CRITIC'S CHOICE: Add Some Culture & Creativity to Your Life At The Theater This Weekend
It's that time of the week, theater lovers! With the weekend set to kick off at any moment - personally, we like to consider Thursday morning at 12:01 a.m. the official start of the weekend (that's directed primarily to the Dowager Countess of Grantham who quite clearly didn't understand what actually constitutes a "weekend") - so we are back with a few suggestions of our own to help make your job easier. There are some new shows opening, others which are continuing their runs and still more which will be winding up their slate of performances this weekend!
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat opens at Franklin's Jamison Theatre in the much heralded conclusion to Studio Tenn's 2018-19 season, while Les Miserables School Edition premieres at Murfreesboro's Center for the Arts and Nashville Repertory Theatre offers the first public reading of the latest from award-winning playwright Sarah Ruhl, Becky Nurse of Salem, at Nashville Children's Theatre as the climax of this year's Ingram New Works Festival.
No matter where you are in the world, we hope you'll celebrate the magic and the wonder of live theater by going to see a performance: Add some culture and creativity to your own life...
Probably the most anticipated opening this weekend will be in Franklin as Studio Tenn closes out its ninth season with Andrew Lloyd Webber's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, opening at the Jamison Theater in Franklin on Friday, May 17, and continuing through June 2, with Jesse Michels in the title role, and with Studio Tenn favorite Laura Matula as the Narrator.
Spanning a multitude of musical genres from country-western and calypso to bubble-gum pop and rock and roll, the Tony Award-winning musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat features a large ensemble cast under the direction of Studio Tenn interim artistic director Benji Kern.
Based on the Biblical story of Jacob's favorite son Joseph, the musical brings to the stage the tale of the young man - who is blessed with vivid dreams that foretell the future, but who finds himself in the center of a colorful, comedic family-friendly tale of betrayal and jealousy that leads him into servitude to a hilariously Elvis-like Pharaoh.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat takes the stage at the Jamison Theater located in the Factory at Franklin from May 17 through June 2. Tickets and more information are available online at www.studiotenn.com, or in person by calling (615) 541-8200.
Meanwhile, in Murfreesboro - at Center for the Arts - director Denise Parton and her creative team are putting the finishing touches on Les Misérables School Edition, the musical adaptation for younger actors of Victor Hugo's timeless and iconic novel about the life of Jean Valjean which opens Friday and continues through June 2.
Les Misérables centers around Jean Valjean (played by Sam Downer), an ex-convict who is released from 19 years of unjust imprisonment for stealing a loaf of bread. As the outcast faces a lifelong struggle for redemption, he is relentlessly pursued by police inspector Javert (Wil Hansen) who refuses to believe Valjean can change his ways. During his multi-year journey back to respectability, Valjean encounters Fantine (Karisha Glover) and vows to find and raise her orphaned daughter, Cosette (Macey Rose). After years of solitude, Valjean risks his own life to save the man she loves in the Paris student uprising of 1812. It is then that he is reunited with Javert and the rest of the story unfolds.
Featuring the well-known songs, "I Dreamed a Dream," "On My Own" and "Bring Him Home," Les Misérables is arguably one of the best loved musicals of all time. It is a story of redemption and how one life can change the course of many years.
Tickets start at $14 and are currently on sale at www.boroarts.org, or by calling 615-904-2787. Les Misérables runs Friday, May 17, through Friday, June 2, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings, with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
Perhaps Tennessee's most unique performance venue can be found in McMinnville, where Cumberland Caverns Live is gearing up for a banner slate of performances this weekend May 18 and 19, featuring acclaimed, genre-defying outfit Deer Tick, along with opening act Courtney Marie Andrews, who will be making a special stop Saturday, May 18, and Americana luminaries The Band of Heathens (with their opening act Cordovas) hitting the stage on Sunday.
Both shows take place 333 feet below the earth's surface in the Volcano Room deep inside Cumberland Caverns, a venue Rolling Stone magazine ranks among the Top 10 spots for music lovers in the state.
The Volcano Room remains world renowned for its near-perfect acoustics set against a backdrop of amazing natural rock formations, which NPR calls a "natural beauty." Beneath the room's signature chandelier, guests experience world-class talent and a host of amenities. From early-entry options and a guest friendly check-in process to improved seating and updated menu items, fans can prepare for a live music experience like no other. Guests can opt for pre-show cave tours at an additional $15 per person.
Purchase tickets online at www.cumberlandcavernslive.com. Deer Tick and Courtney Marie Andrews perform at 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, with Band of Heathens and Cordovas onstage at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 19. Tickets are priced at $35-$55.
Street Theatre Company's production of Lynn Nottage's Sweat, directed by Alicia Haymer, continues its run at the company's new venue at 1120 Elm Hill Pike, running through May 25. Haymer, back from last season's critically acclaimed production of Eclipsed, helms the production that stars Alex White, Barry Kennedy Jr., Carl Lowe, Elliott Robinson, Iordanis Ekimogloy, Kay Ayers, Nina Hibbler-Webster and Trin Blakely.
