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 will be directing 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 will direct 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). He is also slated to direct the world premiere production of Chambers Stevens' newest play, Waking Up Naked in 2019.


BWW Review: CFTA's NEWSIES was Swell, But May We Have a Respite Now?Review: CFTA's NEWSIES was Swell, But May We Have a Respite Now?
Posted: Jan. 30, 2019

BWW Review: A BRONX TALE Gets A Warm Welcome At Nashville's Tennessee Performing Arts CenterReview: A BRONX TALE Gets A Warm Welcome At Nashville's TPAC
Posted: Feb. 13, 2019

BWW Review: Nashville Story Garden's Stunning IRONBOUND Closes All-Too-Brief Run TonightReview: Nashville Story Garden's Stunning IRONBOUND Closes Tonight
Posted: Feb. 2, 2019

Third Annual WINTER SHOWCASE On Tap Saturday at KST Studio of VoiceThird WINTER SHOWCASE On Tap Saturday at KST Studio of Voice
Posted: Feb. 6, 2019

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN Opens the 2019 Season at Woodbury's Arts Center of Cannon CountySINGIN' IN THE RAIN Opens 2019 Season at Arts Center of Cannon County
Posted: Jan. 26, 2019

Tennessee Playwrights Studio Introduces 2019 Fellows and AssociatesTennessee Playwrights Studio Introduces 2019 Fellows and Associates
Posted: Jan. 22, 2019


The Man Behind the Mask: Quentin Oliver Lee of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERAThe Man Behind the Mask: THE PHANTOM's Quentin Oliver Lee
Posted: Oct. 19, 2018

BWW Review: Spectacular Cast Gives Chaffin's Barn's NEWSIES A Fresh AppealReview: Spectacular Cast Gives Barn's NEWSIES Fresh Appeal
Posted: Sep. 22, 2018

BWW Review: Studio Tenn's New FRANKENSTEIN Is Mesmerizing and StartlingReview: Studio Tenn's Mesmerizing New FRANKENSTEIN
Posted: Sep. 4, 2018

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: Chaffin's Barn Re-opens With Habit-Forming SISTER ACTBWW Review: Chaffin's Barn Re-opens With Habit-Forming SISTER ACT
Posted: Aug. 6, 2018

BWW Review: Starmaking Performances Lead Belmont University's Exhilarating ON THE TOWNReview: Starmaking Performances in Belmont's ON THE TOWN
Posted: Mar. 21, 2018

BWW Review: Pipeline Collective's WELLESLEY GIRL Offers a Provocative View of the Future
January 11, 2019

Times are tough in the 25th century, judging from the world on view in Brendan Pelsue's Wellesley Girl, now onstage at the Belmont Little Theatre in a superbly acted and staged production from Pipeline-Collective. While our imaginations of how the 25th century will actually play out - what with various incarnations of that time period, as represented by the science-fictional universe of the myriad Star Trek iterations - Pelsue's interpretation, informed by the current political climate of the 21st century, offers a far more dystopian vision, but it's one which will hit close to home for every audience member left in thrall by the performances of director David Ian Lee's exceptional ensemble of actors.

Nashville Theater Scene Heats Up at Midwinter's First Night 2019
January 6, 2019

Performances from productions of director Brian Jones' Avenue Q, for Nashville's Circle Players - Middle Tennessee's oldest community theater organization - and Center for the Arts' Newsies, directed by 2019 Theaterati of the Year nominee Mark David Williams, are among highlights of next Sunday's Midwinter's First Night - Celebrating 30 Years in Nashville.

BWW Review: PETER PAN AND TINKER BELL: A PIRATE'S CHRISTMAS Brings Panto Tradition to Music City
December 17, 2018

Audiences have until next Sunday - December 23, to be precise - to experience what is likely to become a Music City holiday tradition: Peter Pan and Tinker Bell: A Pirate's Christmas at Tennessee Performing Arts Center's James K. Polk Theatre. A somewhat Americanized version of a peculiarly British seasonal entertainment, aka "panto," Peter Pan and Tinker Bell is a winning blend of theater, Christmas pageant, vaudeville and British music hall all rolled into one bright, shiny, kind of weird, but altogether fun and rather unique holiday-themed package that's a welcome addition to yuletide revelry.

BWW Review: Studio Tenn's Holiday Season Offering of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
December 14, 2018

Before Broadway comes calling for Hatty Ryan King, the young Nashville actress with an enviable resume (the Lipscomb University sophomore is a Spotlight Award winner, was a finalist for The Jimmy Award, has worked with theater companies both community-oriented and professional and has proven herself a capable leading player along the way), you might want to get your tickets to see her onstage in Studio Tenn's ambitious, if woefully uneven, holiday season offering of Beauty and The Beast. In a role that could have been written for her, King shines as Belle, the ambitious and eager to learn and to embrace change young woman who is the heroine of the musical which features a score by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice and a book by Linda Woolverton.

BWW Review: Cumberland County Playhouse Sends SANDERS FAMILY Off With Heartfelt Emotion
December 13, 2018

Growing up in a small Southern town with fewer than 1,000 people, the prevalent thoughts tend to be centered on how to get out of that stifling, archly conservative community, in order to search for the proverbial greener pastures and to find like-minded people who will make you feel more "at home" with yourself and in your own skin. While that may well be the honest-to-God true story of my youth, nonetheless it always startles me when my emotions are stirred up by a stage musical set in the years long before my birth, with a show that fairly reverberates with the heart and soul, memories and nostalgia usually associated with a trip back home.

BWW Review: Rice and Sochocki Serve Up Some Holiday Laughs in A TUNA CHRISTMAS
December 13, 2018

You'd be hard pressed to find a seasonal outing quite so much fun, a Christmas party more tantalizingly outrageous or performances more outlandish than in A Tuna Christmas, the holiday-themed comedy that features the denizens of Tuna, the third-smallest town in Texas, in all their Lone Star State finery, searching for a missing husband, attempting to ferret out "the Christmas Phantom" and hoping for that perfect photograph for next year's greeting cards.

First Night's Top Ten of 2018 Announced in Nashville Tonight
December 10, 2018

In anticipation of the gala 30th anniversary celebration of The First Night Awards, Tennessee's best and brightest in live theater were revealed tonight as First Night's Top Ten of 2018 - reviewer and critic Jeffrey Ellis' annual recognition for theater in the Volunteer State - were announced during a Facebook Live presentation from Nashville.

SAVE THE DATE: Nashville Theater Calendar for December 10, 2018
December 10, 2018

Looking ahead, you'll find a number of new productions on tap for your entertainment pleasure, including a number of holiday season offerings to put you in the Christmas spirit, thanks to the efforts of theater companies all over Middle Tennessee. Here's our calendar for December 3, 2018, to help you plot your course through the first few weeks of 2019...

High School Drama: Lipscomb Academy's ADDISON McFARLIN and KELLER MONTGOMERY
December 6, 2018

Like every high school senior before, Lipscomb Academy's Addison McFarlin and Keller Montgomery are trying to store away as many memories as possible during their final year of high school, while maintaining their GPAs, going to class and being a part of campus life. But Addison and Keller are actors, so their schedules are even fuller, particularly this week as they find themselves in the middle to Tech Week for Lipscomb Academy's fall musical Big Fish, directed by Kari Smith.

BWW Review: After 10 Years, Nashville Ballet's NASHVILLE'S NUTCRACKER Dazzles and Delights
December 4, 2018

As difficult as it may be to comprehend, Nashville's Nutcracker - Paul Vasterling's beautiful and evocative holiday gift to his adopted hometown - first debuted in 2008 and its return in 2018 only enhances the already stellar reputation of Nashville Ballet as the city's leading arts entity and adds more luster to the glittering resume of its artistic director, who this season celebrates his 20th anniversary leading the company.

SAVE THE DATE: Nashville Theater Calendar for December 3, 2018
December 3, 2018

Looking ahead, you'll find a number of new productions on tap for your entertainment pleasure, including a number of holiday season offerings to put you in the Christmas spirit, thanks to the efforts of theater companies all over Middle Tennessee. Here's our calendar for December 3, 2018, to help you plot your course through the beginning of a new year...

BWW Review: Nashville Rep's Holiday Tradition of A CHRISTMAS STORY Comes to a Fitting Close
December 3, 2018

When the final curtain falls on A Christmas Story at TPAC's Andrew Johnson Theatre on December 22, the cast and crew of Nashville Repertory Theatre's production will pack up all the leg lamps and all the tinsel, Gary Hoff's gorgeous set will go into mothballs, the costumes will be stored away with the rest of the company's vast collection and a ten-year-old Nashville holiday tradition will come to an end.

