Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


Little Rock Look Back: SOUTH PACIFIC opens on Broadway 68 years ago today

Sixty-eight years ago today, a fictional Little Rock heroine took the stage of a Broadway megahit when South Pacific opened at the Majestic Theatre on April 7, 1949. It settled in for a run of 1925 performances. Based on the James Michener Pulitzer Prize winning novel Tales of the South Pacific, it featured a book by Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan, songs by Richard Rodgers and Hammerstein and direction by Logan. It was produced by Rodgers, Hammerstein, Logan and Leland Hayward. Set in the titular islands, it concerned the relationships of sailors, nurses, island natives and other island inhabitants.

The musical starred recent Tony winner Mary Martin as Little Rock native Nellie Forbush, opera star Ezio Pinza, stage veterans Myron McCormick and Juanita Hall, and stage newcomers William Tabbert and Betta St. John. Cloris Leachman was Martin’s understudy and would later succeed her in the part of Little Rock native Nellie Forbush.

Like other Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, this show tackled tough themes – this one being prejudice. That did not set well with some theatergoers. Indeed, some potential investors did not put money into the show because of its stance. But Rodgers, Hammerstein, Logan and Hayward persisted. Their diligence paid off when the musical received the 1950 Pulitzer Prize in Drama, only the second musical to receive this designation. It is also the only Pulitzer Prize for Drama winner to be based on Pulitzer Prize winning source material. This was the first Rodgers & Hammerstein musical to not feature big dance numbers. In fact, there was no choreographer. The dance steps which existed were created by Martin, who had taught dance in her native Texas as a young mother.

Opening late in the season, South Pacific was named the 1949 New York Drama Critics Circle Best Musical, but was not part of the Tony Awards until 1950. (Though Jo Mielziner, who designed the set for South Pacific received a Tony for his set designs of shows during the 1948-49 season and South Pacific was one of the titles listed.) At the 1950 Tonys, it received six Tony Awards (sometimes listed as eight because Book and Score were not broken separate from Best Musical that year—but some sources incorrectly separate them.) It was named Best Musical, Actor in a Musical (Pinza), Actress in a Musical (Martin), Featured Actor in a Musical (McCormick), Featured Actress in a Musical (Hall), and Director (Logan). This is the only time that all four acting awards in the musical category went to performers in the same production. In fact, the other two acting trophies that year were incorrectly engraved as being from South Pacific out of habit.

Logan’s win was also the first time that the Director Tony went for a musical, since at the time that award was not separated out among plays and musicals. Hall was the first African American to win a Tony Award for Acting. Martin would reunite with Hayward, Rodgers & Hammerstein ten years later for The Sound of Music. Pinza and Tabbert reunited in 1954 for Fanny which would be the final Broadway credit for each gentleman. McCormick stayed with the show the entire run, except for vacations.

In 1999 for the 50th anniversary and in 2008 for the opening of the first Broadway revival remaining cast members from the original production had reunions in New York City. At the 50th anniversary ceremony, a proclamation from Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey was read declaring it South Pacific day in Little Rock and honoring the show. It is interesting to note that in 1949, there were two heroines on the Broadway stage from Little Rock: Nellie Forbush from South Pacificand Lorelei Lee from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

In 2008, Lincoln Center Theatre produced the first revival of South Pacific on Broadway. It opened on April 3, just four days shy of the musical’s 59th anniversary.  The cast was led by Paulo Szot, Kelli O’Hara (as Little Rock girl Nellie Forbush), Matthew Morrison (before “Glee”), Danny Burstein and Loretta Ables Sayre.  The production restored a song which had been written for the original Broadway production that had been dropped. “My Girl Back Home” was featured in the movie version and in this Broadway revival. In it O’Hara and Morrison sang of their hometowns of Little Rock and Philadelphia.  The production was nominated for 11 Tony Awards and won 7: Best Musical Revival, Actor in a Musical (Szot), Director of a Musical (Bartlett Sher), Scenic Design (Michael Yeargan), Costume Design (Catherine Zuber), Lighting Design (Donald Holder) and Sound Design (Scott Lehrer).

