Bastille Day look at Benard de La Harpe

Today is Bastille Day, or as they say in France, la Fête nationale.  It commemorates both the 1789 storming of the Bastille as well as the 1790 Fête de la Fédération.   

At the time both events occurred, the land today known as Little Rock, like the rest of the Louisiana Purchase, was under Spanish control. (A fact overlooked in the operetta The New Moon which is set in New Orleans during the French Revolution.)

However, since this area was “owned” by the French from 1699 to 1762 and again from 1800 to 1804, it seems appropriate to acknowledge the French heritage of the area on this day.

Even though Arkansas was explored by the French in 1722, no official settlement of the area now known as Little Rock took place until 1812.  There was no permanent settlement until 1820 (though by 1818 settlement was eminent as evidenced by the Quapaw Treaty).

Jean-Baptiste Benard de La Harpe was the lead French explorer who first came to Little Rock in 1722.

From 1718 through 1723, he spent time exploring various areas of the southern sections of North America.  His 1722 trip up the Mississippi and Arkansas Rivers was at least his third such expedition along a river in the area.  From 1718 to 1719, he explored part of what is now Oklahoma up from the Red River.  Next, he explored part of what is now the eastern section of Texas.

After a trip back to France in 1720, he came back to the New World in 1721.  After his February to May 1722 trip up the Mississippi and Arkansas Rivers, he then went to transfer Pensacola to the Spanish on behalf of the French. In 1723 he went back to France and remained there until his 1765 death.

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Rock the Oscars 2019: SOUTH PACIFIC

Written for the stage by Oscar winners Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, along with Oscar nominee Joshua Logan, in 1958 South Pacific was the fourth Rodgers and Hammerstein stage musical to make it to the Silver Screen.  With the female leading character, Nellie Forbush, hailing from Little Rock, there are references to Arkansas and its capital city throughout the film.

Mitzi Gaynor, played the Little Rock native, opposite Rossano Brazzi (with singing help from Giorgio Tozzi). Others in the cast were John Kerr, France Nuyen, Ray Walston, Juanita Hall, and Russ Brown.  Only Hall had been in the Broadway cast.

Though the film was financially successful, it was criticized at the time for its plodding direction (by Logan) and its use of tinted washes to reflect the moods of the characters and the movie.  (If the film was in a bright moment, the screen would take a yellowish hue; during tense times, it might get a blueish tint.)

Ironically, given the criticism of the film’s look, it did receive an Oscar nomination for Cinematography-Color.  It also received a nomination for Scoring of a Musical Picture.  South Pacific won the Oscar for Best Sound, which went to Fred Hynes.  He had previously won an Oscar for work on Oklahoma! and would also win one for The Sound of Music.

Little Rock Look Back: OKLAHOMA! comes to Little Rock for the first time

Program cover from OKLAHOMA!’s February 1948 visit to Little Rock. From the collection of Mary and Booker Worthen.

On February 9, 1948, as the original Broadway run was about to mark five years on Broadway, the national tour of Oklahoma! made its way to Little Rock for eight performances. The week-long stay it had in Little Rock at Robinson Center was a record for that building that would last until Wicked came in 2010.  (Hello, Dolly! in 1966 and Beauty and the Beastin 2002 had both equalled the record.)

By the time Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s first show made it to Little Rock, they were working on their fourth stage show, South Pacific, which had a leading character from Little Rock.

To get Robinson Auditorium ready for Oklahoma!, the Auditorium Commission had to spend $2,000 on upgrades.  That would be the equivalent of just under $21,000 today.

Oklahoma! opened at Robinson on Monday, February 9, 1948.  With eight performances, approximately 24,000 tickets were on sale during the run of the show.  There was a cast of 67 actors and 28 musicians.  The cast was led by Ridge Bond, Carolyn Adair, Alfred Cibelli Jr., Patricia Englund, and David Morris.  Mr. Bond had relatives who lived in Little Rock.  He was a native of Claremore, Oklahoma, which was the town in which the story took place.

OkAdLR

Ad in ARKANSAS GAZETTE on February 8, 1948.

While they were in Little Rock, the stars of the show made an appearance at Reed Music on February 10.  The music store (located at 112 and 114 East 7th Street–across the street from the Donaghey Building) was promoting the sale of the Oklahoma! cast albums, sheet music, and recordings of songs from Oklahoma! by other singers.

Both the Arkansas Gazette and Arkansas Democrat carried reviews of the show.  Another item, which appeared in the paper that week was a syndicated column which noted that the film rights for the show had been sold. It was speculated that the star would be Bing Crosby.  It would actually be 1955 before the film was made, and Mr. Crosby had no connection to that movie.  By the time it was made, the stars were Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones.  Mr. MacRae would appear in Little Rock for the 1963 opening of the Arkansas Arts Center.  Ms. Jones has made several concert appearances in Little Rock over the years.

