The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
May5Filed under: Opera, SummerFest, Theater, UK; Tagged as: Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arboretum, Bo List, Christopher Baker, Dmetrius Conley-Williams, Frank-N-Furter, Frankenstein, Kentucky Conservatory Theatre, Mary Shelly, Nick Vannoy, Rent, Richard III, Sidney Shaw, Spencer Christensen, SummerFest, The Rocky Horror Show, University of Kentucky Opera Theatre, Wesley Nelson, William Shakespeare
Kentucky Conservatory Theatre’s SummerFest has its monsters lined up for the annual event July 6 to 24 in the Arboretum on Alumni Drive. The theme for the season is monsters, with trio of shows featuring monstrous characters in numerous forms.
Dmetrius Conley-Williams will play the title role in William Shakespeare’s Richard III to open the event, July 6 to 10, in a production directed by Sidney Shaw. Conley-Williams’ credits include numerous Shakespeare roles at venues including the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard University and the Moscow Art Theatre in Russia.
Bo List’s adaptation of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein will play July 13 to 17 with Spencer Christensen as Dr. Frankenstein and Nick Vannoy as the creature. Christensen played the title role in the Lexington Shakespeare Festival’s 2005 production of Cyrano and Vannoy was Tom Collins in last year’s Summerfest production of Rent. Vannoy will be in the acting apprentice program at Actors Theatre of Louisville for the 2011-12 season.
The season closes with University of Kentucky Opera Theatre singer Christopher Baker as Frank-n-furter in the July 20-24 production of The Rocky Horror Show directed by Wesley Nelson.
For complete cast lists and more information, visit summerfestlex.org.
Mar16Filed under: Central Kentucky Arts News, Downtown Arts Center, Lexington Opera House, Music, Musicals, Paragon Music Theatre, Theater; Tagged as: Berea College, Diana Evans Pulliam, Downtown Arts Center, Gypsy, Lexington Opera House, Lexington Philharmonic, Michael Friedman, Paragon Music Theatre, Rent, Robyn Peterman-Zahn, Ryan Shirar, She Loves Me, Sound of Music, Tracey Bonner, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, University of Kentucky
Paragon Music Theatre has announced that founder Ryan Shirar will step down as the company’s music director and executive director after its May production of Gypsy to accept a full scholarship for graduate studies at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
Shirar founded Paragon in 2004 with stage director Tracey Bonner, who departed after the inaugural production of State Fair at the Lexington Opera House (She returned to Lexington last year to direct SummerFest’s production of Rent). He then led the company, for a few years with stage director Michael Friedman until 2009 when current dramatic chief Robyn Peterman-Zahn joined the leadership team that includes choregorapher Diana Evans Pulliam. Under Shirar’s direction, the company has presented musicals big, like last summer’s Sound of Music at the Lexington Opera House, and small, like a charming 2007 production of She Loves Me at the Downtown Arts Center.
The theater filled a huge void in the Lexington arts scene, which had not had a group dedicated to musical theater since Lexington Musical Theatre closed in 1996.
Shirar has worked extensively outside of Paragon as a pianist, conductor and arranger with groups including the Lexington Philharmonic and teaching at Berea College and the University of Kentucky.
Though he has seemed very comfortable in his multiple local roles, Shirar did allow in a 2005 interview that, “I don’t want to wake up someday and regret not having tried something bigger.”
Gypsy will be presented May 13 to 15 at the Lexington Opera House. The Paragon press releases states that after Gypsy, “future plans for Paragon are uncertain.”
Sep30Filed under: Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Classical Music, Lexington Opera House, Music, Opera, Reviews, UK; Tagged as: Alfredo, Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Alltech Fortnight Festival, Giacomo Puccini, Gregory Turay, La Bohème, La Traviata, Manuel Castillo, Mary-Hollis Hundley, Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Mitchell Hutchings, Nicholas Provenzale, Reginald Smith Jr., Rent, Richard Kagey, University of Kentucky Opera
Over the last decade, the University of Kentucky Opera program has been lucky to count Gregory Turay among its alums.
He’s the one who fulfilled the dream of winning at the national level of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, making it into the young artist program and embarking on an international career that we could sometimes tune in on TV or radio. And he occasionally came back for a recital or even a role, as he did in 2006 when appeared as Alfredo in a benefit performance of La Traviata.
