Jeffrey Ellis

Jeffrey Ellis

Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 35 years. In 1989, Ellis and his partner launched Dare, Tennessee's Lesbian and Gay Newsweekly which later became known as Query. Ellis is the recipient of the Tennessee Theatre Association's Distinguished Service Award for his coverage of theater 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 - the history of which can be traced to 1989 and the first presentation of The First Night Awards - which honor outstanding theater artisans from Tennessee in recognition of their lifetime achievements and also includes The First Night Star Awards and the Most Promising Actors recognition. Midwinter's First Night honors outstanding productions and performances throughout the state. An accomplished director, Ellis helmed productions of La Cage Aux Folles, The Last Night of Ballyhoo and An American Daughter, all in their Nashville premieres, as well as award-winning productions of Damn Yankees, Company, Gypsy and The Rocky Horror Show. Ellis was recognized by The Tennessean as best director of a musical for both Company and Rocky Horror. Since 2015, Ellis has been increasingly in demand as a director by a variety of Tennessee theater companies and he has helmed productions of Picnic (Circle Players), The Last Five Years (VWA Theatricals), The Miss Firecracker Contest, Cabaret, My Fair Lady, Daddy's Dyin'...Who's Got the Will?, South Pacific and Winter Wonderettes (The Larry Keeton Theatre) and The Little Foxes (ACT 1). He directed the first production of Mart Crowley's updated script for The Boys in the Band since its Broadway revival for his eponymous Jeffrey Ellis Presents... production company. In 2019, Ellis directed Singin' in the Rain (Arts Center of Cannon County), The Wizard of Oz (The Larry Keeton Theatre) and The Secret Garden (Center for the Arts, Murfreesboro), with productions of La Cage Aux Folles (Circle Players) and Little Women, the Broadway Musical (CFTA) already scheduled for 2020.


BWW Review: ONCE ON THIS ISLAND Launches Stunning National Tour at Nashville's Tennessee Performing Arts CenterReview: ONCE ON THIS ISLAND Launches Stunning National Tour in Nashville
Posted: Oct. 16, 2019

BWW Review: Ammons, Krebs Lead Entertaining SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS at SpringhouseBWW Review: Ammons, Krebs Lead Entertaining SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS at Springhouse
Posted: Oct. 4, 2019

BWW Review: Elizabeth Caballero's Captivating Performance Highlights Nashville Opera's MADAME BUTTERFLYReview: Caballero's Captivating Performance Highlights Nashville Opera's MADAME BUTTERFLY
Posted: Oct. 12, 2019

BWW Review: Circle Players' 2019 Staging of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW Shouldn't Be MissedReview: Circle Players' 2019 ROCKY HORROR SHOW is a Can't Miss Show
Posted: Oct. 21, 2019

Tamyra Gray Reflects on Opening the ONCE ON THIS ISLAND Tour in Nashville This WeekTamyra Gray Reflects on the ONCE ON THIS ISLAND Tour in Nashville
Posted: Oct. 15, 2019


First Night's Top Ten of 2018 Announced in Nashville TonightFirst Night's Top Ten of 2018 Announced in Nashville Tonight
Posted: Dec. 10, 2018

BWW Review: ONCE ON THIS ISLAND Launches Stunning National Tour at Nashville's Tennessee Performing Arts CenterReview: ONCE ON THIS ISLAND Launches Stunning National Tour in Nashville
Posted: Oct. 16, 2019

BWW Review: IRVING BERLIN'S WHITE CHRISTMAS Brings Musical Theater Joy to the Holiday SeasonReview: IRVING BERLIN'S WHITE CHRISTMAS Brings Musical Theater Joy
Posted: Nov. 14, 2018

BWW Review: Belmont University Musical Theatre's Delightful and Entertaining THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIEReview: Belmont University Musical Theatre's THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE
Posted: Mar. 29, 2019

BWW Review: Belmont University Musical Theatre's Startling Revival of SIDE SHOWReview: BUMT's Startling Revival of SIDE SHOW
Posted: Nov. 18, 2018

