'DOUBT: A PARABLE'
7:30 p.m. The Weekend Theater. $12-$16.
John Patrick Shanley's "Doubt: A Parable," won some pretty hefty awards, namely the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play.
The play, which premiered in 2004, concerns the tension that arises between Father Flynn, a liberal young priest, and Sister Aloysius, the harsh and judgmental principal of the parish school. The play's full title is accurate; "Doubt" is indeed a parable, one about the bulldozing power of self-righteous certainty, the gnawing, toxic effects of uncertainty and the way truth often evaporates in the midst of the two forces.
I haven't seen a stage production of "Doubt," but the 2008 film adaptation — directed by Shanley — was tense and engrossing, with a stellar cast. I don't want to give away too much about the story, but suffice it to say that Shanley, who grew up in the Catholic Church, has some strong feelings about the institution, and the way it exerts control and crushes the individual, planting the seeds of doubt. "Doubt" runs Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. through April 20.
Congrats to Molly Miller, Dawn Jackson, Tim Jones, Matilda Louvring and Dan Limke, they each won a pair of tickets to see "Monty Python's Spamalot" at Robinson Center Music Hall.
For everyone else, tickets are still available for the critically acclaimed comedy, Monday and Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., $27-$64.
All you "Life of Brian"-quoting geeks out there are likely already aware that "Monty Python's Spamalot" will be at Robinson Center Music Hall April 1-2. It's probably a safe bet too that there are a couple-three of y'all out there who wouldn't mind winning two tickets to see the musical comedy in person.
Well pardners, five of you will be in luck: The Times will be giving away five pairs of tickets for the April 1 performance. "Spamalot" on April Fool's Day? Does it get any better than that? No, it does not.
All you have to do is correctly identify where in Arkansas The Holy Grail is located in five of the following six photographs and you'll be entered. Email your answers to email@example.com with "FIND THE GRAIL" in the subject line. The deadline for entry is Friday, March 29 by noon. Winners will be drawn and contacted that day.
Oh yeah, one thing: DON'T WRITE THE ANSWERS IN THE COMMENTS. YOU WON'T BE ENTERED IN THE CONTEST AND ALSO IT KINDA MAKES YOU LOOK LIKE YOU CAN'T READ INSTRUCTIONS. Cool? Thanks.
The photos are included after the jump.
Based on what I knew ahead of time about the brand new musical version of "Treasure Island" that premiered last week at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, I was expecting an adaptation of a classic children's tale that focused on the ways greed can motivate us at our own peril.
Prior to opening, book writer Carla Vitale and director/choreographer and co-book writer Brett Smock discussed the production with the Times. "We've always put greed at the front, and we've leveraged the show against what people do in the face of having more, wanting more, getting more," Smock said. While those elements are certainly examined in the production, their treatment isn't in any way distracting from the action-filled story.
And it's not that I was anticipating that the creative team had transformed the tale into some hand-wringing, deeply philosophical treatise on the nature of greed or anything. It's just that "Treasure Island" ended up being more fun, and a lot funnier, than I was anticipating.
The show will definitely appeal to musical theater lovers of all ages, but for families with children it will prove to be an absolute blast, with riveting action, soaring music, deft choreography and a cast that, by turns, makes the audience laugh, grimace and cheer. That said, this is an intense show and might be a bit scary for very young kids. The story — somewhat condensed, out of necessity — moves along briskly. But it nonetheless feels complete and satisfying.
Most audiences are probably familiar with the story of young Jim Hawkins, Squire Trelawney and, of course, the pirate Long John Silver. Even so, I don't want to give away too much, so I'll stick with some of the things that stood out the most and made this musical so enjoyable:
* Stanley Meyer's set works wonderfully in its multiple duties as The Admiral Benbow Inn, the deck of The Hispaniola and various points on The Island. Also, Rafael Colon Castanera's costumes look simply awesome.
* By nature, a historically accurate 18th-century nautical setting won't allow for too many women, but Kristy Cates is fantastic as Mother Mary Hawkins. Not only can she sing beautifully, she gets in some hilarious lines.
* Speaking of hilarious lines, there are many in "Treasure Island," including a slight variation on the original text, in which Squire Trelawney, in hiring one of the ship mates, says to Doctor Livesy, "The abominable age we live in — to have lost your pension!" That line elicited a few knowing chuckles from a post-Great Recession crowd.
