Friday, October 31, 2014

Spotlight Feature: Run Away With Holiday Spirit at the Orpheum's Break-A-Leg 5K

We triple-dog-dare ya not to have fun at the Orpheum’s inaugural Break-A-Leg 5K on Sunday, November 23.

Themed around AChristmas Story, the Musical, playing November 25-30, the 5k will be as much a party as it is a race. Runners and spectators alike are encouraged to wear their holiday sweaters, Santa hats, and Broadway-inspired costumes to participate in the event’s costume contest.

“We wanted to offer an event that was completely ‘out of the box’ compared to our other fundraisers,” said Orpheum President and CEO Pat Halloran.  “The Break-A-Leg 5K is the start of a brand new tradition that is as fun as it is meaningful to our education programs.”

Presented in partnership with Start2Finish Event Management, the race will start and end at our historic theatre, wrapping up with a holiday block party. The entry fee for the Break-A-Leg 5K is $25 in advance and $30 on the day of the race.  Participants may register at  or can visit for more information. 

All of the proceeds from the race will benefit the Orpheum’s Educationand Community-based programming, including the new Orpheum Centre forPerforming Arts & Education. You’ll see this beautiful new building coming to life near the starting line, and in the summer of 2015 it will become the base for the 70,000 students, teachers and families who enjoy the Orpheum’s programs every year.

The Break-A-Leg 5K is made possible by the following generous sponsors: Scott and Carol Hennessy, EMHC, Hard Rock Café, and T-Shirt Champions.  And a special shout-out to local artist David Lynch for designing our inaugural race day t-shirt.

So pull out your pink bunny pajamas and join us for the first annual Break-A-Leg 5k, and don’t miss A Christmas Story, The Musical starting just two days later. This bright, buoyant production is a Broadway retelling of the 1983 holiday movie, a cherished and much-repeated family film during the Christmas season. All of the movie’s best-loved moments are in the production, including the Old Man's leg-shaped lamp, the tongue-on-a-flagpole scene, the bunny suit, the Santa slide and all of Ralphie’s extravagant daydreams.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Beyond the Stage: ONCE Cast Member Exclusive

Watch Erica Swindell as Reza in ONCE this week
at The Orpheum Theatre, Memphis TN.
Winner of 8 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, ONCE is finally in the house and playing at the Orpheum Theatre now through Sunday, November 2nd!

We recently caught up with cast member Erica Swindell for a quick Q&A.  Erica, who plays Reza in ONCE and is also the show's Dance Captain, gave us the scoop on her role, the show, and her personal experiences as a performer.  Check out what she had to say and make plans to see Erica in action this week at the Orpheum.

Main and Beale: Thank you for being with us Erica!  We'll get started with a question from one of our Orpheum fans. At what age did you begin performing?  Did you start out training to be a triple threat?

Erica: I started performing when I was about 7 years old.  I began my training with the violin at the age of three and found my way to acting and singing later on.

Main and Beale: Is this your first trip to Memphis?  What are you looking forward to doing while you're here?

Erica: This is my first visit to Memphis!  I am hoping to see as much live music as possible.

Main and Beale: Well you came to the right place! Speaking of music, the music in ONCE is famous, but a lot of people don't know what to expect from the story.  Can you describe the show for those who haven't heard of it before?

Main and Beale: ONCE is the modern everyman's journey.  It's about passion, music, love, hardship, and rebirth.  Through live music play and sung by the cast onstage you will expect to be moved unexpectedly.

Main and Beale: Tell us a little bit about your role, both your character and your job as Dance Captain.

Erica: I play Reza who is the Czech best friend and housemate of the main character, Girl.  Reza is a loyal, fierce, and colorful woman who is a true survivor.  I also play violin as Reza in the show musically.  As Dance Captain, I work to maintain the movement and physical storytelling in our show and keep it as close to Steven Hoggett's original vision as possible.