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Creative Class 2016: Karen Q. Clark

cc16-clarkKaren Q. Clark has played a sympathetic nun on film and an exceedingly unsympathetic nun on stage.   In between she has been a singing nun (in The Sound of Music).  Outside of the habit, she has appeared in New York, many regional theatres, and most (if not all) Little Rock stages.  A native of Wisconsin, she came to Little Rock with her husband (and fellow thespian) Jay Clark.  During the day, she is Lower School choral and drama teacher at Episcopal Collegiate School.

In addition to being a fixture in the Little Rock theatre scene, she also has numerous credits in many Arkansas-made films.  Favorite stage roles include: Mrs. Banks, Mary Poppins (Arkansas Rep); Betty in The It Girl (IRNE nomination, Worcester Foothills); Princess Rhyme in the world premiere of The Phantom Tollbooth and Rachel in Inherit the Wind (Wheelock Family Theatre); Irene in Hello Dolly! (Jekyll Island); Maria in The Sound of Music; and Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre). Another favorite role is being Quin’s mom.


Tony Awards Week – Tony Titles at Arkansas Rep

ark repNext year the Arkansas Repertory Theatre celebrates its 40th anniversary season.  Since its first season, the Rep has often programmed plays and musicals which have been recognized with the Tony for Best Play or Best Musical of the season.

Many other Rep productions have been titles which have also won Tony Awards in some Broadway production.  But this list only looks at those which won or were nominated for the Tony for Best Play and Best Musical.

The first Rep production was The Threepenny Opera.  While it did not win the Tony for Best Musical, it goes on this list because it received a Special Tony in 1956 for its production.  The original production in the 1930s ran for just a few performances. So this production was not eligible for the Best Musical award. But it was so outstanding, it received a Special Tony.

That 1976-77 season also included a Best Play winner – The Persecution and Assassination of Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, which took home the silver medallion for Best Play in 1966.

Rep SalesmanOther Tony Best Play winners produced by the Rep have been:

(Tony Year; Title; Rep season)

  • 1949 – Death of a Salesman – 2012-13
  • 1955 – The Diary of Anne Frank – 1977-78; 1981-82
  • 1960 – The Miracle Worker – 2004-05
  • 1963 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – 1978-79
  • 1965 – The Subject Was Roses – 1981-82
  • 1973 – That Championship Season – 1984-85
  • 1979 – The Elephant Man – 2008-09
  • 1981 – Amadeus – 1995-96
  • 1984 – The Real Thing – 1986-87
  • 1985 – Biloxi Blues – 1987-88
  • 1986 – I’m Not Rappaport – 1989-90
  • 1987 – Fences – 2006-07
  • 1990 – The Grapes of Wrath – 2000-01
  • 1991 – Lost in Yonkers – 1994-95 (featuring future Tony winner Will Trice in the cast)
  • 1993 – Angels in America: Millennium Approaches – 1995-96; 1996-97
  • 1994 – Angels in America: Perestroika – 1996-97
  • 1997 – The Last Night of Ballyhoo – 1998-99
  • 1998 – Art – 2001-02
  • 2001 – Proof – 2002-03 (written by LR Hall graduate David Auburn)
  • 2005 – Doubt – 2007-08
  • 2008 – August: Osage County – 2014-15
  • 2010 – Red – 2013-14
  • 2012 – Clybourne Park – 2013-14

 

Next season the Rep will produce Peter and the Starcatcher which was nominated for Best Play in 2012.  Other Best Play nominees produced by the Rep include: Barefoot in the Park; Broadway Bound; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Crimes of the Heart; Frost/Nixon; The Gin Game; Glengarry Glen Ross; Having Our Say; Home; Lend Me a Tenor; A Lesson from Aloes; ‘Night, Mother; The Night of the Iguana; Noises Off; The Piano Lesson; The Rainmaker; A Raisin in the Sun; The Retreat from Moscow; Talley’s Folly; The 39 Steps; and A Walk in the Woods.

