Robinson Redux – February

grand opening adHere are some of the highlights from the annals of the Robinson Center Music Hall nee Joseph Taylor Robinson Memorial Auditorium.  This entry looks at bookings from Februarys in years ending with an 0 or 5.

The building was officially dedicated on February 16, 1940.  A few days earlier a children’s theatre troupe had entertained school kids with a performance in the music hall.  Also that month high school basketball continued in the exhibition hall.  The month had kicked off with a much more glamorous event as the Movie Ball took place in the exhibition hall.

The year 1945 featured a ecumenical Christian Youth Rally on February 4, a concert featuring Tito Guizar on February 7, the operetta Blossom Time on February 8 and the long-running comedy Life with Father on February 19.   In 1950, Robinson’s offerings ran from the Grand Ole Opry featuring Hank Williams (February 5), to Dick Contino (February 8) to the magician Blackstone (February 10 & 11) as well as the opera Il Trovatore (February 15) and a recital featuring Mrs. Rece Price (February 21).

By the mid 1950s, the touring business was changing.  The only notable booking at Robinson in February 1955 was on February 20 as it featured the Duke of Paducah and a little known singer from Mississippi named Elvis Presley.  Five years later, Jackie Wilson and Jesse Belvin headlined a concert on February 5, 1960. The Venable Quartet and several other gospel groups performed on February 12 and the Beaux Arts Bal de Tete took place on February 19.  In 1965, Donald Voorhees and the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra were in concert on February 21.

February 1970 showed much more activity.  Husband and wife Phil Ford and Mimi Hines starred in the national tour of I Do! I Do! on February 6 & 7. That show had been a hit on Broadway in the 1966-1967 season. Another hit from that season, Cabaret, played on February 19 & 20 with Tandy Cronyn starring.  In between, contralto Bernadette Greevy presented a recital.

Musician Jerry Jeff Walker performed at Robinson on February 23, 1975.  Earlier that month (February 19), the national tour of Pippin stopped by with Barry Williams (aka Greg Brady) in the title role.  Five years later, Ballet Arkansas welcomed Cynthia Gregory and Patrick Bissell in a performance on February 7, 1980. Later that month Mason Williams and his Bluegrass Band performed with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra on February 23.  The next two nights, a tour of Jesus Christ Superstar took the stage.

David Copperfield kicked off February 1985 with two shows on the 1st.  The next day the musical The Cotton Patch Gospel was performed.  Musican Carman performed on February 25.  In February 1990, Peabo Bryson and jazz extraordinaire Billy Mitchell shared the stage on February 22.

In 1995, the focus was on music.  There was “An Evening with John Bayless” on February 7 as part of the Greater Little Rock Community Concert Association.  On February 11, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra presented an evening of music of Rodgers & Hammerstein.  A few days later on February 17, various musical groups presented an evening of gospel music. The next night, Gladys Knight shook the house in a concert.  The month ended on February 28 with Nancy Griffith and the Blue Moon Orchestra. A February 8 concert with Della Reese was cancelled due to poor ticket sales.

Five years later, highlights included a tour of Camelot on February 15 – 18, and a staged concert version of the opera La Boheme presented by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.  In 2005, Kenny Loggins performed with the Arkansas Symphony on the 11 & 12. The ASO also presented an all Tchaikovsky concert with Jon Kimura Parker on piano.  Earlier in the month, President George W. Bush hosted a town hall forum on Social Security at Robinson Center.

In 2010, the ASO Valentine Pops concert featured Christiane Noll and Doug LaBrecque.  From February 16-18 STOMP rang out throughout Robinson.  The month ended on a more quieter note as the ASO and Philippe Quint presented the Violin Concerto by Jean Sibelius.

LR Cultural Touchstone: Jana Beard

BeardJana Beard has taught dance in the central Arkansas area for over 30 years and has been the owner and director of her own studio for over twenty of those years.

In addition to being committed to offering the highest quality of instruction and the opportunity to experience all forms of dance, she has enjoyed performing in many Arkansas Rep productions, including Sweet Charity, Guys and Dolls, Chicago, Good Woman of Setzuan, A Soldiers Tale, Evita and Into The Woods.

