Welcome to NWA Jersey Boys!

Wednesday morning we held a Broadway Breakfast here at Walton Arts Center with not 1, not 2, not even 3, but all 4 of the Jersey Boys stars!

WAC's own Lydia Corbell took the stage with stars to facilitate a conversation about Jersey Boys and their roles. 

(L to R) Nicolas Dromard (Tommy DeVito), Jason Kappus (Bob Gaudio), Nick Cosgrove (Frankie Valli) and Brandon Andrus (Nick Massi).

The guys shared stories about all the work it took to get cast in Jersey Boys, their start in theater and the things to come! 

Nick Cosgrove, is living the dream! While in high school, he saw a production of Jersey Boys at the Bank of America Theater in Chicago, and realized that was what he wanted to do, and Frankie Valli was his dream roll! Now, at 25, not only is he playing Frankie Valli, but he was able to return to that theater in Chicago and perform for his family and friends.

But before there was even an opening for the roll, he had to audition through the intense "Frankie Camp" and be molded into the authentic Jersey personality. 30 actors go in, less than 10 potential Frankies walk out!

Both Jason Kappus and Brandon Andrus have been touring with this production of Jersey Boys since it started almost two years ago.

When Jason auditioned for the role of Bob Gaudio, he had to portray the character in front of the man himself! 

Brandon Andrus describes himself as the group's "resident tourist." As they tour from city to city, he likes to take time to see the sights, and what makes each area special. He's already got Hammontree's and Crystal Bridges on his radar for NWA!

Nicolas Dromard talked about working with a vocal coach so they could all master the true Four Seasons Jersey accent. They spent hours mastering the accent, going through their scripts so everything is phonetically accurate, and they even have CDs to listen to so they can keep their accents strong.

The cast all expressed their love for being part of such a great production, and the power of the audience to keep the show fresh and exciting for them week after week. Let's make sure to show them a big NWA welcome each night!

"Every night it's a ride from start to finish that we love being on," Nicolas Dromard said.

The show runs until Sunday, with two performances on both Saturday and Sunday, but tickets are going fast! Grab yours here, and for the best seating availability check out Sunday night!

Local children to star in The Nutcracker

Whhhhoo, whhhhoo Sorry, had to blow the dust off this ol' blog. But, today we're back with some exciting news!

A couple of weeks ago we held auditions for performers, ages 6-10 years, for the children’s cast of Moscow Classical Ballet's The Nutcracker, playing here Friday, December 21 - Sunday, December 23. We had a great turnout for the auditions, and all the kids were so adorable. It definitely made it a difficult choice! So, without further ado, here are the local children that will be in all four performances of The Nutcracker:

Brinklee Backes

Lillebeth Backes

Caroline Blake

Juliana Britt

Katie Drake

Julianna Ferguson

Madison Gates

Ella Kestner

Julia Rain Sowerwine

Olivia Wood


Ella Britt

Celeste Margnerire Dearnley

Congratulations to all! And a big thanks to everyone that came out for the auditions.

You can come watch these local performers during Moscow Classical Ballet's The Nutcracker, running December 21 - 23. After all, what's a holiday without Clara, The Mouse King and the Sugar Plum Fairy?

Q&A with Cantus

Have you heard the story of the Christmas truce of 1914? It centers on a remarkable World War I respite between Allied Forces and German soldiers in “no man's land” on Christmas, 1914. You can read more about it in this article from the Minnesota Post.

This incredible story is being brought to life on our stage as the next performance in our 10x10 Arts Series. A collaboration between one of America's finest professional male vocal ensemble, Cantus, and one the most innovative theater companies touring today, Theater Latte Da, "All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914" will be performed on Thursday, November 29 at 7pm.

Aaron Humble, one of the members of Cantus, took time out to answer some of our questions about this collaboration, and more. Thank you Aaron!


1. What makes this collaboration so special/unique?  

Cantus is a collaborative chamber ensemble and Theater Latte Da often brings elements of the workshop into the rehearsal room. Writer and Director Peter Rothstein brought all of the materials to the table but the show was really put together with all of the artists in the room. It's also rare to find a theatrical production where all of the music – feature pieces and underscoring – are provided by the human voice.

2. How has this performances influenced your thoughts and opinions about current wars?

I'm thrilled that these wars are winding down. But when we started performing All is Calm several years ago, there was no end in sight for either war. What struck me was that this incredible moment is now all but impossible: Brave soldiers walking into the middle of "no man's land" with their hands raised singing Christmas Carols. Even though they were enemies they shared many commonalities – even a few familiar tunes. As we've found ourselves involved in wars in the Middle East, it's a culture that is so unfamiliar to most of us: The language, the religion, and the customs. It's harder to find a commonality and thus easier to always view these fellow human beings as "the enemy." If any brave man or woman tried to lay down his or her weapon in a modern battle field, they would be shot if they tried to approach the opposing side. And in reality, most of the time they're not even in the same vicinity.  

3. How does the group prepare before each show? 

When we arrive at the venue we check in with the tech folks to make sure they don't have any questions for the basic tech needs of the show. From there we do a sound check and rehearse anything that might need a little tweaking for ensemble or timing. Then we have dinner together and get dressed. There's a wonderful camaraderie between the members of show.