BWW Review: Nashville Rep's PIPELINE Issues Powerfully Eloquent Challenge to Audiences
October 22, 2019

Dominique Morisseau's Pipeline, which continues Nashville Repertory Theatre's 35th season, is an emotionally driven work of contemporary eloquence and power, a play which audiences should experience in hopes of opening their eyes to the institutional prejudice and bias that exists in this country a?" whether we care to admit it or not. At least, that's the initial takeaway for theater-goers who are giving a cursory review of what they've just seen onstage at Tennessee Performing Arts Center's Andrew Johnson Theatre.

BWW Review: Circle Players' 2019 Staging of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW Shouldn't Be Missed
October 21, 2019

I love The Rocky Horror Show and Clint Randolph and his stellar ensemble of performers have won me over! Their 2019 production of The Rocky Horror Show is incredibly good, outlandishly fun and faithful to the material. Clearly, it ain't your grandma's musical theater (well, actually, it is a?' seeing as how the show bowed in the West End in 1973 and played Broadway in 1975, concurrent with the release of the film version), but it hews pretty damn close to traditional tropes with its boy and girl meets transsexual mastermind who's created a hot and hunky boytoy to satisfy his longings and, well, all hell breaks loose as their stories are told.

BWW Review: Street Theatre Company is on a Roll This Season: Go See TOXIC AVENGER For Proof
October 20, 2019

Street Theatre Company has been on a bit of a roll in 2019 a?' there's been a spate of terrific shows, the move into an impressive new space on Elm Hill Pike that will allow the company to grow, and they've continued the legacy created by company founders by continuing to push the envelope in ways creative and exhilarating a?' and theater-goers need no better proof of this than with their Halloween Season offering of The Toxic Avenger, which proves that entertaining musicals don't need huge casts or technical wizardry to be utterly delightful.  

BWW Review: Some Judicious Editing Could Create a Hit With ACT 1's NIGHTMARIUM INCIDENT
October 19, 2019

Eric Butler is a good writer. That is obvious from his thoroughly believable, unquestionably authentic dialogue he's crafted for The Nightmarium Incident, the original suspense thriller he's written for ACT 1's 2019-20 season and concluding its two-weekend run at Nashville's Darkhorse Theater tonight. But sometimes that can mean too much of a good thing a?' when a writer tends to overwrite, as is the case with this sort-of-spooky comedy-drama that seems uncertain of what it wants to be.

BWW Review: Roxy Regional Theatre's Latest Iteration of ASSASSINS is Brilliant and Chilling
October 19, 2019

There comes a moment quite near the conclusion of Roxy Regional Theatre's production of Assassins that is both brilliant and chilling, perfectly encapsulating what the Stephen Sondheim-John Weidman musical is all about.

BWW Review: Nashville Children's Theatre's World Premiere of RETURN TO SENDER Hits Close to Home in These Troubled Times
October 17, 2019

As the lights came up in Nashville Children's Theatre's Ann Stahlman Hill Theatre at the conclusion of Return to Sender a?" the world premiere production of Marisela Trevino Orta's adaptation of Julia Alvarez's novel of the same name, now onstage at NCT through October 27 a?" the familiar a?oedinga?? of an alert emanated from my iPhone: A judge had ruled against a Trump administration initiative to refuse entry to immigrants who might find themselves dependent upon public assistance while they pursue their own version of the American dream.

BWW Review: ONCE ON THIS ISLAND Launches Stunning National Tour at Nashville's Tennessee Performing Arts Center
October 16, 2019

Visually stunning. Inventively staged. Compellingly acted. Beautifully told. Utterly delightful. Heartrendingly poignant. What more can be said about Once On This Island, the Lynn Ahrens-Stephen Flaherty musical which launched its national tour in Nashville last night with a remarkable opening performance before a capacity crowd in Andrew Jackson Hall? The critical raves, audience adulation and awards for the recent Broadway revival of the Caribbean-influenced musical were enough to attract ticket-buyers, to be certain, but the sheer artistry of the production and its amazingly talented cast will be more than enough to propel the company forward on their cross-country tour where, we suspect, the accolades will continue to be bestowed upon the heartfelt and authentic story.

