Thursday, November 18, 2010

Christmas in Memphis

Christmas is one of those times of year that while we tend to be much busier with all the parties and events going on, it's also one of those times that it feels right to be busy. And one of the things we tend to make ourselves busier with is arts, from special concerts to season-themed ballet and theater performances.

The Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau has posted a great events guide here. There's some great things on there, including a couple that begin Friday: The annual Christmas lighting ceremony at Graceland and SunTrust Zoo Lights.

I've never experienced Zoo Lightsbut I have been a part of Graceland at Christmas. I worked there during college and also later visited for an evening tour to see the lights. Elvis was always known for his great light display and through the years it's only gotten bigger and better. I definitely encourage you to take your out-of-town guests by Graceland to see the lights.

There will be several other highlights this season, but one I'm looking forward to that will help set the season's mood will be the Memphis Symphony Orchestra's "Home for the Holiday's" concert on Saturday Dec. 4. We have Pops season tickets and this is the only show that new conductor Mei-Ann Chen will be conducting as part of that series.

And a quick shout out to my friends at ArtsMemphis who put together a book that might make an interesting Christmas present for any outdoor or cooking enthusiasts on your shopping list. "Wild Abundance - A Cookbook Anthology" is a 280-page, full-color book filled with photographs, stories and recipes.

I'm sure I'll have many more ideas, thoughts and random ramblings as we get closer to Christmas, but I just had to make this post after seeing the CVB's post on Twitter this morning.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Creating a better arts community in Memphis

Tonight will be an important gathering of some of the players in the Memphis arts scene.

An Artists Only Happy Hour will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Playhouse on the Square. I'm sure it will be a good social event bringing together members of the city's diverse arts community.

But the main purpose of this gathering is to complete a survey. ArtSpace, a national organization that works to create affordable live/work space for artists in cities across the country, is conducting a survey of those in the arts community to learn more about their needs.

I just took the survey. It's hard to say if I'm really an artist. I had the discussion yesterday with a colleague if being a journalist is an artist. He thinks it's more a trade. I agree with him, I think. But considering my role as editor of a business paper in Memphis that promotes the arts (not to mention this blog and just my overall appreciation of the city's arts) I felt it OK to complete the survey.

I encourage anyone with a connection to the local arts scene to do the same.

I could tell you what this survey aims to do but I think the story Stacey wrote in The Daily News today does a much better job than I could ever pretend to do. Kerry Hayes, special assistant to Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr., also does a good job of summing up the objectives:

“It gives ArtSpace the data they need to figure out the scope of the project. In the mayor’s office, it gives us a chance to see what artists and members of the creative class need to stay here – what we can do from a policy level to keep them from moving to Atlanta or Austin or another area.”

Sounds good to me.

Friday, November 5, 2010

'9 to 5:' Broadway Comes to Beale Street

We recently enjoyed a night out at The Orpheum watching "9 to 5." I must admit that we weren't planning to attend but a last-minute opportunity presented itself and we couldn't refuse.

After we recently had Orpheum season tickets and attended "Wicked" last week, you might be wondering why we weren't planning to see "9 to 5" in Memphis. Well, we saw it last year on Broadway. It wasvery entertaining then and I assumed the touring version would not live up.

While I still think the Broadway version was better (I mean, Allison Janney as Violet was seriously brilliant on Broadway), the performance in Memphis is very entertaining. The actors were all different, but shined in their own ways.

Dee Hoty plays Violet Newstead

If I would have been sitting higher and unable to see her face, I would have thought Dee Hoty as Violet was Janney. Hoty was Janney's equal. Diana DeGarmo, the former "American Idol" runner-up, was solid in the Dolly Parton role.

There were distinct differences: the props used on Broadway were more realistic being the main one. The bookshelf in Franklin Hart's office, for example, was fake. On Broadway, at least if my memory is correct, there was a real shelf. Small differences, but differences all the same.

What this performance did for me was help me realize that just because I've seen a show on Broadway or even in Memphis before that the latest offering features different cast members and more than likely a different experience.

I've unfortunately had a negative second experience. Five years ago in London we saw "Chicago" and it was brilliant. It helped that I was a little star struck watching Brooke Shields. I don't recall who played the Mama character but she was awesome.

Fast forward to this past summer with "Chicago" at The Orpheum. I was a bit bored this time around. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that the "Chicago" story doesn't interest me nearly as much as "9 to 5." I mean, "9 to 5" would be hysterical I'd have to think even with a poor cast.

But I just didn't get into "Chicago" this time around. And wasn't feeling Mama at all.

Lesson in all this? I won't turn down an opportunity to see a show I've already seen. And you should probably catch "9 to 5" at The Orpheum this weekend.