Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

Don't let the rain and near 70 degree weather fool you--it's the most wonderful time of the year as the Broadway sensation Irving Berlin’s White Christmas opens tonight, November 22,  at The Orpheum Theatre.

Full of dancing, laughter and some of the greatest songs ever written, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas promises to be a merry and bright theatrical experience for the whole family and a great way to spend the Thanksgiving season! To celebrate the occasion, we’re bringing to you all things White Christmas this week including this behind-the-scenes look at the stage adaptation of the beloved classic film.

Also, Wednesday morning, November 23,  the stars of Irving Berlin's White Christmas are coming to YOUR home! Well, not really, but the White Christmas cast will be visiting Fox 13's Good Morning Memphis, News Channel 3's Live at 9, and ABC 24's Midday News Program where they will talk exclusively about this exciting new production and even perform! Don't forget to tune in and watch.

Oh and did you know that Kid's Night for White Christmas is Wednesday, too? We pull out all the stops for Kids' Night! Children who attend Kids' Night participate in special activities related to the show currently playing at The Orpheum. Receive one child's ticket (ages 8-18) free with the purchase of an adult ticket at regular price. Special events begin at 6:40 pm in the Grand Lobby. For more information, click here.

In case you missed it, you can check out last Friday's Go Memphis story with White Christmas actress Ruth Williamson by clicking here. Irving Berlin's White Christmas will play The Orpheum stage from November 22-27 (no performances held on Thanksgiving.
For more information , please visit the OFFICIAL Orpheum Theatre website at www.oprheum-memphis.com.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Go Memphis Q & A with The Screwtape Letters' Max McLean

Stage Review: Devil in the details for 'Screwtape' actor
By Christopher Blank

Max McLean laughs diabolically when a reporter tells him of a recent quest to find a copy of C.S. Lewis' popular novel "The Screwtape Letters" in Memphis. Every copy had been checked out at every library branch. At the bookstore, the clerk shook her head: "Oh, I'm sorry, but we've had kids buying up all the books. Must be for some class."

"That is really interesting!" McLean says. "I recently spoke to a publisher with Harper Collins and I was told that for the first time in years, 'Screwtape' is outselling Lewis' second best-selling book, 'Mere Christianity' (after 'The Chronicles of Narnia'). I'd like to think we have something to do with that."

The "we" in that sentence includes director and co-writer Jeffrey Fiske, whose recent stage adaptation of "The Screwtape Letters" -- in which McLean stars -- found favorable audiences in New York, Chicago and Washington and is now touring the country. Two performances are scheduled at the Orpheum theater on Saturday.

In "The Screwtape Letters," a devil in the lower reaches of hell counsels his nephew, Wormwood, on ways to tempt a human soul. "The safest path to hell is a gradual one," counsels Screwtape on the slow-and-steady method of spiritual warfare. I spoke with McLean about bringing Lewis' novel to the stage.

Q: What was the impetus for adapting "The Screwtape Letters"?

A: Jeff saw me in a play and said, "I think you'd make a really good Screwtape." I wasn't sure if that was a compliment. I had read the book in my 20s, and was really challenged by it. What I took away from it was the banality of evil, how it numbs you and flattens you out so that you never become the person you once wished you could be.

Q: Lewis got the idea for "The Screwtape Letters" shortly after hearing Adolph Hitler deliver a fiery speech on the radio. Where did you get your inspiration for playing a devil?

A: I had a memory of playing "honest" Iago (the villain from "Othello") in drama school. His appeal is to draw you into his confidence and then ruin you. The Bible speaks of Satan as someone who masquerades as the Master of Light. I also thought about Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of Hannibal Lecter. As far as the smoothness of the language, I thought of Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward. More recently, I really started watching (the comedian) Lewis Black and I really like his complete vocal commitment on the verge of madness.

To continue reading the Q & A with Max Mclean, please visit  the official Go Memphis homepage or click here

Performances  for "The Screwtape Letters"are at 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday, November 5th.

Monday, October 31, 2011

There's Something About Mary (And It's Not Scary)

The Grand Opera House burned down and was rebuilt as The Orpheum in 1928
 With Halloween upon us, our thoughts turn to the spookier side of life. Here at The Orpheum, some creepy history lives close to the surface year round. Like most old buildings, The Orpheum has a long memory, and not all of it is pleasant.

A spritely man sporting a bow tie, glasses, and curled mustache, Vincent Astor has a long history with The Orpheum. Since the late 1960s he has worn many hats here, from serving popcorn when The Orpheum was a Malco movie theatre, to manager, to organist. The last role remains his favorite. When asked if he'd be interested in talking to us about The Orpheum's spookier side for this blog post, his first question was if the organ would be available. Sadly, it had been put away in the basement for Tosca's performances over the weekend, but Vincent was still willing to talk ghosts.

When people think of Orpheum ghosts, Mary is often the first one to come to mind. But according to a team of parapsychologists from the University of Memphis who performed an investigation at The Orpheum several years ago, Mary is only one of several Orpheum spirits. This is backed up by accounts from many employees over the years. One of these other spirits is said to dwell in the Upper Gallery. House manager Stanley Hightower once bolted from that area after seeing a luminous figure making its way down the aisle. Current building manager Richard Reinach spoke of a particularly creepy encounter several years ago during a bomb sweep of the building prior to a visit from Anwar Saddat's wife. "It was just me, a cop, and the bomb sniffing dog, everyone else was cleared out of the building. We go up to the Upper Gallery, and the dog just lays down and won't move. We're trying to drag him, get him up the stairs, but he's not having it. This is a trained dog. We all just left, we didn't want to be there anymore." Others spoke of feelings of sadness and discomfort in the women's bathroom on the gallery level. "I've heard people call her Eleanor, but I don't have anything to back up that name. She's just very unhappy." When asked for details, Vincent is reluctant to talk about her. "Once I was changing a light bulb in that room, and I just had this feeling, like sticking your hand in cold liver. It was awful."