* Richard B. Watson is excellent as Long John Silver, a role that calls for an actor with the chops to turn on a dime, transforming from a shifty-eyed deceiver to a snarling animal and back again. Watson does so effortlessly. There's a particular laugh that emanates from deep within his second-act Silver that will make you shudder. He shines in this production. That he does so while traversing the stage in a prosthetic peg-leg makes his performance all the more impressive.
* If I had to point to one person from this richly talented cast as having stolen the show, it would be Patrick Richwood in the role of the castaway Ben Gunn (you might remember Richwood from his role as the doorman in "Pretty Woman"). Richwood's Gunn is a tortured, slinky, space-cadet survivor who resembles more than anything some shell-shocked rodent that somehow survived Armageddon. And despite possessing riches beyond imagination, all this mousy weirdo really wants some is some cheese. That simple desire seeps hilariously from his every move. I can't overstate how physically magnetic and funny Richwood is.
Really, though, there isn't a cast member that doesn't command your attention, nor a song that falls flat or goes on too long. And again, if you're looking to take your children to a show at The Rep, don't skip "Treasure Island," because while the upcoming productions of "Death of a Salesman" and "Avenue Q" that close out this season will probably be entertaining, they're not exactly made for kiddos.
The Arkansas Repertory Theatre unveiled its 2013-2014 season yesterday afternoon at a champagne reception in its lobby.
A re-concieved version of the Rodgers & Hart classic "Pal Joey" kicks off the season (Sept. 6-29). The new incarnation "explodes with song and dance while exploring morality, race, class and the timeless relationship between power and sex," according to a Rep press release.
Up next is "Red" (Oct. 25-Nov. 10), a bio-drama about a tense period in the life of painter Mark Rothko. The play is produced in partnership with the Arkansas Arts Center, which has an upcoming Rothko exhibit called "Mark Rothko in the 1940's: The Decisive Decade."
Next is a world premiere musical, "Because of Winn Dixie" (Dec. 6-29), based on the Kate DeCamillo novel and created by a Tony-winning team, including Grammy-winning songwriter Duncan Sheik. The show will be "the first pre-Broadway musical starring a live dog as the central character," according to The Rep.
"Clybourne Park" (Jan. 24-Feb. 9) is a "bitingly funny and fiercely provocative new play about the volatile combination of race and real estate."
"Les Miserables", that unstoppable juggernaut of musical theater, returns (March 7-30, 2014) and with it, actor Douglas Webster in the role of Jean Valjean. You can get your yucks on with The Second City (April 21-May 4, 2014). The laughs continue with the season closer, "The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged)" (June 6-22, 2014). The widely loved truncation is "a parody of the 37 plays written by William Shakespeare, with all of them being performed in shortened, and side-splitting, form."
After the jump, check out The Rep's complete press release about the 2013-2014 season.
Celebrity Attractions released its 2013-2014 lineup this week, and first up is a "back-by-popular-demand" run of the hit "Wicked," Sept. 25-Oct. 6.
There's no question that it's been one of the most popular Broadway shows in recent memory, and it looks like folks who missed out when last the show was in Little Rock will get another chance at finding out how the Wicked Witch of the West got that way. The show was here in 2010 and broke box-office and sales records, according to Celebrity Attractions.
Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" comes to town Dec. 3-5. "Hello Dolly" is Jan. 14-16 and "Hair" closes out the season Feb. 18-20.
'SONS OF THE PROPHET'
7:30 p.m. Nadine Baum Studios. $10-$22.
There's something lovely and personal about seeing a stage play. A big part of it is knowing that the actors you're watching are working without a net, and are doing so not for hundreds of thousands of people, but just for whoever is in the audience. That takes a certain amount of bravery, and comedy takes another layer of bravery yet.
Featured this week at Fayetteville's Walton Arts Center, in the Nadine Baum Studios, is Stephen Karam's critically acclaimed comedy "Sons of the Prophet." A finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for drama, the play is the story of two Lebanese-American brothers dealing with the accidental death of their father.
It's recommended for ages 17 and older. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday.
7:30 p.m. UCA's Reynolds Performance Hall. $30-$45.
If you've ever been captivated by the sights and sounds and overall amped-up, brassy spectacle of a live marching band, here's one you'll want to consider.
"Drumline Live" is a touring stage show based on the rich tradition of the Historically Black College and University marching band experience.
