The Who's on first 

The legendary rockers, Amy Lee, Rod Stewart and Disney will make spring sparkle in Arkansas.

The Who: Heading to Alltel.
  • The Who: Heading to Alltel.


How many times has someone uttered the “I’d rather be lucky than good” line? People in the concert industry will tell you that Michael Marion, the Alltel Arena general manager, is good at his job — he’s got two nominations and one award as facilities manager of the year from the Concert Industry Consortium. But he first credits “luck” for Alltel Arena’s run of good fortune in booking major concerts over consecutive springs.

In March 2006, the Rolling Stones drew a capacity crowd to Alltel and recorded the biggest indoor gate in the state’s history, just part of a record month that saw more than 118,000 people slip through the turnstiles for concerts and other events. “Last March was just lightning striking and continuing,” Marion said.

This March got off to a good start with a huge crowd for country stars Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert on March 10. But it’s the Who who’re generating the big sparks this March. Rod Stewart and Disney on Ice keep the power on in April.

Little Rock “has a reputation of being a good solid concert market,” Marion says. That helped the promoters who brought the Rolling Stones here last year to think of Alltel Arena when the Who was available, and that icon group, led by guitarist Pete Townshend and vocalist Roger Daltry, will make its first visit to Arkansas for a show on Thursday, March 22.

“Getting the Who, it was the ol’ right place, right time,” Marion said. “They have a date coming in Mexico City and they were going to South America and that changed, they decided to reroute some dates, they were looking for Southern cities. We raised our hand, said the Who had never been here before, thought it would be a good play for them, and here we are.”

Hometown hero Amy Lee and her band, Evanescence, headline a modern rock show with Chevelle and Finger Eleven on Sunday, March 25.

“Like we like to say, we’ve got something for everybody — sports, concerts,” Marion said. That includes the Southeastern Conference gymnastics championships will be held Saturday, March 31.

Disney on Ice is bringing Princesses, a salute to the entertainment company’s heroines over the years, April 18-22. Rod Stewart follows the children’s entertainment with sexier stuff on April 27. More could be in the works, including a Kenny Chesney date in May, though nothing was finalized by early this week.

Like Alltel Arena, Little Rock’s many venues will have something for everyone this spring.

Pop and classical chanteuse Linda Ronstadt will join the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra for the annual Acxiom SuperPops on April 19 at Robinson Center Music Hall, and the ASO’s much-in-demand Pops, Live! series takes on the works of Boston Pops and Philharmonic conductor John Williams on May 11-12.

The Arkansas Repertory Theatre cranks up its schedule April 27 when it will premiere Bertrand Priest, the winner of the 2006 Kaufman and Hart Prize for New American Comedy.

Brad Mooy, the Rep’s artistic director, put the play through a reading last summer and is assembling the cast for the premiere. New York playwright Ian Cohen will be on hand for early rehearsals as well as the opening of the show.

“It’s really fresh,” Mooy said. “It’s a play that mixes the spiritual and magic and faith, a little romance. All sorts of things come into play with the piece. It’s a tough play to produce because it encompasses so many different themes, but it is quite fresh.”

Josie DiVincenzo (as Katrina) and Matt Walker (as Al) participated in the staged reading last summer and are cast as two of the four main characters.

The 90-minute “Bertrand Priest” is the third Kaufman and Hart winner to be staged as a regular part of the Rep’s season, following “The Sleeper” and “Friends Like These” staged over the past four years. (The biennial award is presented in even years.)

Mooy calls “Bertrand Priest” a dark comedy. “It’s not farce. If people are coming here looking for Marx Brothers or pants dropping, that is not this play at all,” he said. “It’s romantic and engaging and intense and quite fresh. Not every theater takes a chance on a new work, so I’m glad we’re doing this.”

Poet Nikki Giovanni and magazine contributor Christopher Hitchens are among the literary lights that will descend on Little Rock for the fourth Arkansas Literary Festival, to be held April 20-22 at various venues in the River Market, Philander Smith College and the Junior League of Little Rock. The Arkansas Times-sponsored “Pub or Perish” readings will return to the Peabody Hotel on April 21.

National Public Radio’s The Book Guys, Allan Stypeck and Mike Cuthbert, will be back to kick off the festival with their show on April 19 at the Main Library. Postcard secrets compiler and “The Secret Lives of Men and Women” author Frank Warren, Clinton biographer Janis Kearney, former White House chef Roland Mesnier, playwright and actor Jonathan Reynolds, Middle East journalist Milton Viorst and Arkansas writers Kevin Brockmeier and Elizabeth Jacoway, both with new releases, will read or lead panel discussions. Noted children’s book authors Cheryl Barnes and Walter Mayes will attend as well. A complete list of writers is available at www.arkansasliteraryfestival.org.

The Disney Radio Rock and Road show is the highlight at MaumelleFest, a full day of music and family fun at Lake Willastein in Maumelle on April 21. Music promoter Butch Stone lined up the entertainment.

Summer is ushered in by the three-day Riverfest arts and music festival in the River Market, Riverfront Park and the amphitheater. Some of the music acts committed include rapper LL Cool J, consummate blues man Keb Mo, rocker Pat Benatar and country acts Montgomery Gentry, Keith Anderson and Blake Shelton.


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