T-H-E E-N-D of Rep’s SPELLING BEE

Rep Spelling BeeToday marks the final two performances of the Arkansas Rep production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

From William Finn, the composer of Falsettos, A New Brain and Little Miss Sunshine, comes a Tony Award-winning look at the all-too-familiar world of adolescence, told with hilarity, catchy tunes and surprising poignancy. The musical features a Tony-winning book by Rachel Sheinkin.  It was conceived by Rebecca Feldman with additional material by Jay Reiss.  The Rep’s production is directed by Nicole Capri.

The gloves are off in the take-no-prisoners, cold-blooded, dog-eat-dog world of competitive spelling as a menagerie of pre-pubescent misfits vies to d-e-c-i-m-a-t-e their young rivals on the cutthroat path to the national spelling bee championship.

Hormones rage and pulses pound as our awkward adversaries engage in feats of o-r-t-h-o-g-r-a-p-h-i-c prowess. The winner will receive a shining trophy and a luxurious DC hotel room with a big screen TV. The loser – nothing but a broken heart, a pat on the back and a juice box.

“A truly funny, unpredictable night of theatre,” said Bob Hupp. “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Beeis never the same musical twice. The actors’ wit and verbal agility are put to the test night after night as each new audience brings new hilarity to the performance. If you can spell “cow”, then this musical is for you.”

Join The Rep onstage (quite literally, since several lucky audience members will be asked to show off their spelling chops alongside the cast each night) as we bring you this sidesplitting, irreverent, interactive musical comedy hit!

Monday Musings – Jay Clark

Jay ClarkWhen Jay Clark is not on stage at the Arkansas Rep or other local theatres, you will might find him in a pulpit or leading a youth outing at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church.  His “day job” is Pastor with Youth and Their Families at PHUMC.  He is currently an understudy for Vice-Principal Panch in the Arkansas Rep production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. He is set to perform on the 22nd and 23rd this week (Thursday and Friday).  If you saw him in multiple roles in the Rep’s production of Hairspray, you know you’re in for a good show!
After graduating from the American Musical and Dramaitc Academy in New York, Jay worked behind the scenes on Broadway/Off-Broadway productions of The Sunshine Boys(with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman), The Gin Game (with Julie Harris and Charles Durning), Jekyll and Hyde, The Life, and An Evening with Jerry Herman.  He has worked with United Methodist youth in New England, New York City, Arkansas, North Carolina and Nashville.
-My earliest memory was (age and incident)

Maybe watching Aloha from Hawaii. I was only a few years old, but I remember sitting in front of the tv on the bean-bag and watching. It was either this or dancing with a stuffed animal fox.

-When I was in high school and imagined my adulthood, I thought I would be…

An actor, no doubt. Plus I wanted a fulfilling life.

-Star Wars, Star Trek, Battle of the Network Stars, or Dancing with the Stars?

Battle of the Network Stars.

-I most identify with the Winnie the Pooh character of…

Tigger…although I have my Christopher Robin moments.

-The performer I’d drop everything to see is…

Dead or alive? George Burns, Jack Benny, Don Rickles, The Rat Pack – I tend to be old school.

-My first paying job was…
digging ditches and house footings for my grandpa. Then as a radio dj for KRLW in Walnut Ridge
-A book I think everyone should read is….
anything by Dostoevsky
-My favorite season is…
Fall
-We are all geeks (or experts) about something. My field is….
Theatre

See the BEE

Rep Spelling BeeF-U-N is all the spelling you need to know to go see The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. This musical comedy with heart and smarts is running now through November 8 at Arkansas Repertory Theatre.

A 2005 Tony winner for Best Book of a Musical, Spelling Bee (as it shall hereafter be abbreviated) explores the twists and turns of both the eponymous academic competition and the struggle known as adolescence. While William Finn’s score may not be as strong as some of his other shows, it is a mixture of peppy and heart-felt songs that illuminate the chaos and character of each competitor.

There are six main competitors in the Bee. Each of the adult actors playing these juvenile spellers does a masterful job of balancing the demands of the roles. They must portray youngsters, without it becoming a parody. Ethan Paulini creates yet another endearingly offbeat character at the Rep as Leaf Coneybear. Tessa Faye’s Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre shifts seamlessly between exuberance and frustration. Laura Dadap aptly showcases her many talents as overachiever Marcy Park.

As Chip Tolentino, Tommy Martinez is so clean-cut and charming that his character’s unfortunate physical condition is endearing and not creepy. Conly Basham brings warmth, pathos, and heart to the role of Olive Ostrovsky, which keeps the character from straying into the realm of the pitiful or maudlin. As William Barfee (pronounced Bar-fay, except by everyone else on stage), Patrick Halley embraces the profound oddities and quirks in the character without making him grotesque.

Playing the adults are the warm Andi Watson as a former spelling bee champion intent on reliving her glory days, the officiously hilarious Scott McLean Harrison as a frustrated and frustrating Assistant Principal, and Correy West as a community service grief counselor. Watson and Harrison are kept on their toes throughout the show as they must interact with the guest spellers from the audience.

This is no cookie-cutter production of Spelling Bee. Director Nicole Capri has crafted a production that plays to the unique strengths of each of the actors. She keeps the show moving at a good pace, while allowing it to slow down enough for the audience and actors to enjoy the moments of bliss and melancholy. Capri obviously created a rehearsal environment encouraging the actors to take risks and to have fun.

Musical Director Mark Binns again excels in serving the score, singers and the audience. Mike Nichols’ set recreates a school gymnasium down to the ropes dangling from a ceiling. Shelly Hall’s costumes capture the personalities of each character in a fresh way. Dan Kimble’s lighting and Allan Branson’s sound design are vital to reflecting the different moods and moments as the story sometimes shifts to different planes of consciousness. Lynda J. Kwallek’s props ensure the show has a lived-in look.