Little Rock had seen its fair share of top Broadway shows on tour.  Prior to Robinson’s opening and since then, many well-known actors and popular shows had played Little Rock.  But just as it had been on Broadway, Oklahoma! in Little Rock was more than a show — it was an event!

Over the years, Oklahoma! has been performed by schools, churches, community theatres, dinner theatres, and colleges.  National tours have come through Arkansas again.  People have become jaded or dismissive of it, because they have seen it performed so often — and sometimes badly.  So it is hard to understand the excitement that was felt by Little Rock audiences in 1948 when they first saw it on the stage of Robinson Center.

This weekend, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra is bringing Oscar “Andy” Hammerstein III, grandson of the beloved librettist and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, to host a celebration of some of America’s most cherished music from the stage.

A Bastille Day look at Benard de La Harpe

Today is Bastille Day, or as they say in France, la Fête nationale.  It commemorates both the 1789 storming of the Bastille as well as the 1790 Fête de la Fédération.   

At the time both events occurred, the land today known as Little Rock, like the rest of the Louisiana Purchase, was under Spanish control. (A fact overlooked in the operetta The New Moon which is set in New Orleans during the French Revolution.)

However, since this area was “owned” by the French from 1699 to 1762 and again from 1800 to 1804, it seems appropriate to acknowledge the French heritage of the area on this day.

Even though Arkansas was explored by the French in 1722, no official settlement of the area now known as Little Rock took place until 1812.  There was no permanent settlement until 1820 (though by 1818 settlement was eminent as evidenced by the Quapaw Treaty).

Jean-Baptiste Benard de La Harpe was the lead French explorer who first came to Little Rock in 1722.

From 1718 through 1723, he spent time exploring various areas of the southern sections of North America.  His 1722 trip up the Mississippi and Arkansas Rivers was at least his third such expedition along a river in the area.  From 1718 to 1719, he explored part of what is now Oklahoma up from the Red River.  Next, he explored part of what is now the eastern section of Texas.

After a trip back to France in 1720, he came back to the New World in 1721.  After his February to May 1722 trip up the Mississippi and Arkansas Rivers, he then went to transfer Pensacola to the Spanish on behalf of the French. In 1723 he went back to France and remained there until his 1765 death.

Little Rock Look Back: OKLAHOMA! first comes to LR

OkLRbill

Program cover from OKLAHOMA!’s February 1948 visit to Little Rock. From the collection of Mary and Booker Worthen.

On March 31, 1943, Alfred Drake sauntered on the stage of Broadway’s St. James Theatre and sang “Oh, what a beautiful mornin'” to launch OKLAHOMA! into not only theatrical history but popular culture as well.

In February 1948, as the original Broadway run was about to mark five years on Broadway, the national tour of Oklahoma! made its way to Little Rock for eight performances. The week-long stay it had in Little Rock at Robinson Center was a record for that building that would last until Wicked came in 2010.  (Hello, Dolly! in 1966 and Beauty and the Beast in 2002 had both equalled the record.)

By the time Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s first show made it to Little Rock, they were working on their fourth stage show, South Pacific, which had a leading character from Little Rock.

To get Robinson Auditorium ready for Oklahoma!, the Auditorium Commission had to spend $2,000 on upgrades.  That would be the equivalent of just under $21,000 today.

Oklahoma! opened at Robinson on Monday, February 9, 1948.  With eight performances, approximately 24,000 tickets were on sale during the run of the show.  There was a cast of 67 actors and 28 musicians.  The cast was led by Ridge Bond, Carolyn Adair, Alfred Cibelli Jr., Patricia Englund, and David Morris.  Mr. Bond had relatives who lived in Little Rock.  He was a native of Claremore, Oklahoma, which was the town in which the story took place.

OkAdLR

Ad in ARKANSAS GAZETTE on February 8, 1948.

While they were in Little Rock, the stars of the show made an appearance at Reed Music on February 10.  The music store (located at 112 and 114 East 7th Street–across the street from the Donaghey Building) was promoting the sale of the Oklahoma! cast albums, sheet music, and recordings of songs from Oklahoma! by other singers.

Both the Arkansas Gazette and Arkansas Democrat carried reviews of the show.  Another item, which appeared in the paper that week was a syndicated column which noted that the film rights for the show had been sold. It was speculated that the star would be Bing Crosby.  It would actually be 1955 before the film was made, and Mr. Crosby had no connection to that movie.  By the time it was made, the stars were Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones.  Mr. MacRae would appear in Little Rock for the 1963 opening of the Arkansas Arts Center.  Ms. Jones has made several concert appearances in Little Rock over the years.

Little Rock had seen its fair share of top Broadway shows on tour.  Prior to Robinson’s opening and since then, many well-known actors and popular shows had played Little Rock.  But just as it had been on Broadway, Oklahoma! in Little Rock was more than a show — it was an event!