The Rep also produced House of Blue Leaves six years before it was nominated for Best Play at the Tonys. In addition, it produced All My Sons which received a Special Tony for playwright Arthur Miller at the first ceremony and is sometimes erroneously listed as being the Best Play of 1947. There was none that year.

 

THEREP_MEMPHIS (no credits)-page-001The 1971 Best Musical Company was part of the Rep’s inaugural season in 1976-77.  Other Tony Best Musicals winners produced by the Rep have been:

(Tony Year; Title; Rep season)

  • 1951 – Guys and Dolls – 1989-90
  • 1952 – The King and I – 2006-07
  • 1956 – Damn Yankees – 1999-2000
  • 1957 – My Fair Lady – 2004-05
  • 1960 – The Sound of Music – 2001-02
  • 1964 – Hello, Dolly! – 2007-08
  • 1967 – Cabaret – 2001-02
  • 1975 – The Wiz – 2011-12
  • 1976 – A Chorus Line – 2005-06
  • 1977 – Annie – 2002-03
  • 1978 – Ain’t Misbehavin’ – 1984-85; 2004-05
  • 1980 – Evita – 1989-90; 2010-11
  • 1986 – The Mystery of Edwin Drood – 1988-89
  • 1987 – Les Miserables – 2008-09; 2013-14
  • 2003 – Hairspray – 2010-11
  • 2004 – Avenue Q – 2012-13
  • 2010 – Memphis – 2014-15 (produced at Rep and on Broadway by LR native Remmel T. Dickinson)

In addition, the Rep has produced staged concert versions of 1958 Best Musical The Music Man and 1973 Best Musical A Little Night Music in collaboration with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.

Next season the Rep will produce The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee which was nominated for Best Musical in 2005.  Other Best Musical nominees produced by the Rep include: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas; Blues in the Night; Chicago; Dreamgirls; Five Guys Named Moe; The Full Monty; Gypsy; Into The Woods; Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; Mary Poppins;  Next to Normal; Oh What A Lovely War; Once On This Island; Peter Pan; Pump Boys and Dinettes; Quilters; Side by Side by Sondheim; Smokey Joe’s Café; Stop the World, I Want To Get Off; Sweet Charity; West Side Story; and The Who’s Tommy.


Tony Awards Week – SOUTH PACIFIC – “How Far Away from Little Rock A-r-k”

southpacific_obcSeveral Tony Awards have been won by a show with a main character from Little Rock.

South Pacific opened at the Majestic Theatre on April 7, 1949 and settled in for a run of 1925 performances. Based on the James Michener Pulitzer Prize winning novel Tales of the South Pacific, it featured a book by Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan, songs by Richard Rodgers and Hammerstein and direction by Logan. It was produced by Rodgers, Hammerstein, Logan and Leland Hayward. Set in the titular islands, it concerned the relationships of sailors, nurses, island natives and other island inhabitants.

The musical starred recent Tony winner Mary Martin as Little Rock native Nellie Forbush, opera star Ezio Pinza, stage veterans Myron McCormick and Juanita Hall, and stage newcomers William Tabbert and Betta St. John. Cloris Leachman was Martin’s understudy and would later succeed her in the part of Little Rock native Nellie Forbush.

Like other Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, this show tackled tough themes – this one being prejudice. That did not set well with some theatergoers. Indeed, some potential investors did not put money into the show because of its stance. But Rodgers, Hammerstein, Logan and Hayward persisted. Their diligence paid off when the musical received the 1950 Pulitzer Prize in Drama, only the second musical to receive this designation. It is also the only Pulitzer Prize for Drama winner to be based on Pulitzer Prize winning source material. This was the first Rodgers & Hammerstein musical to not feature big dance numbers. In fact, there was no choreographer. The dance steps which existed were created by Martin, who had taught dance in her native Texas as a young mother.

