The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Louisville’s Barnstable Brown Gala will celebrate its 25th edition with plenty of old friends and some new faces Derby Eve.
Among the familiar faces at the home of The ‘Ville’s hostess with the mostess, Patricia Barnstable Brown, will be reigning country superstar Miranda Lambert, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, pop chart-topper Kid Rock, former ‘N Sync member and TV star Joey Fatone, and UK coach John Calipari, according to Louisville’s Courier-Journal.
New stars coming out this year include Josh Henderson, who plays J.R. Ewing’s son on TNT’s Dallas, Krysten Ritter, who plays the title role in ABC’s Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23, Stephen Amell of the CW’s Arrow, model Coco Rocha, twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss of The Social Network fame, Peyton Siva of the national champion University of Louisville men’s basketball team, and UK’s Nerlens Noel.
According to the C-J, Larry Birkhead, whose famously met the late Anna Nicole Smith at the 2004 Barnstable party and had a daughter with her, will arrive with a camera crew in tow documenting his Derby experience.
The Barnstable party always boasts the longest celebrity guest list of the Derby parties, and this year is no different. The celebs can generally be broken down into several categories.
Country music will be well represented by Clay Walker; Kix Brooks, formerly of Brooks & Dunn; Travis Tritt; Lee Ann Womack; and Eddie Montgomery, of Kentucky’s Montgomery Gentry.
R&B and hip hop will be represented by Freddie Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Morris Day of Morris Day and the Time fame, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of Run-DMC, Taylor Dayne, and Johnny Gill of New Edition. The presence of Tony Award winner Jennifer Holliday means both actresses who won awards for playing Effie in Dreamgirls will be at Derby this year. Jennifer Hudson, who won her Oscar for playing the role in the film is appearing at the revived Grand Gala, Friday night. And Southern rock will be represented by Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Mark “Sparky” Matejka.
The acting attendees include David Denman of The Office and Drop Dead Diva, Terry O’Quinn of Lost, Mercedes Masohn of Chuck, Breakfast Club star Emilio Estevez, and American Pie star Jason Biggs.
And there are always plenty of human athletes in Louisville to watch the horses race: the NBA’s Anthony Davis and Darius Miller of UK’s 2012 national champion men’s basketball team, former UK and current Green Bay Packers star Randall Cobb, his Green Bay teammate linebacker Clay Matthews III, Minnesota Vikings Quarterback Matt Cassel, Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker, New England Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and Olympian Bode Miller.
Something nudged me after Louisville’s Jennifer Lawrence accepted her Oscar for best actress last night: watching a Kentucky native walk off with a major acting award was not an exotic thing to see. And no, I am not going back to George Clooney’s 2006 best supporting actor win for Syriana.
I’m just going back to last June, when Ashland’s Steve Kazee took home the Tony Award for best actor in a musical for Once.
The question I had to answer for myself before I went to bed this morning was, has any other state, aside from the usual suspects of New York and California, produced two major acting award winners in the past year? We’re talking Emmy, Tony, Oscar — I tried to find a comparable Grammy category and could not.
The answer was no, even drilling down to supporting player awards, and not even California. Now if you want to win a major acting award, being born in New York is a really good idea — particularly Manhattan. But after that, at least in 2012-13, having an old Kentucky home seemed to be as helpful as anything.
Of course, we have long known there is talent in the Bluegrass State, from the music of Loretta Lynn to the performances of the late Patricia Neal.
But what I really like about these two wins is Lawrence and Kazee probably wouldn’t have been the two performers you’d expect to create a one-two hit for Kentucky just a few years ago. Before breaking out in Winter’s Bone, then teenage Lawrence was relatively unknown. And Kazee had the chops but was struggling to find that breakout Broadway role.
It’s a nice message to send to aspiring performers across the Commonwealth: As much as we are subject to stereotypes and self-loathing, there is a rich culture here. And it is entirely possible to come from Kentucky and reach the pinnacles of artistic success, even without a last name like Judd or Clooney. Just watch the big award ceremonies.
The sweltering days around the Fourth of July were perfect for city kids to pop open a fire hydrant to cool off, but not so great for expensive instruments in apartments that are not air-conditioned.
