Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Broadway Buzz: The Band Behind the Music That Captured the World

Mamma Mia! is no stranger to the Orpheum stage, but how much do you know or remember about the band that inspired it? Take a musical trip down memory lane with some ABBA facts!

On Saturday April 6th 1974, in the English coastal town of Brighton, a group known in their native Sweden but unknown to the rest of the world won the Eurovision Song Contest with a song entitled “Waterloo.” ABBA had arrived and the rest is not merely history but the stuff of legend. To date, ABBA has sold over 350 million records worldwide.

Following their Eurovision triumph, Agnetha Fältskog, Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus and Anni-Frid Lyngstad (the initials of their first names made the name ABBA) were catapulted onto the world stage. “Waterloo” topped pop charts all around the globe.

Over the next eight years, ABBA would achieve countless hit singles, platinum albums, sell-out concert tours and even a hit movie – “ABBA – The Movie.” The group’s chart domination of Europe was unequivocal – with, at the time, only the Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley and the Beatles having achieved longer runs of Top 10 singles. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the American hits continued: ten songs made the Top 20 with “Waterloo,” “Take a Chance on Me” and “The Winner Takes It All” making the Top 10. “Dancing Queen” took ABBA to number one. A truly global success, “Dancing Queen” was also number one in twelve other countries.

Europe and North America were not the only continents to experience “ABBAmania” – there were six consecutive number one singles in Australia and four number one albums (The Best of ABBA remains, to this day, the country’s highest selling album). Their Melbourne concerts were legendary. There were six number ones in New Zealand with a further 12 singles reaching the Top 20. In Mexico, the group scored eleven Top 10 hit singles, with seven reaching number one, and six number one albums; and in Zimbabwe there were 13 Top 10 singles and no less than eight consecutive number one albums (excluding the compilations still on general release!). In Japan, 14 singles made the All Japan Pop 20 with “Summer Night City,” “Chiquitita,” “Voulez-Vous,” and “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” all reaching number one.

But by 1982 it was all over. Plans for another new album were abandoned and The Singles – The First Ten Years released in its place. The year ended with the release of the single “Under Attack” which was the last for the group. Yet, despite the fact that ABBA ceased to record or tour together, their music continued to entertain, to enthral, to inspire. ABBA is very much a continuing success story. The countless hits have transcended time to remain as popular today as they were when first released, in some cases more so. ABBA Gold and More ABBA Gold remain best selling albums worldwide. The movies Muriel’s Wedding and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert both featured ABBA’s music and also won the group whole new generations of fans. The opening of MAMMA MIA! has not only seen theatregoers dancing in the aisles – reliving memories or discovering the ABBA sound for the first time – but also saw the album ABBA Gold back at number one in the UK charts within weeks of the show’s London premiere.

The ABBA phenomenon is unstoppable and in 2010 ABBA was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Spotlight: Etch Your Name in Someone Else's Future

You can be a part of the Orpheum Centre for Performing Arts & Education. Your name can be prominently etched in a brick welcoming our guests for the next 100 years.

You will have the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy in the plaza entryway of the Centre as well. Not only is it the perfect way to celebrate an achievement, commemorate a milestone or honor the memory of a loved one, it helps sustain the Centre’s mission by providing crucial financial support for the operations of the Centre. Each brick paves the way for more students and community members to take advantage of Centre programming.

Pavers are available in two sizes so you can personalize them, and brick purchases are tax-deductible donations. They also make excellent gifts as well. In addition to your recipient seeing their name engraved along Main Street, we’ve created a certificate for you to present to recognize the gift.

The Centre will immediately become home to our already-robust education programs, including our summer camps for students in grades third through 12th, teacher-development workshops, master classes with Broadway professionals and the rehearsal hub of the anticipated High School Musical Theatre Awards. 

The Centre will also host chat-backs and pre-show activities with Broadway cast members, VIP events, special performances and other one-of-a-kind events, while also serving as a community space for receptions, parties and meetings.