Erica Swindell and ONCE Tour Company © Joan Marcus
Main and Beale: You mention movement.  We've heard that ONCE had a Movement Director as opposed to a Choreographer.  What is the difference between movement and choreography, and how does it play a part in ONCE?

Erica: [Steven] Hoggett's work digs deep into your soul.  He creates physical manifestations of emotional experience.  He is a storyteller first, which threads a much deeper heart string throughout the show.  We never dance or move simply because it's a musical.  It is seamlessly interwoven with John Tiffany's direction and the beautiful music created by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova.

Main and Beale: In your opinion, what makes ONCE different from other musicals?

Erica: Everyone has a unique experience when they see the show.  There are so many characters and stories to connect to.  Mostly it is different because of the actors also being the orchestra.  And we let you drink onstage before the show.  Which also doesn't hurt.

ONCE plays at the Orpheum Theatre now through November 2nd.  For more information or to purchase tickets click here or call 901.525.3000.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Spotlight Feature: Once Actor Shares Lessons in Vocal Auditions For Students in Broadway 101 Master Class

Donna Garner, a member of the national touring cast of Once,
coaches local students on vocal audition techniques during
a Broadway 101 Master Class on October 29, 2014, in
Pat Halloran's Broadway Club at the Orpheum.
Donna Garner gives Rachel Thomas tips on her audition song.
It takes a lot of guts to perform in front of your friends, but imagine singing in front of a professional musical theatre actor – as a high school student. The talented students in our Broadway 101 Master Class Series did just that on Wednesday, October 29, as ONCE co-star Donna Garner taught them about vocal auditions.

Garner plays Baruška, a Czech immigrant and “Girl’s” mother, in the enchanting musical that played at the Orpheum October 28 through November 2. Garner has appeared in productions throughout the U.S. and Canada, including Buddy Holly, Cabaret and The Full Monty, and was trained classically as an opera singer and musical theatre actress.

Years of performing and teaching vocal lessons makes Garner the perfect coach for our aspiring stars. Among her advice: exude confidence and excitement the minute you step on stage, and pour as much emotion and subtext into your performance as possible.

“You have to use everything you have to sing the message,” she told her students.

Rachel Thomas was one of the students who sang for Garner, and the Tipton-Rosemark Academy senior appreciated that Garner pushed them out of their comfort zones, especially in front of their peers.

“You have professionals, who have such a passion for what they do, helping you and helping you become better,” she said of the Master Class Series.

Overton High School senior Robert Dockery was also impressed with Garner’s workshop. “She was connecting with each of us, like we were members of Broadway, not just kids,” he said.

Master classes are held before select Broadway shows and include dinner and a ticket to the show for participating students in grades 7-12. As Magnolia Heights junior Emily Cockrell points out, many teenagers can only perform in their schools or local community theaters, the Master Classes help to provide a broader range of theatrical experiences.

The Orpheum’s education programs give them the chance to learn on a larger, professional scale – not to mention getting to perform on our historic Orpheum stage. Participating in Broadway 101 and summer camps over the last year “made my dreams bigger,” Cockrell said.

The next Broadway 101 Master Classes are scheduled for February 12 and February 19, when cast members from Disney’s The Lion King will take their turns as coaches. For more information about the series, call 529-4242 or email

Spotlight Feature: Orpheum 2014-2015 Family Series

The Orpheum’s 2014-2015 Family Series will open with Schoolhouse Rock Live! on Friday, November 14th at 6:30 PM.  Our celebrated Education programs continue to gain momentum, and the Orpheum’s Family Series is one of the most popular and impactful programs we offer.  Not only that, it’s a memory in the making.

Between its first two titles in the season, Schoolhouse Rock Live! and Moses(es), the Family and Student Matinee Series could see as many as 15,000 students.  This is an impressive number, but for the Orpheum, it’s also about the personal, cultural, and educational value that children and their families receive through the simple yet exciting act of watching a live performance.
Moses(es), for example, is for students of all ages and will play its Family Series performance Friday, November 21st.  This visually stunning production uses the performing arts to expose its audience to basic subjects such as Fine Arts, Health and Well-Being, Language Arts, and the Social Sciences.  In other words, this show will leave students with so much more than happy memories of a fun family outing. 