That’s what Lexington native Jacob Yates was fretting July 7 in his hot digs near the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where he is a student. He was spending the summer playing cello and keyboard for Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati’s production of Next to Normal. Cast member Jessica Hendy suggested Yates bring his cello to her air-conditioned home.
“We just hung out all day, and we just started making music,” says Hendy, whose Broadway credits include Cats, Aida and Amour. “It was one of those random things.”
They started working on a rendition of Lady Gaga’s Edge of Glory with a healthy dose of J.S. Bach thrown in. Then they decided to make a video of it with Hendy’s iPhone and post it on her YouTube page.
That black-and-white clip (above), with Yates playing in a backward baseball cap and a giraffe in the background, became a minor success.
“We both really like social networking, and we started getting a significant number of views really fast,” Yates said.
Hendy elaborates, “We both posted it on our Facebook pages, and we had so many shares from friends and acquaintances who were posting it on their walls, we thought, ‘Oh, maybe we should do another one.’”
Their duo, J String, was born.
Sunday night, they bring their live show to Natasha’s Bistro and Bar in Lexington with more than a dozen pop songs set for voice and cello including the summer of 2012’s No. 1 earworm, Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe.
Bundy will play Shelby, billed as a potential love interest for leading man Scott Porter, who plays George Tucker.
Hart of Dixie, which is entering its second season, focuses on The OC veteran Rachel Bilson as Dr. Zoe Hart, an aspiring surgeon whose career gets rerouted to a small practice in Bluebell, Ala. — a fictional town, though it does have a website. According to HuffPost TV — sorry, I have not followed the series — last season ended with George coming to profess his love for Zoe, so Bundy’s Shelby seems to be setting up a triangle here.
Bundy, best known for originating the roles of Amber von Tussle in Hairspray — The Musical and Elle Woods in Legally Blonde — The Musical on Broadway, is no stranger to TV, having played guest roles on series from Home Improvement to How I Met Your Mother. She has also been pursuing a country music career and is set to release her second album on Mercury Nashville soon.
Bundy’s first appearance on on Hart will reportedly be on the season’s third episode, Oct. 16.
Fans of Tony Award-winning Broadway musicals and that Trey Parker-Matt Stone sense of humor will be able to see the show that brought those two great things together in the PNC Broadway in Louisville 2013-14 season.
The Book of Mormon, which claimed nine Tony Awards including best musical and best book and best score for Parker, Stone and Robert Lopez in 2011 will have a limited engagement as part of the series that starts a year from now. Exact performance dates and times will be announced when the full season is unveiled in March.
But Broadway in Louisville is announcing the engagement now because it is a big deal and subscribers to this season will have first dibs on tickets to Book of Mormon.
While Broadway and the South Park creators may not seem like a logical marriage, Stone and Parker have always had a thing for Broadway and have made numerous homages to the Great White Way, including the 2009 wresting episode W.T.F., which lampooned pro wrestling as more drama than sport (the audition segment is brilliant), or last year’s Broadway Bro Down, made in the wake of Mormon‘s success. (Note: If you click the links, this is South Park, which is one of the raunchiest shows on basic cable.)
This coming season of Broadway in Louisville includes 2010 best musical winner Memphis, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Flashdance — The Musical and Jersey Boys. Subscribers to the coming season will have the first opportunity to buy tickets for next season, including Mormon, when they go on sale.
Yes, after its 2008 renovation some people might consider the Lexington Opera House’s seats so comfortable they’d like to have one at home. But that’s not what this seat sale is about.
From 2 to 5 p.m. on Aug. 26, folks interested is subscribing to the Opera House’s 7 p.m. Sunday performances of its Broadway Live series can come test drive seats and talk to ticket agents about subscribing to all or part of the 2012-13 season, which includes shows such as Dreamgirls and West Side Story. Subscribers to the Sunday evening series will be able to save as much as 10 to 20 percent on series tickets, depending on seat locations. The discount is only available for Sunday evening shows.