But when it comes to discussing The Orpheum's most famous ghost, Mary, all of his reluctance vanishes.

"Her story isn't a gory one. It's very sweet."

Stories about Mary first began to circulate years ago. Workers heard a high, girlish voice in empty hallways. Tools were moved when backs were turned. A little girl in a white dress and braids was spotted in the lower gallery box, third row, which is now known as her favorite seat. Although "C5" is  what her favorite seat is called most often, it hasn't actually been C5 since the Malco folding seats were removed during the first major renovation in 1986. "It's not a good seat for watching" says Vincent. "You see everything at a slant. But it is a great seat for being seen, and I think that's why she likes it."

Vincent and Mary have known each other for years. He and some friends performed a seance on The Orpheum stage in April 1979, using a Ouija board and some atmospheric blue light. Her name and the date "1921" appeared over and over. Vincent decided to play the organ. What happened next was frightening. From The Orpheum History:
Teresa Spoone was with a small group of people.  They were in the theatre late, and they also were listening to Vincent Astor play the organ.  Each time he played Never Never Land, the theatre became ‘deathly cold,’ as Spoone describes it.  A couple of people in the group noticed a faint light dart in from the lobby and jump down behind some seats in the back.  Spoone admits that she was ‘scared to go into the lobby, because I knew something was out there.  It was just on overpowering feeling.’  Upon looking in the lobby Spoone and two others saw a little girl with brownish hair dancing in the distance.

Against her will, Spoone felt compelled to go to the little girl.  This was ‘ extremely frightening,’ she said ‘ because while my mind was telling me there’s no such thing as a ghost, something was drawing me to this particular spot.  You just see this form of a little girl and you have to go to her.’  Spoone made it halfway up the center aisle before she caught herself’ It was like she was calling me. That really scared me, because I felt if I went near her, I’d never come back the same.”

Two members of the party did, however venture into the lobby.  When they got there, the apparition disappeared.  At this point a furious rattling and rumbling began in the broom closet just off the lobby.  Neither of the two could muster the gumption to open the door and look into the closet.  They quickly returned to the others.  The rattling stopped.  But the little girl returned.  All in all, the appearance lasted for over 45 minutes.  The intense feeling of being watched, and the cold, persisted for the remainder of their stay in the theatre.
Although the experience was startling, Vincent doesn't think Mary is dangerous or scary. "We think she died outside the theatre, wandered in, and decided to stay. She doesn't mean any harm."

When asked about why spirits find the Orpheum so attractive, Vincent smiled.

"When actors get on the stage here, they're spending a lot of energy to make you, the audience, believe something that isn't really happening. When the audience comes inside The Orpheum, they suspend their belief at the door. And when those two energies meet at the floor lights, anything can happen."

Some believe The Orpheum rests on powerful ley lines, making it an attractive place for lonely spirits. But as Vincent explains, the source for some of the spooky occurrences may be a bit more mundane.

"I used to see this flash of light fly through the theatre, and could never explain it. Until one day, a bus drove by the front of the building and I saw how its windows caught the light, beamed it through the glass, and finally came in the theatre through a cracked door. I was pretty excited when I figured that out." Later, he takes us to the Upper Gallery, where several staff members have reported uneasy feelings and negative experiences "If you stand here and lean back and forth, you can tell that the floor on this level is actually tilted. If you're not aware of it, it can really make you feel off."

Vincent Astor playing "Never Never Land"
Of course, not everything that happens here can be so easily explained. And although Vincent tells me that during the last ghost investigation he was involved with here an investigator claimed that they had helped Mary "move on", he thinks she's very much still present. "She likes it here. It's a place for magic and make believe, and she chooses to be here. It's a good place." Before we go, he plays "Never Never Land" on the piano (a poor substitute for his beloved Wurlitzer organ, sadly). Still, as the last bars drift away into the silence, he smiles. "She was listening, I could tell."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

PASSPORT: A Celebration of Memphis’ Music History

As part of The Theatre’s Positive Memphis campaign, The Orpheum is pleased to announce the unveiling of The Memphis Music Passport Program, an interactive guide to the many area attractions that celebrate the history of Memphis music. The program encourages native Memphians and visitors alike to discover the magic of the many historical and musical treasures the city has to offer.

These special limited edition keepsake passports contain information about eight of Memphis’ most renowned musical attractions along with special offers, such as buy one get one free admission. Participating attractions in the Passport Program include Graceland, Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Sun Studio, Rock ‘N’ Soul Museum, Beale Street, The National Civil Rights Museum, Backbeat Tours, and The Orpheum Theatre.

“The Orpheum’s Positive Memphis campaign began back in 2006”, said Kanette Rodgers, Vice President of Marketing.“Our president, Pat Halloran, along with our board of directors, felt The Orpheum should take a leadership role by allocating time and resources to help focus attention on all the positive things about our great city.”

Since 2006, The Theatre has identified and recognized community leaders through The Orpheum’s Memphis Hero’s program. This project has promoted area museums, restaurants, and attractions through paid media and The Orpheum’s website, social media channels and weekly e-blasts.