Jana attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville as a dance major, and while at UALR she performed in the productions of Cabaret and Pippin.  She has also been an instructor in the Theatre and Dance Department.

She has served for many years as director and choreographer for the bi-annual legal cast spoof The Gridiron (which returned this year after a hiatus) and has also served as the stage director for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s Christmas Spectacular.

A few years ago, Ballet Arkansas was on the brink of closing its doors.  Jana let the organization use space within her studio complex for offices, classes and rehearsals.  She sometimes served as the only staff member as the ballet was trying to regain its footing.  In addition, for several years she was the coordinator of The Nutcracker which was Ballet Arkansas’ only revenue source during the lean years.

Because of her lifeline, Ballet Arkansas is now poised to grow to heights never seen in the company’s history.  The move to Main Street, the new programming and statewide touring would not have been possible had Jana not offered a home when it needed it.

In addition, Jana choreographed high school musicals in which the Culture Vulture appeared in the 1980s.

PIPPIN to do, just for you at Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre

PrintThe Broadway smash hit Pippin is coming to central Arkansas!  This winner of the 2013 Tony for “Best Musical Revival” is the story of a young man (who happens to be the son of the great King Charlemagne) and his  journey to find where he belongs in the world, his “Corner of the Sky.”  With a cast of colorful characters, lively dancing, soulful tunes from Stephen Schwartz (Wicked), and direction and choreography by North Little Rock-native Jeremy Williams, this musical will have you mesmerized from beginning to end.

Performances started earlier this month and continue today at 2pm, at 2pm & 7:30pm on Wednesday, June 25 and 2pm & 7:30pm on Friday, June 27. It is performed at the Reynolds Center on the UCA campus.

Garrett Whitehead plays the title role. Others in the cast are Evan Tyrone Martin, Dan Matisa, Matthew Holcomb, Holly Ruth Gale, Laurie Pascale, Kelly Karcher, Drew Price, Jonathan Altman, Rebecca Kuo, Hannah Moulder, Moriah Patterson, Fernando Quinones, and Benjamin Stidham.

ROCKing the TONY AWARDS – Larry Payton

Rock the TonyspaytonLARRY PAYTON

Little Rock connection: Founder and longtime leader of Celebrity Attractions which has brought Broadway shows to Little Rock since 1998. Though he died in 2013, the firm continues to bring shows to Little Rock.

Tony Awards connection: Nominated for producing the revivals of Peter Pan and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

He was a partner in the Independent Presenters Network which won Tonys for producing Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002), Spamalot (2005), and La Cage aux Folles (2010). It also was nominated for producing The Color Purple and Leap of Faith as well as revivals of Guys and Dolls and Ragtime. Last season, it won Tonys for producing Kinky Boots and Pippin.

Larry was also served on the Board of Governors for The Broadway League, the presenter of the Tonys, and was a Tony voter.

450 Years of the Bard

SHakes450Today is the traditionally observed birthday of William Shakespeare. It is known he was born in 1564, which makes this the 450th birthday.

The Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre earlier announced the lineup for the 2014 season.   The dates have now been announced.

Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare – June 5, 6, 7, 13, 15, 19, 21, 22
Enjoy a romantic evening under the stars with Shakespeare’s comedy of best friends divided by love, featuring wise-cracking servants and a playful pup.  This will be performed outdoors at the Hendrix Village in Conway and in North Little Rock.  One of Shakespeare’s early plays, it features romantic mixups, disguises, deception and a happy ending, all of which would become hallmarks of Shakespeare’s comedies.

Pippin featuring libretto by Robert O. Hirson and score by Stephen Schwartz – June 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 22, 25, 27
Based loosely on the lives of Charlemagne and Pepin, it tells the story of a young prince named Pippin who undertakes a musical journey of self-discovery that celebrates the magic of theatre. The current Broadway production was the winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Revival.  This will be presented in the Reynolds Center on the UCA campus.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare – June 20, 21, 24, 26, 28
Perhaps Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, Prince Hamlet seeks to revenge his father’s death.  Directed by Robert Quinlan, who helmed the acclaimed 2012 production of Richard III, it will be presented in an intimate on-stage setting at the Reynolds Center.

The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare – June 24, 26, 28
This will be the touring production in a pared down special adaptation of Shakespeare’s rip-roaring farce, perfect for kids of all ages.

