MUSIC CITY CONFIDENTIAL #2: Offstage, Onstage, Backstage and Beyond With The Theaterati

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What better way to kick off Sunday-and to celebrate Father's Day!-than with the latest installment of Music City Confidential! Here's where you'll find all the news that's fit to print (or not-depending on your perspective) from Nashville's ever-growing, ever-fascinating live theater industry. Amid the florid prose and flowery praise, you'll find all the stories that don't quite fit anywhere else, some of 'em kind of gossipy, some of 'em stone-cold serious, some of 'em just lists of names you need to know. You'll also find photos from our new "Intermission@" series, details about the latest cast parties and various and sundry minutiae-the veritable flotsam and jetsam-from backstage, onstage, offstage and beyond…

Idina Menzel was in Nashville last night (Saturday, June 16), performing in The Woods Amphitheatre at Fontanel, the former estate of country music superstar Barbara Mandrell. I didn't go (more about that in the next paragraph), but we're told she was just as marvelous as expected-even though this was her third visit to Music City in 18 months. We think she and Taye need to buy a house here.  The concert was spectacular, of course, but not quite perfect, according to Lisa Marie Wright, who was nonplussed, aghast in fact, when Idina picked a guy from the audience to join her in singing a duet from Rent, only to discover he didn't know the lyrics.

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"I think he needs to turn in his membership card," LM demands. Turns out, "that guy" was none other than Spencer Dean, local actor/dancer/raconteur and high school student who is, obviously, one of our favorites. So, did Spencer really forget the words? "Maaaaaaaaaaaybe," he says (perhaps with fewer A's, but who's counting?). "I actually know them, but completely forgot that when Idina Menzel was belting an inch away from my face." At press time, it was reported that Spencer's face, which had melted off-due to a combination of Idina singing to him and the fact that it was hotter'n hell at Fontanel (which is also the name for a baby's soft spot)-has returned to its normal state, although we can only assume he is still floating on air. That's Idina and the aforementioned and self-proclaimed superfan Spencer to the left. Thanks for the photos, Spencer! You're my favorite.

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Things weren't quite so rosy for Jonathan Pinkerton, who normally takes the best pictures you'll see from live performances-because security wouldn't let him bring in his camera! Here's how Jonathan tells the story: "I was in second row, but the only problem was they wouldn't allow cameras! WTH? The website for Fontanel clearly says cameras, but no flash photography," he says. "Then one of the owners even made the announcement, no flash photography or video. After we got in and saw a few people with cameras and everyone with cell phone cameras-flash and all-Suzanne [Spooner Faulk] went back to the car to get my camera and they still wouldn't let her bring it in!" Thanks to Anthony Just for that stunning picture of Idina to the left, backed by the woods at Fontanel (and millions of ticks).

I missed Idina's performance because it was outdoors, in the heat and humidity of June in Nashville, and I didn't want to have to check for ticks afterwards. I'm nothing if not pragmatic. Instead, I was enjoying the air-conditioned comfort-and tick-free environment-of Belmont's Black Box Theatre for the third performance of boom, the season-ending production from Sideshow, the Actors Bridge Ensemble project that has brought some interesting and innovative ideas to the stage during the past year. The night proved to be great fun, in more ways than one, due to the large number of the shimmering and glittering theaterati in the audience, including director Mitch Massaro (who is also Sideshow's design director), project director Jessika  Malone, community engagement director Jackie Johnson, the cast (Hayley Rose, JP Schuffman and Amanda Meador), Nashville Children's Theatre producing artistic director Scot CopelandPatricia Taber and Daniel BrewerAmanda Card-McCoy, Evelyn O'Neal Brush, Michael Redman, Cori Laemmel and Tyson Laemmel, ArtsNash.com's Evans Donnell, Vickie Bailey, Jim Al-Shamma and CJ Tucker. There was so much hugging, European-two-cheek-bussing and ass-kissing going on, you'd have thought you were at an industry party in NYC or LA-we have to find an abbreviation for Nashville somehow; any suggestions, people? But it was a whole lot of fun, for sure!




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Jeffrey Ellis Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 25 years. He is the recipient of the Tennessee Theatre Association's Distinguished Service Award for his coverage of theatre in the Volunteer State and was the founding editor/publisher of Stages, the Tennessee Onstage Monthly. He is a past fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center and is the founder/executive producer of The First Night Honors, held during Labor Day Weekend, which honor oustanding theater artists in Tennessee in recognition of their lifetime achievements and includes The First Night Star Awards and the Most Promising Actors. Midwinter's First Night, held the first Sunday in January after New Year's Day, honors outstanding productions and performances throughout the state. Further, Ellis directed the Nashville premiere of La Cage Aux Folles, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and An American Daughter, as well as award-winning productions of Damn Yankees, Company, Gypsy and The Rocky Horror Show, with Ellis honored by The Tennessean as best director of a musical for both Company and Rocky Horror.


 
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