ARKANSAS SHAKESPEARE THEATRE
This month sees the return of the Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre's summer festival, which will run through June 29 at venues in Conway and Little Rock. Catch outdoor performances of Shakespeare's supposed first play "The Two Gentleman of Verona" at The Village at Hendrix on June 13 and 15 (donations and lawn chairs encouraged), or at the Argenta branch of the Laman Library June 19, 21 and 22. "Hamlet" will come to UCA's Reynolds Performance hall on June 20 (tickets $28) and "The Comedy of Errors," a production aimed at younger audiences, will be at Reynolds beginning June 24 ($10). This year, the company will also be presenting "Pippin," which has nothing to do with Shakespeare but which was just recently revived on Broadway and won four Tony Awards in the process. The musical, with lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (and originally directed by Broadway-auteur Bob Fosse, who left his stamp on the production), will be staged at Reynolds Performance Hall at 7:30 p.m. June 11, 12, 14, 25 and 26, and at 2 p.m. June 13, 15, 22, 25 and 27 (tickets $28). WS
$5. Juanita's. 9 p.m.
More than 10 years ago, I was at a house party in town. Someone was playing an old record I wasn't familiar with. For just a moment I thought it was Bessie Smith, but no, the sound was too crisp. I just couldn't place it one way or the other — man or woman, black or white. I wandered outside toward what I thought were the speakers and it wasn't a record at all: There was Chris Denny, probably no more than 20 years old at the time, sitting in a lawn chair, playing guitar and wailing out songs. Who was this? It's too obvious to say the kid sounded like he was from another time. Hell, he sounded like he was from another planet. Denny, a North Little Rock native, gets compared to all sorts of things: Roy Orbison most commonly; Bob Dylan is also sort of a fit; plus gospel, blues, old-time country, soul. But the thing about Chris Denny is that he sounds like nothing so much as Chris Denny, a one-of-a-kind. His voice is a singular instrument — a cinematic warble that veers between sorrow and joy, between Sunday morning and Saturday night. All that preternatural talent had plenty of folks in Arkansas convinced he was bound for big things, but in 2007, after "Age Old Hunger," Denny's career — and life — went off course, overwhelmed by his struggles with drug and alcohol addiction. So it was welcome news indeed to hear that Denny is back: Clean and sober now, he'll make his comeback performance in Arkansas this Thursday at Juanita's and his new album "If the Roses Don't Kill Us" will be out from Partisan Records in August. I've been listening to a review copy and am happy to report that I recognized that unmistakable voice right away. DR
THURSDAY 6/12- SUNDAY 6/15
EUREKA SPRINGS BLUES WEEKEND
Various Venues. $75.
Eureka Springs, the perennial outpost for Ozark bohemia (along with ghost hunters, New Age crystal connoisseurs, wealthy folk artists, metal sculptors, UFO spotters, et al.), has assembled a suitably impressive lineup for its Blues Weekend, with icons and road legends from Kansas City, New Orleans and Memphis playing with hometown favorites. You can spend the day in Basin Park watching harmonica-playing Brandon Santini, the Doghouse Daddies, Brick Fields and Danny Cox, or catch blues guitarist Fast Johnny Ricker at the Barefoot Ballroom. You can purchase individual tickets for the headlining shows at The Auditorium for $25. Friday night's set features Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band, and Saturday night will be Little Rock favorite Lucious Spiller, Brick Fields and The Chosen Ones, Moreland and Arbuckle, and Carolyn Wonderland. There will also be a Father's Day Blues Picnic at Turpentine Creek, 1 p.m., featuring food and drinks, arts and crafts, kite flying and music by The Stacy Mitchhart Band. Pets are welcome, too, as long they are "well-behaved." WS