Over the years, Oklahoma! has been performed by schools, churches, community theatres, dinner theatres, and colleges.  National tours have come through Arkansas again.  People have become jaded or dismissive of it, because they have seen it performed so often — and sometimes badly.  So it is hard to understand the excitement that was felt by Little Rock audiences in 1948 when they first saw it on the stage of Robinson Center.

But 75 years later (and 25 years after it was commemorated by the US Postal Service with its own stamp), Oklahoma! is still doing fine.  Countless new generations sing the songs and say the lines.

Two upcoming cultural events in Little Rock are a testament to the genius that helped create Oklahoma!  In May, Ballet Arkansas will present a dance piece which was the final dance created by Agnes de Mille.  Before choreographing Oklahoma!, Miss de Mille was already making her mark in the world of ballet.  She alternated between the two for decades.  At the 1993 Tony Awards, Miss de Mille accepted a special Tony upon the show’s 50th anniversary milestone.

The second connection to Oklahoma! will take place in February 2019.  The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra is bringing Oscar “Andy” Hammerstein III, grandson of the beloved librettist and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, to host a celebration of some of America’s most cherished music from the stage.

Rock the Oscars: SOUTH PACIFIC

Written for the stage by Oscar winners Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, along with Oscar nominee Joshua Logan, in 1958 South Pacific was the fourth Rodgers and Hammerstein stage musical to make it to the Silver Screen.  With the female leading character, Nellie Forbush, hailing from Little Rock, there are references to Arkansas and its capital city throughout the film.

Mitzi Gaynor, played the Little Rock native, opposite Rossano Brazzi (with singing help from Giorgio Tozzi). Others in the cast were John Kerr, France Nuyen, Ray Walston, Juanita Hall, and Russ Brown.  Only Hall had been in the Broadway cast.

Though the film was financially successful, it was criticized at the time for its plodding direction (by Logan) and its use of tinted washes to reflect the moods of the characters and the movie.  (If the film was in a bright moment, the screen would take a yellowish hue; during tense times, it might get a blueish tint.)

Ironically, given the criticism of the film’s look, it did receive an Oscar nomination for Cinematography-Color.  It also received a nomination for Scoring of a Musical Picture.  South Pacific won the Oscar for Best Sound, which went to Fred Hynes.  He had previously won an Oscar for work on Oklahoma! and would also win one for The Sound of Music.

This weekend – Ashley Brown bring Broadway to the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra

POPS5 PhotoThe Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Philip Mann, Music Director and Conductor, presents the fifth and final concert in the 2014-2015 Acxiom Pops Live! Series: Ashley Brown’s Broadway. Fresh from her run as Mary Poppins on Broadway, Ashley Brown and the ASO take over the stage with thrilling renditions of Broadway favorites. All ages will enjoy this special performance featuring music from Wicked, Fiddler on the Roof, The Sound of Music and more familiar hits from Broadway musicals and beloved Disney films.

Concerts are Saturday, May 9, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. & Sunday, May 10, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. and take place at the Pulaski Academy Connor Performing Arts Center, 12701 Hinson Road, Little Rock, AR.

Tickets are $19, $35, $49, and $58; active duty military and student tickets are $10 are can be purchased online at www.ArkansasSymphony.org; at the Connor Performing Arts Center box office beginning 90 minutes prior to a concert; or by phone at 501-666-1761, ext. 100. All Arkansas students grades K-12 are admitted to Sunday’s matinee free of charge with the purchase of an adult ticket using the Entergy Kids’ Ticket, downloadable at the ASO website.

Ashley Brown, soprano, originated the title role in Mary Poppins on Broadway for which she received Outer Critics, Drama League and Drama Desk nominations for Best Actress. Ms. Brown also starred as Mary Poppins in the national tour of Mary Poppins where she garnered a 2010 Garland award for “Best Performance in a Musical.” Ms. Brown’s other Broadway credits include Belle in Beauty and the Beast, and she has starred in the national tour of Disney’s “On The Record.” Ashley recently returned to the Lyric Opera of Chicago to star in the role of Laurey in Oklahoma! She previously played Magnolia opposite Nathan Gunn in Francesca Zembello’s Show Boat at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Ashley has performed with virtually all of the top orchestras in North America.

The Pops Live! Series is sponsored by Acxiom.

The program will include:

ACT ONE

  • Overture: Broadway Tonight  (ASO only)
  • Almost Like Being in Love/This Can’t be Love
  • So In Love
  • Le Jazz Hot
  • Jesus Christ Superstar (arr. Mancini) (ASO only)
  • Feed the Birds from Mary Poppins
  • Disney Medley

INTERMISSION

ACT TWO

  • The Sound of Music Selection (ASO only)
  • Ring Them Bells
  • Grateful
  • The Man I Love
  • Fiddler on the Roof  (arr. John Williams) (ASO only)
  • Defying Gravity
  • Our Time/Children Will Listen (with chorus)
  • I’ll Be Seeing You

(Selections subject to change)