Moses(es), which explores how we lead and why we follow told through movement, music and dance,  will teach students about leadership, culture, and customs.  Introducing students to the performing arts early on also encourages lifelong learning, advanced comprehension, creativity, confidence, and self expression.  We'll even take the show out of the theatre and into the community!  The cast will host master classes at Overton High School and Collage Dance Collective as well as a class at University of Memphis that's open to the public for just $10 (Interested? Contact our offices at 901.525.7800 and ask for Lindsay).
At the end of the day, the Orpheum’s Family Series provides an opportunity for parents, grandparents and guardians to engage in conversation, have a shared experience, and do something special with their children - we even offer production-themed activities before the show.  If you’ve never experienced our Family Series, this year’s spectacular lineup of shows is a great place to start. 
Tickets for our Family Series productions are $15 regular admission and $20 VIP. 
The Orpheum's Education programs are expanding!  Learn more about the forthcoming Orpheum Centre for Performing Arts & Education here.

Spotlight Feature: The Orpheum's 36th Annual Auction

The Orpheum’s 36th Annual Auction is just days away.  On Saturday, November 8th starting at 6:30 PM, the Orpheum will welcome around 800 guests for a spectacular night of food, fun, and bidding.

The Annual Auction will feature over 700 items between its silent, live, and online auctions.  While it’s not too late to donate items to the Auction, some highlights to-date include a 7-night cruise on the American Queen Steamboat, a Tag Heuer Watch, a University of Memphis Ultimate Tiger Experience Package, Broadway and Vegas Getaways, and of course, our signature Chairs of Original Design, a tradition which features original Broadway-inspired artwork by local artists.  And of course we’ll have our annual live auction car, which this year will be a 2015 Nissan Rogue SL, brought to you in partnership with Wolfchase Nissan and the Orpheum Pit Crew.

But it’s not all about tradition; we’re always looking for ways to make each event bigger and better than ever before.  Last year we introduced a “Buy It Now” option, which will be available again for the items that you just can’t risk living without.  “Buy It Now” prices will be set at 20% above the value of the item.  Guests will also be able to pre-swipe their credit cards at registration – a great way to skip the payment lines at the end of the night and claim your items quickly.

Of course, bidding is only part of the fun.  The event will also include an open bar, delicious food, access to areas of the theatre you don’t otherwise get to experience such as on and backstage, and finally – a popular favorite – our Annual Raffle.  This year’s Raffle Car is a 1969 Ford Mustang convertible.  Entries for this beautiful classic car are $100 each.  You can enter to win at the event up until the Live Auction and online until 5PM on the day of the event.  We’ll close out this exciting evening with the drawing.  You do not have to be present to win, but what better way to end the night than to step up on the Orpheum stage to claim a car?
All proceeds for the Annual Auction and Raffle will go to the Orpheum Centre for Performing Arts & Education.  Expected to open in the summer of 2015, the Orpheum Centre is the largest capital project in Orpheum history.  This building will add significant economic and aesthetic value to Downtown Memphis, enhance the Orpheum’s position as a leader in the performing arts and a well respected national venue, and allow the Orpheum to expand its Education programs and community services to be enjoyed and revered by all ages for generations to come.

Tickets to the 36th Annual Auction are $125 per person.  The Orpheum’s Annual Auction is made possible by its generous sponsors: Kroger, Sedgwick, and Southland ParkGaming and Racing.  The Orpheum’s Online Auction is sponsored by FedEx.  The Orpheum would also like to thank the local and regional community for their overwhelming support and donations.
We look forward to welcoming you to our largest fundraising event of the entire year, and thank you for supporting the Orpheum Theatre and the Orpheum Centre for Performing Arts & Education.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Beyond the Stage: We Sent Staffers to Spy on ONCE!

