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Argenta Community Theater stages 'Follies' 

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THROUGH 3/17

'FOLLIES'

7 p.m. Argenta Community Theater. $30-$40.

If Stephen Sondheim's "Follies" doesn't ring a bell, ask anyone you know who's ever participated in a heated argument about the merits and demerits of "La La Land." They'll likely know a thing or two about this pseudo-pastiche to American theater between the World Wars. Or, at the very least, they'll know about its composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, who's responsible for a hefty (and often dark) chunk of the American musical theater canon: "Into the Woods," "A Little Night Music," "Sweeney Todd," "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." Here, Sondheim's adoring love letter to vaudeville glamor is tempered with pathos and rose-colored retrospection. In 1971, two former showgirls, accompanied by the men they married and by ghosts of their younger selves, attend a reunion with their former castmates in the theater they once strutted around in glitter, heels and ostrich plumes, now dilapidated and slated for demolition. It's about the ways we disappoint and delude ourselves, and its terrifically difficult score, like many of Sondheim's, has been the subject of infatuation from theater types for decades — no doubt the reason why this audition call attracted some MVPs of local theater: Judy Trice, Kathryn Pryor, Claire Rhodes, Karen Clark, Jay Clark, Jessica Mylonas, Duane Jackson, Bob Bidewell and more. SS

click to enlarge 'STRINGS ATTACHED': Vieuxchamp, Bach, Schoenberg and Vivaldi are on the bill at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral for Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's Intimate Neighborhood Concerts series. - JEFF SCOFIELD
  • Jeff Scofield
  • 'STRINGS ATTACHED': Vieuxchamp, Bach, Schoenberg and Vivaldi are on the bill at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral for Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's Intimate Neighborhood Concerts series.

THURSDAY 3/8

'STRINGS ATTACHED'

7 p.m. Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. $29.

Evidently, there are folks out there who find Belgian composer Henri Vieuxtemps' melodies tacky and saccharine. Fortunately, those people are probably off somewhere sniffing cult wines and polishing their monocles, and they aren't in charge of programming the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra's Intimate Neighborhood Concert Series. So, this yearning elegy for viola and piano gets a performance from ASO principal violist Katherine Reynolds in a cathedral space that's acoustically fit to bring out the drama in every crunchy dissonance and suspension. In one such place, the viola reaches across two octaves in a single phrase. In another, a cadenza about halfway through lands on the tonic note, giving the listener a sense of finality for about a millisecond before the piano objects with an aching, pleading G flat to launch the next section. It's romantic music at its romantic-est, and it shares a bill with Adam Schoenberg's floaty, translucent "Slo-Mo," the second movement from the composer's 2015 "Motio" for string quartet; Bach's "Brandenberg Concerto No. 6 in B-flat Major"; and Vivaldi's "Concerto for Three Violins in F Major." Student and military tickets are $10. SS

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THURSDAY 3/8

WHISKEY MYERS

8:30 p.m. Rev Room. $20.

In a video detailing the making of "Mud," Whiskey Myers' latest, lead singer Cody Cannon and sound engineer Dave Cobb talk influences — Black Sabbath, Lynyrd Skynyrd — and about how their quintet doesn't record in the mornings, "because you can't do rock and roll in the mornings. That's stupid." It's keg-party country, with anthemic, crowd-pleaser choruses like the one on the album's title track, which either describes a broken economy's ruin or the flash-flood-ravaged roads Whiskey Myers drove on to get to this gig: "Daddy owed the banker man / So we was drowning before the flood / That river washed us all away / And left us right here in the mud." Muscadine Bloodline opens the show. SS

click to enlarge Charlotte Taylor - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • Charlotte Taylor

FRIDAY 3/9

2ND FRIDAY ART NIGHT

5-8 p.m., downtown venues. Free.

March is the time to celebrate Women's History Month, and the Historic Arkansas Museum does that with a show of artwork by largely unsung female Arkansas artists, "#5WomenArtists." They are Jamie Goza Fox (1887-1979), Essie Ann Treat Ward (1902-1981, the "Grandma Moses of the Ozarks"), Elsie May Ford (1901-1977), Natalie Smith Henry (1907-1992, who did post office murals during the Depression) and Neppie Lee Conner (1917-2006, who taught art at the University of Arkansas). Charlotte Taylor and Matt Stone will perform. Also on the 2nd Friday trolley route: The Cox Creative Center, which features figurative paintings by Henderson State University art professor Kathy Strause in a show called "New Rules"; the Butler Center, which opens the 48th annual "Mid-Southern Watercolorists Exhibition," a juried show, with music by Dave Williams and Friends; and the Old State House Museum, where you can catch some jazz by the Michael Carenbauer Trio. Also: Visit the studios of Larry Crane, Mike Gaines and Michael Dare at the Pyramid Building, and check out Bella Vita, McLeod Fine Art and the group pop-up show in The Rep's black box theater. LNP

