Thursday, July 26, 2012

Youth dominates this weekend's theatre openings

"A Kids Cabaret" opens at Theatre Memphis and Rudyard Kipling's "Just So Stories (Animal Tales)" is at Germantown Community Theatre. Read more here.

Pictured from left, Abbie Martin and Malia Sorce in a scene from "Just So Stories (Animal Fables)" sponsored by Payless ShoeSource at Germantown Community Theatre running July 27-Aug. 5.

Ostrander nominations announced

Chris Davis lists the Ostrander nominations for the College & University division here.

The Community division noms are here.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

'Soul of a City': Terrific exhibition at Brooks

Saw this over the weekend, and it's highly recommended -- go with friends, take  young people and be prepared to discuss.

In "The Soul of a City: Memphis Collects African American Art," the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art presents an exhibition of remarkable pieces that are vital and challenging.

The more than 100 works by African American artists come from private and public collections in Memphis. It is astonishing and as engaging and provocative as anything the Brooks has shown.

Here are some comments by Chris Davis at the Flyer on the show, and here's a story by Fredric Koeppel writing for GoMemphis at The Commercial Appeal.

The exhibition was organized by Marina Pacini, the Brooks' chief curator and curator of American, modern and contemporary art. The show is an intriguing mix of sources, artists and media. It's open until Sept. 2, and you should make the time to go and linger over its rich offerings.

Pictured: CONDITION REPORT, 2000
Glenn Ligon, American, born 1960 
Iris print and Iris print with serigraph, 8/20 
Collection of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

Bennett Wood's loving celebration of Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim is an undisputed overlord of the modern theatrical musical, having shaped contemporary views of the artform and winning scads of awards in the process (he's won more Tony Awards for composing than anyone else).

He also remains controversial -- praised and accused for his take on romance and relationships, melodies and style, attitude and innovation.

Theatre Memphis recently concluded a fine production of "A Sondheim Celebration" that presented more than two dozen songs presented by eight of the area's top singers. Presented in the intimate Next Stage, the revue was done back in November and restaged for TM's Summer Showcase Series this month.

Bennett Wood conceived and directed the show. An unabashed admirer of Sondheim's works, Wood found helming this show to be a labor of love. Gary Beard was musical director and pianist, meaning the enterprise had an assured touch throughout and great attention to detail. One addition was that of cellist Stephen Short, an inspired choice that lent considerable color and depth to the performances.

The eight singers are all highly accomplished veterans of TM productions: Justin Asher, Jonathan Christian, Rob Hanford, Lydia Hart, Jude Knight, Joe Lackie, Debbie Litch and Ann Sharp.

All are solid as soloists or in a group, and as warblers as well as conveying the essence of Sondheim's lyrics. The sensibility was, of course, largely about bittersweet love, with special attention to the bitter. Sondheim has been reviled for not being romantic, but on the contrary, he is highly romantic — just with large helpings of reality.

The cast of "A Sondheim Celebration" brought great expressiveness to those sentiments on a stylishly simple set with minimal choreography, but with a rich, rueful delivery.

As for the controversy that Sondheim stirs up, you could see both sides of the arguments throughout the performances. In a single number you might find music that careens between trite and inventive, even as the lyrics spin out some beautifully expressed angst about love. And no, there's not much the composer does that will leave you whistling, but it will keep you thinking.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

'If I Can Dream' at Brooks

Memphis Brooks Museum of Art has partnered with Graceland to host an international art contest in honor of the 35th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death. The exhibition's opening reception is this Saturday, July 21, at 10:30 am. 

Original artworks in all media on exhibit were created in response to the quote, “If I Can Dream.” A professional panel of judges selected the pieces for the exhibition that runs through Sept. 16. 

The judges awarded a first, second, and third place prize in three divisions: professional, non-professional, and youth. The remaining submissions are on exhibition via PowerPoint in the gallery. Visitors of the exhibition will have the opportunity to vote for “Fans Favorite” through the end of Elvis Week (August 19, 2012).

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Hattiloo panel July 21

Hattiloo Theatre is hosting a panel discussion relating to themes in its upcoming musical comedy "The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin." The event is July 21 from noon to 2 pm and is free. Hattiloo is at 656 Marshall.

Panelists include Dr. Rychetta Watkins (Rhodes College), Wendi Thomas (columnist, The Commercial Appeal), Ruby Bright (Women's Foundation CEO/ President), Jackie Williams (YWCA President).

The musical opens July 26 and runs through Aug. 12. For more info, go here.

Searing "Race" at TheatreWorks through July 29

David Mamet's tough drama "Race" is an explosive look at America's toughest subject. Performances run Thursdays through Sundays through July 29 at TheatreWorks. For more info, go here. Christopher Blank praised the production here. Update: Chris Davis's take on it here.