Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

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, Winter Wonderettes and The Wizard of Oz (The Larry Keeton Theatre), The Little Foxes (ACT 1), The Boys in the Band (Jeffey Ellis Presents), Singin' in the Rain (Arts Center of Cannon County) and The Secret Garden (Center for the Arts, Murfreesboro) and, in 2020, the 70th anniversary season production of La Cage Aux Folles for Circle Players.




MOST POPULAR ARTICLES

LAST 30 DAYS LAST 365 DAYS
Review: Nashville Story Garden's U.S. Premiere of Lucy Kirkwood's THE WELKIN Will Have Audiences Talking
September 24, 2022

Nothing engages the theaterati in Nashville and the surrounding provinces as the production of an eagerly anticipated new play no one’s done before in these parts, but about which we’ve read glowing reviews. The very promise of something new to energize the cultural zeitgeist – particularly under the aegis of Nashville Story Garden (a creative collective whose work always generates major buzz); something new and unseen from across the pond which will provide a showcase for the remarkable talents of some of the region’s most respected actors – is virtually guaranteed to be a “must-see” for a theater-going public more accustomed to titles with which they are already quite often overly familiar.

LeLand Gantt Brings RHAPSODY IN BLACK to TPAC This Weekend for Three Performances
September 23, 2022

As with most intelligent and clever actors struggling to find paying work during difficult times, LeLand Gantt readily admits that he was inspired to create Rhapsody in Black, which has been described as “a powerful personal narrative on racism, identity, and self-image” to provide some work for himself, allowing him to “stay in town to do more tv and film.” Now, however, as acclaim for his one-man show continues to grow, he’s finding himself “out of town” – he's based in New York – to give theater-goers all over the country a chance to see his the result of his creativity on his personal journey to transcene racism in America.

Review: Nashville Repertory Theatre's 38th Season Opens With RENT At TPAC'S Polk Theatre Through 9/25
September 21, 2022

Thanks to the rousing performances of director Micah-Shane Brewer’s talented company who have brought the show to vivid life for Nashville audiences, Rent provides a noteworthy opening to the company’s 38th season. Performed with commitment and sharp focus by a cast of young performers, this revival of Rent proves the show’s timelessness, the score’s resonance and the story’s relevance well into the 21st century.

Review: World Premiere of New DIARY OF ANNE FRANK Adaptation at Nashville Children's Theatre
September 21, 2022

Wendy Kesselman’s new adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank – which is based upon the acclaimed 1955 play by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and is an update of her 1997 script which has been widely produced since – is given a superb world premiere production by Nashville Children’s Theatre, which adds luster to the original work and makes it more accessible to contemporary audiences in director Ernie Nolan’s new iteration onstage through October 2.

Review: Roxy Regional Theatre's THE COLOR PURPLE is 'Emphatically, Beautifully, Electrifyingly Sung'
August 15, 2022

The production of The Color Purple, now onstage at the Roxy, is without doubt the most emphatically, beautifully and electrifyingly sung musical I’ve seen at the historic theatre on the corner of First and Franklin in downtown Clarksville over the past three decades. Directed with confidence by Broadway veteran/Belmont University alumnus/Austin Peay State University professor Deonte Warren, with the spirited choreography of Ebone Amos and one of the finest, most talented casts ever to grace the stage, The Color Purple clearly ranks as one of the best shows in the company’s 39-season history (number 40 gets under way next month).

Interview: Liz Callaway Promises 'A Great Evening' As She Reunites with Jason Graae in Nashville
August 14, 2022

It’s been a while since Liz Callaway last performed on a Nashville stage – it was a performance of “The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber” with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra – and longer still since the time she auditioned for Opryland USA while still a high school student (she wasn’t cast, but more about that later…), so sharing the stage of Andrew Jackson Hall with her longtime pal and confidant Jason Graae on Saturday, August 20, is something she eagerly anticipates.

Interview: Raconteur Jason Graae Returns to Nashville For CABARET ON STAGE at TPAC
August 12, 2022

Even after a brief telephone conversation – which covers as many subjects as time will allow – it’s quite clear that Jason Graae is not only an acclaimed actor, entertainer and stage/film/tv performer. He is, at his very core, a raconteur (which is a fancy French way of saying he can tell a great story).

Review: HARPER LEE'S TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD Opens at Nashville's Tennessee Performing Arts Center
August 10, 2022

But beloved as it may be, why in the ever-loving hell has it taken so long for To Kill A Mockingbird to become a theatrical play that is actually worthy of its literary heritage? Sure, there’s been a 1990 (?!) version by Christopher Sergel that’s made it way through every high school auditorium, community theater playhouse and reginal theater over the intervening three decades that we are, quite frankly, sick to death of it. In fact, if we never see it again, we’ve seen it far too often: a warmed over, treacly and maudlin rehash that’s far too dependent on the title’s movie roots to really emerge from a darkened theater to become a consummate American play.

Review: Cynthia Harris' THE CALLING IS IN THE BODY Is A Universal Tale of Love and Inspiration
August 10, 2022

In much the same way that a piece of evocative music can suddenly whisk you away to another time and place, there are moments in Cynthia Harris’ beautifully written The Calling Is In The Body that can take one just as swiftly to the Nashville of the early 1990s. Almost imperceptibly, Harris’ heartfelt reminiscence – a tribute styled as a “choreopoem” – of a young woman who inspired her to believe in herself and to aspire to more than she might have believed possible at the time, becomes a universal treatise on how every life has meaning far beyond any expectation.