 

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre will be presenting The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged) June 4 through 29.

A parody of the plays of William Shakespeare, this comic romp features all of the Bard’s plays being performed in shortened, and side-splitting, form.

Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield (former founding members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company) and first performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1987, The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged) later played at the Criterion Theatre in London, where it ran for nine record-breaking years.

It has become one of the world’s most popular shows, playing frequently in a variety of languages, and is most notable for holding the (self- proclaimed) world record for the shortest- ever performance of Hamlet, clocking in at just 43 seconds.

You don’t have to be a fan of Shakespeare, or even familiar with his plays, to enjoy this inventive, fast-paced comedy!

a parody of the plays of William Shakespeare, with all of them being performed in shortened, and side- splitting, form.

Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer, and Jess Winfield (former founding members of the Reduced Shakespeare Company) and first performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1987, The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged) later played at the Criterion Theatre in London, where it ran for nine record-breaking years.

Rep Resident Director Nicole Capri

It has become one of the world’s most popular shows, playing frequently in a variety of languages, and is most notable for holding the (self- proclaimed) world record for the shortest- ever performance of Hamlet, clocking in at just 43 seconds.

You don’t have to be a fan of Shakespeare, or even familiar with his plays, to enjoy this inventive, fast-paced comedy!
– See more at: http://www.therep.org/attend/productions/CompleatWrksofWlmShkspr/#sthash.0dYAjSpc.dpuf

The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)
The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)
The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)

Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre 2014 Lineup

AST_logoLittle Rock native Rebekah Scallet, the artistic director of the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, has announced the lineup for the 2014 season.  In announcing the season, she has described the shows as being about people in search of their identity.

Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare
Enjoy a romantic evening under the stars with Shakespeare’s comedy of best friends divided by love, featuring wise-cracking servants and a playful pup.  This will be performed outdoors at the Hendrix Village in Conway and in North Little Rock.  One of Shakespeare’s early plays, it features romantic mixups, disguises, deception and a happy ending, all of which would become hallmarks of Shakespeare’s comedies.

Pippin featuring libretto by Robert O. Hirson and score by Stephen Schwarz
Based loosely on the lives of Charlemagne and Pepin, it tells the story of a young prince named Pippin who undertakes a musical journey of self-discovery that celebrates the magic of theatre. The current Broadway production was the winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best Revival.  This will be presented in the Reynolds Center on the UCA campus.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Perhaps Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, Prince Hamlet seeks to revenge his father’s death.  Directed by Robert Quinlan, who helmed the acclaimed 2012 production of Richard III, it will be presented in an intimate on-stage setting.

The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare
This will be the touring production in a pared down special adaptation of Shakespeare’s rip-roaring farce, perfect for kids of all ages.

Specific dates and further details will be announced soon.

Tickets to WICKED in LR go on sale today!

wickedOz returns to the Rock as the Tony winning musical Wicked returns to Robinson Center Music Hall from September 25 through October 6.

Tickets go on sale today.

When Wicked was here in 2010, it set box office records.  It also sold out in a record time.

Based on the best-selling 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire, Wicked, has won a Grammy and three Tony Awards.  Wicked features songs by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Pippin, and Working) and a book by Winnie Holzman (“My So Called Life,” “Once And Again” and “thirtysomething”).  It tales the untold story of the witches of Oz.  The musical is directed by two-time Tony Award-winner Joe Mantello (Take Me Out, Love! Valour! Compassion!, The Receptionist).

Two other girls meet in the Land of Oz.  One – born with emerald-green skin – is smart, fiery and misunderstood.  The other is beautiful, ambitious and very popular.  “Wicked” tells the story of their remarkable odyssey, and how these two unlikely friends grow to become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good.

Presented by Celebrity Attractions, the production takes center stage at Robinson Center Music Hall for a limited two-week engagement.

The performance schedule is as follows:

  • 7:30 p.m Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday
  • 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday
  • 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
  • 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26 (special matinee)

Prices start at $43.

Tickets can be purchased here, or by calling (501) 244-8800 or stopping by the Celebrity Attractions Box Office at 300 S. Spring, Little Rock.

For more information about the performances, click here.