MUSIC CITY CONFIDENTIAL: Offstage, Onstage, Backstage and Beyond With Tennessee's Theaterati

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Just when you thought it was safe to go to the theater once again, we welcome you to the debut installment of Music City Confidential, all the news that's fit to print (or not-depending on your perspective) from Nashville's ever-growing, ever-fascinating (okay, so we obviously don't have enough to occupy ourselves) live theater industry (we're trying that out-does it work? Let us know, theaterati!) Here amid the florid prose and flowery praise, you'll find all the stories that don't quite fit elsewhere, 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…

In honor of the presentation of The Tony Awards (and with The First Night Honors 2012 less than three months from now), we announce the beginning of a new First Night/Nashville theater tradition: The First Night Robe, inspired by Broadway's Gypsy Robe, will be presented to the newest-to-the-theater cast member in every production opening on a Nashville stage, with the initial presentation at The First Night Gala on Sunday, September 2. Designed by Rowena Soriano Gonzalez Aldridge, The First Night Robe will be inscribed on the lining with wishes of good luck and inspiration by every First Night Honoree since 2010 and each recipient will add something from the show in which they were honored to represent them and their show. It will then move on to the next individual and production to create a tangible connecting thread that exists, representing the feeling of community and tradition of Nashville theater. More details will follow in the coming months before the presentation of The First Night Robe to the "newest" person performing at The First Night Gala.

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It's always a good idea to have photographer/drummer Rick Malkin in the pit when you're doing a musical; he'll get some great shots to publicize your show and to remember who all was in the audience (plus, there's the fact that he's a damn good drummer)! To the left, Rick captures a scene from the "enjoyed it" line Tuesday night, June 12, for Boiler Room Theatre's next to normal, featuring (left to right) Megan Murphy Chambers (who gives a stunning performance as Diana in the show), Melinda Doolittle, Melodie Madden Adams and Kelley Norris.

Speaking of The Tony Awards (and since at least 90% of the theaterati were glued to their TVs Sunday night-Eric Ventress among the naysayers who refused to engage in the annual revelry)-we canvassed friends and acquaintances, posing the question "What were your favorite Tony moments?" (not exactly the most probing of queries, but still…) and we got responses from a few folk…Kate Adams, quite possibly Nashville's busiest choreographer and producing artistic director of The Larry Keeton Theatre, returned the favor by asking: "Why isn't Best Choreography still a televised category? People just do not appreciate us!" Deb Rogers Holloway, who's on the theatre faculty at David Lipscomb University, said, "Porgy and Bess is the best so far, especially Audra McDonald!" to which she later added, "Another wonderful moment was Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin." Stephen Michael Jones, who recently starred as Sonny in Boiler Room Theatre's Xanadu, picked "Neil Patrick Harris upside down!" Kenneth C. Stalsworth sided with Deb Rogers Holloway: "Even after 28 wins, I never tire of seeing Audra McDonald win a Tony!" And erstwhile Nashvillian, now a New Yorker, actress Melissa Bailey (who we love and adore) said, "Steve Kazee's win! He gave the most beautiful performance that I've ever seen. So deserved!"




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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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