Tamyra Gray Reflects on Opening the ONCE ON THIS ISLAND Tour in Nashville This Week
October 15, 2019

For audience members who saw Once On This Island during its recent Tony Award-winning revival on Broadway, actress Tamyra Gray has some pointers in regard to the show's national tour, which launches tonight at Nashville's Tennessee Performing Arts Center: a?oeThere's a new set-up,a?? she explains. a?oeSince we are no longer in the round, our set has been restructured and it's really, really cool: It's like you've walked into this village and you're watching events unfold.a??

BWW Review: Elizabeth Caballero's Captivating Performance Highlights Nashville Opera's MADAME BUTTERFLY
October 12, 2019

Elizabeth Caballero's captivating performance as the tragic romantic heroine Cio Cio San, the titular lead of Puccini's classic opera Madame Butterfly, is so breathtakingly, so exquisitely heartbreaking that she alone is enough to make the 2019-20 season opening production from Nashville Opera a triumph, but director John Hoomes surrounds her with a cast of equally impressive singers who bring the romantic tragedy to life with such vigor and style that any of them might serve as reason enough for audiences to take note.

BWW Review: Woven Theatre's Chilling and Suspenseful TALL TALES Opens at The Barbershop Theater
October 9, 2019

a?oeWhat the hell did I just sit through?a?? was my visceral reaction upon leaving the opening night performance of A.D. Timms' Tall Tales a?" the original a?oequeer horror storya?? presented by Woven Theatre Company at The Barbershop Theatre through October 20. Now, some 96 hours later as I sit down to compose my review of the piece, I find myself continuing to ponder that question.

BWW Review: Ammons, Krebs Lead Entertaining SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS at Springhouse
October 4, 2019

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, the 1982 stage musical borne of the 1954 film treatment based on a story by Stephen Vincent Benet, doesn't hold up as well in 2019 as many classic musical theater titles a?" what with its sexist storyline, ersatz score that longs to remind us of something by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and its meandering plot a?" but make no mistake about it: The production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, now onstage through this weekend at Smyrna's Springhouse Theatre Company is mighty entertaining, thanks to Paula K. Parker's talented cast who bring the show to life with vigor and commitment.

BWW Review: Cumberland County Playhouse's YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN is a Monster Hit With Hancock at the Helm
September 22, 2019

Who'd have ever thought a seven-foot-tall, dark, handsome and green chap a?' crafted from the bits and pieces of various fellows gone home to meet their maker, as it were a?' could prove to be so likable, charming and, we daresay, sexy? But leave it to Mel Brooks (and Gene Wilder, his co-writer on the 1974 film) to create such a protagonist and to surround him with memorable characters in a story set to music that's a wonderful homage to the very best of classic Broadway and silver screen musicals!

BWW Review: Go Back to the 1980s With THE WEDDING SINGER at Chaffin's Barn
September 20, 2019

Somewhere among the cards and letters, photographs and souvenirs from my misspent youth is a picture (circa 1978) of me clad in a powder blue tuxedo, with a ruffled-front shirt edged in the same hue, all capped off by an impossibly wide bow tie to match a?" my costume to serve as a groomsman in the wedding of two friends. That image has been prominent in my mind for the past 12 hours after experiencing déjà vu of a particular sort, thanks to a rousing, rollicking and downright rocking production of The Wedding Singer, the latest offering at Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre, which opened last night and continues through October 19 at the venerable Nashville venue.

BWW Review: A CHORUS LINE Kicks Off Roxy Regional Theatre's 37th Season In Style
September 19, 2019

Now onstage at Clarksville's Roxy Regional Theatre, in a production that is respectful of the material and with emotions reverberating through a heart so true that one is likely to be caught up in a very particular moment in theatrical time, A Chorus Line resonates as deeply in 2019 as it did in 1975.