The Opera House added Sunday evening performances to the Broadway Live series in 2008-09, bringing the total number of performances for each show on the schedule to five. The move expanded options and accessibility to the series, which has had numerous sell outs over the years. But Sunday evening has traditionally been a harder sell for performing arts presenters. The Opera House has taken numerous steps to build audiences for the shows with features such as the Arts Appetizer chats at the Horse & Barrel in neighboring Victorian Square.
Sweetening the deal on the 26th will be ice cream sundaes for patrons who come peruse seats. Visitors will also be able to add tickets to two Variety Live presentations, Spencers Theater of Illusion and Motown in Motion, to their ticket purchase. For more information on the sale, call (859) 233-4567, Ext. 3701.
Before that October night in 2010, a lot of us primarily knew Marvin Hamlisch as a name atop a score. But what scores they were: A Chorus Line, The Way We Were, and The Sting.
In reality, we needed no introduction. Hamlisch told us before he came to Lexington for a concert with the University of Kentucky Symphony Orchestra as part of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games that he always enjoyed the “a-ha moment” when he conducted student orchestras — that instant when the young musicians realized they did know his music, even if the face wasn’t familiar.
As he took the stage at the Singletary Center for the Arts, there was no indication that his remaining time was short. Yes, he was sort of an elder statesman of song, but he was still spry, regaling the audience with anecdotes about writing, movie stars, musicans and bourbon and playing a little game where he took song title suggestions from the audience and made up tunes on the spot. His performance was easily the most fun of the ones that came through town for the Games.
And now, he’s gone. According to the Associated Press, that lively artist died Monday after a brief illness. He was 68.
A lot of the students on stage that night were just gaining an appreciation for Hamlisch’s legacy. His music thrived at a time when the movies, Broadway and the pop charts were very much in sync. These days, we think the Oscar for best original song is silly, as few quality songs are composed for the screen anymore. But in his era, his movie tunes like Nobody Does it Better from The Spy Who Loved Me and Through the Eyes of Love from Ice Castles – a song every girl in my junior high school chorus wanted to sing as a solo — topped the charts. And then there was that icon, A Chorus Line, which he told us was his favorite accomplishment, a musical that is dated, but never seems dated, a show with pop-chart toppers that were even more moving in the context of the show. A prodigy who got into Juilliard at age 6, Hamlisch’s songs were the products of virtuoso musicianship, but their roots were in the heart.
He said before visiting Lexington he had a lot of new projects in the works, particularly new work for Broadway. A lot of that may be left unheard now, because like that night in October 2010, it seems like our time with Marvin Hamlisch was far too short.
Kentucky’s latest Broadway star can get used to reading his name written this way: Tony Award nominee Steve Kazee — it even rhymes. The Ashland native, who discovered a love for musical theater while he was a student at Morehead State University, is a nominee for best actor in a leading role in a musical for his performance in Once, the stage adaptation of the surprise hit 2006 film.
Kazee plays Guy, an Irish musician who falls in love with his musical soulmate Girl, played by Cristin Milioti. The actress’ name also came up for best actress in a leading role in a musical, making two of the 11 nominations the show received, including best musical, best direction of a musical for John Tiffany and best book of a musical for Enda Walsh.
That makes Once the top nominee this year.
On Broadway World, Kazee reflected on his and the show’s nominations: “It has been a crazy year for me and to have it culminated this way with 11 Tony nominations for the show makes me speechless. To see everyone get recognized who has worked so hard on creating this piece is just unbelievable and I’m so excited to get the theater tonight to give everyone a hug and say congratulations. It makes me so proud to be a part of something that I can call art that is also having success commercially.”
Kazee also reflected on his mother, Kathy Kazee, who died last month saying, “this nomination it a bit bittersweet since she can’t experience this with me.”
Once is closely followed by two shows with 10 nods: the Gershwin-tune-filled Nice Work if You Can Get It and The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, which also has Kentucky connections. Andrea Jones-Sojola is playing the Strawberry Woman and understudies the roles of Clara and Serena. Phumzile Sojola is Peter, The Honey Man and understudies the role of Robbins. Both were prominent singers in the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre in the last decade and the Lexington-based American Spiritual Ensemble.
