Thursday, August 20, 2015

Not Sure Whether to Attend Shakespeare in the Park This Summer? Our Review Might Convince You.

Posted By on Thu, Aug 20, 2015 at 8:00 AM

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Last weekend, Nashville Shakes opened its Civil War-themed performance of Henry V at the Centennial Park Band Shell. The Scene's Martin Brady was there, and he reviewed it in this week's Scene:

Nashville's 28th season of Shakespeare in the Park opened last week. I haven't missed one since 1999. With that 20th century perspective, I can at least state with authority that the event continues to hold its own with Nashville audiences as a de rigueur annual outing — one where the kids get exposed to the Bard, eating and drinking is done picnic-style, and the entire experience happens (usually) in ideal midsummer weather.

Oh sure, incessant cicadas and LifeFlight helicopters and ambulances on West End still punctuate the night air on occasion, and nowadays you can add the low hum of the multiple food trucks that ring the rear perimeter of the Centennial Park band shell. The host, Nashville Shakespeare Festival, still offers an automatic free evening of theater, though for several years now the Fest has been soliciting on-the-spot contributions — suggested $10 — and wandering volunteers looking to fill up tin cans with cash have become a fixture. But all of this is what we call ambience.

As for the theater, I've never been convinced that open-air performance is the best way to experience Shakespeare, especially in the 21st century, when it seems like promoters of the live Bard have to work double-time to compete with so many entertainment forms, not to mention the dizzying array of delivery devices that obsess people so. (Richard III on your iPad Air 2?)

The common trick to creating a grabbier form of live Shakespeare is to find a new setting or time period or framing gimmick for the play at hand. This year, first-time NSF director Nat McIntyre shoehorns Henry V into the American Civil War, where the tensions on a divided Tennessee farm find the family, slaves and soldiers performing the Bard's well-known history play — according to the program note — "in order to cope with their circumstances."

Read Brady's full review here. Henry V continues on Thursdays-Sundays through Sept. 13, as well as Labor Day, Sept. 7.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

American Idiot Opens Tomorrow at TSU's Performing Arts Center

Posted By on Wed, Aug 19, 2015 at 8:00 AM

American Idiot
When: Aug. 20-30
Where: TSU's Performing Arts Center

Circle Players kicks off its 66th season with the regional premiere of this musical based on Green Day’s 2004 concept album/punk rock opera of the same name. The opera’s basic story — of disillusionment and dissent experienced by the generation that came of age during the Iraq War — is expanded to include the dark realities of a post-9/11 world, centering on three disaffected young men who flee the stifling suburbs in search of freedom, excitement and meaning in life.

Green Day leader Billie Joe Armstrong coauthored the book with the show’s original director, Michael Mayer, and the score includes all the songs from the mega-selling, Grammy-winning album plus some additional band numbers derived from other sources, including what had been previously unreleased material. Among the well-known tunes performed are "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," ”Holiday," "Wake Me Up When September Ends" and the driving title anthem.

Actor-producer Bradley Moore directs a youthful cast of 17, which is led by Justin Boyd, Steven Griffin and Taylor Novak. The musical direction is by Steve Mogck. The remainder of Circle’s season includes Of Mice and Men, plus three other musicals: Sister Act, Children of Eden and Bonnie and Clyde. 

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Friday, August 14, 2015

The Hank and Cash Legacy Comes to the Schermerhorn Tonight

Posted By on Fri, Aug 14, 2015 at 8:00 AM

The Hank and Cash Legacy
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 14
Where: The Schermerhorn

Studio Tenn Theatre Company’s fantastic June production of The Wizard of Oz at the Schermerhorn was certainly one of the theatrical treats of the year’s first half. Now the company returns to the beautiful concert hall in collaboration with the Nashville Symphony — a partnership that presents a musical piece celebrating country legends Hank Williams and Johnny Cash.

