Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


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Rock the Oscars: A SOLDIER’S STORY

A SOLDIER’S STORY, Denzel Washington, 1984

In September and October of 1983, Norman Jewison and the cast of A Soldier’s Story filmed the movie at various locations in Arkansas.  Little Rock’s Lamar Porter Field was the site for the baseball scenes.  Adolph Caesar would receive an Oscar nomination for his performance in this movie.  Howard Rollins had recently been an Oscar nominee for his performance in Ragtime.  Future Oscar winner Denzel Washington was also featured in the cast.

Based on Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer Prize winning A Soldier’s Play, the movie was directed by Jewison from a script adapted by Fuller.  The film was nominated for three Oscars: Best Picture, Caesar in the Best Supporting Actor category and Fuller in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.

While the movie was filming in Arkansas, Governor Bill Clinton visited the set.  He had also been instrumental in making the Arkansas National Guard and some of the military facilities in the state available.  In addition to filming at Lamar Porter, scenes were shot in Fort Smith and at Fort Chaffee.

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Little Rock Look Back: President Clinton performs with Arkansas Symphony

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton addresses the audience after reciting Martin Luther King’s famous speech, ‘I Have A Dream’, to the music of Alexander L. Miller at Robinson Auditorium March 25, 2003 in Little Rock. (Photo by Karen E. Segrave/Getty Images)

On March 25, 2003, former President Bill Clinton took the stage of Robinson Center Music Hall to perform with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. Entitled “Let Freedom Ring – A Patriotic Celebration,” the evening was a joint fundraiser for the Symphony and the Clinton Foundation.

Before a packed house, Clinton narrated Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait which weaves excerpts from Lincoln speeches with Copland’s own unique classical take on American heartland music.  Clinton also narrated Let Freedom Ring, a symphonic setting by Alexander Miller of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

The evening also consisted of Broadway veteran and Little Rock favorite Lawrence Hamilton singing “Wheels of a Dream” from the musical Ragtime.  On Broadway and on national tour, Hamilton had previously sung the song.

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra also performed An American in Paris by George Gershwin and “Jupiter” from The Planets by Gustav Holst.  This final selection was a tribute to the seven astronauts who had died in the crash of the space shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003.

David Itkin, who was then the musical director of the ASO, conducted the concert.


Before Phantom arrives in LR, Celebrity Attractions offers 4 shows for 2015-16 season

201516 CALRCelebrity Attractions invites you to discover Broadway with the 2015–‐2016 Broadway Season at the Maumelle Performing Arts Center.

The adventure begins as four national Broadway tours take the stage: Celebrate the King himself in ELVIS LIVES. Deck the halls with Broadway and Christmas classics in NEIL BERG’S BROADWAY HOLIDAY. Sing along with the world’s best–‐loved orphan, ANNIE and travel back in time with 13 time Tony® Award nominated musical, RAGTIME.

“We are excited to be able to continue bringing national tours to the Little Rock area during the Robinson Center renovation. The Maumelle Performing Arts Center, located on the Maumelle High School campus, provides an intimate theatrical experience for our patrons,” said Ed. L. Payton, Celebrity Attractions CEO. “We are sure you will become a Broadway fan after discovering our lineup for the Celebrity Attractions’ 2015–2016 Broadway Season.”

ELVIS LIVES October 23–25, 2015 ELVIS LIVES captures the imagination and interest of fans of all ages and all types including Broadway theatregoers, concert lovers and, of course Elvis aficionados. Welcomed by Hutchinson Financial, the theatrical production is an unforgettable multi–‐media and live musical journey across Elvis’ life. Each performer represents Elvis during different stages in his career. The Elvis tribute artists will be joined by a live band, back–‐up singers and dancers, and an Ann–‐Margret tribute artist. Celebrate the King of Rock and Roll in the national hit ELVIS LIVES!

NEIL BERG’S BROADWAY HOLIDAY December 18–20, 2015 This winter Neil Berg’s critically acclaimed musical revue BROADWAY HOLIDAY will deck the halls with Christmas tunes from Broadway scores along with celebrated favorites from Broadway’s hottest shows. Five of Broadway brightest stars direct from New York will take the audience on a journey celebrating the great American songbook, songs from Broadway’s recent blockbusters and Christmas songs to help guarantee you’ll “Have a Merry Little Christmas.” An evening of Broadway stars singing Holiday songs and standards will be the perfect way to warm your heart this Christmas season.

ANNIE February 19–21, 2016 Leapin’ Lizards! The world’s best–‐loved musical will return in time–‐honored form. Directed by original lyricist and director Martin Charnin and choreographed by Liza Gennaro, this production of ANNIE will be a brand new incarnation of the iconic original. Welcomed by the Little Rock Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, ANNIE features a book and score by Tony® Award–‐winners Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin, ANNIE includes such unforgettable songs as “It’s the Hard Knock Life,” “Easy Street,” “I Don’t Need Anything But You,” plus the eternal anthem of optimism, “Tomorrow.” “Overflowing! Big, warm–hearted and funny!” –‐New York Post.

RAGTIME April 15–17, 2016 At the dawn of a new century, everything is changing…and anything is possible. Welcomed by Arkansas Federal Credit Union, RAGTIME will take to the road in all–‐new touring production and is directed and choreographed by Tony nominee Marcia Milgrom Dodge. The stories of an upper–‐class wife, a determined Jewish immigrant and a daring young Harlem musician unfold –‐ set in turn–‐of–‐the–‐century New York –‐–‐ all three united by their desire and belief in a brighter tomorrow. Their compelling stories are set to theatre’s richest and most glorious Tony® Award–‐winning score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens. Winning Tony® Awards for Best Book and Best Musical Score, this 13 time Tony® Award nominated musical is a timeless celebration of life –‐ what it could and should be! Welcomed by KATV and the Maumelle Area Chamber of Commerce

Celebrity Attractions’ 2015–2016 Broadway Season is held at the Maumelle Performing Arts Center, located on the campus of Maumelle High School. To guarantee great seats for all four nationally touring Broadway productions, become a Celebrity Attractions’ 2015–2016 Broadway Season Subscriber.

Season Subscriber benefits include many advantages: the best seats at the lowest prices, the same great seats for every show, the ability to buy additional tickets to individual shows before the public, the option to exchange show tickets to another performance before the public on sale and will be among the first to reserve seats in the newly renovated Robinson Center Music Hall for the 2016–17 Season which features Cameron Mackintosh’s spectacular new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.


Little Rock Look Back: President Clinton performs with Arkansas Symphony

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton addresses the audience after reciting Martin Luther King's famous speech, 'I Have A Dream', to the music of Alexander L. Miller at Robinson Auditorium March 25, 2003 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Clinton was the honored guest for a performance by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra to benefit the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Foundation. (Photo by Karen E. Segrave/Getty Images)

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton addresses the audience after reciting Martin Luther King’s famous speech, ‘I Have A Dream’, to the music of Alexander L. Miller at Robinson Auditorium March 25, 2003 in Little Rock, Arkansas. Clinton was the honored guest for a performance by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra to benefit the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Foundation. (Photo by Karen E. Segrave/Getty Images)

On March 25, 2003, former President Bill Clinton took the stage of Robinson Center Music Hall to perform with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. Entitled “Let Freedom Ring – A Patriotic Celebration,” the evening was a joint fundraiser for the Symphony and the Clinton Foundation.

Before a packed house of over 1700, Clinton narrated Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait which weaves excerpts from Lincoln speeches with Copland’s own unique classical take on American heartland music.  Clinton also narrated Let Freedom Ring, a symphonic setting by Alexander Miller of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.

The evening also consisted of Broadway veteran and Little Rock favorite Lawrence Hamilton singing “Wheels of a Dream” from the musical Ragtime.  On Broadway and on national tour, Hamilton had previously sung the song.  The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra also performed An American in Paris by George Gershwin and “Jupiter” from The Planets by Gustav Holst.  This final selection was a tribute to the seven astronauts who had died in the crash of the space shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003.

David Itkin, who was then the musical director of the ASO, conducted the concert.

 


Black History Month Spotlight – Lawrence Hamilton

LawrenceHamiltonLawrence Hamilton, the son of the Dr. Oscar and Mae Dell Hamilton, was born in the small southwest Arkansas town of Foreman With an interest in music stemming from childhood, Hamilton earned a music scholarship to attend Henderson State University in Arkadelphia where he studied piano and voice He graduated in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in music education.

From Arkansas, Hamilton traveled to Florida to work as a performer at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida where he would meet talent manager, Tommy Molinaro. This fateful meeting would prove to be a life-changing encounter, as Molinaro would invite Hamilton to come to New York to audition for the famed actor/director Geoffrey Holder. This marked the beginning of Hamilton’s bold and creative career in the performing arts, leading to performances on Broadway and on tours in Sophisticated Ladies, The Wiz, Uptown – Its Hot, Porgy and Bess, Big River, Play On!, and Jelly’s Last Jam among others. Perhaps his crowning achievement was starring in Ragtime.

Hamilton has been a member of the Southern Ballet Theater, Brooklyn Dance Theater, Ballet Tap USA, and the Arkansas Opera Theater He has performed in concert with the legendary Lena Horne at the White House for President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, and at the Vatican for Pope John Paul II. Hamilton’s career also led to a stint as musical director for the renowned opera legend Jessye Norman, as well as vocal coach/arranger for the pop group New Kids on the Block

Upon his return to Arkansas, Hamilton served for several years as director of choral music at Philander Smith College. He also appeared in several plays at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre.  In addition, he performed at countless concerts, benefits and galas throughout Arkansas.  In 2003, he was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.  In 2008, he was appointed to the Little Rock Mayor’s Task Force on Tourism.

Hamilton died in New York in April 2014 due to complications from surgery.  Just weeks prior to the surgery, he had appeared in August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson in Cape Fear, North Carolina.  He had also starred in that play at Arkansas Rep a few years earlier.

For more on Lawrence Hamilton and other inductees into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, visit the permanent exhibit at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. That museum is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

 


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.


ROCKing the TONY AWARDS – Debbie Gravitte and Christiane Noll

Rock the TonysGravitte NollDEBBIE GRAVITTE and CHRISTIANE NOLL

LITTLE ROCK connection: Both have appeared with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.  The pair appeared together during one of the Broadway Pops concerts in 2007.  Noll returned in 2010 to appear in the Valentine Pops concert.

Tony Awards connection: Gravitte won the 1989 Tony for Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance in Jerome Robbins’ Broadway. (She was then known by her maiden name, Debbie Shapiro.)  Noll was nominated for a 2010 Tony for Actress in a Musical for her performance in the revival of Ragtime.