Today at Clinton School – the Arkansas Rep production of CHICAGO

Image may contain: indoorThe Arkansas Repertory Theatre works in partnership with the Clinton School of Public Service to participate in the UACS’s Distinguished Speaker Series, hosting educational panel discussions on various Rep productions.  Now that the Rep is back in production (!), this partnership is back in full force.

The latest in these takes place today, Thursday, February 21 at 12 noon at Sturgis Hall in Clinton Presidential Park.  It focuses on the Rep’s upcoming production of the Kander and Ebb musical Chicago.

Originally a play in the 1920s, it was adapted as a musical in 1974 and 1975 by John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Bob Fosse.  Opportunity knocks when a crime of passion earns Roxie Hart the kind of notoriety that slick-talking attorney Billy Flynn can exploit for her dreams of fame and his hunger for fortune. Roxie’s story captures the imaginations of newspaper readers and reporters who fall hook, line and sinker for Billy’s clever manipulation. Roxie quickly overshadows previous murderess, media darling, and fellow Cook County inmate – vaudevillian Velma Kelly.

Set in the Jazz Age, Kander and Ebb’s legendary, Tony Award-winning musical takes a tantalizing look at how the times may change, but the allure of fame remains a fundamental motivation for those willing to sacrifice their scruples for the spotlight.

The original Broadway production was nominated for 11 Tony Awards and ran for 936 performances. The 1996 Broadway revival is still running (9,251 performances as of this past Sunday) and won 6 Tony Awards.  The 2002 movie won 6 Oscars including Best Picture.

Join the Clinton School for a panel discussion about this production with Ron Hutchins, who is directing the production, and members of the cast and creative team.

The play opens officially on Friday evening and runs through Sunday, March 24.

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Rock the Oscars 2019: Julie Andrews

Photo by Peter Kramer/ Getty Images Entertainment

In April 2002, Oscar winning actress Julie Andrews appeared at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.  The purpose was a fundraiser for a program the Rep had at the time.

The evening consisted of reminiscences from her as well as a conversation with Anne Jansen.  It included discussions of her Oscar winning role in Mary Poppins as well as her Oscar nominated turns in The Sound of Music and Victor/Victoria.

Following the performance, there was a dinner on the Rep’s Second Stage.  Though she no longer sings due to vocal chord damage following a late 1990s surgery, she did sing a childhood Cockney song about Henry VIII after Rollie Remmel sang to her a childhood song about Charles Lindbergh.

While in Little Rock, she toured the Clinton Materials Project which was processing the papers and items from the Clinton White House in advance of the 2004 opening of the Clinton Presidential Center.  She also toured Heifer International.

Rock the Oscars 2019: TRUE GRIT (both versions)

In 1969, Arkansan Charles Portis’ novel True Grit was made into a movie starring John Wayne and Arkansan Glen Campbell.  Kim Darby, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, Jeff Corey and Strother Martin are also in the cast.

The movie was directed by Henry Hathaway, produced by Hal B. Wallis, and written by Marguerite Roberts.  Wilford Brimley and Jay Silverheels are uncredited actors in the movie.

Though set in Arkansas and Oklahoma, the movie was filmed in Colorado.  Elvis Presley was the first choice for the part Campbell would play. But when his manager demanded top billing (over Wayne), he was bypassed and the part went to Campbell.

The movie was nominated for two Oscars: Wayne for Best Actor and composer Elmer Bernstein and lyricist Don Black for the song “True Grit.”  The latter had been sung by Campbell in the movie.

Wayne won the Oscar that night, his only win.  He would reprise the character of Rooster Cogburn in the eponymously named sequel in 1975. This film, in which he co-starred with Katharine Hepburn, was his penultimate film.

In 1970, Campbell teamed up with Kim Darby again in a film written by Roberts based on a Portis book. This time it was Norwood.  It also starred Joe Namath, Carol Lynley, Meredith MacRae, and Dom DeLuise.  It did not repeat the success of the earlier Portis based movie.

In 2010, the Coen Brothers released a new version of Charles Portis’ True Grit.  Co-written and co-directed by Ethan and Joel Coen, it starred Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, Domhnall Gleeson and Elizabeth Marvel.  Unlike the original film, which was filmed in Colorado, this film was actually filmed partially in Arkansas, where  several scenes takes place.  Filming also took place in Texas.  Many Arkansas actors appeared in the film, but at the risk of omitting some, there will not be an attempt to name them.

