Premiere of new production PROJECT ELAN next on stage at Arkansas Rep

Project êlan small2Project Élan is a brand-new, original, culture-current musical that seeks to shed light on the individual and universal needs of the millennial generation. Digital and uniquely undefinable, this generation seeks to find answers in an unpredictable world. And although they may appear to be an age overrun by technology and isolation, their dreams are timeless. The millennial generation still longs for the most basic of human needs – safety, hope and love.

Conceived and directed by The Rep’s Resident Director and Director of Education, Nicole Capri, Project Élan is written by Capri and seven SMTI alumni and staff including. The production, which opens on the 10-year anniversary of The Rep’s Summer Musical Theatre Intensive (SMTI) program, features approximately 50 of the best past and present alumni from the last decade of the program.

Project Élan features a diverse musical score with original songs from almost every genre of music – contemporary-alternative, acoustic-folk, urban-rock, indie-pop, jazz-fusion, Nashville-sound, progressive-Broadway and sunshine-pop.

The word “élan” – is defined in several ways — “to live in the moment,” “to live with reckless abandon and enthusiasm,” “confidence,” and “spirit.” The writers of this piece seek to produce a relevant and relatable musical that speaks to the heart of all generations.

Public previews begin tomorrow with the official opening night on Friday, May 8. The production runs through May 16.

The creative team includes:

  • Nicole Capri – conception, director, choreographer, writer
  • Mark Binns – writer, musical director
  • Bobby Banister – writer
  • Conly Basham – writer
  • Sam Clark – writer
  • Robert Frost – writer
  • Jimmy Landfair – writer
  • Charity Vance – writer
  • Marisa Kirby – choreographer
  • Stephen K. Stone – choreographer
  • Drew Posey – set designer
  • Shelly Hall – costume designer
  • Dan Kimble – lighting designer
  • Lynda J. Kwallek – props designer
  • Travis Mosler – video designer
  • Beth Thiemann – stage manager

Thrills and Chills, Fun and Dysfunction all part of Arkansas Rep 2014-2015 season

ark rep

A large and dysfunctional family, a flying nanny, a tall elf, a menacing thief, a post-Civil War trio and a Rock & Roll pioneer await audiences at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s 39th season in 2014-2015.

“The stories we’ll tell speak to the power of live theatre,” says Robert Hupp, Producing Artistic Director at Arkansas Repertory Theatre. “It’s a season of entertainment, for sure, but it’s also a season of firsts for The Rep and our audience: The new season features engaging plays and musicals, many brought to life for the very first time in our state, all created in our intimate home on Main Street. Three popular and crowd pleasing, over the top musicals complement three amazing plays that embody the best our art form.”

The season kicks off with a regional theatre premiere of a Tony winning Best Musical. Memphis will run from September 5-28. It features a Tony-winning tuneful score by David Bryan which melds rock, blues, gospel and soul. The Tony-winning book is by Joe DiPietro.

“When I first saw Memphis on Broadway, I couldn’t wait for the day we could tell this story on our stage,” says Hupp. “Imagine how pleased I was when the producers contacted us about creating one of the first regional theatre productions of Memphis in the country. It’s a story we all know; it’s the telling of it that will get you on your feet: brash and exciting with music and dancing that will reach and grab you from start to finish.”

Next up, is Frederick Knott’s classic thriller Wait until Dark from October 24 through November 9. Though perhaps best known for the film version starring Audrey Hepburn, it first starred Lee Remick on Broadway (earning her a Tony nomination).

A sinister con man and two ex-convicts are about to meet their match. They have traced the location of a mysterious doll to the Greenwich Village apartment of Sam Hendrix and his wife, Susy. With murder afoot, a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues, as Susy discovers the only way to play fair is to play by her rules.

“It’s been years since we’ve had a thriller in our line-up,” says Hupp. “This retro suspense classic still packs a punch, still brings a gasp, still gets you clutching the arm of the person sitting beside you. Wait Until Dark is scary fun.”

A recent addition to the canon of holiday classic films has been turned into a musical. At the holiday season, Elf will be on stage from December 5 through the 28th. With a book by Tony winners Thomas Meehan (Annie, The Producers) and Bob Martin (The Driwsy Chaperone) and a score by Tony®-nominated songwriting team of Matthew Sklar and Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer), Elf turns one of Hollywood’s most beloved holiday hits into a hilarious and heartwarming musical that towers above the rest.

“Funny and touching, Elf is a musical with a big heart that is just perfect for families this holiday season,” says Hupp.

The year 2015 marks the sesquicentennial of the end of the Civil War. The Rep kicks off 2015 with Matthew Lopez’s award winning play The Whipping Man from January 23 through February 8.