The production is essentially a hybrid of Studio Tenn’s The Hank Legacy from their 2013 season and The Cash Legacy from 2015, revues that celebrated the music of the two icons — everything from “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “Hey, Good Lookin’ ” to “I Walk the Line” and “Ring of Fire,” plus dozens more. The cast features gifted singers and players, including Don Chaffer, Carrie Tillis, Val Storey, Jillian Edwards, Libby Black, Laura Matula, Sara Jean Kelley, Garett Buell and Jake Bradley. (Note: this production is presented without orchestra.) For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Nashville Shakes' Shakespeare in the Park Opens Tonight With Henry V at Centennial Park

Posted By on Thu, Aug 13, 2015 at 4:00 PM

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Shakespeare in the Park: Henry V
: Thursdays-Sundays through Sept. 13 and Monday, Sept. 7
Where: Centennial Park Band Shell

It’s been almost 15 years since the 2001 Polk Theater production of Shakespeare’s Henry V, a rather groundbreaking piece that thrived under the progressive direction of Mark Cabus and starred David Alford. This year’s Shakespeare in the Park production revisits the Bard’s inspirational history play, but with a twist: Director Nat McIntyre guides a mounting that uses Shakespeare’s drama to reflect on the American Civil War, with enemies coming together on a Tennessee battlefield in the last days of the bitter conflict.

As always, the Nashville Shakespeare Festival has assembled an estimable cast, which includes David Compton, Tamiko Robinson, Matt Rosenbaum, Aaron Muñoz, Karen Sternberg and Alan Lee. In the title role is Matt Garner, who was impressive in his recent Nashville Repertory Theatre debut, a production of Death of a Salesman. As always, there’s stout onstage representation from NSF’s Apprentice Company, plus strong design support from Morgan Matens (set), June Kingsbury (costumes) and Anne Willingham (lighting). Food and drink vendors open at 6 p.m., and the pre-show entertainment (a longtime NSF tradition) commences at 6:30 p.m., with curtain at 7:30. 

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The Last Five Years Opens Tonight at Darkhorse Theater

Posted By on Thu, Aug 13, 2015 at 10:00 AM

The Last Five Years
When: Aug. 13-16 and Aug. 18-22
Where: Darkhorse Theater

VWA Theatricals is a new production company supervised by Lisa Van Wye and Ed Amatrudo, the latter of whom plays Glenn Goodman, Juliette Barnes’ manager, on Nashville. VWA launches with the mounting of this structurally challenging Jason Robert Brown musical. The Last Five Years has been around for about 15 years, and has been produced locally — most recently by Street Theatre Company in 2012 and in its area premiere in 2004 by Boiler Room Theatre.

Brown’s opus charts the failing marriage of a writer and an actress, but does so in idiosyncratic style — as the action moves both forward and in reverse, allowing the audience a special glimpse into the couple’s relationship, its promise and its gathering storms. The two-person cast features Delaney Amatrudo and Luke Denison, guided by veteran Nashville director Jeffrey Ellis. The musical direction is by Micah Snow. The performances will include live pre-show music. 

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Agnes of God Opens This Week at West End UMC

Posted By on Tue, Aug 4, 2015 at 12:00 PM

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Agnes of God
: Aug. 7-16
Where: West End United Methodist Church's Fourth Story Theatre, 2200 West End Ave.

John Pielmeier’s storied script, Agnes of God, had a healthy 18-month Broadway run in 1982-83, but his mystical, psychologically driven whodunit gained a far wider audience via the spooky 1985 feature film starring Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft and Meg Tilly. In it, a novice nun gives birth and insists that the child is the result of a virgin conception. A court-appointed psychiatrist is summoned to the convent to assess the young lady’s sanity and evaluate what looks like murder. Yet Mother Superior proves to be a determined foe, intent on keeping the shrink from uncovering who killed the infant and who fathered the innocent victim. 

The play’s three demanding roles have always attracted ambitious actresses — among the Broadway casts were Elizabeth Ashley, Geraldine Page, Amanda Plummer and Diahann Carroll — and its examination of important moral and spiritual issues continues to resonate more than 30 years on. (Adding intrigue to the play’s history is the fact that, prior to its creation, a similar incident was reported to have occurred in a convent outside the city limits of Rochester, N.Y.)

Agnes of God has not been performed in Nashville for at least 20 years, and this new mounting, which opens this Friday under the direction of talented actor-director Robert Kiefer, stars Carol Ponder as Mother Miriam, Cathy S. Street as Dr. Livingstone and Kaila Wooten as Agnes. Tickets are available here, or by calling 615-321-8500. 

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Best of the Fest — Celebrate Five Years of Sideshow Fringe This Weekend at Belmont's Black Box Theater

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2015 at 3:40 PM

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The official 2015 version of Sideshow Fringe Festival closed on July 19, but now it’s back again as a special encore weekend celebrating five years of fringe arts. This weekend's showcase includes six of Sideshow's favorite performances at the Belmont Black Box Theater. Here’s run-down of the two-day greatest hits lineup. 

Saturday, Aug. 1

Herself Rising
7 p.m. 

