Tag Archives: The Studio Theatre

This month at The Studio Theatre – BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

tst-batb-11x17The Studio Theatre invites audiences to be their guest at the musical Beauty and the Beast this December.

The production opened last night ant runs through December 18.

Beauty and the Beast is directed by Mark Burbank, with music direction by Jeannie Cross, and choreography by Stacy Hawking. Beauty and the Beast was Disney Theatrical’s first Broadway production. It won a 1994 Tony Award for costume design and a 1998 Olivier for Best New Musical.

With music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and book by Linda Woolverton, it was adapted from Walt Disney Pictures’ Academy Award-winning 1991 animated musical film of the same name – which in turn had been based on the classic French fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont.  Beauty and the Beast tells the story of a cold-hearted prince who has been magically transformed into an unsightly creature as punishment for his selfish ways. To revert back into his true human form, the Beast must first earn the love of a bright, beautiful young woman whom he has imprisoned in his enchanted castle before it is too late.

Performances are Thursdays through Sundays.  Thursday, Friday, and Saturday performances (December 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17) will begin at 7:30pm and Sunday matinees (December 4, 11, 18) will begin at 2:30pm.  Tickets are $25.00 for general admission, $20.00 for Seniors (65+), Military, and Students. Tickets are $15.00 for children 12 and under.   There are no assigned seats at The Studio Theatre.

Advertisements

Go to the WOODS

TST ITWSince the rights became available in the early 1990s, Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Into the Woods has been popular for theatres of all levels from youth to professional regional theatres. It is, on the surface, a show that is easy to do adequately allowing for singers and actors of varying levels of expertise to perform. As such, I have seen numerous productions of this title (my interest stemming partly from being a cousin of the Brothers Grimm on whose work this musical is based).

The Studio Theatre’s production of Into the Woods is a reminder why it is worthwhile to go on the journey again. Whether you have seen outstanding or dreadful productions in the past or never seen the show before, this production of Into the Woods highlights the many charms of the property.

(It also reminded me that despite some judicious trims here and there, the first act is very long. So be forewarned and visit the restroom beforehand.)

Director Rafael Castanera has assembled a strong cast and then made sure they carry out his vision. Given the physical confines of the space, he has created a world in which the stage is always bustling with activity but never seems to be crowded. This is a very wordy script, but Castanera also trusts his cast with silence. Some of the most memorable moments (touching and comic) were achieved with no words. That is the hallmark of deft directing.

The show is truly an ensemble effort with uniformly solid performances. As the Baker around whom much of the action centers, Michael Goodbar gives a nice dramatic turn. Often seen in the outrageously comic Red Octopus Theatre productions, his layered performance here is a revelation. He has great chemistry with Angela Kay Collier as the Baker’s Wife. She is an even match for him in a performance that is both strong (but not strident) and vulnerable. Erin Martinez turns in yet another memorable characterization as the Witch. Her vocal prowess is on display in numbers ranging from rap (Sondheim did it here long before Hamilton) to tender song to power ballad.

Brandon Nichols brings an animalistic swagger to his performance as the Wolf. He is predatory and sensual without being obscene, which is especially important since the object of his lupine affection is an adolescent girl. In his other role, he is a hilariously vainglorious and charming Prince. With an arched eyebrow or shift in posture, he both echoes fairy tale princes and spoofs them.   His brother in arms in the narcissism department is Ryan Heumier as his brother the other Prince. Heumier can sing to another character all the while primping in front of his ever-present handheld mirror. The fraternal duet “Agony” is a highlight of the first act (and gleefully reprised in the second).

As the object of Nichols’ princely pursuit, Rachel Caffey brings a clear voice and clear eye to the role of Cinderella. She is equally at home among the ashes as she is running through the woods in a ballgown. Grace Pitts is a delightful Red Riding Hood alternating between assertive and susceptible, innocent and knowing. Often juvenile actors can be cloying (which may be why this part is usually played by someone older). But Pitts is never mawkish in her portrayal. Even as the character comes to grip with a new reality, Pitts’ performance lets the audience know she is still a young girl with enthusiasm and vulnerability.