An extraordinary tale of loyalty, deceit and deliverance, The Whipping Man opened off-Broadway in 2011 to critical acclaim, winning the 2011 John Gassner New Play Award from the NY Outer Critics Circle and becoming one of the most produced plays in the country.

On Passover, 1865, the Civil War has just ended and the annual celebration of freedom from bondage is being observed in Jewish homes across the country. A Jewish confederate officer returns from the war, badly wounded, to find his family missing and only two former slaves remaining. As the three wait for the family’s return, they wrestle with their shared past as master and slave, digging up long-buried family secrets as well as new ones.

“Make The Whipping Man a new discovery. It will challenge your assumptions about our history, and the plot twists and turns will keep you on the edge of your seat,” says Hupp. “You’ll want to see why The Whipping Man has established itself as one of the most produced plays in the country.”

Everyone’s favorite British nanny will arrive at the Rep as Mary Poppins takes the stage from March 6 through April 5. With songs by the Academy Award-winning Sherman Brothers (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Jungle Book) and additional music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe it has a book by Oscar winner Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey, Gosford Park). Disney’s stage musical Mary Poppins is based on the similarly titled series of children’s books by P. L. Travers and the 1964 Disney film.

The Broadway production opened in November 2006 and received nominations for seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It won a Tony Award, a Theatre World Award and two Drama Desk Awards. The Broadway production ran formover 2600 performances.

“Bringing Mary Poppins to the stage for the first time for Central Arkansas audiences is a special thrill,” says Hupp. “Like most of us, Mary Poppins has been a part of my life since I was a kid; we all remember the first time we met her and, even today, how many times do we wish someone would drift in from the sky to set everything right? Mary Poppins will be one of the biggest musicals we’ve ever undertaken, and will be a special treat in our intimate theatre.”

The dysfunctional family to end all dysfunctional families will conclude the Rep’s season when the Pulitzer and Tony winning August: Osage County runs from June 5 through 21, 2015.

One of the most bracing and critically acclaimed plays in recent Broadway history, August: Osage County is a darkly comedic portrait of an extended family coming apart and trying to hold itself together. Written by Tracy Letts, August: Osage County was the recipient of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It won five 2008 Tony Awards, including Best Play, three 2008 Drama Desk Awards including Outstanding Play, the 2008 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play, the 2008 Drama League Award for Distinguished Production of a Play and the 2008 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Broadway Play.

“In my opinion, August: Osage County is the best play written in the last ten years,” says Hupp. “We’ve had the rights for a few years but feel we’re now ready to bring this dynamic, funny and powerful new play to life for our audience. Maybe you saw the movie, but you need to meet this family at The Rep.”

In between Mary Poppins and August: Osage County, the stage at the Rep will feature both performances by Ballet Arkansas as well as the Rep’s educational program’s Project Élan.

‘Project elan’ at Arkansas Rep

Project êlan small2Today at 1pm and 7pm, the Arkansas Rep’s Young Artists will perform a new work in progress.
Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s Resident Director and Director of Education, Nicole Capri has assembled a talented team of young musicians and writers to create a brand new, all-original musical, Project élan. This new musical will feature a mix of new songs from a wide variety of genres including contemporary-alternative, acoustic-folk, indie-pop, Nashville-sound and many more.

This year’s summer program will be unlike anything past participants have experienced before at The Rep. Project élan’s summer performances will be a-work- in-progress. Traditionally, The  Rep’s Young Artists have nine days to learn the songs, script and choreography for a summer production;  however, when the young artists arrived in July for rehearsals, the script will not be complete. Young artists will be heavily involved in script, storyline, design and character development. New script, music and staging changes will be made daily.  Audience members will also be encouraged to give feedback, complete surveys and directly interact with the actors and creative team.

The Rep offers two summer programs as part of its Summer Musical Theater Intensive (SMTI) training program for aspiring young artists in Arkansas.The SMTI creative team is comprised of professional directors, choreographers, musicians, designers and writers. Daily rehearsals are structured similarly to a professional summer stock experience and include instruction in musical theatre techniques, multi-media, costume and stage make-up, dance and vocal coaching. Each session involves intensive daily rehearsals culminating in a public workshop performance of a selected musical or musical revue.
Two weeks ago, the older students in SMTI performed Project élan. This weekend it is the time for the younger participants.

The project is overseen by Nicole Capri (director/choreographer) and Karen Q. Clark (music director).  The writers are Bobby Banister, Conly Basham, Sam Clark, Robert Frost, James Ebel Landfair and Charity Vance.  The choreography team includes Stacy Hawking, Sydney Ippolito, Marisa Kirby, Stephen K. Stone and Capri.  Christy Hawking is the assistant to the director and Beth Thiemann is the stage manager.