 “With shows like MEMPHIS and Million Dollar Quartet both gracing The Orpheum’s 2011-2012 Broadway lineup, it seemed natural to focus this year’s Positive Memphis campaign on our rich musical heritage.”, said Rodgers. “After all, the international tours of MEMPHIS and Million Dollar Quartet will spotlight Memphis, Tennessee as an exciting, vibrant travel destination, resulting in future tourism revenue for years to come.”

 Memphis Music Passport may be picked up at The Orpheum Theatre Box Office, The Orpheum Theatre Box Office inside The Booksellers at Laurelwood, The Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau, or at the concierge desk during any performance at The Theatre. Passport holders are encouraged to have their Passports stamped at each attraction. In addition to a sense of civic pride, those who visit all of the attractions and receive their stamp may bring their completed passport to The Orpheum Box Office to receive their limited edition Passport Program t-shirt.

 Participating Attractions & Passport Discounts:
  • Graceland - 50% off the Graceland Platinum Tour
  • Stax Museum of American Soul Music - Buy one, get one free admission
  • Sun Studio - Buy one, get one free admission
  • Memphis Rock ‘N’ Soul Museum - Buy one, get one free admission
  • The National Civil Rights Museum - Buy one, get one free admission
  • B. B. King’s - One free cover and half price appetizer
  • Backbeat Tours - Buy one, get one free Memphis Mojo Tour
  • The Orpheum Theatre -Buy 1, get 1 free ticket to any Family Series show

Stop by The Orpheum Theatre box office (9am - 5pm) at 203 S. Main to pick up your FREE passport and after you've collected all your stamps, bring it back and you'll receive a free commemorative t-shirt!

 email: info@orpheum-memphis.com with questions or for more details.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

MEMPHIS: Composer David Bryan and Writer Joe DiPietro visit Stax

The creative team behind MEMPHIS the musical visited the Stax academy and museum during the tour launch at The Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, TN.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

MEMPHIS in Go Memphis!

Stage Review: 'Memphis' is rocking, footapping entertainment
by Christopher Blank

Sunday night's official opening of "Memphis" at the Orpheum theater, where the Tony-winning Broadway musical has been newly staged for the launch of its national tour, finally brings locals face-to-face with the cartoon-colored confabulation of history built upon the sexy premise that rock and roll music was, at the onset of the civil rights movement in the 1950s, a bridge between the races.

The silhouette of the old Memphis & Arkansas Bridge that hovers over the stage is both a fitting symbol and also one of the few real-life landmarks referenced in a show that is, to borrow an expression used by the lead character, a "fantastical" representation of the city and its past.

No doubt, the production opens to the most critical audience of its tour -- a theater full of strong, and well-informed opinions on the subject of Memphis.

Judging by the enthusiasm of Sunday's audience, most will agree that "Memphis" is genuinely entertaining. David Bryan's Tony-winning score, played by an onstage band, has catchy, hummable hooks and a pop sensibility that draws liberally from gospel, R&B and rock genres. The music practically compels listeners to clap along, shout "Amen!," and even join along in the singing. If the anthemic tune "Memphis Lives in Me" doesn't make you feel like you're on the front row of a Lee Greenwood concert while he's singing "I'm proud to be an American" as the fireworks go off, then someone should probably check your pulse.

It's also easy to find consensus on the show's moral lesson: racism does indeed suck. And with racist attitudes of the 1950s serving as the primary antagonist in "Memphis," the characters are so sympathetic simply because their struggle is axiomatic to us in more enlightened times.

The show opens in an "underground" all-black nightclub on Beale Street. "Ain't no white folks here, 'cause they're too damned scared," says one patron just before a young white man named Huey Calhoun comes slinking down the stairs. Grabbing the microphone, he makes a case for why he should be allowed to stay. Black music is the "music of my soul," he avows.

He's attracted to more than just the music, however. The club owner's sister, Felicia, captures his heart through her singing voice.

To continue reading, please visit the official Go Memphis homepage or click here

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

MEMPHIS Bridges Flash Mob

Performances of Memphis the Musical are leaving audiences cheering and asking for an encore, but Saturday night's performance had a different twist. Thanks to some Memphis teens from the Bridges group, it was the stars who were left amazed. FOX13's Mearl Purvis was there for their flash-mob performance.

Monday, October 17, 2011

MEMPHIS: Creative Duo Lead March at Peabody Hotel

Joe DiPietro and David Bryan can write and compose a Tony Award-winning musical but do they have what it takes to be Duckmasters? www.orpheum-memphis.com

MEMPHIS: Cast at Graceland

The Cast and Crew of MEMPHIS, the musical, went to Graceland on their day off from rehearsals. Thank you to the staff at Graceland and Big Jim Sykes at Elvis Radio. The MEMPHIS tour launches October 14-23, 2011 at The Orpheum Theatre! www.orpheum-memphis.com

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Sneak Peek at MEMPHIS

From the Beale Street clubs of 1950s Memphis, Tennessee, comes a hot new Broadway musical - inspired by actual events - with heart, soul and energy to burn. He's a young, white radio DJ named Huey Calhoun whose love of music transcends race lines and airwaves. She's a black singer named Felicia Farrell, whose career is on the rise, but who can't break out of segregated clubs. When the two collaborate, her soulful music reaches radio audiences everywhere, and the Golden Era of early rock 'n' roll takes flight. But as things start to heat up, whether the world is really ready for their music - or their love - is put to the test.