Porgy’s nominations include best revival of a musical and leading actor and actress in a musical for Norm Lewis and Audra McDonald in the title roles.
In addition to Lewis, Kazee’s competition includes Jeremy Jordan for Newsies and Danny Burstein and Ron Raines for Follies. So, if Kazee triumphs over that crowd, he’ll have to change that reference to “Tony Award winner Steve Kazee,” which does not rhyme as well, but that probably wouldn’t bother him.
Click here for a complete list of Tony nominees. The awards, which should feature performances from both Once and Porgy and Bess, will be at 8 p.m. June 10 on CBS, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris.
Also, Steve Kazee’s Twitter feed is well worth following.
Steve Kazee’s first Broadway lead looks to be a hit with critics whose reviews are coming in after Sunday’s opening night performance of Once, the new musical based on the surprise hit 2006 film. Kazee, who was raised in Ashland and graduated from Morehead State University, plays Guy, an Irishman who falls in love with Girl, played by Cristin Milioti, when they discover they literally make beautiful music togther.
The big kahuna of the critics, The New York Times’ Ben Brantley, said the musical’s move from Off-Broadway to Broadway had been good for the show.
” … The greater distance between stage and audience that comes with a move to a Broadway house softens the edges of its exaggeration. And what was always wonderful about “Once,” its songs and its staging, has been magnified. In the meantime its appealing stars, Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti, have only grown in presence and dimensionality,” Brantley wrote. He added that Kazee, “manages to find a soulful, quietly erotic energy in his passive character, and his singing voice shifts by stealthy degrees from tuneful plaintiveness to howling pain.”
The Associated Press’ Mark Kennedy wrote that Once, “is a study in how to beautifully adapt a movie to the stage. In many ways, in fact, this Once is better than the original Once.” He added, “Kazee adopts a convincing Irish accent and he has a great voice, especially when he strains with emotion. He’s pretty good looking, too, in just jeans, an undershirt and a vest.”
The Chicago Tribune’s Chris Jones also called it a textbook example of taking a story from film to stage and said Once is a rare wise musical.
“Once offers a rush of new understanding of how those who succeed in life and love often do so because an unselfish someone either talked them into getting out of bed in the morning or removed some great boulder lying in the way. Kazee and Milioti … are so precise and specific to a particular time and place that they become potent representatives of every moment of the heart in every stubborn locale.”
Forbes’ Roger Friedman called the show “a knockout,” the likely winner of the Tony Award for best musical and a star maker.
“Ready for his walk of fame for a long time, I’d say, is Steve Kazee … Kazee plays guitar and sings like a legitimate rock star. He reminded me less of Bono than of another Irish folk rocker, Luka Bloom. And Kazee–who told me after the show that he’s played guitar since age 12–comes from Kentucky. How does he come by such a good stage accent? “I just slip into it,” he says with a shrug.”
Kentucky native Steve Kazee has enjoyed modest success on and off Broadway since he discovered acting when he was a student at Morehead State University in the mid-1990s. His turns have included starring opposite Audra McDonald in Roundabout Theatre’s revival of 110 in the Shade and replacing Hank Azaria as Lancelot in Spamalot.
Sunday (March 18) will be the biggest night of Kazee’s career as he takes the stage of Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in New York as the lead in Once, a new musical based on the 2006 movie that boasted the Oscar-winning song Falling Slowly. The show tells the story of an Irish musician and Czech immigrant drawn into a complicated relationship by their mutual love of music. The film was adapted to the stage by playwright Enda Walsh and the original Once musicians Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová.
The latest evidence of Kazee’s rising star is he was featured in Sunday’s New York Times Style magazine sporting polka dots – of course, very fashionable, stylish polka dots.
But you need look no further than Kazee’s Twitter account to see he is still in touch with his old Kentucky home. Following Sunday’s loss in the SEC Championship game, he tweeted: “I am actually happy UK lost. Need to get their damn heads out of their asses and play like the beasts they are. Number 1 ain’t s—.”
Here’s hoping Kazee has a great weekend in a variety of ways.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich