Dickens, Sondheim on Argenta stage’s expanded list
The Argenta Community Theater is doubling the number of productions on its 2017-2018 season, to include two musicals, two “straight” shows and an awards ceremony honoring local folks who have contributed to the performing arts.
The onstage offerings open with a Dec. 14-23 production of A Christmas Carol. Little Rock playwright Judy Goss is adapting Charles Dickens’ classic into a new stage version that producing artistic director Vincent Insalaco wants to turn into a perennial for his theater at 405 Main St., in North Little Rock’s Argenta District.
“The Dickens book is in the public domain,” Insalaco says. “There are, like, 63 versions out there.”
He’s turning to Goss, who adapted the 1942 MGM classic film Mrs. Miniver for a world-premiere stage production that debuted two years ago, to put her spin on the tale.
It’ll feature period incidental music and underscoring — “Think the Alistair Sim [1951 film] version,” he says — and the set and costumes will go into storage so the show can be presented annually, perhaps as the centerpiece of a Christmas festival, and designed so the show could conceivably tour.
In keeping with Insalaco’s focus — picking shows that haven’t been done in the area for as long as a generation — he has scheduled Stephen Sondheim’s Follies for March 7-17. “It’s a hard show,” he says. Sondheim’s songs are notoriously hard to sing and Follies hasn’t been done in Little Rock since a Weekend Theater concert version in July 1996.
(The connection between the songs: A collection of former musical stars pays nostalgic tribute to a ramshackle New York theater due for the wrecking ball.)
A production of To Kill a Mockingbird, April 18-28, will be one of the last before a new adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel — by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin — debuts on Broadway. The original stage adaptation was written in 1970 by Christopher Sergel. Insalaco says he’s contracted to use that version, which “uses all the language,” including the so-called “N-word.”
And the summer musical, July 18-28, 2018, closes a season full of political messages with Big River (music and lyrics by Roger Miller, book by William Hauptman, adapted from Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn).
Auditions for A Christmas Carol take place, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sept. 16; for Follies, 1-4 p.m. Sept. 17. For the former, auditions will onsist of readings from the script via previously available “sides” and/ or cold readings. For Follies, prepare 20 bars of a song that showcases your vocal range. It can be from the show or should have “the same feel.” There will also be cold readings from the script and a dance workshop. Register in
advance at email@example.com.
The season schedule also includes the third annual “Dance Impact” concert, March 31, a collaboration of professional and college dance companies, and the annual “Acting Up” summer performing arts camp, covering acting, dancing, film and, for the first time, singing, June 11-22.
And Insalaco is planning the inaugural “Dark Night” dinner, Sept. 18, “honoring our own,” as he puts it, with awards for members of the area performing arts community and focusing primarily on “all these people who donate their time” to concerts and productions. Stage, film and
commercial actress Candyce Hinkle will be the master of ceremonies. The ceremony will always take place on a Monday night, when most theaters are, in the parlance of the business, “dark.” Attendees can feel free to come in theatrical costumes.
Insalaco says the event will honor three or four people a year and his goal is to see it eventually outgrow his theater.
He says there isn’t enough attention paid to the role of the arts and the people who create them in community development and education. “The stage is as important as a baseball diamond,” he says. “And [artists and performers] don’t get the credit.”