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GOOD MORNING, THEATERATI for May 15, 2017

By: May. 15, 2017
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GOOD MORNING, THEATERATI! It's Monday, May 15, 2017, which begs the question: What's on your theatrical agenda this week? There's plenty to see and do, so we simply won't allow any excuses: Get thee to a darkened auditorium, settle into your seats and allow yourself to be transported and, in the process, transformed - all thanks to the magic of live theater! Live life dramatically, we beseech you! One thing about plying our trade in theater in a city such as Nashville, a state such as Tennessee, is that it can be innervating and frustrating at the same time: That which spurs you on from show to show, production to production, company to company can just as easily sap you of your enthusiasm and drain you of your strength, deplete your creative reserves while simultaneously giving you reasons to continue.

The really swell thing about those soul-sucking incidents (which have been far too numerous to mention over the past four weeks, for example) is that somehow the universe or, at the very least, the gods of theater smile benevolently on us little people and give us something that inspires us beyond our wildest imagination. Case in point, Saturday night's presentation of The Spotlight Awards, aka The Nashville High School Musical Theatre Awards, at Tennessee Performing Arts Center's Andrew Jackson Hall, the grandest stage in all the Volunteer State, and the site for so many estimable actors' finest moments and career highs. And on Saturday, two young performers - Hatty King of Lipscomb Academy and Nathan Keffer of Ravenwood High School - saw their dreams come true when they were named Best Actress and Best Actor in the fourth annual competition, which will send them off to New York City to work with the best of Broadway, to be surrounded by the finest young performers of their generation and to compete for the national Jimmy Awards. Thanks to the powers-that-be at Lipscomb University Theatre (and the school's College of Entertainment and the Arts, led by founding dean Mike Fernandez, who five years ago first talked with me about his dreams for this very program) and their unique collaboration with TPAC (thanks in large part to president and CEO Kathleen O'Brien, who is as supportive of the theater community in Tennessee as she is adept at ensuring Nashville audiences see the very best touring productions at their hometown performing arts center), the program has grown exponentially in its first four years. In fact, I'd say there were as many people in Jackson Hall on Saturday last as there had been in the awards programs first three years combined at Lipscomb University's Collins Alumni Auditorium. The energy levels were extraordinary and the roar of the crowd, students supporting their peers no matter the outcome, was awe-inspiring. If you let the naysayers get you down, folks, simply find some young people just embarking on their own theatrical journeys and you'll get the creative jolt, the very best inspiration to keep you going for another year, at the very least! Thanks to Lipscomb's Kari Smith and TPAC's Cassie Lafevor for making everything happen this year.

And if that's not enough for you, then perhaps you will be as lucky as I was to see some of our favorite theaterati at the show, including Beki Baker, Kari Smtih, Mike Fernandez, Kathleen O'Brien, Tony Marks, Brent Hyams, Brian Hull, Mary Tanner Bailey, Paula Flautt, Lauri Gregoire, Sawyer McCoy Wallace, Will Butler, Scott Patrick Wilson, Erika Aubrey and Miles Aubrey (who co-hosted), Tosha Pendergrast and Benjamin Pendergrast, among others that we were able to exchange hugs, air kisses and the latest gossip with - and all the other people in the crowd who texted us following our presenting gig and greeted us in the lobby at intermission. We sure did miss the lovely and talented and oh-so-wickedly funny Melinda Doolittle, who hosted the past couple of incarnations at Lipscomb.

As Hatty and Nathan prepare for their trip to NYC next month, they are probably still exulting in their wins announced on Saturday night. Nathan performed first in the line-up, singing "Suddenly, Seymour" from Ravenwood's Little Shop of Horrors, which was named the year's best musical, while Hatty stopped the show with her rendition of Little Women's "Astonishing," from the Lipscomb Academy production of the musical. They are worthy winners of the first trip to the Jimmy Awards, as would have been any of the other four actors up for the honors: Siegel High School's Anna Cooper from Ragtime; Tullahoma High School's William Kuebitz from Mary Poppins; Seigel High's Caleb Mitchell from Ragtime; and Nashville School of the Arts' Lilla Golgoczy-Toler from Little Shop of Horrors.