Evan Patterson offers a dim-witted but well-intentioned Jack (of Beanstalk fame). The part is sometimes played doltishly. But Patterson’s portrayal focuses on the humanity of the character who happens to be more absent-minded than stupid. As his mother, reliable Beth Ross tempers her exasperation at her son with her devotion to him and her desire to provide for him. David Weatherly plays the narrator who fills in for Jack’s cow Milky White at times and also appears briefly as a eponymously named “Mysterious Man.” His talents for facial expressions and cud-chewing helped bring out much of the humor in the script.

Rounding out the cast in various roles were Courtney Speyer (whose dulcet tones were on display as she sang a sort of siren’s song), Amy G. Young (having fun as a not too weak Granny), Daniel Collier (as the officious and official steward), Katie Eisenhower, Brooke Melton and Autumn Romines. The latter three were the deliciously wicked step-relatives of Cinderella.

The cast was clad in intricately detailed costumes designed by Castanera. The clothing skillfully defined the characters and added whimsically to the story. Every square inch of fabric was there for a purpose. There were many accents and accessories, so each time an actor came on stage it was possible to discover something new. But the costumes served the actors and did not distract from the performances or the story. The clothing was abetted by Robert Pickens’ exquisite wigs.

Pickens is also the set coordinator. The set is a marvel. In a relatively small space there are a variety of platforms and ramps which depict many different settings. The set mainly consists wooden planks in groupings framing the proscenium. With this wood, a few ropes and some canvas, the story unfolds before the audience’s eyes. In a subtle reminder of the storybook nature of the evening, the stage is littered with hundreds of books stacked in any possible nook and cranny. The proceedings are well-lit by Joey DiPette who manages to make sure the actors are always seen while still conveying changes in settings and shifts from day to night.

While not a through-sung musical, Into the Woods has much, much music!. Even when the actors are not singing, the music rarely stops. Musical Director Bob Bidewell has made sure that the singers maximize their musical moments in the woods. He and the orchestra never play over the singers, but definitely enhance the mood and the overall musical experience by supporting the songs and the singers.

Like revisiting stories from childhood, it was pleasant to revisit Into the Woods, especially in a strong, cohesive production currently running at the Studio Theatre. Performances continue through March 26 (7pm Thursdays through Saturdays and 2pm on Sundays).

Go INTO THE WOODS this month at the Studio Theatre

Grace Pitts as Little Red Riding Hood - Photography by Grant Dillion for The Studio Theatre
Grace Pitts as Little Red Riding Hood – Photography by Grant Dillion for The Studio Theatre

Once upon a time, Pulitzer Prize winners Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine wrote a musical based upon the folk tales of the Brothers Grimm. Into the Woods ran for over 700 performances on Broadway and won 3 Tony Awards, spawned a Tony winning revival and a movie. Now the Studio Theatre brings it back to Little Rock.

Directed by Rafael Colon Castanera (who also designed the costumes), other members of the creative team are Jennifer Caffey (assistant director), Bob Bidewell (musical director), Robert Pickens (wig designer) and Carrie Henry (stage manager).

The cast includes Rachel Caffey, Angela Kay Collier, Daniel Collier, Katie Eisenhower, Michael Goodbar, Ryan Heumier, Erin Martinez, Brooke Melton, Brandon Nichols, Ethan Patterson, Grace Pitts, Autumn Romines, Beth Ross, Courtney Speyer, David Weatherly, and Amy G. Young

The production opens tonight and runs through March 26. Performances are at 7pm Thursdays through Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2pm.