ONCE The Musical is opening at the Orpheum Theatre tomorrow, October 28th.  Over the past several weeks, we've noticed that the same question keeps popping up from our patrons: "I get it, it looks great... but what is it?"

Well, in a nutshell, ONCE is about a Dublin street musician who's ready to throw in the towel when a young woman takes an interest in his haunting songs and inspires him to keep writing.  As the chemistry between them grows, so does their music!  Throw in a delightfully eccentric band and a talented cast (which, incidentally, is also the orchestra), and you've got a formula for performance you'll never forget. 

Still, we know you want to hear about the show from someone who's actually seen it!  So we sent a couple of Orpheum staff members, Christina and Lauren, to check out ONCE before it came to Memphis.  Now these lucky ladies are back to report their findings.  Check out the video above to hear what they had to say!

ONCE plays at The Orpheum Theatre October 28 - November 2.  Click here for more information or to purchase tickets.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Beyond the Stage: MEMPHIS Hits London Tonight!

If you do nothing else today, check out this video that the Memphis Convention and Visitor's Bureau (Memphis CVB) put together in partnership with Memphis the Musical.  Here Beverley Knight, star of the London production, visits Memphis to do research for her role.  If this doesn't inspire city pride, nothing will!  Well, almost nothing...

A few months ago, our own Orpheum President and CEO Pat Halloran announced that Memphis The Musical would be gracing London's famous West End (our Broadway equivalent).  That time has finally come, and Memphis The Musical opens tonight, Thursday, October 23rd, in London!

This Tony winning title written by Joe DiPietro and Bon Jovi's David Bryan, continues to give back to its namesake by marketing Memphis as a tourist destination full of rich history, rich music, and rich food (ok, so maybe it doesn't talk too much about the food, but it's hard to experience Memphis without some BBQ)!  However, this musical takes it a step further by giving folks a taste of our city's soul, it's natural heartbeat if you will.  Memphis, inspired by the real-life story of Memphis disk jockey Dewey Phillips, takes audiences to "the underground nightclubs of 1950s Memphis, Tennessee, where the soul of a new era is dawning as the first incredible sounds of rock ‘n’ roll, blues and gospel are emerging into the mainstream" (Memphis the Musical official website).

And London has saved only the best for Memphis.  "Queen of British soul" Beverley Knight is headlining as Felicia - let's just say that Beverley is to England as Whitney was to the U.S.  In fact, she played Whitney's role in the musical version of The BodyguardKillian Donnelly plays opposite as Huey (Dewey's fictional counterpart).  He's no stranger to the stage either, having played in The Phantom of the Opera, Billy Elliot, Les Mis and more.

Most Memphians know that Memphis The Musical is near and dear to the Orpheum Theatre.  The Memphis Development Foundation, which operates the Orpheum, was among the musical's earliest investors, the Orpheum served as the launch site for the musical's national tour, and the Orpheum even gets a special shout-out in the script.  As you read this blog, Pat Halloran along with the Memphis CVB and other supporters are in London to see the show for its premiere at the Shaftesbury Theatre.

Of course, this musical is much more than "our baby," it's our voice.  Memphis has already reached hundreds of thousands of people in the US - and even from around the world when you consider how many international travelers visit the Great White Way each year.  But sending the show to London is like giving cake to an obsessive sweet-tooth.  According to the Memphis CVB, the UK is Memphis' second largest international travel market; the CVB even has an office in London because we're so popular with the locals.  Memphis gives us the opportunity to satisfy their Mid-South cravings, to tell our story, and to make our city a must-see destination on a global scale.

So, a hearty congratulations and a heartfelt "break a leg" to the cast, creative, and crew for Memphis The Musical.  Stay tuned in the coming weeks for a special on-the-scene play-by-play as told by Pat Halloran!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Acting Out: Orpheum Programs Impact Education Reform

Let's add some History to the mix! Students
gaze at the historic Orpheum as they wait for
the show to begin! The Student Matinee Series
brings together hundreds of kids from all
schools and backgrounds to enjoy the arts.
With the forthcoming Orpheum Centre for Performing Arts & Education, there's been a lot of talk about our Education programs and how they'll grow with the completion of our new building.  What many don't realize is that we actually began educating students on the arts in the mid-1990s.  Years later, the Orpheum is not only a leader in education, it's an innovator.

