Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area

20 years of THE LION KING

On November 13, 1997, THE LION KING opened on Broadway.  It would go on to win six 1998 Tony Awards including Best Musical.  Today it celebrates its 20th Birthday!  It has played 8,325 performances on Broadway.

This coming April the entire Serengeti will come to life inside the newly renovated Robinson Performance Hall when Celebrity Attractions brings this Disney production to Little Rock!

More than 90 million people around the world have experienced the awe-inspiring visual artistry, the unforgettable music, and the uniquely theatrical storytelling of this Broadway spectacular “one of the most breathtaking and beloved productions ever to grace the stage.

THE LION KING brings together one of the most imaginative creative teams on Broadway.  Tony Award®-winning director Julie Taymor brings to life a story filled with hope and adventure set against an amazing backdrop of stunning visuals.  THE LION KING also features the extraordinary work of Tony Award®-winning choreographer Garth Fagan and some of Broadway’s most recognizable music, crafted by Tony Award®-winning artists Elton John and Tim Rice.



Four other musicals join THE LION KING in 2017-2018 Celebrity Attractions lineup

lion-king-ca-logoIn 2016, it was announced that Celebrity Attractions would bring The Lion King to Little Rock’s Robinson Center Performance Hall during the 2017-2018 season.

Now the dates for that show have been announced, as have the names and dates for four other musicals.

The Lion King, winner of the 1998 Tony Award for Best Musical, will play in Little Rock from April 18 through May 6, 2018.

The season will kick off with Kinky Boots, which won the 2013 Tony Award for Best Musical (playing October 13-15, 2017).  The 1987 Tony winning Best Musical Les Miserables returns to Little Rock from November 29 through December 3, 2017.

The stage version of Dirty Dancing will not be put in a corner, but it will be put on Robinson’s stage from March 16 to 18, 2018.  The season will conclude with Tony winning Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.  It will play from May 29 through June 3, 2018.

The remaining shows of the 2016-2017 are The Phantom of the OperaRiverdance, and Motown-The Musical.  Phantom, the 1988 Tony winner for Best Musical, plays March 8 through 19.  Riverdance‘s 20th anniversary tour plays in Little Rock from April 14 through 16.  Motown will rock Little Rock from June 21 through 25.

Creative Class 2016: Gretchen Hall

cc16-hallA hardhat and reflective vest have been part of Gretchen Hall‘s work wardrobe almost every day for the past 30 months.  As the President and CEO of the Little Rock Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, she has been actively overseeing the deconstruction and reconstruction of Robinson Center Music Hall. Taking a New Deal era assembly hall and making it into a state-of-the-art performance facility is not an easy task. Gretchen and her team have worked with the architects, engineers, designers and consultants to make it happen.

Gretchen joined LRCVB in 2001 and has worked her way up through the organization.  In May 2011, she was named to her current position.  Since that time, the LRCVB has undertaken numerous efforts to enhance Little Rock’s cultural life including a new amphitheatre in Riverfront Park, enhanced programming at the River Market, and increased financial support of cultural organizations.  In addition, she helped lead the effort to see the additional penny of the hotel tax be dedicated to support the Arkansas Arts Center and MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. That tax was approved by voters earlier in 2016.

The new Robinson Center will feature seats that are closer to the stage and acoustics that can be adjusted to maximize the different needs of a symphony performance and a Broadway musical.  The changes in the facility have already attracted bookings by the national tours of The Phantom of the Opera (in 2017) and The Lion King (in 2018).  In addition, there will be new special event space including a ballroom and meeting rooms.  The historic lobby at the top of the iconic front steps is being restored to its original appearance — much of which was stripped away or covered up in the early 1970s.

After the November 10 ribbon cutting, Robinson Center will be re-opened.  As Hall points out, almost all residents of Central Arkansas have a connection to Robinson Center. She notes in her family alone, her mother played basketball there, her own high school graduation was there, and her niece has appeared in Ballet Arkansas’ The Nutcracker there.

Broadway Rocks the Arkansas Symphony this weekend

ASO NewThe Arkansas Symphony Orchestra welcomes Christiane Noll, Capathia Jenkins and Rob Evan for a weekend of Broadway music backed by the ASO.

Under the direction of Associate Conductor Geoffrey Robson, this high energy show brings together exciting vocalists from the Broadway stage performing selections from rock and contemporary Broadway hits. Wicked, The Lion King, Mamma Mia, Rent, The Wiz, The Phantom of the Opera – and many more of your favorites from the stage are featured on this exciting show for all ages!