BWW Review: Cat Arnold Directs Inspiring CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME for Way Off Broadway
September 18, 2019

Sharply focused direction and an imaginative design concept by Cat Arnold a?" along with stellar leading performances from Tyler Henry, Craig Hartline and Deborah Seidel a?" combine to make Way Off Broadway Productions' The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time one of the year's best stage dramas to be seen in the Nashville area, practically demanding you make reservations now to witness the a?oeeventa?? before its run ends on September 29. Not seeing it would indeed be a missed opportunity to see the company's most outstanding production to date.

BWW Review: Nashville Rep's 35th Season Celebration Kicks Off With Astonishing URINETOWN THE MUSICAL
September 15, 2019

Brilliant social commentary or sophomoric lowbrow humor? Just what is it that makes Urinetown the Musical such a hit with audiences and theater companies a?' is it the biting satire delivered in Greg Kotis' book and lyrics and in Mark Hollmann's music and lyrics, or is it (in the case of Nashville Repertory Theatre's 35th season opening production) director Jason Tucker's fast-paced and quick-witted vision that's nothing short of mesmerizingly entertaining? We'll leave that up to you to decide a?' well, actually, we won't since that's why I am paid the big bucks to tell you what to think a?' but rest assured that no matter the reason, odds are you're going to love Nashville Rep's iteration of Urinetown and you'll want to score tickets before the show evaporates into the creative ether encircling Tennessee Performing Arts Center's Andrew Johnson Theatre.

BWW Review: Profound and Poignant, DEAR EVAN HANSEN Takes Hold of Nashville's Collective Heart at TPAC
September 11, 2019

Profoundly moving and endlessly poignant a?' yet somehow laugh out loud funny at times it is most unexpected a?' Dear Evan Hansen, the Tony Award-winning musical that sharply reflects society's fascination with popularity and a?oefitting ina?? with a decidedly contemporary flavor, has settled into Andrew Jackson Hall at Nashville's Tennessee Performing Arts Center for an eight-performance run that heralds the start of the 2019-20 Broadway at TPAC series. And judging from the audience's response on opening night (along with the extended standing ovation that greeted the show's eight-member cast at the end of their performance), it's a particularly auspicious start to what promises to be a particularly impressive season.

BWW Review: Bennett, Moroschak and Scott Shine in Street Theatre Company's BE MORE CHILL
September 5, 2019

One need venture no further than Street Theatre Company's Be More Chill a?" directed by Sawyer Wallace, it's one of the year's best musicals a?" for just such a theatrical adventure. Starring Seth Bennett, Briar Moroschak and Garett Scott, three up-and-coming performers for whom their futures seem unlimited, Be More Chill only recently closed out a Broadway run before its Nashville premiere, which continues through this weekend.

BWW Review: Steven Dietz's SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE FINAL ADVENTURE Given Elegant Interpretation at Chaffin's Barn
September 3, 2019

Director Daniel DeVault has assembled a stellar cast for the latest production onstage at Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre a?" Steven Dietz's Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure a?" who bring the tale to life with enthusiasm and vigor that's leavened by enough humor to keep even the most discerning of theater-goers actively engaged in what transpires upon the magical floating stage at the venerable Nashville venue.

BWW Review: Arts Center of Cannon County's MAMMA MIA! Offers a Gleeful Take on ABBA-inspired Musical
August 29, 2019

Sort of like an extra-special episode of The Golden Girls - ACCC's Mamma Mia!, not to be confused with Studio Tenn's Mamma Mia! which runs through September 8 in Franklin - is given a new lease on life, as it were, thanks to Deason's casting choices: Imagine if Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia were given a holiday special, filled with special guest stars, a bigger budget and an orchestra, choreography and an ensemble of younger actors eager to learn from their mentors and you'll have a fairly good notion of how Deason's Mamma Mia! is interpreted for the sell-out audiences filling the Woodbury theater to overflowing in order to revel in the ABBA-inspired spectacle.