For those who have been keeping up with the education convo, you've been pummeled with buzzwords like "common core," "education reform," and maybe even "arts integration."  For a lot of us, it's hard to determine what these terms really mean for our kids, but it sure sounds good!  Fortunately, the Orpheum understands it backwards, forwards, sideways and upside down.

Our stellar Education Department works diligently to use the arts as a way to make ALL subjects easier for students to understand (arts integration or, more appropriately, teaching through the arts). 

Let's take our upcoming Family and Student Matinee production Dream Carver, playing in January, as an example.  The show isn't just a performance of handcrafted puppets with Broadway-trained puppeteers so that students can experience the art of puppetry - although that is part of it.  Students will walk away with curriculum connections (a much better term for common core) in the Fine Arts, Health and Well-Being, Language Arts, and Social Sciences.  Schoolhouse Rock Live!, playing November 14 for families, uses the classic cartoon to make learning fun in areas such as Math, Science, Technology, Language Arts, and Social Sciences.  Each experience gives students an academic takeaway beyond that of seeing a performance.

In this Intro to Teaching Through the Arts class, teachers
discover first-hand how students can demonstrate
comprehension of classroom subject matter through
targeted art projects. In this case, teachers show how they
understood a tale about Athena by interpreting what her
armor would look like based on the information and
situations presented in the story.
And it's not about asking teachers to bring students to our shows and then leaving them to figure out the rest.  Teachers are provided with study guides to shows, we bring both Broadway and Kennedy Center certified teaching artists into the classroom, we offer professional development programs for teachers, and we host a grant program that allows teachers to apply for free and discounted tickets to our Student Matinee series. 

The Orpheum even encourages extracurricular learning through its Summer Camps and Broadway Master Classes

In addition, the Orpheum works side-by-side with the Shelby County School system to not only make sure that what we're doing is relevant, but that we're actively encouraging education reform that meets our state's needs.

During the 2013-2014 season, the Orpheum's Education programs served 258 schools, including 11 charter schools; 42,851 students and families through the Student Matinee and Family Series; and 165 teachers through our professional development workshops.

What's cool is that these are things we've been able to accomplish without the new Centre.  Just think of what we can do with it.  As it stands, we're bursting at the seams.  The Centre is going to help us expand our teacher workshops for an expected attendance of 320 teachers per year, that's a 95% increase over what we can accommodate right now.  Overall the new Centre is going to help us reach 100,000 students, families, and teachers per year, or 35% composite growth.  And last but not least, we'll be able to offer programs in technical theatre.  Students who want to learn about lighting design or sound mixing will finally have the chance to get that kind of training at the Orpheum.

Basically, great things have been happening, and there are amazing things afoot!  We encourage you to check out the Education pages on our website to see what we're doing and how you can get involved.  Of course, whether or not you're an educator, parent, or student, you can still lend your support through our Brick Campaign or by giving to the Orpheum Centre.

The arts are the gateway to making learning more fun and engaging so that students are motivated to see academics as a passion more so than an obligation.  With your help, we are making it happen!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A Wild Ride from Broadway to Beale: The Presenter

Joey of WAR HORSE met real horses of the Mounted Police Force
at a special Press Event at The Orpheum Theatre in March 2014.
Over the past few months we've been periodically exploring all that goes into bringing your Broadway favorites to the Orpheum stage.  Last time we took an in-depth look at the Press Agent and his or her role in prepping for the engagement.  Today, we're talking about an element that you're pretty familiar with already: the presenter.  Which of course in this case is the Orpheum Theatre!

If you hadn't noticed, the presenter is involved from the very start.  The presenting theatre ultimately decides which shows to pick up based on what's touring at the time, it works with the press agent to help drive ticket sales by putting together a marketing strategy and selling Group and Season Tickets, and it encourages community buzz by helping actors get out and about to local TV and radio stations.  

