

The Arkansas Rep cast includes Adriana Milbrath, Daisy Hobbs, Felicia Dinwiddie, Christopher Johnstone, Matt Allen, Z. Spiegel, Matty Rickard, Erik Joshua Clack, Nicholas Karl Brown, Brian Earles, Anthony Bryant, Frederick Webb Jr., Madeleine Corliss, Joi Hester, Rachel Perlman, Sydney Ippolito, Allison Wilson and Sarita Crawford.

The design and creative team includes Trish Clark, costume designer; Lynda J. Kwallek, properties designer; Mike Nichols, resident set designer/technical director; Michael Rice, musical director; and Marty Vreeland, lighting designer. The production manager is Joshua Marchesi and the stage manager is Colin JB. Phillip T. Perez is the assistant stage manager.

Chicago has generous support from Cindy and Chip Murphy.

Tickets start at $20. Discounts are available for full-time students, season subscribers, seniors and military personnel. Tickets may be purchased online at TheRep.org, by phone at (501) 378-0405 or by visiting the Box Office at 601 Main Street in Little Rock. Performances run Feb. 20-March 24. Low-priced previews run Feb. 20-21.

18 Cultural Events from 2018 – Death of Cliff Fannin Baker

On September 6, 2018, Arkansas Rep founder Cliff Fannin Baker died after suffering a brain aneurism a week earlier in New York.

Patrons and actors from the Rep’s earliest days up to the current effort to reopen the Rep were in shock by the news. From the time the news about his hospitalization was announced on September 2, friends and fans alike came together to share their thoughts, love, prayers, bright lights, etc. in a wish for his recovery.

A memorial service was held in October at the Rep. It featured remarks from longtime colleagues as well as music by Vivian Morrison (accompanied by composer Michael Rice) in a song from PAGEANT and members of the cast of SISTER ACT, the last show Cliff directed at Arkansas Rep.

Cliff founded the Rep in 1976 and led it until 1999. He oversaw it as it went from a small group of actors in an abandoned church into a professional theatre. After retiring from the Rep, he would come back every season or so to direct a production.

Below are excerpts from what I wrote about Cliff upon the news of his death.

Cliff Baker willed Arkansas Rep into existence.  He had a merry band of players to join him.  But in the end, it was his vision, his determination, his blood, his sweat, and his tears that made the dream a reality.

[In 1976], the Arkansas Rep was born in an abandoned church space adjacent to MacArthur Park.  Operating for the first few years as a true repertory company, the same core cadre acted, sold tickets, built sets, and cleaned the building. What Cliff was creating in Little Rock was rare at the time.  Professional theatre did not exist in cities of its size.

He had the ability to make people feel connected, to make you feel you were the most important person in the room.  It was that gift that made him a good director, actor, producer, and fundraiser.

….Alas, just as the Rep is on the cusp of a new phase, Cliff won’t be there to direct.  But Cliff WILL be there.  He will always be a part of the Rep. It is more than him, but it is very much him…  Cliff Fannin Baker was a Pied Piper, and we were all glad to follow along.

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.

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).