A thrilling theatrical event that combines Broadway splendor with the roots of rock, MEMPHIS features an original story by Joe DiPietro (I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change) and a brand-new score with music by Bon Jovi founding member David Bryan. Directing is Tony® nominee Christopher Ashley (Xanadu) and choreography is by Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys). The cast also features Derrick Baskin, J. Bernard Calloway, James Monroe Iglehart, Tony nominee Michael McGrath and Cass Morgan.

Get ready to experience all the exuberance and the emotion...the beauty and the controversy...of a wondrous, defining time in our history.  You're tuning in to MEMPHIS at The Orpheum Theatre October 14-23.

Get your tickets NOW!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Orpheum STAR Reporter Les Mis Review

By Lesley Stevenson - St. Mary's Episcopal School

Les Misérables, playing at the Orpheum Theatre September 13-18, fundamentally alters the traditional view of musicals. The show could almost qualify as an opera – dialogue is limited to rare emotional outbursts – and its multiple themes explode from rich lyrics that narrate not just the life of main character Jean Valjean but the human experience as a whole. One walks away from Les Mis feeling not merely the contentment that comes from witnessing an escapist or reflective musical but the deep emotional fulfillment arising from a work of pure beauty.

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time,” penned Catholic writer Thomas Merton. On the grand scale of art on the grand scale of time, our minds easily forget that art does not limit itself to frame-able objects and sculpture. By definition, art is personal and valued chiefly in the beauty and emotional response an audience finds in it. With this view in mind, it is unquestionable that Les Mis is anything but art. The production is so overwhelmingly, achingly beautiful that one must simultaneously experience the pangs of heart wrenching grief combined with the ecstasy of glorious song.

Truly this has been Les Mis’s mission for the twenty-five years of its record-setting run. The show ultimately describes life, its joys and its tragedies. In the end circumstance, though not resolved, is alleviated by remembrance of happiness and the small moments that propel one through the daily drudge.

The story is not particularly fantastic: Jean Valjean is released from a 19th century French prison where he served time for stealing bread, evades parole, and lives his life both paying for and escaping his previous wrongs and examining how his actions affected those nearest to him. But its lack of fantastical plot is what drives the relatable experience that makes Les Mis incredibly universal.

Mirroring the extremities of life, Les Mis engrains its vision in the audience with show-stopping songs that honestly take one’s breath away. During the final notes of “Bring Him Home,” a song revered for its challengingly high-pitched melody, Valjean’s final highest notes unassumingly soar from the stage in a lyrical wonder too inspiring to describe. The audience could not even begin to applaud actor J. Mark McVey as they breathlessly waited for the song’s completion. Betsy Morgan as Fantine and Chasten Harmon as Éponine outshine almost everyone else, executing such stunners as “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own,” and “A Little Fall of Rain” precisely and boldly with almost no props to assist in the telling of their stories. Their glorious vocals perfectly complete Les Mis in the finale song, reviving the tune heard during Fantine’s death and in “On My Own” with a grippingly delicate harmony that seals the loose ends created in Valjean’s life story. I myself could not help tearing up – not because the story depressed me, solely because the music was beyond the beauty of anything I had witnessed before.

So too does the show abound in seemingly minor moments that haunt the audience for the duration of the show: melody lines and even lyrics repeat, images define the tone for several scenes, and simple glances permanently disrupt characters’ interactions. The redesigned set of this 25th anniversary production both contributes to the show’s humble story and its spectacular new vision. Ordinary designs of houses, battlements, and carts take on new qualities when stylistically created to enhance the rustic beauty that now serves as the show’s guiding theme.

Inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo, author of the original book Les Misérables, the backdrops are a visionary sequence of watercolor creations that seamlessly tie all props together and blend from one scene to the next. Certain moments, cleverly and artfully crafted, extend the idea of paintings to the entire stage; dramatic lights illuminate silhouettes just so, rich colors of backdrops and costumes saturate the image, and characters conform to their scenery as if it were real. Taken out of context, short snapshots could serve as paintings themselves like tableaux to tell the story of Jean Valjean.

Truly it is most difficult to convey the entire sense of splendor that Les Misérables imparts. Everyone with whom I have spoken since attending opening night has agreed that it is art beyond the sense of a straightforward musical. Though it is an emotionally draining three-hour performance, the length packs in moments too precious to forget. Do not miss this chance to witness an assuredly thought-provoking – if not life-changing – work of astounding beauty.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Les Miserables in Go Memphis!

An excerpt from Friday's cover story in Go Memphis.

'Les Miserables' gets new look for 25th anniversary
By Christopher Blank

If you had butterflies in your stomach while opening this section of the newspaper today (or while clicking the above headline on our website), it's likely that you have some interest in musical theater.

Enough interest, at least, that you'll probably ace the following quiz.
Name the musicals associated with the following images:
1. Old feline on a flying tire.
2. Masked man in a gondola on an underground lake.
3. Helicopter.
4. French revolutionaries waving a flag.

If there's one thing you can say about the genius of British theatrical producer Cameron Mackintosh, besides the fact that he's a very rich man, it's that each of his most commercially successful musicals has etched images into our collective unconscious that, more than 20 years later, are still remarkably easy to spot when they're spoofed on "The Simpsons," "Family Guy" or "South Park."

 But none of the aforementioned highlights from "Cats," "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Miss Saigon" has raked in more comic residuals than the flag-waving scene from "Les Miserables." It has become such a trope of valor and heroic optimism that other musicals regularly borrow it for a visual joke, a joke that isn't any less stale in the recent "Shrek the Musical" (2008) than it was in "Spamalot" (2005) or "Urinetown" (2001).

In 2008, on the eve of the presidential election, a parody YouTube video called "Les Misbarack" depicted campaign staffers for Barack Obama lip-synching to the epic Act I closing song "One Day More." As expected, the office workers gradually organize themselves into the song's classic "V" formation finale, defiantly raise their fists toward heaven and wave an Obama campaign poster instead of a flag. The low-budget video got more than a million views.

Countless international tours of "Les Miserables," along with several concerts and revivals, have burned the show's iconic imagery into the minds of generations of theater-goers. So when Mackintosh decided to scrap the famous old set design for the 25th anniversary tour of "Les Miserables," which arrives in Memphis on Tuesday at the Orpheum, the new set designer faced a heap of scrutiny.

Matt Kinley, who had worked as an associate designer on Mackintosh's West End shows "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and "Mary Poppins," would have to figure out a new way to reframe the dramatic life story of Jean Valjean, the heroic petty criminal relentlessly pursed by an obsessive policeman, Javert.

"You have to be mindful of what you're doing," Kinley said from Mackintosh's London office. "This isn't the kind of show where people want to see the avant-garde version. There was never any dictation that certain things were sacrosanct, but you also don't want to infringe on people's claim to the old show. The classic "V" formation is ingrained, and those ingrained images become difficult for a team rolling out a new version of a landmark production."

To continue reading, please visit the Go Memphis homepage or click here

Friday, September 9, 2011

Pat Halloran on Les Miserables

Les Miserables is playing September 13-18, 2011 at The Orpheum Theatre.  Orpheum President, Pat Halloran, shares his thoughts on this legendary musical and the new 25th anniversary production.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

MEMPHIS: Knox and Dewey Phillips

The revolutionary actions of Memphis, TN DJ, Dewey Phillips, helped to inspire the story behind MEMPHIS, the musical. Close friend Knox Phillips, son of Sun Studio founder, Sam Phillips shares his memories of Dewey.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Great Scott! Rocky Horror Is Back

"I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey.”

How long has it been since you had an ULTIMATE movie going experience? Maybe it’s time you turned back to a classic if you need something a little more...tantalizing. The Rocky Horror Picture Show will conclude the Summer Movie Series this Friday, September 2nd at 8:00 PM and The Orpheum invites everyone to do the time warp again and take part in a tradition that only gets better, and even younger, with age.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the 1975 film adaptation of the British rock musical stageplay. Directed by Jim Sharman, this cult classic is a fast-paced potpourri of camp, sci-fi and rock 'n' roll, among other things that tracks the exploits of naïve couple Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon) after they stumble upon the lair of transvestite Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry). 

Cast members also include Richard O'Brien (one of the film's writers) and rock-n-roller Meat Loaf.
"I'm just a sweet transvestite from Transexual, Transylvania"
This year’s screening will come complete with the famous prop bags for only $5 and, of course, the fabulous on-stage costume contests before the show.   Guest judges from Mid-South Pride for The Orpheum's RHPS costume contest include
  • Stephanie Wilbanks-Manager, Club Spectrum
  • Kamaya Inma-Miss Mid-South Pride Emeritus
  • Bill Zachary-Promoter, Miss Gay Tennessee USA
  • Mystie Watson-Magenta and Cast Director for the Memphis Rocky Horror Shadowcast, Absent Friend
Movie starts at 8 and doors open at 7:00 p.m. Fans are encouraged to snap on their rubber gloves, toss up toilet paper, and not to be late—“the master doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”

Don’t forget to bring your sense of humor. And some tights.  For more information, visit The Orpheum Theatre's website at http://www.orpheum-memphis.com/.  

"It's not easy having a good time! Even smiling makes my face ache!"


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Orpheum's 17th Annual Art Auction: Spotlighting Memphis Artists

Looking for something to do this weekend? Let us make a suggestion. Come downtown for a fun-filled afternoon of art perusing and purchasing at The Orpheum Theatre's 17th Annual Art Auction this Sunday, August 21st.  This event is free admission.
The Orpheum Theatre’s Annual Art Auction celebrates and promotes local Memphis artists who, each year, contribute a wide variety of media and an even broader array of styles. 
 75% of each sale goes directly to the artists while the remaining 25% fund The Orpheum’s Education programs. This year’s selection numbers over 150 pieces of art from local artists in the community.

This year’s featured lineup of artists includes
  • Donna Blackard
  • Michael P. Maness
  • Betsy Bird
  • and more!

The event will begin at 2:00 p.m. with a viewing of the art and a silent auction. The live auction will begin at 3:00 p.m.

Visit The Orpheum Theatre's Facebook page for a sneak peek of year's collection.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Orpheum Pays Tribute to Elizabeth Taylor: Hollywood’s Last Major Movie Star

On Thursday evening, August 18th The Orpheum’s Summer Movie Series will pay tribute to Elizabeth Taylor by screening Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the 1958 American drama directed by Richard Brooks based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tennessee Williams.

Even with a stellar cast of Hollywood legends including Burl Ives and Paul Newman, it is Elizabeth Taylor who smokes up the big screen with her unforgettable and sultry portrayal of the desirable “Maggie the Cat."

To many, Elizabeth Taylor is considered one of the last, if not the last major movie star, to have come out of old Hollywood. Even at a young age and as a rising young actress in a not-so friendly studio controlled film industry, Elizabeth commanded the screen in family favorites such as National Velvet with fellow child actor Mickey Rooney and Father of the Bride with Hollywood heavy-hitter, Spencer Tracy.

Of course, Elizabeth’s star would continue to shine as she transitioned into more mature roles. With a name synonymous with beauty and a résumé nearly unparalleled by her contemporaries, Elizabeth cemented her iconic status by starring in films like Giant alongside James Dean, Cat on Hot Tin Roof with Paul Newman, and A Place in the Sun. Both Butterfield 8 and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe won her an Oscar. The 1963 mega drama Cleopatra would even pair Taylor with future husband and fellow screen legend, Richard Burton.

All husbands aside, Elizabeth Taylor was and will always be the matriarch of Hollywood.

So join The Orpheum Theatre in celebrating the illustrious Liz Taylor. Wear your White Diamonds, purchase a Maggie the Cat (our vodka and Lemonade drink special), and toast to the mesmerizing woman with violet eyes whose life story often mirrored the passionate and compelling nature of her on screen personas.

 Cat on Hot Tin Roof starts at 7:15. Doors open at 6:15 for pre-movie fun.

Monday, August 15, 2011

MEMPHIS and Dewey Phillips

MEMPHIS, the musical, is launching its international tour on The Orpheum stage in October 2011.  The inspiration for this 2010 "Best Musical" Tony award-winner is local Memphis, Tennessee DJ and rock 'n' roll pioneer, Dewey Phillips.  This video  tells his story and offers a sneak peek at scenes from MEMPHIS, the musical, performed by the original Broadway cast.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tickets for Troops Teams Up With the Orpheum!

I’m especially excited to show you this video today, because we are doing a great promotion for Barrio Grrrl with Tickets for Troops, which is an organization that puts together special outings for military families when they are in town together. Because the troops spend holidays, birthdays and other important dates in Afghanistan and Iraq, Tickets for Troops has the special mission of organizing an opportunity for those families to celebrate together when they are available.

Suzy Benedetti and her husband Tony operate this organization from Memphis in their spare time, God bless them. They take the families to places like Grizzlies games, concerts, plays, museum tours, restaurants, the Memphis Zoo, and really anywhere else in the city willing to donate a pass to their venue. So, in exchange for a ticket donation from us to Barrio Grrrl for a military family, they were gracious enough to help us out with a Tickets for Troops promotion in conjunction with the show.

The main character, Ana, has a parent in Iraq, so we thought this would be the perfect time to raise awareness of all of the military families in the Memphis area (there are 75 just in the city limits) and give a ticket discount for those who either have a military ID, or who bring in an item for us to send to the troops overseas. Regular tickets are $12.50, but with our Tickets for Troops discount, you can get up to 4 tickets for $10.00 per donated item or ID.

The list of items you can bring in to donate is:

120 MIN Phone Cards
Beef Jerky
Trail Mix
Baby Wipes
Hand Sanitizer
Nutter Butters
Now & Laters or Skittles
Peanut Butter Granola Bars
Thank You Post Card
Letters from School Children

For more information, check out their website here:

And don’t forget to see Barrio Grrrl this Thursday night at 6:00PM! Tickets are still available – call our Box Office at 525-3000, www.orpheum-memphis.com or come in to purchase tickets. Our promotion is running in 2 locations:

At the Theatre
203 South Main Street
Memphis, TN 38103

In Davis Kidd Booksellers
387 Perkins Ext
Memphis, TN 38117-3801
(901) 683-9801

Thanks for your support, and we’ll see you there!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Madagascar and the Memphis Zoo

Isn’t the Memphis Zoo great? If you can’t tell by now, I LOVE animals. When the Opera told us they would be using live animals during their performance of AIDA, you better believe I was backstage! I loved bonding with Ernie & Bert, the camels, and even enjoyed meeting one of the snakes in the show, Julius Squeezer!

Once I knew we were partnering with the Memphis Zoo for Madagascar Live at the Orpheum, I couldn’t WAIT to get over there. Since I knew I would be doing a video for the promotion, I thought it would be fun to wear one of my favorite dresses and some cute high heeled boots. Ladies, this was a mistake. As you can see, the only outfit piece that is featured here is my coat, and I was forced to explore the vast territories of the Memphis wild in 3 extra inches of pain every time I took a step. Oh well, live and learn I suppose. But this did not detract from the zoo experience overall. We came in time to see both the giraffe and the penguin zookeepers, which is always exciting for me. Did you know that each penguin gets a colored bracelet (winglet?) once they arrive at the zoo? The females wear it on the left and the males wear it on their right wing. The zookeeper knows all of their names by the color of the band. I found this fascinating.

We also learned that there are seven giraffes at the zoo – 5 females and a father and a son. Unfortunately, the son was given a strict time-out. Apparently he and Dad got into a fight over the ladies. I felt bad for the kid, but I suppose that’s just how you learn to find your place in the circle of zoo life.

Filming the actual video was fun too – I think the people around me thought I was from a news station! We actually did the scavenger hunt ourselves while we were there – we retrieved the questionnaire from the lobby and found each of the animals for footage in the video. Unfortunately, most animals were inside because it was so cold out, but today the weather is GREAT so I bet they are out playing as we speak. In addition to the Madagascar exhibits (Lion, Lemur, Giraffe, Hippo, Zebra, and Penguin), I also visited the pandas, the ostriches (those things follow you around!), and about 8 different kinds of African antelopes. I started to think I really was in Madagascar! I even learned that the Egyptology department of the University of Memphis helped in the original design of the hieroglyphics on the zoo’s exterior – how cool is that? The zoo has always been one of my favorite Memphis haunts, and it was so fun to be able to work with them for this promotion. What is this promotion, you may ask? If you aren’t able to watch the video, I will tell you! At the end of each day this week a drawing will be made for every completed Scavenger Hunt Questionnaire, and the winner will get 2 free tickets to Madagascar LIVE! at the Orpheum! In addition to this, every participant will get a special gift upon turning in the questionnaire.