BWW Review: Tamiko Robinson Steele Sparkles and Shines in TWTP's TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS
December 2, 2018

Tamiko Robinson Steele's bravura performance as Mary, the heroine of Ginna Hoben's delightful The Twelve Dates Of Christmas, is reason enough to spend an hour and a half in a darkened theater amid all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Now onstage in the fourth annual Tennessee Women's Theater Project production of Hoben's sharply written and wonderfully entertaining one-woman show, Steele brings her own sense of whimsy and fun to the role that Rebekah Durham so memorably portrayed from 2015-2017 for TWTP.

BWW Review: Jaclynn Jutting's Direction of a Remarkable Cast Makes Actor's Bridge's THE WOLVES The Show to See
December 2, 2018

In a production that almost didn't happen - it was upended by college administrators' fear of the power of the words found in DeLappe's stunning script - The Wolves is a play about the evolution of a group of nine young women who find themselves together every Saturday morning for a soccer match at an indoor facility in some unspecified locale that could be in New York, California or even Tennessee (or any place in between), during which they reveal themselves and their lives in a no-holds-barred conversation that allows audiences an unfettered view of whatever happens to be on their minds at any given moment.

BWW Review: MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET at Roxy Regional Theatre is Beautifully Wrapped
November 27, 2018

Now onstage at the Roxy Regional Theatre in Clarksville through December 22, Miracle on 34th Street is among a small number of titles available to theater companies all over the United States looking for seasonal entertainment options for their loyal fans and season ticket holders. In fact, there's another production of the show opening at Murfreesboro's Center for the Arts this weekend and Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre in Nashville has announced the show as its holiday offering in 2019.

SAVE THE DATE: Nashville Theater Calendar for November 26, 2018
November 26, 2018

Here's hoping you had a splendid Thanksgiving holiday weekend and that you're settling in for another action-packed season of events and shows to make Christmas 2018 sparkle even more! Looking ahead, you'll find a number of new productions on tap for your entertainment pleasure, thanks to the efforts of theater companies all over Middle Tennessee. Here's our calendar for November 26, 2018, to help you plot your course through the end of the year...

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN at ACCC to Reunite Director and Star After Almost 20 Years
November 19, 2018

In an act of theatrical symmetry, full of the 'whimsical magic' only live performance can provide, the first production of Arts Center of Cannon County's 2019 Season - the stage version of Singin' in the Rain - will reunite the director with his leading actress, whom he first cast in her very first musical when she was nine years old. It's been almost 20 years since the last time veteran director Jeffrey Ellis initially worked with Lindsey Mapes Duggin, the director of education for Arts Center of Cannon County, who will lead the cast of Singin' in the Rain as its heroine, young star-to-be Kathy Selden, as well as taking on the role of producer.

BWW Review: Belmont University Musical Theatre's Startling Revival of SIDE SHOW
November 18, 2018

Macy Medford and Arden Guice may only be college students, but their performances as Violet and Daisy Hilton, the heroines of Side Show - the iconic musical by Bill Russell, Henry Krieger and Bill Condon that debuted on Broadway some 20 years ago - in Belmont University Musical Theatre's production that runs for just one weekend, are nothing less than a professional triumph for each young woman. Thoroughly committed and startlingly focused, Medford and Guice perform an oftentimes tricky, always challenging, task in order that the two young women effectively become their characters, ensuring the musical packs an emotional wallop delivered straight to the collective heart of its audience, while showcasing the evolution of a musical theatre program at the Nashville university, which over the years has gained a national reputation as the training ground of the next generations of Broadway stars yet to be.

November 17, 2018

But in the rarefied world of make-believe and magic aka musical theater, in which comedy and tragedy are equally celebrated and where a memorable song can lift one's spirits soaring toward the heavens, a princess means so much more: The princess of musical theater legend and lore is able to transform from a poor orphan who has found herself tempest tossed throughout her difficult life into a woman of great stature and regal deportment, she can express herself with such artistry and majesty that all those around her may feel the impact of her actions, their dreary lives brightened by her very existence.

BWW Review: Chase Miller's Star Burns Bright in Chaffin's Barn's ELF THE MUSICAL
November 16, 2018

Throughout the past year, I've written quite often about Nashville's Chase Miller and his tremendous talents, remarkable stage presence and startling ability to successfully morph from one character to another completely unlike the first (or any to follow). Miller is rather insanely talented and any director worth her or his salt would be deliriously happy to have the serious triple threat in any show on their drawing board.