UK and Lexington area opera fans are even luckier to have Turay as an artist-in-residence, leading a full UK Opera production of Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme as part of the Alltech Fortnight Festival in conjunction with the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
The Richard Kagey sets and 1920s vibe will be familiar to local opera fans who saw this production in 2008, but the faces are different as many of that productions’ stars have moved on.
Clearly, with many of its artistic leaders involved in numerous activities related to the World Equestrian Games – including UK Opera Theatre director Everett McCorvey heading up the opening and closing ceremonies – the program decided its best contribution to the cultural element of the Games was to revive a recent success.
And Boheme provides a nice showcase for several of the program’s most talented students, particularly Reginald Smith Jr. as Colline and Nicholas Provenzale as Schaunard, a really nice progression for him from Eisenstein in last spring’s production of Die Fledermaus. We’re also introduced to new UK doctoral candidate Mitchell Hutchings as Marcello, and he fits right in with the program that puts a heavy emphasis on acting in its operas.
Reading Candace Chaney’s review of SummerFest’s production of Rent for the Herald-Leader, I felt like I was reading a review of a dress rehearsal.
In a sense, that’s what it was.
In its journey to be this year’s SummerFest finale, Rent ran into a perfect storm of adversity. It was a show with a new director and a mostly new cast for the Arboretum stage, where SummerFest presents its shows.
The show incorporated a tremendous amount of movement and some challenging singing.
Then, on production week, Rent had its already-brief two-night dress rehearsal schedule reduced to one when a violent thunderstorm wiped out its first night on stage.
So, by opening night, the Rent crew had about as much prep as most shows have had by the night of their final dress rehearsal.
In historical terms, they had less. In the past, all shows have had Arboretum stage time before the festival started. But this year, with each show setting up its own stage configuration, Rent didn’t get to its Arboretum stage until the night before it opened.
So it was not surprising the opening-night audience saw a host of technical glitches, performance mishaps and a little lethargy.
It’s understandable, but it doesn’t give SummerFest a pass. There was a paying audience that night, expecting to see a complete production.
SummerFest’s efforts to diversify its lineup and the look for each show is admirable. But the festival needs to find a way to give all its shows the best chance for five nights of success. And it needs to recognize that musicals often have a slightly higher mountain to climb.
Jul22Filed under: Music, Musicals, Rent notebook, slide shows, SummerFest, Theater; Tagged as: Andrea Johnson, Beth Kovarik, Carleigh Griffeth, Casey Mather, Chip Becker, Emanuel Williams, Jessica Lucas, Johnny Dawson, Katie Berger, KCTC SummerFest, Nick Vannoy, Rent, Sharonda Piersall, SummerFest, Thomas Gibbs
SummerFest closes out the 2010 season with Rent, through July 25. Given the show’s stature in recent theater history and this being the first locally-produced version of it, we’ve been giving it some extensive coverage, so here’s a little Rent reader:
For the cast of SummerFest‘s production of Rent, this week is the culmination of a journey that, for many, started the first weekend of the year. For numerous performers, it’s also the fulfillment of a long-held dream to play the characters and sing the songs from a show that, to them, is much more than a ground-breaking and award-winning musical. Click play, above, to hear and see more.
Jul12Filed under: Music, Musicals, Rent notebook, SummerFest, Theater; Tagged as: Chip Becker, Emanuel Willams, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, Jim Gleason, Johnny Dawson, Johnson Brothers, Jonathan Larson, Karen Thomas, Lexington Shakespeare Festival, Mark Calkins, Nick Vannoy, Pride and Prejudice, Rent, SummerFest
SummerFest‘s production of Rent had it’s first run through Sunday night. A run through means the production is run from beginning to end with no or limited stopping. It usually gives the director a fairly good idea of how ready for the stage the show is.
Earlier Sunday, music director Mark Calkins said that having a run through 10 days before opening night was ahead of schedule for SummerFest musicals, “Which is where I want to be.”
“There’s a sense of completion we haven’t had before,” said Chip Becker, who plays Mark. “To go through the whole arc, all at once, feels good.”
Nick Vannoy, who plays Tom Collins, adds, “The way Jonathan Larson wrote it, there’s a wave and an arc, and as long as you can get on that wave and can keep it, and don’t mess up or stop, that wave will really just take you there. Tonight, I think I discovered how easy doing the show and connecting to it can be, because as long as you connect to the wave and get on top of it, it’ll take you all the way to the curtain.”