Opening late in the season, South Pacific was named the 1949 New York Drama Critics Circle Best Musical, but was not part of the Tony Awards until 1950. (Though Jo Mielziner, who designed the set for South Pacific received a Tony for his set designs of shows during the 1948-49 season and South Pacific was one of the titles listed.) At the 1950 Tonys, it received six Tony Awards: Best Musical, Actor in a Musical (Pinza), Actress in a Musical (Martin), Featured Actor in a Musical (McCormick), Featured Actress in a Musical (Hall), and Director (Logan).

This is the only time that all four acting awards in the musical category went to performers in the same production. In fact, the other two acting trophies that year were incorrectly engraved as being from South Pacific out of habit. Logan’s win was also the first time that the Director Tony went for a musical, since at the time that award was not separated out among plays and musicals. Hall was the first African American to win a Tony Award for Acting.

In 1999 for the 50th anniversary and in 2008 for the opening of the first Broadway revival remaining cast members from the original production had reunions in New York City. At the 50th anniversary ceremony, a proclamation from Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey was read declaring it South Pacific day in Little Rock and honoring the show. It is interesting to note that in 1949, there were two heroines on the Broadway stage from Little Rock: Nellie Forbush from South Pacific and Lorelei Lee from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

In 2008, Lincoln Center Theatre produced the first revival of South Pacific on Broadway. It opened on April 3, just four days shy of the musical’s 59th anniversary.  The cast was led by Paulo Szot, Kelli O’Hara (as Little Rock girl Nellie Forbush), Matthew Morrison (before “Glee”), Danny Burstein and Loretta Ables Sayre.  The production restored a song which had been written for the original Broadway production that had been dropped. “My Girl Back Home” was featured in the movie version and in this Broadway revival. In it O’Hara and Morrison sang of their hometowns of Little Rock and Philadelphia.  The production was nominated for 11 Tony Awards and won 7: Best Musical Revival, Actor in a Musical (Szot), Director of a Musical (Bartlett Sher), Scenic Design (Michael Yeargan), Costume Design (Catherine Zuber), Lighting Design (Donald Holder) and Sound Design (Scott Lehrer).

Sher, Yeargan, Zuber, Holder and Lehrer are all reuniting again next season to work on a revival of Fiddler on the Roof.  One of the producers of that is Little Rock native (and three time Tony winner) Will Trice.

While Trice has not starred in a production of South Pacific, his mother Judy Trice starred in a statewide tour in the 1970s. A few years later, his sister Kathryn Pryor, starred in the Central High production.


This weekend – Ashley Brown bring Broadway to the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra

POPS5 PhotoThe Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, Philip Mann, Music Director and Conductor, presents the fifth and final concert in the 2014-2015 Acxiom Pops Live! Series: Ashley Brown’s Broadway. Fresh from her run as Mary Poppins on Broadway, Ashley Brown and the ASO take over the stage with thrilling renditions of Broadway favorites. All ages will enjoy this special performance featuring music from Wicked, Fiddler on the Roof, The Sound of Music and more familiar hits from Broadway musicals and beloved Disney films.

Concerts are Saturday, May 9, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. & Sunday, May 10, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. and take place at the Pulaski Academy Connor Performing Arts Center, 12701 Hinson Road, Little Rock, AR.

Tickets are $19, $35, $49, and $58; active duty military and student tickets are $10 are can be purchased online at www.ArkansasSymphony.org; at the Connor Performing Arts Center box office beginning 90 minutes prior to a concert; or by phone at 501-666-1761, ext. 100. All Arkansas students grades K-12 are admitted to Sunday’s matinee free of charge with the purchase of an adult ticket using the Entergy Kids’ Ticket, downloadable at the ASO website.