Creative Class of 2015: Justin A. Pike

Justin PikeDirector, actor, theatre-man-about-town Justin A. Pike has worked with just about every theatrical organization in Central Arkansas.  When he is not director, choreographing, designing, producing, and/or acting in a show, he can generally be found in the audience watching one.

Currently, a production of The Rocky Horror Show, which he directed, is being performed at the Lantern Theatre in Conway.  Later this week, Reefer Madness opens at The Studio Theatre in downtown Little Rock.  Pike serves as the Artistic Director of that theatre.

Listing all of his roles at various Central Arkansas theatres would take much space.  Among some of his more recent efforts are directing Xanadu at The Studio Theatre, starring in The Music Man for the Royal Players, directing Legally Blonde for the Royal Theatre, acting in Baby for Community Theatre of Little Rock, and directing Footloose for the Royal Players.  He is equally at home working with comedies, dramas and musicals.

 

Monday Musings: Bob Bidewell

BidewellBob Bidewell is the founder of The Studio Theatre, organist, musical director, musician, singer, actor and theatre director.  In addition to The Studio Theatre, he has long been involved in the Central Arkansas Chapter of the American Guild of Organists and Little Rock Wind Symphony (both of which have upcoming events this week).  He has served in leadership roles of those and many other arts organizations in Central Arkansas.  As an actor, he has shared the stage with Broadway stars Matt Cavenaugh and Kyle Dean Massey.  Later this month The Studio Theatre will be performing the musical satire Reefer Madness.

-My earliest memory was (age and incident):
1-2 years old. Hearing train whistles and begging my parents to take me to see the trains.
-When I was in high school and imagined my adulthood, I thought I would be…
Band Director.
-Star Wars, Star Trek, Battle of the Network Stars, or Dancing with the Stars?
Star Wars.
-I most identify with the Winnie the Pooh character of…
Owl (not because I’m intelligent and brilliant but that I’m older, somewhat wiser and love to teach).
-The performer I’d drop everything to see is…
Carol Burnett.
-My first paying job was…
Mowing Neighbors Lawns.
-A book I think everyone should read is….
A Time to Kill (John Grisham).
-My favorite season is…
Autumn.
-We are all geeks (or experts) about something. My field is….
Musical Theatre.

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.

DEATHTRAP, first show of CTLR 60th season, continues

CTLR DeathtrapThe Community Theatre of Little Rock begins its 60th Season with the Tony-nominated murder mystery Deathtrap by Ira Levin.  It opened on September 3rd and continues tonight, tomorrow afternoon at September 10-13th The Studio Theatre, 320 West 7th Street in downtown Little Rock.

Regular admission is $16 for adults and $14 for military, students (10yrs – College) and seniors age 65+. $6.00 for Children (4-9 yrs). Children age 3 and under are given free admission. Groups of 10 or more can get in for $14. Bring a pair of gently used running shoes and receive $1.00 off your admission.
Seemingly comfortably ensconced in his charming Connecticut home, Sidney Bruhl, a successful writer of Broadway thrillers, is struggling to overcome a “dry” spell which has resulted in a string of failures and a shortage of funds. A possible break in his fortunes occurs when he receives a script from a student in the seminar he has been conducting at a nearby college—a thriller which Sidney recognizes immediately as a potential Broadway hit. Sidney’s plan, which he devises with his wife’s help, is to offer collaboration to the student, an idea which the younger man quickly accepts. Thereafter suspense mounts steadily as the plot begins to twist and turn with devilish cleverness, and with such an abundance of thrills and laughter, that audiences will be held enthralled until the final, startling moments of the play.
The cast includes Harold Dean, Jennifer Lamb, Jeremiah Elliott, Miki Thompson and Chris Boggs (who is also the producer). Jerry Woods is the director, and Karena White is the stage manager.
Performances on Thursday – Saturday ~ Box office opens at 6:30 pm, curtain rises at 7:30 pm.  Performances on Sundays ~ Box office opens at 1:00 pm, curtain rises at 2:00 pm.