According to the producer Halftime Live, the show incorporates "original compositions and soul-infused interpretations of top 40 hits," so if you've been wanting to hear marching-band versions of your top-of-the-pop-charts favorites done up with cracking drums and blasting brass and woodwinds, here is your opportunity.
The Broadway classic "West Side Story" is at Robinson Center Music Hall, courtesy of Celebrity Attractions, Wednesday and Thursday night at 7:30 p.m., $25-$63.
Local actors take note: The Arkansas Repertory Theatre will host auditions for Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" on Feb. 10.
It's open to union and nonunion actors, and all ethnic backgrounds are encouraged to audition. However, if you've got the sweaty, nervous, mumbling-to-yourself thing down, you should know that the role of Willy Loman has already been cast.
But they're still looking for folks to be Linda, Biff, Happy, Charley and the rest of the cast. Actors will be provided with sides from the script, and the show will be directed by Robert Hupp. Rehearsals start April 2 and the production runs April 26-May 12.
More details on the full press release, after the jump.
As promised last year, Argenta Community Theater is gearing up for its second in-house theatrical production, "Jesus Christ Superstar," which will run July 23-28.
There are open calls and dance calls at ACT scheduled for 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Jan. 10 and 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Jan. 12. Rehearsals start in June. The show will be produced by Judy Tenenbaum, directed by Vincent Insalaco and choreographed by Christen Pitts, with music and orchestrations by Kurt Kennedy and technical set by Sara Cooke.
All of the details are available here.
Last summer, ACT hosted its first in-house show, "Cabaret." Insalaco told the Times that the upcoming production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" would be an homage to his late wife, Sally Riggs.
Riggs was in the original production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber's rock musical in London. "It's a great show that needs to be done here locally, and I think it will capture a lot of people's attention," Insalaco told the Times.
Opening night of The Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s production of “White Christmas” happened to coincide with my wife’s birthday this year. When she first saw the Rep’s schedule, she picked “White Christmas” as the one Rep production she would not miss, and so, very early this fall, we planned to celebrate her birthday watching this tremendous and heartwarming production. Afterwards, as we drove home in the balmy night, we reflected on how sweet and endearing the play remained after all these years, and we talked about the actors and their performances, and our favorite parts of the play, the way that people do, and I realized that this was one of those special birthdays with a friend that I will be looking back upon in fondness until my premature death at age 130. This was, in no small part, due to The Rep’s lavish rendition of Irving Berlin’s classic.
The first thing we saw when entering the theater was a projected image on the velvet stage curtains that read “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” with tiny cartoon sprigs of holly framing the sides. It was a nice touch, and put us instantly in the holiday spirit, which, considering the unseasonably warm weather was a bit of a feat. But the night’s unseasonably warm weather, in fact, mirrored part of the plot of the play (nicely done, Rep folks). Soon, the overture began, the lights dimmed, and the play commenced, instantly dropping us into the final moments of a play-within-the-play stage show for the troops of the 151st Division, stationed somewhere in Europe. We, the audience, played the part of the 151st Division for the opening (and closing) scenes. Bob Wallace (Shane Donovan) and Phil Davis (Case Dillard) perform a vaudevillian (read: intentionally corny) song and dance number for us, and then a very stoic General Waverly (Charles Karel, in a great, patronly performance) gives us a farewell speech. It was a tidy quasi-prologue that neatly outlined the principle characters and set the story into motion.
The story truly begins shortly thereafter as Bob and Phil have become post-war singing and dancing stars. They perform regularly on The Ed Sullivan show, and are beloved across the nation. While setting off for a holiday trip to Miami, the two instead take a detour to a picturesque Vermont town (by way of Phil’s unchecked libido) with two bright-faced and talented showgals, Betty and Judy Haynes (Jennifer Sheehan and Sarah Agar, respectively) who are booked to perform a Christmas show at a sleepy little inn. One couple, Phil and Judy, hit it off immediately. The other couple, however — the emotionally staid Bob and Betty — keep their distance from one another, only to eventually begin to fall in love. But you probably know the story. Based on my informal research, almost everybody has seen “White Christmas” at least once, but for the two or three Arkansans who haven’t yet, I won’t reveal the outcome.