Nisheedah Golden - JOSHUA ASANTE
  • Joshua Asante
  • Nisheedah Golden

FRIDAY 3/9

OPERA IN THE ROCK: TO THE NINES

6:30 p.m. Junior League of Little Rock Ballroom. $75.

This gala fundraiser for Little Rock's opera company has a killer lineup of voices: the pure, nimble soprano of Kara Claybrook; the rich, velvety mezzo-sopranos of Nisheedah Golden and Satia Spencer; and the rich, warm baritone of Ronald Jensen-McDaniel. Come for the familiar arias — selections from "Porgy and Bess" and "Carmen " — and stay for a preview of Opera in the Rock's upcoming production of William Grant Still's "Troubled Island," an underperformed opera in three acts with a libretto by poet Langston Hughes. Still was a composer who graduated from M.W. Gibbs High School in Little Rock and went on to be called the "Dean of African-American composers." SS

click to enlarge A TRIBUTE TO ELLA: Actor and concert artist Capathia Jenkins is one of three vocalists to join the ASO this weekend in tribute to the "First Lady of Song."
  • A TRIBUTE TO ELLA: Actor and concert artist Capathia Jenkins is one of three vocalists to join the ASO this weekend in tribute to the "First Lady of Song."

SATURDAY 3/10-SUNDAY 3/11

'A TRIBUTE TO ELLA'

7:30 p.m. Sat., 3 p.m. Sun. Robinson Center Performance Hall. $15-$65.

Ella Fitzgerald would be 100 years old this year. The jazz singer's influence is hard to overstate, as is the exceptionality of how she ever got there to begin with, having gone from the overcrowded Colored Orphan Asylum to being homeless to being told she was too disheveled and plain to be under the stage lights. Nevertheless, she basically reinvented vocal improvisation after the style of horns, and she did it with such facility and creativity that it's nearly impossible for modern jazz singers to either imitate her or avoid imitating her. Here, a trio of seasoned Broadway singers — Capathia Jenkins, Aisha de Haas and Nikki Renee Daniels — pays tribute to Fitzgerald's legacy in a concert with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. SS

click to enlarge LOW AT LOW KEY: Duluth, Minn., trio Low play an intimate concert at Low Key Arts in Hot Springs Saturday night. - ZORAN ORLIC
  • Zoran Orlic
  • LOW AT LOW KEY: Duluth, Minn., trio Low play an intimate concert at Low Key Arts in Hot Springs Saturday night.

SATURDAY 3/10

LOW

8 p.m. Low Key Arts. $20.

Depending on whether it was Jeff Tweedy or Steve Albini or someone else at the board, Low's sound has ranged from slow burn to brooding pop to candlelight reverie. That's bound to happen when you've been at it for nearly 25 years — over a decade of those at Sub Pop Records. Low has become known for compelling live performances, many delivered with the audience sitting on the floor for maximum absorption. And, any name similarities aside, the intimate warehouse vibe at Low Key Arts in Hot Springs (118 Arbor St.) is an ideal environment to soak up the band's strange harmonies, isolated bass lines and musical solidarity. SS

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SATURDAY 3/10

THE CREEK ROCKS

8:30 p.m. Kings Live Music, Conway. $5.

For fans of Almeda "Granny" Riddle or Jimmy Driftwood, do yourself a favor and give The Creek Rocks half-album, half-musicology project "Wolf Hunter" a spin. The collection draws traditional Ozark tunes from two folklorists: John Quincy Wolf of Batesville, where The Creek Rocks' Cindy Woolf was raised; and Max Hunter of Springfield, Mo., where Mark Bilyeu (formerly of Big Smith, now of The Creek Rocks) grew up. The two are 15 years into their musical partnership and five years into their marital one, and the crystalline sounds on "Wolf Hunter" are as immaculate a mission statement as I can imagine for the duo — and as euphoric as I imagine songs can possibly be when their subject matter ranges mainly from marmots to muskrats. For a primer, cue up "Groundhog," an Appalachian traditional that, in this particular key, showcases Woolf's pitch-perfect delivery and bone-chilling holler. The Going Jessies open the show. SS

click to enlarge FIGHT THE POWER: Handwritten Public Enemy lyrics and Stevie Wonder's sunglasses are among the artifacts at the Clinton Presidential Center's next temporary exhibit, 
"Louder than Words: Rock, Power and Politics."
  • FIGHT THE POWER: Handwritten Public Enemy lyrics and Stevie Wonder's sunglasses are among the artifacts at the Clinton Presidential Center's next temporary exhibit, "Louder than Words: Rock, Power and Politics."