The film received ten Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Directing, Leading Actor (Bridges), Supporting Actress (Steinfeld), Cinematography, Costume Design, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Art Direction.  Sadly, the film went home empty handed.

Rock the Oscars 2019: John Lithgow

On February 18, 2008, two time Oscar nominee John Lithgow appeared in Little Rock before a packed house at the Statehouse Convention Center.  Sponsored by the Clinton School for Public Service speaker series, he spoke about the importance of the arts.  He also read from his children’s stories to the kids in attendance who he brought up to the front.

Actor, author and singer John Lithgow has appeared in more than 30 films, been nominated for two Oscars and had roles in numerous television shows. Perhaps his most celebrated work came as the loopy character of the alien High Commander, Dick Solomon, on the hit NBC comedy series “3rd Rock from the Sun.”

As an author, Lithgow has written seven New York Times best-selling children’s picture books, including “The Remarkable Farkle McBride,” “Marsupial Sue,” “Micawber,” and “I’m a Manatee.” A graduate of Harvard University, Lithgow helped to establish “Arts First,” a weeklong festival on campus dedicated to the arts, and the “Arts Medal,” given annually to a Harvard graduate for outstanding achievement in the arts.

As a New York Times best-selling author of children’s, Lithgow says he writes in order to educate children “without them knowing it” and labels himself “the perfect man for the job.” Lithgow calls for successful people who achieve their ambitious goals to ask, “What else can I do here?” and “How can I use my success to make things happen?”

His 2008 appearance can be viewed here.

Rock the Oscars 2019: Hal Holbrook

(Photo by Joseph Harris for the AP)

Oscar nominated actor Hal Holbrook’s visits to Little Rock have been fairly regular over the decades.  In the 1980s and 1990s, he came several times in conjunction with the TV shows “Designing Women” and “Evening Shade.”  He also made an appearance at Wildwood in his one man play Mark Twain Tonight.

His first visit to Little Rock was in the mid-1950s.  He was just out of college and on a national tour of schools and small towns performing scenes from Shakespeare opposite his then-wife.

In a lengthy essay reflecting on his early career, Holbrook speaks fondly of his visit to Little Rock and of the grandiose stage and auditorium at Little Rock Central High School.

Rock the Oscars 2019: Robinson Center Performance Hall

Over the years, Robinson Center Performance Hall has played host to numerous Oscar winners and Oscar nominees.

Stage actors Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne made only one movie, but each were Oscar nominated for their performances in The Guardsman.  Over the years, they made several appearances in Little Rock in plays.  Their first visits were to the Little Rock High School auditorium. Once Robinson opened, they appeared on that stage. In There Shall Be No Night, they shared the stage with future Oscar nominee Montgomery Clift.

Two time Oscar winner Helen Hayes appeared on stage at Robinson.  At the time, she was only a single Oscar winner (Best Actress for The Sin of Madelon Claudet).  Later she would pick up her second statuette for Supporting Actress in Airport.

Four time winner Katharine Hepburn graced the stage of Robinson in the 1940s.  Her first Oscar was for Morning Glory.  By the time she appeared at Robinson she had that award.  Later she would pick up Oscars for The Lion in Winter, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and On Golden Pond.

Charles Boyer never won an Oscar in a competitive category (though he was nominated).  He did however win an Honorary Oscar in the 1940s for his promotiono of French culture during World War II.  He appeared on stage at Robinson in the early 1950s as part of the tour of Don Juan in Hell (written by Oscar winner George Bernard Shaw — yes Shaw won an Oscar for the screenplay of Pygmalion.)

Multiple Oscar nominee, and special Oscar recipient, Mickey Rooney appeared on stage at Robinson in 1986 in the national tour of Sugar Babies.

Rock the Oscars 2019: Sam Waterston

On February 15, 2008, Oscar nominated actor Sam Waterston appeared at the Clinton Presidential Center in a Kumpuris Distinguished Lecture Series program sponsored by the Clinton School for Public Service and the Clinton Foundation.

Waterston was joined by the nation’s leading authority on Abraham Lincoln, Harold Holzer in presenting “Lincoln Seen and Heard,” featuring excerpts from Lincoln’s speeches, photographs of the late president and historical commentary.

He received a Best Actor Oscar nomination for 1984’s The Killing Fields.  He has also appeared in the Oscar winning The Great Gatsby and the Oscar nominated Heaven’s Gate, Interiors, Crimes & Misdemeanors, and Nixon.  On stage, Waterston was nominated for a Tony Award and received the Drama League Award for his performance in a revival of Abe Lincoln in Illinois.