There was only one minor stop at the end of Act I, Sunday. But otherwise, she show went from the opening Tune Up to the final No Day But Today without interruption. Sunday’s rehearsal was with a keyboard accompaniment plus a little guitar from Johnny Dawson, who plays Rodger. The next couple nights, the show will be rehearsed with the band, led by rehearsal accompanist and keyboardist Karen Thomas and the Johnson Brothers’ Jim Gleason, who has led other SummerFest/Lexington Shakespeare Festival bands including Hair in 2008 and Jesus Christ Superstar in 2004.
There were a few numbers that will obviously be enhanced by the full-band experience, such as Angel’s intro, Today for You. That is another reason to eagerly anticipate opening night, now just nine days away.
Meanwhile, this week’s SummerFest offering is Pride and Prejudice.
At a Wednesday evening rehearsal of Rent, Johnny Dawson has just finished singing Your Eyes and wails “Mimi!” and Musetta’s Waltz, a classic tune from from La Boheme plays.
Opera is where Calkins spends much of his time as an associate professor of voice at Centre College and Berea College. Music directing Rent is Calkins’ highest profile gig since moving to Central Kentucky last year with his wife, University of Kentucky endowed chair in voice Cynthia Lawrence.
And Rent gives Calkins a much wider variety of voices to deal with than the budding opera singers he usually works with. The cast ranges from potential opera stars to rockers, capturing the full-range of the spirit of the rock show which was based on La Boheme.
“It’s just as vocally rangy as most operas,” Calkins says of Rent.
Part of director Tracey Bonner’s intent in hiring Calkins to be the music director was getting someone who would know how to care for the voices in the show, which can do a number on the throat, particularly if you add in singing outdoors amidst the foliage of the Arboretum.
Calkins points out that both the main male and female roles have singers in ranges that are not usually comfortable for their genders. So he talks to the actors a lot about how to sing to make their most of their voices, and how to take care of them.
One of the obvious answers to the question “How are we going to pay the rent?” is work. And amidst the excitement of staging Central Kentucky’s first locally-produced version of Rent, director Tracey Bonner sometimes has to remind her cast that there is a lot of work ahead.
“We need to do our work and build the fun back in,” Bonner says to the cast Wednesday night, still in the midst of her first week working with the ensemble she selected in April.
The first two weeks of rehearsal were music director Mark Caulkins guiding the cast through the score. The cast also traveled up to Cincinnati to shoot video footage that will be used in the SummerFest production July 21 to 25 in the Arboretum on Alumni Drive.
Caulkins says the fact that most of the cast came in with much of the score committed to memory was both a good thing and a bad thing. A certain familiarity helped smooth rehearsals, but he has also had to orient people who were maybe used to singing along to the melody in the car to singing harmony and help some singers unlearn mistakes they had memorized.
Bonner had to occasionally deal with the pure giddiness of young actors getting to really play parts and sing songs they had idolized for years. And while yes, as the director she did need to make sure singers were not thinking it was enough to belt the tunes like they were singing in the shower, she didn’t want to let that sense of fun get too far away.
“I love the way you all are bonding,” she said. “This is going to be a blast.”
The Lexington Opera Society‘s big party at 6:30 p.m. May 22 in the Singletary Center for the Arts is billed as Prelude to It’s a Grand Night for Singing, which is June 11 to 20. It’s also the launch of the group’s new young professionals group, The Bohemians.
Pamela Perlman, who has helped organize the group, says, “The idea is to reach out and find this new generation who may not have grown up with opera but would love it if they could experience it and learn about it.”
The Bohemians will have a table at Prelude, where you can sample a Lucid absinthe cocktail and sign up for the group. Membership is free for the first year before Prelude and for those who attend the party, which includes music, food, tastings and auctions of items such as gift baskets, Keeneland tickets, autographed UK sports memorabilia and a Tempur-pedic mattress. Future events will include a party before SummerFest’s production of Rent and attractions associated with the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre‘s fall production of Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme.
While it is billed as a young professionals group, Perlman said Bohemians membership is open to all ages who are new to opera. A nominal membership fee will be set after the group’s steering committee meets. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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