While the show may have a message about the value of every person, it is not a “MESSAGE” show. It is intended to be fun. The Arkansas Rep production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee gets the gold cup for providing an enjoyable, entertaining, and enlightening outing at the theatre.

T-o-n-i-g-h-t The Rep opens The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Rep Spelling BeeF-U-N is guaranteed at the Arkansas Rep production of the Tony winning The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. This musical comedy opens tonight for a run through November 8.

From William Finn, the composer of Falsettos, A New Brain and Little Miss Sunshine, comes a Tony Award-winning look at the all-too-familiar world of adolescence, told with hilarity, catchy tunes and surprising poignancy. The musical features a Tony-winning book by Rachel Sheinkin.  It was conceived by Rebecca Feldman with additional material by Jay Reiss.  The Rep’s production is directed by Nicole Capri.

The gloves are off in the take-no-prisoners, cold-blooded, dog-eat-dog world of competitive spelling as a menagerie of pre-pubescent misfits vies to d-e-c-i-m-a-t-e their young rivals on the cutthroat path to the national spelling bee championship.

Hormones rage and pulses pound as our awkward adversaries engage in feats of o-r-t-h-o-g-r-a-p-h-i-c prowess. The winner will receive a shining trophy and a luxurious DC hotel room with a big screen TV. The loser – nothing but a broken heart, a pat on the back and a juice box.

“A truly funny, unpredictable night of theatre,” said Bob Hupp. “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Beeis never the same musical twice. The actors’ wit and verbal agility are put to the test night after night as each new audience brings new hilarity to the performance. If you can spell “cow”, then this musical is for you.”

Join The Rep onstage (quite literally, since several lucky audience members will be asked to show off their spelling chops alongside the cast each night) as we bring you this sidesplitting, irreverent, interactive musical comedy hit!

Intended for adult audiences.

C-l-i-n-t-o-n S-c-h-o-o-l hosts program on The Rep production of “SPELLING BEE” today at noon

Rep Spelling BeeThe 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.

The 24th of these takes place today, Thursday, October 15 10 at 12 noon at Sturgis Hall in Clinton Presidential Park.  It focuses on the Rep’s upcoming production of the musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a Tony Award-winning look at the all-too-familiar world of adolescence, told with hilarity, catchy tunes, and surprising poignancy. The gloves are off in the take-no-prisoners, cold-blooded, dog-eat-dog world of competitive spelling as a menagerie of pre-pubescent misfits vies to decimate their young rivals on the cutthroat path to the national spelling bee championship. Hormones rage and pulses pound as our awkward adversaries engage in feats of prowess.

The winner will receive a shining trophy and a luxurious DC hotel room with a big screen TV. The loser – nothing but a broken heart, a pat on the back and a juice box. Join the Clinton School for a panel discussion about this production with moderator Bob Hupp, producing artistic director at the Arkansas Repertory Theater.

The play opens officially on Friday evening and runs through Sunday, November 8.

Creative Class of 2015: Mark Binns

mark binnsComposer, arranger, vocal coach, musical director, pianist, teacher, performer.  Mark Binns is all of these things.

He has been involved with Arkansas Repertory Theatre for six seasons now as a keyboardist, musical director and composer. Mark has been the Rep’s musical director for White Christmas, Les Miz, Memphis, and Elf. He has is currently at work on their upcoming The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.  For the Rep, he has also worked on their Summer Musical Theatre Intensive for several years.

In addition to the Rep, he often works with the Studio Theatre and Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre.  Other regional Musical Director credits include Hairspray, Oliver!, Cinderella, Pippin, The Last Five Years and Fiddler on the Roof. He has composed original music for the University of Central Arkansas’ production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle and served as Vocal Director/Arranger for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra’s Holiday Fantasy.

When not working on a show, he can often be found performing at the Lobby Bar, the Afterthought or any number of other venues in Little Rock.

Single Tickets On Sale at Ark Rep on Monday

ScottishPlayThe 2015-2016 season is the 40th one for the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. The audience gets the gifts.  It is not too late to subscribe, but for those wanting single tickets, the wait is almost over.  Single tickets go on sale on Monday, August 17.

The season kicks off with William Shakespeare’s Scottish play about the Thane of Cawdor and his wife Lady M. The cauldron the witches stir is not the only toil and trouble on the heaths and moors of Scotland.  It will run September 11-27.

SpellingBeeNext up is the Tony winning musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. This tuneful, witty musical with book by Rachel Sheinkin and songs by William Finn, will play from October 16 to November 8.

TheLittleMermaidDisney’s The Little Mermaid will be the holiday show running from December 4 to January 3.  It will be a regional premiere of this musical featuring a book by Pulitzer and Tony winner Doug Wright and a score by the Oscar winning team of Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, with additional lyrics by Glenn Slater.

Starcatcher2016 will start off with another regional premiere–Peter and the Starcatcher.  This prequel to the Peter Pan stories is by Rick Elice. Though a play, it does have some songs by Wayne Barker and Elice.  This winner of  five Tony Awards will be on stage from January 15 to February 7.

BridgesThe regional theatre premiere of The Bridges of Madison County will take place on the Arkansas Rep stage from April 8 to May 1.  This musical has a Tony winning score by Jason Robert Brown and a book by Pulitzer and Tony winner Marsha Norman.

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 11.49.51 AMThe main stage season will conclude with a world premiere play Windfall.  Directed by Tony winner Jason Alexander, this comedy by Scooter Pietsch looks at greed among a group of office workers.  It will run from June 10 to 26.

The artwork for the shows for the 40th anniversary season was created by Marty Baragiola of Baragiola Creative.