And in a very Madagascar-esque manner, the lion decided to give us an extremely vociferous ROAR as we were leaving the zoo. I took it to mean he endorsed the promotion and would like for each and every one of you to visit him at his exhibit on the scavenger hunt. Hope to see you out there!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Review - Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein

Greetings, Memphians! Young Frankenstein is well underway here on the Orpheum stage and we are loving it! The illustrious Dr. Frankenstein (Fronk-en-steen?) played by Christopher Ryan and the hilarious Igor played by Cory English were kind enough to do a master class for any student who wanted to sign up. The picture above is from last night's class, and the actors even incorporated some of the material discussed in the class in the actual performance!

And speaking of our students, Lesley Stevenson, one of our fabulous STAR reporters, has sent us her review of the show, copied below! She attends St. Mary’s Episcopal School and this is her second year as a STAR reporter. You may remember her from her Dreamgirls review previously. Thanks Lesley!

"For those in the mood to laugh, Young Frankenstein provides a riot. Playing at the Orpheum from March 8 – March 14, Mel Brooks’ second comedic musical foray offers a whole spectrum of witty wonders. Cap that with rich costumes, catchy tunes, and seamless choreography, and the audience is ultimately afforded a night of eye-pleasing and lighthearted ridiculousness.

"Of course, ridiculousness is not meant with a negative connotation. Rather, Young Frankenstein does not take itself too seriously- and neither should the audience. Characters laugh at each other and even at the audience; the audience reciprocates. Theatregoers should be expecting little emphasis on plots, morals, and themes but rather an open invitation to witness life’s absurdities in a context that seems too absurd to believe.

"As always, probing enough will yield a deeper meaning, and this holds true for Young Frankenstein. Here we find a life created by a renowned neurologist-turned-madman who seems to be concerned solely with women and “joining the family business”- that is, creating monsters. When Dr. Frankenstein’s creature is not the refined, gentlemanly genius he intends, the fickle doctor abandons his creation, allows him to be chased and later captured, and finally tries to mold him into an intelligent brute for the sake of his reputation.

"This blatant disregard for responsibility and the preciousness of life creates dark undertones of grotesque irony in a musical that on the surface seems to celebrate a cavalier lifestyle of chipper, youthful individuals. Frankenstein’s eventual sacrifice, made in a last-resort effort to save his own life from the death penalty, does suggest some ulterior motives, but the audience can also choose to believe instead that perhaps Frankenstein wanted to prevent his creation from destruction too. In a final stroke of irony, it is the creature who, upon gaining Frankenstein’s level of intelligence, turns the tables of authority and revives Frankenstein from apparent death. Interestingly enough, similar themes of rejection and disregard arise in the original Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, albeit not to song and dance.

"In truth, however, one could witness the spectacle of Young Frankenstein without ever pondering the significance of its subtle messages. Every speaking role is filled by a comedian, or at least an actor who has enough knowledge of timing to fit the role perfectly. The leads, particularly Christopher Ryan as Frederick Frankenstein and Cory English as his hunchback sidekick Igor, command the stage at all times with choreographed movements that extend beyond the dance sequences. These seasoned veterans know which gestures, vocal emphases, and tones yield maximum laughter and take advantage of these facts at every opportunity. Their stage presence attracts audience attention at all times, and so at all times are they perfectly in character.

"Young Frankenstein would not be complete, however, without its women. Frankenstein’s fiancée (Elizabeth, played by Janine DiVita) and his fair-weather fling (his assistant Inga, played by Synthia Link) provide attractive foils to the stereotypical witch-like housekeeper Frau Blucher (played by Joanna Glushak). The women represent three very different personality types, but each offers a unique brand of comedy based on archetypal assumptions of spoiled city women, pleasant peasants, and solemn spinsters, respectively.

"A standout number in this comedic landscape is “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” the extended showcase of the creature’s supposed acquired gentility and worldliness. With a fluid dance routine performed more by Frankenstein than his creation, a tap sequence performed by the creature and ensemble- all of whom wear significantly tall lifts- dramatic light changes, a segment of quartet harmony, and clever use of color and shadow, the piece is beyond a doubt the flashiest, gaudiest, and indeed most spectacular number. It represents the low point in Frankenstein’s journey, but as such it must contain more glamour than ever before. The song delivers.

"Young Frankenstein’s costumes must also be praised. From Transylvanian folk attire to scientific garb and tuxedoes for “Ritz”, the costumes are clean-cut, elegant, and appropriately vibrant or stark. This attention to detail is noticeable throughout the show. Even the ensemble members have small bits of storylines or humorous moments that lend the show a broader feel.

"Detail overload is also employed to make the audience feel just as insane as those in the story. In one scene, “Join the Family Business,” so much happens onstage among the dancers and actors that a complete set change is barely noticeable; caught up in the movements and craziness of what seems to be dozens of Einstein-esque scientists, a spectator cannot notice backdrop and scenery changes. As a side, the same number later produces a giant Frankenstein monster puppet that allows for even more distraction.