MONDAY 3/12-SUNDAY 8/5

'LOUDER THAN WORDS: ROCK, POWER AND POLITICS'

9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sat., 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sun., Clinton Center.

Politics and rock music have been intertwined since before we called it rock music, and the connections between the two realms delineate (and often, poke at) political divisions. See, for example, the end of Poulenc's "Dialogues of the Carmelites," or Ethel Smyth's 1910 suffragette song "The March of the Women." Or, the list of rockers who have called out Trump for using their music to campaign: Michael Stipe, Neil Young, the Rolling Stones. The Clinton Presidential Center, in curatorial collaboration with the Newseum and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, opens its newest temporary exhibit, "Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics," featuring "handwritten lyrics, stage costumes and instruments that have never been publicly displayed," the press release said. "Music has provided the soundtrack for many of the important transitions in our country's history," President Bill Clinton said in that same release. "From the civil rights era to anti-war movements to the fight for women's equality and LGBTQ rights, singers and songwriters have rallied us together in common cause and inspired us to move our country forward." The exhibit, he said, "will take you on a six-decade journey that explores the power of music to challenge assumptions and affect social and political change." SS

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TUESDAY 3/13

AVGUSTE ANTONOV

7 p.m. St. Luke's Episcopal Church, NLR. Free.

It's not that often a concert pianist counts "Administrator for Lords of Clan Tribe" or "Moderator for 24-HR Gaming" among his accomplishments, or that Billy Joel's "Fantasies and Delusions" makes an appearance on the list of possibilities for concert programming. Avguste Antonov, a Belgian-born pianist who performs and lectures in the United States these days and beats people at online chess in his spare time, does both. Even cooler, Antonov doesn't stick to crowd-pleasing classics like Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" or Chopin's "Minute Waltz" — the "Freebirds" of solo piano repertoire. He's a champion of living composers like Carter Pann, Raina Murnak, Matthew Lewis, Till Meyn and others, and he gives a free concert at St. Luke's this week as part of the church's "Festival of the Senses" concert series. SS

click to enlarge AN ARKANSAS LOVE STORY, WITH NINJAS: El Dorado native Qui Nguyen's "Vietgone" goes up at TheaterSquared in Fayetteville.
  • AN ARKANSAS LOVE STORY, WITH NINJAS: El Dorado native Qui Nguyen's "Vietgone" goes up at TheaterSquared in Fayetteville.

WEDNESDAY 3/14- SUNDAY 4/8

'VIETGONE'

7:30 p.m. Wed.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sat.-Sun. Studio Theater, Walton Arts Center, Fayetteville. $17-$47.

"An Arkansas love story. With ninjas." That's the tagline that accompanies this production of "Vietgone," Qui Nguyen's tale of how his parents — two of the 50,000-plus refugees that were relocated to Fort Chaffee after the fall of Saigon in 1975 — met and fell in love. The story was, Nguyen told NPR, difficult to extract: "Anybody coming from a tumultuous situation like the Holocaust, Vietnam or Syria — they often don't want to talk about it," Nguyen said. "So the first thing I did was get my dad drunk a whole lot, and that kinda freed up the chops a little bit. But what really got them talking ... is that Asian parents really hate the idea of their kids being dumb. So I pretended to be dumb and say things like, 'Oh the Vietnam War was a war between Vietnam and France, right?' And they're like, 'No, that's wrong! Why you so stupid?'... And they told me not to put it in, but I did, because I'm an asshole." "Vietgone" is Nguyen's mostly-true origin story, complete with 292 bars of hip-hop and rap, stoner sex and — in keeping with the playwright's penchant for mashing up drama with a comic book aesthetic — a vivid 1,700-square-foot, hand-painted set by designer Chika Shimizu. Kholoud Sawaf, a native of Syria who's working with TheaterSquared to develop an adaptation of "Romeo & Juliet" set in contemporary Damascus, Sawaf's hometown, directs. SS


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