Act I

  • Rocks Overture (arr. Fleischer)
  • Everybody Rejoice (The Wiz/Smalls)
  • This Is The Moment (Jekyll and Hyde/Wildhorn)
  • Good Morning Baltimore (Hairspray/Shaiman)
  • Jersey Boys Medley
  • Total Eclipse Circle of Life (Lion King/John)
  • Proud Mary (Fogerty)
  • Jesus Christ Superstar Overture (Lloyd Webber)
  • Seasons of Love (Rent/Larsen)
  • You Can’t Stop the Beat (Hairspray/Shaiman)


Act II

  • Come Sail Away
  • For Good (Wicked/Schwartz)
  • Anthem (Chess/Andersson/Ulvaeus)
  • I Will Survive
  • Defying Gravity (Wicked/Schwartz)
  • Mamma Mia Medley (Andersson/Ulvaeus)
  • And I Am Tellin’ You (Dreamgirls/Krieger)            
  • Phantom of the Opera (Phantom/Lloyd Webber)
  • Music of the Night (Phantom/Lloyd Webber)

All programs, dates and guest artists subject to change.

Capathia Jenkins, created the role of ‘Medda’ in the hit Disney production of Newsies on Broadway. She made her Broadway debut in The Civil War. She then starred in the Off-Broadway 2000 revival of Godspell. She returned to Broadway in The Look of Love and was critically acclaimed for her performances of the Bacharach/David hits. Ms. Jenkins then created the roles of ‘The Washing Machine’ in Caroline, Or Change and ‘Frieda May’ in Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, where she sang ‘Stop the Show’ and brought the house down every night.

Christiane Noll was nominated for both the 2010 Tony Award and Drama Desk Award and won a Helen Hayes Award for her portrayal of Mother on Broadway in the Kennedy Center Revival of Ragtime. She made her Broadway debut starring in Jekyll & Hyde, creating the role of Emma. Ms. Noll received an Ovation Award for her comedic turn as Hope Cladwell in the National Tour of Urinetown, wowed audiences again as Vanna Vane in the new musical The Mambo Kings, soared as Jane Smart in the American premiere of The Witches of Eastwick, and most recently received another Drama Desk nomination for her work in Chaplin.

Rob Evan has performed in seven leading roles on the New York Stage including the original Broadway cast of Jekyll & Hyde, playing the title roles for three years and over 1,000 performances worldwide. He also appeared on Broadway as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, Kerchak in Disney’s Tarzan, “The Dentist” in Little Shop of Horrors, and Count von Krolock in Jim Steinman’s Dance of the Vampires. Off-Broadway, Rob created the roles of The Dancin’ Kid in Johnny Guitar and the hero Miles Hendon in Neil Berg’s m.

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2015-16 ASO Pops includes Cirque, Broadway, Movies and Holiday Favorites

aso_2-colorThe Arkansas Symphony Orchestra returns to the Connor Performing Arts Center on the Pulaski Academy campus for the 2015-2016 season.  There is still time to order your tickets.

Things get started on October 24 & 25 with “Cirque Musical.” Debuting this summer at the Hollywood Bowl, this evening will feature contortionists, balances and jugglers providing a visual feast for the eyes while the ASO will play classical and contemporary music.

From December 18 to 20, it will be “Holiday Pops with the ASO.” This long-running tradition will feature Christmas carols and other holiday songs

February 13 & 14 will be “Broadway Rocks!” Featuring Broadway stars Christiane Noll, Carpathia Jenkins and Rob Evans, this evening will feature songs from such Broadway shows as Rent, Wicked, Mamma Mia, The Lion King, The Wiz and The Phantom of the Opera.  A lot of people throw around the term “Broadway stars” but these three deserve it.  If they are in a show, they steal it!

The Pops season will conclude with “The Movie Music of John Williams” on May 7&8.  The ASO will play selections from some of Williams’ mist famous movies. He has win 5 Oscars, 6 Emmys, 25 Golden Globes and 22 Grammys.

ROCKing the TONY AWARDS – Peter Schneider

Rock the TonysSchneider_webPETER SCHNEIDER

Little Rock connection: Directed and conceived the Arkansas Repertory Theatre revival of Pal Joey which opened the 2013-2014 season.

Tony Awards connection: Won a Tony Award for producing The Lion King on Broadway.

ROCKing the TONY AWARDS – Billy Joel and Elton John

Rock the Tonys

Joel and John in photo by  Dimitrios Kambouris/

Joel and John in photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/


Little Rock Connection: Both have performed in Little Rock over the years.  In 1995, they played a joint concert at War Memorial Stadium which brought in $1.6 million. An additional Little Rock connection for Joel – who’s birthday is today – is in his song “We Didn’t Start the Fire” there are references to South Pacific (which had a fictional Little Rock heroine), Little Rock resident Winthrop Rockefeller, and the 1957 integration crisis at Little Rock Central High.

Tony Awards Connection: Billy Joel won a Tony Award for his orchestrations of Movin’ Out which featured his songs as a backdrop of dances choreographed by Twyla Tharp.  Elton John won a Tony Award for his score to Aida.  He has received additional Tony nominations for The Lion King and Billy Elliot for Best Score.  He additionally was a producer of Best Play nominee Next Fall.