"In the moment, this production is witty and enjoyable. Deeper meanings persist, but in the end the show serves to offer laughs, and laughs it gets. Caution must be advised to parents of school-age children. Innuendo is undeniably and at times noticeably present, although other references are much more sly. For teenagers and adults, however, the show is sure to provide a night full of fun, laughter, and of course ridiculousness. "

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Shrek Backstage

Happy Thursday, Memphis! Today we have a special treat for you. Our lovely intern Angela was able to watch Shrek the Musical from backstage during its run here at the Orpheum, and she was kind enough to share her experiences with us! Check out her guest post below:

Hey Everyone, my name is Angela, and I am originally from the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Currently I am a third- year Stage Management student at Webster University in St Louis, MO; and as part of our SM program, each student does a semester Internship with a professional theatre company. Last year, I started working with the Marketing Department of the Professional Theatre Awards Council in St Louis. So as I was applying to different companies for an internship, I also looked into different marketing internships available. The Orpheum Theatre is a nationally well-known theatre, and they happened to have an intern opening for Marketing. Which is how I made it all the way down south to Memphis!

The first thing most people do the moment they get their marquee is they sit down and look at the cast list. As someone who has been involved in theatre for many years I always scan the first few pages looking for that magical list of names, which is almost always in the same order. Director, choreographer, which is then followed by a series of designers, and then my favorite name, is the very last one listed, the Stage Manager.

For anyone who is a little fuzzy on what exactly a Stage Manager does, it’s this; every single thing you see happen on the stage during the production is monitored and controlled by a single person. Every change of light, every movement of scenery, and the entrances of actors happens because that one person says “go.”

The Stage Management team is responsible for making sure that every member of the company, including actors and every member of the crew has arrived on time and is ready to work when that magic curtain rises. They are responsible for making sure that the work environment for the performers is safe, and that everything in the show runs smoothly to allow for the actors to work. Finally they are the people making sure that the performance seen on opening night is exactly the same as their 200th performance, which is the same as the shows closing performance.

Stage Management is one of those jobs that you pick up primarily by gaining experience through working under another person or watching someone with experience. No two Stage Managers work in exactly the same way, the key is to find out how you can operate to ensure that the show runs as close to perfect as it can. One of the ways that a younger stage manager learns is through watching or shadowing a member of the Stage Management team during a performance, which is exactly what I got the privilege of doing during one of the performances of Shrek the Musical.

Just before the show was about to start, one of the Assistant Stage Managers lead me up to backstage and briefly let me look at the SM desk. Often Stage Managers will call the cues of a show from backstage, instead of a typical lighting booth. This allows a stage manager to have direct contact with anyone backstage in the event of an emergency. In a traveling show, like Shrek, this also gives the stage manager much more consistency between shows as they move from venue to venue.

However, in order for the Stage Manager to be able to accurately call a show, they will have a desk, which is also equipped with a series of broadcast monitors. This not only allows them to view the show from the audience’s perspective, but the SM will generally also have one or two live feeds showing the stage from above with infrared cameras so they can watch any scenic movements that happen without lights.

As the other two members of the Stage Management team joined us backstage, they informed me that I would be following one of the Assistant Stage Managers during their track. I followed her to the opposite side of the stage and wound up in a tiny alcove just off Stage Left where I would not be in the way of anyone, but would still be able to see most everything as it happened.
As the curtain speech started up, I was introduced to a few of the tech guys who primarily stay SL, and amidst their regular duties they were jokingly assigned to be in charge of making sure that I didn’t get run over by any of the automations as they moved on and offstage. I know how funny it sounds, but even the most diligent person can get caught off guard simply from not knowing exactly what is going to be moving and when. There are some productions that do not allow non-employees to be backstage during the run of a show because of lack of space and the fact that it can be dangerous.

For the rest of the show I alternated between standing in my tiny alcove just watching the show and getting to experience the atmosphere of backstage and following two steps behind the ASM, asking any and all questions that pop into my head. Before each new element went onstage the ASM brought me to it and showed me how it worked. *Note: If you want pieces of the show to remain a surprise, this is my spoiler alert. I won’t be revealing all of their secrets, but I will try and explain a couple of them. *

For those of you that saw the show, you most likely noticed the backdrops moving. Normal drops are large pieces of canvas (or other materials) that have been painted to represent a specific location within the story. But unlike drops that you may have seen in other shows which most of the time don’t move, after these drops were painted a photo was taken. Then a series of single images of the drop were slightly altered and projected in a sequence on top of the still drop during the show to create the movement. A few examples of this are the torches in Farquaad’s dungeon the clouds over Duloc as Shrek and Donkey, as well as the flames just before and within the dragon’s castle.

One of my favorite reveals from that evening was Lord Farquaad and how they made the actor appear short, but still give his movements a realistic quality. When he was not onstage, he walks around on his real feet and you can see that there is a connection between the heels of his fake boots and his kneecaps so that his legs bend naturally as the actor moves.

Towards the end of the show, Fiona undergoes her transformation and levitates for a few moments. During this part, they were letting me watch and showing me how it was happening. One of the tech guys made a comment about how they were ruining the magic of the show, by letting me observe. My reply was that seeing the completed show from the audience perspective is like Christmas Eve, you have all these shiny packages and you don’t know really what is in them, you can guess and if you are really good, maybe even figure one or two of them out. But being able to watch from backstage, is Christmas morning, you get to slowly unwrap each of the presents and understand how they are done. For me, getting to appreciate the work and the creativity that goes into designing each of the small little tricks, the ones that capture the audience and keep them enthralled, that is what makes the magic of the theatre real.