Pulitzers Play Little Rock: A CHORUS LINE on the UALR stage

IMG_0274In April 1975 A Chorus Line premiered Off Broadway before transferring to Broadway in July 1975. In 1976, it became only the fifth musical to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Whereas the composer of the first musical to win the Pulitzer was not honored (apparently because he only wrote music, not actual words), with A Chorus Line’s citation, the Pulitzers recognized not only librettists James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, lyricist Edward Kleban, and composer Marvin Hamlisch, but also Michael Bennett who conceived the project and steered its development.

In October 1985, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock became one of the first non-professional organizations to ever perform  A Chorus Line.  The theatre department was planning on producing Chicago, but dropped that show when rights for A Chorus Line became available.  (Chicago was on Broadway at the same time as A Chorus Line and was often overshadowed by it.)

In preparation for the show, UALR (as it was then known) conducted a dance workshop in August 1985 conducted by alum Kerry Kennedy, who had appeared in the national and international tours of the show.  After the workshop, auditions were held and the rehearsal process started.

Many familiar names in the Little Rock theatre scene from the 1970s to the present were involved in A Chorus Line.  The production was directed by Carolyn Curry, choreographed by Dot Callanen, and music directed by Lori Loree.  Jay Jagim provided the scenic and lighting design, while Joy Breckenridge was costume designer.

The cast was led by Tom Crone as Zach, the director of the show within the show, and Janet Ford as Cassie.  Other performers included Lee Borchert, Sara Cole, Missy Cook, Greg Donaldson, Jo Bocage Few, Dennis Glasscock, Leslie Hall (who joined the cast two weeks before opening), John Hartman, William R Holloway, Shawn Lynnette Jackson, Traci Presley, Joey Stocks, Allison Streepey, Joe Terry, Kevin Trippe, and Scarlet White.

Rounding out the company were Paula A. Barr, Kelly Bascue, Melanie Cameron, Caran Curry, Leigh Anne Embrey, James Finch, Tijuana McKnight, Leah McSpadden, Rick Riley, Karissa Rushing, and Curtis B. Tate.

2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama being given. To pay tribute to 100 years of the Pulitzer for Drama, each day this month a different Little Rock production of a Pulitzer Prize winning play will be highlighted.  Many of these titles have been produced numerous times.  This look will veer from high school to national tours in an attempt to give a glimpse into Little Rock’s breadth and depth of theatrical history.

Ballet Arkansas presents THE NUTCRACKER

One of the sure signs of the Christmas season is the return of The Nutcracker to ballet companies across America.  Ballet Arkansas presents the annual production this weekend on December 7, 8 and 9 at Robinson Center Music Hall.  (School performances are going on throughout the week.)

Celebrate the season with your professional ballet company as we continue a favorite Christmas tradition performing The Nutcracker accompanied by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Geoffrey Robson. Every year this fun field production creates lifelong memories for hundreds of Arkansas families. With gorgeous scenery, enchanting costumes and original choreography, Ballet Arkansas will present The Nutcracker at Robinson Center Music Hall on December 7th – 9th.

The Nutcracker tells the story of Clara and her magical nutcracker doll and their wondrous journey to the Land of Snow and Kingdom of Sweets. This year’s production boasts new choreography from Ballet Mistress, Marla Edwards, new to the company this season, as well as co-director Allison Stodola Wilson. These directors along with choreographers Traci Presley and Jana Beard have taken this much loved holiday favorite to new heights creating an enchanting production that will delight audience members of all ages.

This year’s production will feature the nine professional company members of Ballet Arkansas, comprised of Anna Maris (Arabian/Dew Drop), Sean Porter (Arabian/Russian/Rat King), Lauren McCarty Horak (Spanish/Marzipan), Paul Tillman (Snow King/Russian), Katchiri Tillman (Snow Queen/Marzipan), Amanda Sewell (Doll/Marzipan), Laurel Dix (Chinese), Toby Lewellen (Nutcracker Prince/Russian/Spanish) and Leslie Dodge (Sugar Plum Fairy). In addition to these nine company members, Ballet West Principal Artist and Ballet Arkansas Artistic Advisor, Michael Bearden, will grace the stage, dancing the roll of the Cavalier. Other corps rolls will be danced by Ballet Arkansas II company members Akiko Kyong-McClain, Mysti Kirkpatrick, Rachael Schwartz, Haley Jones, Laura Russell and Elizabeth Wing in addition to 175 other Arkansas students and performers.

The Nutcracker is the perfect yuletide gift, the ideal means of introducing children to the power and beauty of classical dance, and a delightful way for the entire family to ring in the holiday season. Make Ballet Arkansas’ Nutcracker part of your holiday celebration this December! To purchase tickets for the December 7th, 8th or 9th public shows to The Nutcracker, visit www.balletarkansas.org or call 501-666-1761. Tickets range from $20-$45.

Ballet Arkansas performances of The Nutcracker are generously sponsored by: Orthodontic Associates, Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau, Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Pleasant Ridge Towne Center, The Dance & More Store, Arkansas Times along with support from the Arkansas Arts Council.

March of the Nutcracker

Ballet Arkansas continues the tradition of presenting The Nutcracker this weekend at Robinson Center Music Hall.

The title role is being essayed by Ballet Arkansas company trainee Jake Catlett while Michael Bearden, Ballet Arkansas’ artistic adviser, is a guest artist and dances the role of the Cavalier.  Alternating in the role of Clara are Lauren Frances Wood and Kathryn Latham.  Other roles are being danced by Leslie Dodge (Sugar Plum Fairy), Lauren McCarty Horak (Snow Queen),Toby Lewellen (Snow King),  Anna Maris (Frau Von Stahlbuam and Dew Drop Fairy), Sean Porter (Rat King), Stephen Stone (Drosselmeyer), Allison Wilson (Rat Queen) and Perry Young (Herr Von Stahlbaum, Mother Ginger).

The choreography for this production was created by a Jana Beard, Sydney Ippolito, Marius Petipa, Traci Presley, and Allison Wilson.  Geoffrey Robson, associate conductor of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, will conduct musicians from the ASO in performing Tchaikovsky’s ballet score.  Tickets are available from the Arkansas Symphony box office at 666-1761 or http://www.arkansassymphony.org.