To put it succinctly, the night was great fun! And we can only imagine the grand times awaiting Hatty and Nathan at the Jimmy Awards which this year will be hosted by Tony Award nominee Ben Platt, Dear Evan Hansen's leading man - we daresay sharing a stage with one of Time's 100 most influential people for 2017 will be award enough for all the young actors coming from all over the country, including two from the competition hosted by Memphis' Orpheum Theatre organization (which actually predates the Nashville awards).

The question we're most often asked about the awards program (seriously, you'd be surprised how frequently we responded to that query this weekend): Why doesn't Hume-Fogg Academic High School take part? That school's program is arguably the gold standard of high school musical theatre (we'd rank Paula Flautt's program at Christ Presbyterian Academy right up there with 'em, by the way) and so we put that question to Daron Bruce, who oversees that program with Lisa Forbis, and his answer is: "Definitely. Maybe." Or words to that effect. We'd lay odds you'll see HFA involved in next year's program, which will elevate the awards program even further than it is already.

Tennessee Women's Theater Project's 11th Annual Women's Work Festival and Nashville Repertory Theatre's Ingram New Works Festival continue this week, along with Center for the Arts' Little Shop of Horrors in Murfreesboro, Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre's Beau Jest, Cumberland County Playhouse's Million Dollar Quartet and A Second Helping in Crossville, Centerstage Theater Company's To Kill a Mockingbird in Lebanon, ACT 1's Noises Off, Murfreesboro Little Theater's 7th Annual Backyard Bard: King Lear, Studio Tenn's Monty Python's Spamalot, along with the opening of Woven Theatre's production of Neil LaBute's Reasons To Be Pretty at Belmont Little Theatre on Thursday night.

Our Spamalot review: /nashville/article/BWW-Review-1600-Words-About-Why-You-Should-Go-See-SPAMALOT-At-Studio-Tenn-20170508

Our Beau Jest review: /nashville/article/BWW-Review-BEAU-JEST-is-Back-At-Chaffins-Barn-20170512

Our Noises Off review: /nashville/article/BWW-Review-Angels-in-England-or-rather-ACT-1s-NOISES-OFF-20170513

Among gossip generated by last Friday's reveal of Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre's fall musical - MAMMA MIA! starring Martha Wilkinson and directed by Bradley Moore - is the completely unverified news that Broadway veteran and Nashvillian for the past five or so years Rachel Potter (The Addams Family and Evita on Broadway and NBC's The Voice) may have been precast as Sophie in the musical filled with the very best songs from the ABBA catalogue. We remain unconvinced, but if it happens, remember you read it here first!

Today, we send out wishes of "Happy Birthday" to some particularly talented theater-types including: actress-director-producer-teacher Stefani Paige; Nashville Ballet's Brett Andrew Sjoblom; actor-playwright Andrew Strong; and Nashville native and stage manager par excellence Claire Jarman. They share their special day with Equus playwright Peter Shaffer, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds writer Paul Zindel, actress Lainie Kazan (who starred as Miriam Goldman, the role now played by Layne Sasser at The Barn, in the film version of Beau Jest), Paul Rudd, Cleavant Derricks and Jason Graae.

In theatrical history, on this date in 1935, future Scarlett O'Hara and Blanche Dubois, the exquisite Vivien Leigh starred in The Mask of Virtue in London; Tyrone Guthrie died in 1971, at the age of 70; and in 2012, a developmental lab of The Landing, a three-part musical by John Kander and Greg Pierce, began performances off-Broadway at The Vineyard Theatre, marking Kander's first full collaboration with another writer since the death of Fred Ebb some eight years earlier. The show was presented in a full production at the Vineyard in 2103.

And that, gentle readers, is all the theatrical news that's fit to print for Monday, May 15! Until tomorrow, be sure to CELEBRATE THE MAGIC OF LIVE THEATRE!



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