Etch your name in someone’s future. All contributions are 100% tax deductible. Learn more at

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Spotlight: Are You a STAR Student?

The 2014-15 STAR Council
The High School Musical Theatre Awards are a great chance for students to receive much-deserved recognition, but all students need a place to shine during the rest of the year. That’s where the Orpheum’s STAR Council comes in.

The STAR (Students Take A Role) Council acts as a student advisory board for The Orpheum Theatre. Members help to plan and coordinate events throughout the year, including Kids Night on Broadway, Family Series shows, and the High School Musical Theatre Awards. STAR Council members don’t have to be performers, or even involved in their school’s theatre programs. We just need dedicated students who have an interest in helping to coordinate Orpheum events and earn hands-on experience at a local nonprofit.

“STAR Council has been an amazing connection for me in high school because I've been able to become friends with other students outside of my own school who share my passion,” said Liza Alrutz. “I've been given the opportunity to see really cool shows, which isn't always easy to do with a high school schedule, and even work with some of the professionals in master classes or have talk backs after shows. It's hard to beat seeing the kids’ faces light up at the family shows too!”

In addition to STAR Council members, we’re also looking for STAR Reporters to review shows in the Orpheum's Broadway season and report on special events.

The STAR Council and STAR Reporters programs are open to all teens ages 16-19. Applications will be accepted starting in late May. If you’re interested in theatre, marketing, journalism, education, or other fields, we hope you’ll submit one. Download an application for the 2015 council at

Monday, May 4, 2015

Spotlight: Two HSMTA Winners Will Be Broadway Bound

The 2014 Lead Actor and Lead Actress nominees
at the 5th Annual High School Musical Theatre Awards

As we told you last week, a tremendous amount of talent, hard work and dedication go into make the High School Musical Theatre Awards possible. The benefits to those participating are just as immense.

Alice Roberts, the Orpheum’s Vice President of Community and Education, brought the HSMTA program to the theatre six years ago – one year after the National High School Musical Theatre Awards program began. She said it was a natural trajectory for our department to embrace a program recognizing the talent of local high-schools students. 

The National HSMTAs are the destination of the Lead Actor and Lead Actress winner at our own ceremony. Once chosen by our local judges, these two performers will go on to New York City in June to take part in the national showcase and competition. 

With 30 programs across the country, our students join 58 others for workshops and coaching from current Broadway stars, directors, choreographers and more at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Starting June 24, these cream-of-the-crop students begin the process of creating and rehearsing a show that they’ll perform only four days later at Broadway’s Minskoff Theatre, the home of Disney’s The Lion King

MacLean Mayers, last year’s local Lead Actor winner for his role as Edna Turnblad in Germantown High School’s production of Hairspray, says his experience at Tisch was “crazy.”

“You’re meeting all of these kids from across the nation, not just from Memphis,” he said. “You’re just as passionate – or they’re way more passionate than any other theatre person you’ve ever met in your life, and I think that’s really cool, meeting people are just as talented and more talented than you, and you’re getting to work with them for a week.”

The National HSMTAs are also a competition for the Jimmy Award, and among the judges are casting directors – the students who impress them could be looking at their big breaks. The winning Lead Actor and Lead Actress each are rewarded with prizes and scholarships – last year, the winners received $10,000 scholarships and an opportunity to attend Tisch School of the Arts. 

Out of 60 students, only six performers – three per category – are chosen to contend for national Lead Actor and Lead Actress recognition.  In 2011, Breyannah Tillman, the star of Ridgeway High School’s Aida, became a finalist in the national ceremony. 

A total of 10 local students have gone through this life-changing experience with Broadway professionals:

2014: MacLean Mayers in Germantown High School’s Hairspray (Edna Turnblad) and Bethany Beckham in Evangelical Christian School’s Into the Woods (Witch)

2013: Russell Lehman in St. Mary’s Episcopal School’s Anything Goes (Billy Crocker) and Olivia Wingate in Hutchison School’s Into the Woods (The Baker’s Wife)

2012: Sam Shankman from Memphis University School’s The Producers (Leo Bloom) and Sabaa Sharma from Lausanne Collegiate School’s Once on this Island (Ti Moune)

2011: Paul Powers from Briarcrest Christian High School’s Les Miserables (Jean Valjean) and Breyannah Tillman in Ridgeway High School’s Aida (Aida)

2010: Prentiss Mouton from Ridgeway High School’s Footloose (Reverend Shaw) and Alexis Tarver from Briarcrest Christian School’s Beauty and the Beast (Belle)

 “It’s something I never would have experienced if I didn’t get to do the Orpheum high school musical awards,” Mayers said.

See each of our winning Lead Actor and Lead Actresses in the National HSMTA playbills aft Join us May 11 to see which performers will take home the prize and start their Broadway journey at the Orpheum’s 6th Annual High School Musical Theatre Awards.

Watch last year's Lead Actor and Lead Actress medleys on the Orpheum's YouTube page.

Friday, May 1, 2015

On the Big Screen at the Orpheum This Summer ...

The Orpheum's 2015 Summer Movie Series kicks off its fourth year with fan favorites, classics, comedies, and family-friendly features, some of which have never before appeared on the Orpheum screen. Presented for a fourth year by Orion Federal Credit Union, the series will run from June 4 to August 28 at the Orpheum Theatre.

Included in the Summer Movie Series are popular titles, the annual Fright Night double feature, and family matinees.  Notable movies include Back to the Future, Clueless, Airplane!, Top Gun, The Wizard of Oz, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Young Frankenstein, and the much-anticipated return of Gone with the Wind.  The Orpheum will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of The Sound of Music with a special screening where audiences will be encouraged to sing along with the film’s iconic songs.  To honor the life of Orpheum friend Robin Williams, the Orpheum will also present the star-studded adventure Hook.

Thursday, June 4 at 7pm: Top Gun
Friday, June 5 at 7pm: Back to the Future
Thursday, June 11 at 7pm: Grease
Friday, June 12 at 1:30pm: FAMILY MATINEE: Space Jam
Friday, June 12 at 7pm: Casablanca
Thursday, June 25 at 7pm: Clueless
Friday, June 26 at 1:30pm: FAMILY MATINEE: James and the Giant Peach
Friday, June 26 at 7pm: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Thursday, July 9 at 7pm: The Wizard of Oz
Friday, July 10 at 7pm: Airplane!
Thursday, July 23 at 7pm: The Sound of Music
Friday, July 24 at 7pm: DOUBLE FEATURE: A Nightmare on Elm Street/Friday the 13th
Thursday, July 30 at 7pm: Hook
Friday, July 31 at 7pm: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Friday, August 14 at 7pm: Young Frankenstein
Friday, August 28 at 7pm: Gone with the Wind

The Orpheum will continue to offer exciting, fun-filled activities in the Orpheum lobby prior to each film.  The family matinee showing of Space Jam will be presented in partnership with the Memphis Grizzlies. Fans can expect to enjoy special appearances by Grizz and the Grizz Girls as well as opportunities for prizes and giveaways.  Local Memphis band The Passport, whose song “Reruns” is featured in the announcement reel, will help the Orpheum kick off the Summer Movie Series’ first film of the season, Top Gun. Other types of pre-movie activities for the series include movie trivia contests, costume parades, a “selfie station,” special guest appearances, movie-themed drink specials, and pre-show performances on the Orpheum’s Mighty Wurlitzer Organ.

Tickets for the movie series are on sale now at The Orpheum Box Office (901.525.3000) and the ticket counter at The Booksellers at Laurelwood.  Online sales for individual movie titles will be available soon. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for children under 12.  Packages of ten tickets are available for $50 and may be used for a single movie or spread throughout series, making Movie Series packages the perfect Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifts.