MUSIC CITY CONFIDENTIAL #4: Onstage, Offstage, Backstage and Beyond With the Theaterati

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It's supposed to be 108 degrees in the Nashville area by week's end, which means stepping outside will likely leave you melted, quite literally and figuratively.

But if you do have to venture out of doors, perhaps a trip to the theater is a good idea…it'll be dark and cool (with any luck, the AC will be working-and you know which theaters we're talking about) and you'll be entertained, perhaps even transported to another world. Or not.

In the meantime, we present you with installment number four of Music City Confidential-our continuing effort to create a sense of community and build up some enthusiasm and excitement for the live theater industry here in our alarmingly sweaty region. So, press on, gentle readers and catch up on the latest adventures of the theaterati…

The Sophie Shines benefit concert was a complete and total sell-out on Monday night, June 25-headlined by Vince Gill, Amy Grant, The Smoking Section, Mike Eldred, Melinda Doolittle, Mandisa and so many other generous performers-honoring the spirit of Sophia Salveson, the 19-year-old Nashville actress and college student who suffered a stroke last March and who now is in the midst of a miraculous recovery, spurred on by the support of her family-both birth and extended-and friends who've rallied around her since the stroke. Third & Lindsley was packed to the rafters, we're told, and the entire evening was inspiring and entertaining (and more than a little fun!). Among the highlights: Vince Gill reading a letter to Sophie from Jennifer Aniston.

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"The Sophie Shines Concert was amazing!" exclaims Daron Bruce, Sophie's mentor and theater teacher at Hume-Fogg Academic High School in Nashville. "The performances were stellar...each one a show stopper. Sophie looked beautiful and had wonderful time with her friends. Her beauty and spirit radiates where ever she goes."

Sophie Salveson and Daron Bruce are pictured to the left.

Kristin Chenoweth brings her national tour to TPAC's Andrew Jackson Hall this Thursday night and all of Music City is abuzz with anticipation. But there are those folks who had tickets for the original date (Wednesday, June 20) who will be unable to attend the rescheduled performance. However, just proving how utterly devoted she is to her fans (and as a favor to yours truly), KC (who is my very favorite person ever in the history of the world!) will make it up to at least one of them on Wednesday. Although we'd love to let the cat out of the bag, we can't yet, but rest assured I'll be trumpeting the news as soon as I know the deed has been done!

Congratulations are due Carolyn German and Rollie Mains on their new musical The Airship at Vapor Station, a steampunk musical for younger actors, which had its premiere at The Z. Alexander Looby Theatre last weekend and continues this weekend with a cast of 30 younger actors. Carolyn directs and choreographs (did we notice a certain Newsies-inspired number?) and Rollie music directs so you know the production is on firm footing and the cast is led by Elizabeth Cameron, Kristen Large, Stella London, Karissa Wheeler, Mackenzie Roberts, Morigan Corbitt, Maddie Mae Cartwright, Caitlin Dobbins, Phillip Baker, Tyler Bond, Tre Dickerson, Ben Pate and Jack Williams, who very nearly steals the show out from under the 29 pals he's sharing the stage with! Joy Tilley Perryman provides the gorgeously eye-popping costumes and Kirk Brown is responsible for the lighting and set design. Rollie's score is impressive and tuneful, but Carolyn's book could do with some tightening (a subplot about love and romance seems superfluous and confusing) and the sound design needs tweaking (otherwise, words and lyrics tend to be lost). It remains, however, an impressive undertaking and the things Carolyn is able to get from her students are truly remarkable.




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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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