Don't tell Kaine Riggan there's a recession — not when the entrepreneur/producer/director just sank approximately $100,000 of his own money transforming an old Printers Alley venue into the permanent downtown home of the Nashville Dinner Theatre, a brand name Riggan operated under with success at the Senior Center for the Arts in Donelson.
Situated amid quaintly appointed law offices, newly built lofts and the residual architecture of Nashville's bygone days as a printing giant, Riggan's new playhouse is the old Boots Randolph's supper club, owned and operated from 1977 through the mid-1990s by the noted saxophone player best known for his 1963 hit "Yakety Sax."
Riggan's makeover preserves the original brick building's integrity, and the cosmetic approach to the 11,000-square-foot interior provides a historically respectful ambience, with a theater venue seating 175, including 75 balcony seats. There's also a smaller cabaret-style nightclub with the feel of a speakeasy, especially with its entrance off Printers Alley, still a somewhat bedraggled strip of real estate that is home to karaoke, country and blues bars, and the Brass Stables strip club.
While representing investment in downtown, Riggan's enterprise also means jobs — to some extent, at least. Besides employing workers to refurbish floors, walls, staircases, a new stage, etc., he's figuring on 10 full-time employees to run the start-up, not including the Music City talent appearing in the shows or playing in the band. In addition, artist Jody Johnson was commissioned to paint an appealing wall mural on the building's Third Avenue facade.
Riggan inaugurates the new NDT with A Scattered, Smothered and Covered Christmas Musical, his original Christmas-themed work set in a local Waffle House, performed twice in Donelson starring Joyce DeWitt, former co-star of the '70s TV comedy Three's Company. DeWitt returns for this remounting of a piece incorporating some 15 songs drawn from the catalogs of accomplished songwriters such as Randy Travis ("Reasons I Cheat"), T. Graham Brown ("Wine Into Water"), Bob McDill ("All the Good Ones Are Gone") and Paul Overstreet ("How Do I Wrap My Heart Up for Christmas?"). Debbie Mathis contributes the show's signature tune, "Waffle House Waitress."
Theatergoers really can't argue with the particulars: Dinner (provided by Monell's) and show combined is a competitive $40, with show-only tickets $25. Validated parking is free at the Printers Alley Garage. (That fact alone may entice convenience-conscious Nashvillians downtown.)
Whether Riggan's venture thrives in a stagnant economy remains to be seen. Riggan, who's been in Nashville 16 years, was once a performer himself, later employed by the Tennessee Arts Commission and Circle Players. Now he's re-emerged as a theatrical dreamer with a gambler's spirit. For now, he's smiling — his fingers crossed.
Call 889-4000 or visit nashvilledinnertheatre.com for more info.
ACT 1's production of Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac is the first in Nashville since Tennessee Repertory Theatre mounted its lavish 2000 production. Director Elizabeth Hayes never shies away from a lengthy piece, condensing five acts into two at a three- hour running time — including an imaginative battle scene. Of course, ACT 1 lacks the Rep's resources, so this version hinges on the script, which is clever and passionate. Considering the cast is 25 community players, the acting isn't too shabby.
Leading man Ryan Williams is up to the task of portraying the swashbuckling, proboscis-challenged title character, and his lyrical handling of speech after speech is fully gratifying. Other familiar locals contributing solid performances include Alan Lee and Jack E. Chambers, and Matthew Scott Baxter makes a good stab at the tough role of Christian, the earnest young cadet who's caught the eye of Roxane, the object of Cyrano's unrequited affection. Kellye Mitchell makes a likeable Roxane, while Diana Holland garners sincere chuckles in two supporting character roles.
The costumes, hats and wigs — by Andrew Drumheller, Karen Ingram, Chris Espander and Lynda Cameron-Bayer — help ensure the feel of 17th century France, especially in the absence of more elaborate sets.
Cyrano plays through Nov. 13 at the Darkhorse Theater.
Beginning Thursday, Nov. 11, TSU's theater department presents Ruined, Lynn Nottage's 2009 Pulitzer-winning play based on her experiences in Africa investigating the lives of women victimized by the violence of civil war, presented in conjunction with the collaborative on-campus partnership Coalition for Preventing Violence Against Women.
Nottage is best known for 2003's Intimate Apparel, a poignant tale about a young black seamstress off to turn-of-the-20th-century New York to pursue her independence. Tennessee Repertory Theatre's 2007 production starring the marvelous Stella Reed and a strong local supporting cast provided a fabulous showcase for Nottage's multilevel storytelling.
Theater professor Lawrence James directs Ruined, which promises the usual passion and spirit that epitomize TSU's impressive young female performers. The show runs through Nov. 21 at TSU Performing Arts Center's Cox-Lewis Theatre. For tickets, visit tnstate.edu/theatre. (Nottage will be in Nashville to present a free lecture at 1 p.m. Nov. 11 as part of the University's Distinguished Lecture Series at TSU's Floyd Payne Campus Center Forum.)
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So long Don. Your creative energy and encouragement were inspirational to me.
It was so great being one of those kids in Dayton.
I miss Iodine.
^ It's nice to see an official acknowledgement by management. Kristen Mcarther Miles (the girl…