Ashley Brown, soprano, originated the title role in Mary Poppins on Broadway for which she received Outer Critics, Drama League and Drama Desk nominations for Best Actress. Ms. Brown also starred as Mary Poppins in the national tour of Mary Poppins where she garnered a 2010 Garland award for “Best Performance in a Musical.” Ms. Brown’s other Broadway credits include Belle in Beauty and the Beast, and she has starred in the national tour of Disney’s “On The Record.” Ashley recently returned to the Lyric Opera of Chicago to star in the role of Laurey in Oklahoma! She previously played Magnolia opposite Nathan Gunn in Francesca Zembello’s Show Boat at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Ashley has performed with virtually all of the top orchestras in North America.

The Pops Live! Series is sponsored by Acxiom.

The program will include:

ACT ONE

  • Overture: Broadway Tonight  (ASO only)
  • Almost Like Being in Love/This Can’t be Love
  • So In Love
  • Le Jazz Hot
  • Jesus Christ Superstar (arr. Mancini) (ASO only)
  • Feed the Birds from Mary Poppins
  • Disney Medley

INTERMISSION

ACT TWO

  • The Sound of Music Selection (ASO only)
  • Ring Them Bells
  • Grateful
  • The Man I Love
  • Fiddler on the Roof  (arr. John Williams) (ASO only)
  • Defying Gravity
  • Our Time/Children Will Listen (with chorus)
  • I’ll Be Seeing You

(Selections subject to change)


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Little Rock Look Back: SOUTH PACIFIC opens on Broadway 66 years ago today

southpacific_obcSixty-six years ago today, a fictional Little Rock heroine took the stage of a Broadway megahit when South Pacific opened at the Majestic Theatre on April 7, 1949. It settled in for a run of 1925 performances. Based on the James Michener Pulitzer Prize winning novel Tales of the South Pacific, it featured a book by Oscar Hammerstein II and Joshua Logan, songs by Richard Rodgers and Hammerstein and direction by Logan. It was produced by Rodgers, Hammerstein, Logan and Leland Hayward. Set in the titular islands, it concerned the relationships of sailors, nurses, island natives and other island inhabitants.

The musical starred recent Tony winner Mary Martin as Little Rock native Nellie Forbush, opera star Ezio Pinza, stage veterans Myron McCormick and Juanita Hall, and stage newcomers William Tabbert and Betta St. John. Cloris Leachman was Martin’s understudy and would later succeed her in the part of Little Rock native Nellie Forbush.

Like other Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, this show tackled tough themes – this one being prejudice. That did not set well with some theatergoers. Indeed, some potential investors did not put money into the show because of its stance. But Rodgers, Hammerstein, Logan and Hayward persisted. Their diligence paid off when the musical received the 1950 Pulitzer Prize in Drama, only the second musical to receive this designation. It is also the only Pulitzer Prize for Drama winner to be based on Pulitzer Prize winning source material. This was the first Rodgers & Hammerstein musical to not feature big dance numbers. In fact, there was no choreographer. The dance steps which existed were created by Martin, who had taught dance in her native Texas as a young mother.

Opening late in the season, South Pacific was named the 1949 New York Drama Critics Circle Best Musical, but was not part of the Tony Awards until 1950. (Though Jo Mielziner, who designed the set for South Pacific received a Tony for his set designs of shows during the 1948-49 season and South Pacific was one of the titles listed.) At the 1950 Tonys, it received six Tony Awards (sometimes listed as eight because Book and Score were not broken separate from Best Musical that year—but some sources incorrectly separate them.) It was named Best Musical, Actor in a Musical (Pinza), Actress in a Musical (Martin), Featured Actor in a Musical (McCormick), Featured Actress in a Musical (Hall), and Director (Logan). This is the only time that all four acting awards in the musical category went to performers in the same production. In fact, the other two acting trophies that year were incorrectly engraved as being from South Pacific out of habit.

Logan’s win was also the first time that the Director Tony went for a musical, since at the time that award was not separated out among plays and musicals. Hall was the first African American to win a Tony Award for Acting. Martin would reunite with Hayward, Rodgers & Hammerstein ten years later for The Sound of Music. Pinza and Tabbert reunited in 1954 for Fanny which would be the final Broadway credit for each gentleman. McCormick stayed with the show the entire run, except for vacations.