However, it doesn't stop there.  In many ways, the Orpheum is the middle man between the show and its fans.  It's the audience's connection to the production, and it's the production's connection to the city.  Everything from getting actors to and from press appointments to ensuring that patrons are comfortable during the performance to offering special opportunities like Broadway 101 Master Classes to giving actors a pocket full of happy Memphis memories falls within the Orpheum's scope. 

Students get some training in Broadway choreography
at a Broadway 101 Master Class.
Our Education Department offers some great programs relating to our Broadway shows.  For most productions, we offer Broadway 101, which allows students to enjoy dinner and a master class on a relevant theatre topic before seeing the show live.  Many times, students get to learn from actors and performers from the show, giving students great tools and real-world insight into the performing arts profession.  For family-friendly Broadway shows, the Education Department often hosts Kids Night on Broadway, and many productions allow the Orpheum Theatre to offer a Student/Teacher Rush performance at some point during a show's engagement.  We've also been known to take actors directly into schools for on-site workshops.  All in all, if you're a budding young performer who is interested in learning more about the biz, our Education programs have you covered!

Did you know that the Orpheum helps take care of the cast and crew too?  Upon arrival, we give our actors a welcome package that tells them all of the wonderful things they can do in Memphis.  From necessities like the nearest grocery store to fun stuff like how to get to Graceland, we want them to love Memphis as much as we do.  We also host a private party for the cast and crew of every Broadway show that graces our theatre.  Even more fun, however, is that our wonderful volunteer group, Friends of the Orpheum or FOTO, always make the cast and crew a special home-cooked meal on the Sunday of the run in between matinee and evening performances.  This meal has become legendary among touring groups, and there's nothing that says Southern hospitality quite like the word "homemade."

Ultimately, the goal is to make sure the cast , the crew, and the audience wants to keep coming back - whether it be returning to Memphis for those from out of town or visiting the Orpheum Theatre for another spectacular Broadway experience.  While it's true that we can't help but have a little fun, we also continually strive to do justice to our job as a presenter.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Cooper Grodin, Phantom star and Elvis fan

We’re excited that The Phantom of the Opera is back on the Orpheum stage, and star Cooper Grodin is happy the tour brought him to Memphis – a real highlight for an Elvis fan. 

“The production actually hasn’t been here in 13 years and I have a deep affinity for Elvis – sometimes people mistake me for him and so it’s actually quite exciting to be here,” he told us recently.

Grodin planned to hit all the Memphis hotspots – especially Graceland – and recorded at Sun Studio on Monday. Sightseeing aside, he’s spent quite a bit of time playing the iconic Phantom in the spectacular 25th anniversary tour here now.

Grodin said knew he wanted to play the Phantom as soon as he saw the show on stage for the first time.

“When I was even considered for it that was profoundly exciting, because the minute I saw it I said to myself, that’s it that’s really the role you want to take on,” he told us at a recent press event, “and to take it on in such magnitude as this production is really a dream come true.”

Grodin has also starred in Shakespeare in the Park’s Into the Woods, the 25th anniversary tour of Les Miserables, the Fantasticks and a slew of other beloved shows. He also played the King himself, Elvis Presley, while performing at the Fireside Theater in Wisconsin.

There’s a very strange magical energy associated with that guy, and when you’re wearing tight blue jeans and a tight white T-shirt and an acoustic guitar and you slick your hair back and you walk on stage and someone says, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis Presley!’ You go out there and people go crazy – they just relive it, ” he said. “They totally surrender to the illusion – they just go crazy. You can hear these women just freaking out and I’m like, “I’m just a Russian Jew from New York, I’m not really Elvis.”

See Grodin as the Phantom through Oct. 5 at the Orpheum. Get your tickets here.

Watch a clip of our interview with Grodin and resident director David Ruttura above, and see Grodin as Elvis below.