Filled with warm humor and tremendous heart, Sweat tells the story of a group of friends who have spent their lives sharing drinks, secrets and laughs while working together on the factory floor. But when layoffs and picket lines begin to chip away at their trust, the friends find themselves pitted against each other in a heart-wrenching fight to stay afloat in uncertain economic times.
Also at Street Theatre Company this weekend is the latest of their cabaret offerings: Lane Williamson Is Not A Tenor...A Cabaret on Sunday night, May 19, at 7 p.m. featuring the song stylings of the aforementioned Mr. Williamson of the show's title, who will welcome such acclaimed theaterati as Ryan Greenawalt, Seth Brown, Mcaley Lannom, Abbey Rhyne, Tyson Laemmel, Emma Puerta and Ayla Williams to the stage as his guest stars in what promises to be one heck of a show.
Nashville Repertory Theatre's innovative Ingram New Works Project closes out its 2018-19 season that features the debut of Sarah Ruhl's Becky Nurse of Salem. Ruhl is the recipient of the 2018-19 Ingram New Works Project fellowship.
Emerging playwrights Lindsay Joelle, Dean Poynor, Riti Sachdeva and R. Eric Thomas, were chosen for the Ingram New Works Project based on their talent, to be certain, but perhaps most compellingly by their creativity and the play they were hoping would emerge from that very earliest idea. Once a month since September, they have visited the creative team at Nashville Rep, which has become their home away from home, to garner the kind of support they needed - from guidance, actors and play workshops, to the conviviality of meals and downtown adventures shared.
The final weekend of the festival includesthe first public look at a brand-new play by Sarah Ruhl on Saturday night at Nashville Children's Theatre. Ruhl, whose plays - from Dead Man's Cell Phone and Eurydice to In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play) - have been produced by local theater companies to the acclaim of audiences and critics, alike, is latest in a long line of notable and award-winning American Playwrights who have served as mentors to the emerging playwrights.
The Ingram New Works Project has put Nashville on the map with the National Theatre community for the quality of new plays that emerge from the Nashville Project, and that have gone on to successful, full productions and have earned critical acclaim.
For further details and showtimes for the 2019 Ingram New Works Festival, go to www.nashvillerep.org.
Tennessee Women's Theater Project's wonder revival of the most popular show in company history - SISTAS the Musical - completes its run at Nashville's Z. Alexander Looby Theatre this weekend. SISTAS the Musical's story introduces five women who are part of an African-American family, and features popular music from Billie Holiday to Beyoncé. TWTP Founder and Artistic Director Maryanna Clarke directs the production, which was first staged by the company in 2017 to many sold-out audiences.
Lisa Graham (Gloria) and Brittany Nelson (Heather) return from the original 2017 cast, and are joined in 2019 by LaToya Gardner (Simone), Shonka Dukureh (Roberta), and Aija Penix (Tamika). SISTAS the Musical follows five women on a historical, emotional and familial journey as they prepare to honor their recently departed family matriarch. Three sisters, Roberta, Gloria, and Simone, along with Tamika (Simone's teenage daughter) and sister-in-law Heather, have gathered to choose a song to sing at their Grandma Alice's memorial service that night. Searching through Grandma's attic, they share memories and music, along the way tracing the relationship of Black women and popular song. The music ranges from the blues divas of the 1930's through the Motown sound of the 60's, to the empowerment of the 90's with songs including "Oh, Happy Day," "R.E.S.P.E.C.T," "I Will Survive," "Tyrone," "I am Not My Hair" and "A Woman's Worth."
Read Jeffrey Ellis' review of Sistas the Musical: /nashville/article/BWW-Review-Tennessee-Womens-Theater-Projects-Stunning-Revival-of-SISTAS-THE-MUSICAL-20190504
Spring 2019 has proven to be beautiful in Tennessee, so maybe hitting the road to see a show tickles your fancy: If a road trip is indeed to your liking, you might consider a trip to Crossville for either Forever Plaid (Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.) or Bright Star (Friday night at 7:30 p.m. or Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.) at Cumberland County Playhouse.
The Tennessee premiere of Bright Star (the Steve Martin-Edie Brickell musical, with a bluegrass/Americana flair) is directed by CCP producing director Bryce McDonald (with musical direction by Lauren Marshall and choreography by Jensen Crain-Foster) and stars Christine Rowan as Alice Murphy, with Chris Hallowes, Ross Griffin, Britt Hancock, Justin Burr and the lovely DeAnna Etchison lending expert, awe-inspiring support.
Forever Plaid, directed by Britt Hancock, plays in the Adventure Theatre and is a tune-filled musical revue of the hits of the 1950s and 1960s - a tribute to "the good guys" - starring Justin Burr, Paul Gary, Ross Griffin and Chris Hallowes. Both productions are more than worth the price of a tickets - and I can't express more enthusiastically how much I believe you'll love both productions.
Read Jeffrey Ellis' review of Forever Plaid:
Read the Forever Plaid cast's Friday 5(+1) interviews: /nashville/article/FRIDAY-5-1-Cumberland-County-Playhouses-FOREVER-PLAID-Debuts-Tonight-in-Crossville-20190329