It is interesting to see the choices a director makes when tailoring a story for particular means, and it was interesting in kind to watch the Rep’s Nicole Capri’s excellent direction bring the storyline of “White Christmas to inhabit The Rep’s stage. While some of the initial bonding between Bob and Phil is omitted, and other parts of the plot truncated, the overall story — and its characters’ friendships — does not suffer. In fact, I felt that the slight deviations from the original film (which is The Standard in “White Christmas” productions) that did occur were appropriate and timely.
As the two leads, Donovan and Dillard played off each other perfectly, and my wife and I could not decide which of the two performances we liked better. Donovan’s Bob Wallace had the familiar easy charm and light-heart-in-a-cynical-world feel inherent to the character. It was easy to identify with his take on stilted love, and Donovan’s Bob was easily the centerpiece of the story. That said, Dillard’s Phil Davis was immensely entertaining, and danced like his life depended on it. Both actors are amazing talents, and their leading ladies were beautiful and pitch perfect. But the character my wife and I kept coming back to in our discussion after the show (during our drive to the eggnog store) was Martha Watson (Ann-Ngaire Martin). She was just so much fun to watch.
Cleverly, many of Martha’s lines are contemporary in intent, which affords her a slight narrative edge over the other characters. This is sweetly borne out in the character of Susie Waverly (Maddie Lentz, Ella Moody), the general’s granddaughter, who, of all the characters swirling around her, chooses Martha to emulate, performing a terrific reprise of Martha’s own “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy,” ultimately scoring the end of the night’s biggest round of applause.
Perhaps the best part of the production, however, was the singing and dancing, which was phenomenal. I’ve been a fan of Berlin’s music for years, and it was splendid to hear it so well-represented by this great cast.
7:30 p.m. The Weekend Theater. $12-$16.
S.E. Hinton was only 17 in 1967 when her first novel, "The Outsiders," was published. The book was widely credited with expanding the scope of young-adult fiction and would go on to sell millions and millions of copies, inspiring the 1983 film of the same title.
Hinton has said that she wrote the book out of frustration with much of what was marketed to young readers at the time. Her tale of switchblades and gang fights was informed from her real-life experiences and was probably fairly shocking to the square community at the time.
In 2012, the idea of "rumbles" between Greasers and Socs seems pretty quaint, especially compared to the inner-city warfare we've witnessed in the intervening years. But many of the book's themes — class rivalry, dysfunctional families and relying on literature and art to escape the grind of daily life — are evergreen.
This stage adaptation, by Christopher Sergel, breaks the book into two acts and hews closely to the original. The Weekend Theater is back up and running again after a car smashed into the front of it earlier in the month.
This production runs at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 15.
MOSCOW BALLET'S 'THE NUTCRACKER'
3 p.m. Robinson Center Music Hall. $37-$191.
I have only vague childhood memories of what happens with the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Mouse King in the Land of Sweets (seriously, "The Nutcracker" must be our most psychedelic of holiday traditions), but Tchaikovsky's gorgeous score is still stuck in my head all these years later.
The familiar music, lavish costumes, and kitschy production make for a family favorite that's more spectacle than high art, and the Moscow Ballet, on tour with its 20th-anniversary production of "The Great Russian Nutcracker," has a rep for going all-in on the Christmas schmaltz.
In addition to the Russian pros, local student dancers from DanceArts Studios will be on stage as various mice, snow maidens, butterflies, and the like.
THE MAIN THING'S 'A FERTLE HOLIDAY'
8 p.m. The Joint. $20.
With Election Day 2012 now thankfully in the rearview mirror, the folks behind The Main Thing (The Joint's in-house comedy team) have retired their recent "Electile Dysfunction" play and are unveiling what is sure-to-be a witty homage to the Christmas season, "A Fertle Holiday."
The two-act original comedy will probably hit a little close to home for those of us here in the hinterlands who have family residing on one of the coasts. It concerns the Fertle Family Reunion in tiny, fictional Dumpster, Ark. The Fertles are hosting their well-to-do kinfolk from way out west in San Diego, Californey.
In a feat of multi-role madness that would make Eddie Murphy proud, the cast of The Main Thing — Vicki and Steve Farrell and Brett Ihler — will perform all 15 roles between the three of them. In addition to politics, the holidays are one of the mother lodes of comedy gold — fertile ground, if you will. If past shows are any indication, The Main Thing's take on the holiday season will be a family-friendly one that doesn't sacrifice on the funny.
"A Fertle Holiday" runs Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 29.
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