Presented by Girls on Trapeze, this display of obvious professional skills (performed with the greatest of ease), also spotlights the artists' individuality and vulnerability, with each performer defining what femininity and being a woman means to her. Rated PG-13.

The Nerve
9 p.m.

Features Nashvillians just like you and me telling their true stories. The theme here is “Family Matters,” so expect just about anything heartfelt and real. Hosted by Spillit Memphis creative director Josh Campbell. 

Drama Boy Comes Home
11 p.m.

Energized by his gig hosting "The Nerve," Campbell flies solo, addressing essential questions such as, "How does our home define us?" and "How do we define home?" Immediate epiphanies are not promised. but laughter is a near certainty. 

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Alien: The Musical, Now Playing at TPAC's Polk Theater

Posted By on Fri, Jul 24, 2015 at 9:00 AM

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Alien: The Musical
: Through July 26
Where: TPAC's Polk Theater

Following its early December presentation in Old Hickory at The Arts at Center Street, plus an engagement in Columbus, Ohio, this musical written by Gregg D. Garner moves in to TPAC’s Polk Theater for four performances.

In a backstory worthy of our uber-creative digital age, Garner, formerly a guitarist-composer with the Christian band UnNamed Servant, received inspiration for this piece while on a plane to Nashville from Africa, quickly developing song ideas by singing quietly into his iPhone.

The play’s themes of race, class struggle, labor, power and discrimination come to life in the intersecting stories of two immigrant American families, one Irish, one Mexican. Alien spans 100 years in three acts, telling a story about conflict and the question of what it means to be human. Garner’s score features more than a dozen songs ranging over four different musical styles — Irish, folk, Latin and pop.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Spaghetti Theatre Returns With Samuel D. Hunter’s A Bright New Boise

Posted By on Mon, Jul 20, 2015 at 10:24 AM

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The youthful associates at Spaghetti Theatre continue to expose Nashville to interesting fare in the off-Broadway vein. Modest venues and lo-fi production values are to be expected when you’re a young and hungry coalition of artists, but so too is a desire to present the kind of plays not likely to be mounted by more conventionally established local companies.

Not that Samuel D. Hunter’s A Bright New Boise hasn’t earned its share of notice. The dark comedy won the 2011 Obie Award, and the playwright has been in the running for other citations (Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk), sports a training pedigree that includes NYU, the Iowa Playwrights Workshop and Juilliard, and a 2014 MacArthur “Genius Grant” fellowship.

Major regional theaters have mounted Hunter’s works, including this offbeat tale about a man searching for a new start in the wake of a murder scandal that tore apart his church. The setting is, of all places, a Hobby Lobby store in Boise, Idaho, where protagonist Will also hopes to reconnect with his son, whom he gave up for adoption 17 years ago. Hunter presents us with the confounding search for meaning amid the complexities of faith, forgiveness and the modern American landscape.

Bethany Langford directs a cast that features ambitious younger players who have emerged from Belmont University’s active theater program, including Grace Kelly Mason, Lauren Knoop and Miles Gatrell, along with AEvar Jonsson and with community theater veteran Bradley Moore in the leading role.

A Bright New Boise has a two-weekend engagement, July 24-27 & August 1-2 at Channel to Channel Art Gallery, 427 Chesnut St., Suite 302B.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

The Met’s Merry Widow Waltzes into Nashville, Courtesy of NPT

Posted By on Fri, Jun 19, 2015 at 1:02 PM

  • PHOTO CREDIT: Decca/Andrew Eccles
Opera superstar Renée Fleming’s many adoring fans will no doubt be watching public television tonight, when Great Performances airs her appearance in the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow. Fleming plays the title role of Hanna, the beautiful widow from the Balkans who moves to Paris after her late husband leaves her a fortune.

The most compelling reason to catch this broadcast, however, will be the chance to hear the remarkable singer Kelli O’Hara. This Broadway queen, best known for her performances in South Pacific and The Light in the Piazza, is making her Met debut as the coquettish Valencienne, wife of a meddlesome ambassador. O’Hara’s ardent fans will now get the chance to hear what she really sounds like, without the obligatory amplification of Broadway.

Also making her Met debut is the Tony Award-winning Broadway director Susan Stroman, who has directed and choreographed this new production. Baritone Nathan Gunn will sing the role of the freewheeling Count Danilo, and Andrew Davis will conduct the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in this famously rich, tuneful 1905 score.

The program, which has been translated from the original German to English, begins at 8 p.m. Friday on NPT. Watch a preview of tonight’s broadcast after the jump.

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