In 1999 for the 50th anniversary and in 2008 for the opening of the first Broadway revival remaining cast members from the original production had reunions in New York City. At the 50th anniversary ceremony, a proclamation from Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey was read declaring it South Pacific day in Little Rock and honoring the show. It is interesting to note that in 1949, there were two heroines on the Broadway stage from Little Rock: Nellie Forbush from South Pacificand Lorelei Lee from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

In 2008, Lincoln Center Theatre produced the first revival of South Pacific on Broadway. It opened on April 3, just four days shy of the musical’s 59th anniversary.  The cast was led by Paulo Szot, Kelli O’Hara (as Little Rock girl Nellie Forbush), Matthew Morrison (before “Glee”), Danny Burstein and Loretta Ables Sayre.  The production restored a song which had been written for the original Broadway production that had been dropped. “My Girl Back Home” was featured in the movie version and in this Broadway revival. In it O’Hara and Morrison sang of their hometowns of Little Rock and Philadelphia.  The production was nominated for 11 Tony Awards and won 7: Best Musical Revival, Actor in a Musical (Szot), Director of a Musical (Bartlett Sher), Scenic Design (Michael Yeargan), Costume Design (Catherine Zuber), Lighting Design (Donald Holder) and Sound Design (Scott Lehrer).

Bartlett and O’Hara are reunited with Lincoln Center right now for a revival of The King and I. The song “Getting to Know You” from that show was originally written for South Pacific as a song called “Suddenly Lucky.”  It was replaced in South Pacific by “(I’m in Love with a) Wonderful Guy.”


Little Rock Look Back: Oscar Hammerstein II

OHIIOn July 12, 1895, Oscar Greeley Clendenning Hammerstein, better known as Oscar Hammerstein II was born. He spent his entire professional life working in the theatre.  One of the musicals he wrote was South Pacific, which featured a character from Little Rock.

In the source novel, Tales of the South Pacific, Forbush is from rural Arkansas.  When Hammerstein, Richard Rodgers and Joshua Logan were adapting it for the stage, they moved the character to Little Rock (or “Small Rock” as the French planter Emil De Becque mistakenly refers to it).

Little Rock is referred to throughout the show.  One song, “My Girl Back Home” contained musical references to Arkansas’ capitol city.  That song was cut before South Pacific opened on Broadway.  It was, however, included in the movie version.  It was also reinstated and included in the 2008 Broadway revival.

Mary Martin won a Tony for originating the role of Nellie Forbush on Broadway. One of the actors who succeeded her was Cloris Leachman. Kelli O’Hara received a Tony nomination in 2008 for the Broadway revival.

South Pacific became the second musical to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It also became the first winner of the Pulitzer for Drama to be based on another Pulitzer prize winner — James Michener won the Pulitzer for Tales of the South Pacific.

Hammerstein’s creation of a character from Little Rock caused problems when the show was being performed in late 1957 and for a few years after.  With the 1957 desegregation crisis still fresh in people’s memories, a show about a woman from Little Rock facing her own racial prejudices was sometimes a bit much for audiences. Apparently some audiences would boo when Little Rock was mentioned.  But Rodgers and Hammerstein did not change her hometown.

At the 1999 celebration marking the 50th anniversary of South Pacific opening on Broadway, a proclamation from then-Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey was read.  It paid tribute to Nellie Forbush as an ambassador (albeit fictional) for Little Rock. The proclamation noted that her optimism, forbearance and ability to change for the better were emblems of Little Rock.  Since these were attributes which Mr. Hammerstein himself exhibited, one suspects he would be pleased.

Hammerstein died in 1960 during the run of The Sound of Music (which like South Pacific starred Mary Martin).

For those wanting to see an Oscar Hammerstein II show on his birthday or during his birth month, South Pacific has just started a run in Benton at the Royal Players.