Review: After Covid and the Insurrection, HAMILTON Resonates More Deeply in its TPAC Return
July 29, 2022

When Lin-Manuel Miranda’s epic masterpiece Hamilton was last in residence at Nashville’s Tennessee Performing Arts Center – where it is now ensconced for an as equally anticipated, if briefer, two-week run through August 7 – the world was a far different place than that in which we live today. Yet somehow, due in very large part to the Covid-19 pandemic, the January 6th insurrection at our nation’s Capitol, and the repercussions and reverberations of those two cataclysmic events that have followed in the intervening two-and-a-half years, Hamilton seems to be more resonant, its story more relevant and its presentation more heartrending and current than ever before.

Review: Matt Logan Directs 'Stunning, Powerful, Deeply Moving' THE HIDING PLACE in Nashville Premiere
July 10, 2022

Stunning. Powerful. Deeply moving. The words come rather easily in an attempt to adequately describe the awe-inspiring performances to be found in director Matt Logan’s beautifully crafted production of A.S. Peterson’s The Hiding Place. Now onstage in its Nashville premiere at the Soli Deo Center (which, to be frank, is equally notable and worthy of excessive praise) at Christ Presbyterian Academy through July 23, the play – which had its premiere in September 2019 at A.D. Players in Houston, Texas – proves to be both accessible, engaging and, we daresay, hopeful even as it tells a story from one of the darkest eras in human history.

Review: Bucket List Productions' 'Eerily Prescient' ASSASSINS: THE MUSICAL Opens at Nashville's Darkhorse Theater
July 9, 2022

In theater, as in life, it’s all in the timing: Bucket List Productions’ Assassins: The Musical opened its Nashville run at Darkhorse Theater on Friday, July 8, the same day that former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe died by an assassin’s gun. As news of Abe’s assassination reverberated throughout the world yesterday, it underscored the timelessness and the unfortunate relevance of the Stephen Sondheim-John Weidman musical outside the oftentimes fanciful, yet eerily prescient, world of musical theater.

Broadway Legend and Tony Winner Donna McKechnie to Receive Ovation Award at Nashville Rep's Broadway Brunch
July 8, 2022

Broadway legend and Tony Award winner Donna McKechnie will be presented with Nashville Repertory Theatre’s Ovation Award during the company’s upcoming annual fundraiser Broadway Brunch, set for August 21, at the Wildhorse Saloon.

Interview: Entertainment Legend Sam Harris Brings His One-Man Show Home to Nashville This Saturday Night at TPAC
June 30, 2022

Thanks to the successful and continuing partnership of Studio Tenn and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, Sam Harris returns to Nashville this Saturday night for an evening of Cabaret On Stage, the kick-off of the second season of such offerings on the stage of TPAC’s Andrew Jackson Hall.

Review: Nashville Children's Theatre's THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL is Summer Escapism at its Best
June 29, 2022

Leave it to Ernie Nolan and his creative gang at Nashville Children’s Theatre to take audiences on a much-appreciated holiday under the sea with their riotous, rollicking and altogether joyful production of The Spongebob Musical – featuring some of Nashville’s most beloved stage performers – now onstage through July 17.

Review: Impressively Original THAT WOMAN Presents Stunning Portraits of Women Involved With JFK
June 19, 2022

First conceived prior to the global Covid 19 pandemic and nurtured through those dark and challenging times by Gimlin and Breen, the two halves of THAT WOMAN have finally debuted at Nashville’s Darkhorse Theatre this week and will continue there and at The East Room in East Nashville through June 29, affording audiences throughout the city an opportunity to see this unique collection of original works of art close to home.

The Friday 5(+1) on Saturday: THAT WOMAN - THE DANCE SHOW
June 18, 2022

That Woman - The Dance Show is produced by Tennessee Playwrights Studio and directed by Molly Breen. This production has been co-created with the following Nashville choreographers: Molly Breen, Caitlin Del Casino, Brandon Johnson, Thea Jones, Cornell Kennedy, Jodie Mowrey (Director of Choreography), Schuyler Phoenix, Rachel Simons, Brittany Stewart, and Emma Williams. 

Review: Oh, Brother! MAY WE ALL: A New Country Musical Cast and Characters Deserve a Better Book<br><br>
June 18, 2022

A jukebox musical featuring songs from a plethora of country music artists, May We All has all the charm of a pedal-tavern powered by a dozen drunk “woo-woo” girls debauching themselves all the way down Broadway, while displaying all the emotional complexity and dramatic intensity of a rejected script from a Hallmark Network Christmas movie.

The Friday 5(+1) on Thursday: THAT WOMAN - THE MONOLOGUE SHOW Opens at Darkhorse Theater Tonight
June 16, 2022

Opening tonight at Darkhorse Theater in Nashville is That Woman – The Monologue Show, which explores the stories of women who involved or rumored-to-be involved with President John F. Kennedy. Co-written by Nashville-area women playwrights and actors, it is performed by a diverse ensemble of actors who bring the women to life “in a fascinating look at a lesser-known aspect of history and a thought-provoking and entertaining evening of theatre.”

BWW Review: RODGERS + HAMMERSTEIN'S CINDERELLA Captivates and Enthralls in Exquisite CCP Imagining
June 12, 2022

The story of Cinderella and her Prince is as aspirational and as inspirational as any to be found in the history of musical theater and we are once again delighted to tell you, gentle readers, that the current iteration of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella now onstage at Crossville’s Cumberland County Playhouse is as thoroughly satisfying and spellbinding as any we have ever seen.