4. What special traditions or rituals does Cantus have?

Everybody has their own routine. Cantus and the actors that come with us do not do any group rituals or routines other than a "huddle" before the show. We huddle together, give a few notes or words of wisdom and do our own version of "go team" with whatever someone calls out before the huddle ends.

5. Which musical artist’s voice do you find most captivating?

My all-time favorite singer is Fritz Wunderlich, a long dead German tenor. More recently, Ruth Ann Swenson and Renee Fleming.  

6. Last song listened to on your Ipod?

Hmmm.  Probably Herbert Howells’ Magnificat and Nunc Dimitis “Collegium Regale.”

7. What’s your favorite Holiday memory?

Every year we bring All is Calm to about 10,000 people.  In recent years, my favorite holiday memory is bringing a show that is poignant and not "saccharine" like so much holiday programming is today. Seeing how much this story has meant to people has been really inspiring.  

Cantus and Theater Latte Da in "All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914"

8. What kinds of art has been an inspiration to you?

More than I have time to list. More than anything, I'm inspired by art that speaks to people. Art that is meaningful, not obtuse. 

9. Is there something you enjoy collecting?


10. What has been a memorable place to perform and why?

Cantus once sang in a sculpture called the Sky Pesher at the Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis. It was as full as it could be with maybe 35 people. We did some improvising and there was just an incredible energy in the room.

11. Is there a dish you love to cook when you are home?

Most of us just love to cook when we're at home because we eat out so much on the road. I'm a big fan of turkey burgers. I'm always coming up with new ways to make them tasty!

12. Was there some great advice you received as you began your artistic journey?

A lot of voice teachers have a poster that says "if you're not practicing someone else is." It's not enough to be a great voice, you have to be a great musician and you have to be incredibly prepared. People don't have time to wait for you to catch up even if you're super talented!

13. Do you have a favorite sport or team that you enjoy watching and supporting?

I grew up in Northeast Ohio near Cleveland. If there's any lesson you learn there from professional sports it's humility... and knowing how to be a good loser!

14. What profession other than yours would you most like to attempt?

Maybe an architect.  

Come see Aaron and the rest of the Cantus group perform with Theater Latte Da in "All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914" this Thursday, November 29!

Billy Elliot The Musical Giveaway!

Billy Elliot The Musical is such a fantastic show, and we are really looking forward to having it here in Northwest Arkansas. The New York Post called Billy Elliot "The best show you will ever see!"

Since we're so excited about this show, and we wanted to do a little something to shake up our blog...we decided to have a giveaway for Billy Elliot!!

It's super-duper easy to enter, and we will choose two winners who will each receive two (2) tickets to opening night of Billy Elliot The Musical on Tuesday, December 4 at 7pm. Just follow the steps below to enter, and you can receive more entries by completing the "extras" outlined in the instructions. The contest will run through Tuesday, November 27, and we will notify the winners by Wednesday, November 28. Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Billy Elliot the Musical: Finding Billy

Fresh off our run of Shrek: The Musical, we’re getting excited for our next Broadway performance; Billy Elliot The Musical! Billy Elliot will be here for eight performances, beginning Tuesday, December 4, and running through Sunday, December 9.

A little background on the show for you: Billy Elliot is a small town boy in northern England, who finds his way from the boxing ring to ballet class. At 11 years old, Billy isn’t sure how to handle his surprising talent, but manages to shine with his community behind him.

Now, about those boys that play Billy in the show. Would you believe that many of them are just 'regular' kids? Not classically trained dancers, or professional theatre performers, but just boys that have auditioned when the opportunity arose in their town? We were fascinated by this information!

Here's a little peek into "Finding Billy."


Pride & Prejudice - Q&A Part 2

Yesterday we got to learn a little more about actress Jane Carr who will be playing Mrs. Bennet in L.A. Theatre Works' "Pride and Prejudice" this Friday.

Today we're talking to actor Nicholas Hormann who will play Mr. Bennet in this run of "Pride and Prejudice." Hormann has been in multiple television shows over the years, including "Seinfeld," "Parks & Recreation," "Desperate Housewives," "Bones," "Frasier," and "The West Wing."

Mr. Hormann was kind enough to take the time to answer some of our questions, and we're happy to share them with you today!

1. Fill in the blank; Theater is _____?


2. Is there something you enjoy collecting?

Coffee mugs of the theaters I've played in.

3. What has been a memorable place to perform and why?

The Barrymore Theatre, the Eugene O'Neill Theatre and the Helen Hayes Theatre on Broadway.

4. Is there a dish you love to cook when you are home?

Pesto with basil from the garden--served on almost anything, except ice cream.

5. Was there some great advice you received as you began your artistic journey?

Don't compare yourself to others.

6. What profession other than yours would you most like to attempt?

Music (piano). Or writer of short fiction.

If you'd like to see Mr. Hormann in "Pride and Prejudice" this Friday, we advise you act quickly as tickets are going fast. Hope to see you at the show!

Pride & Prejudice - Q&A with the cast

Last week we had two fabulous 10x10 Arts Series performances with Caravanserai: Majid Bekkas Gnawa Ensemble with Brahim Fribgane, and the legendary Tokyo String Quartet. Next up, we've got L.A. Theatre Works' "Pride and Prejudice."

You know we like to fill you in on who will be performing in our 10x10 Arts Series shows, and this time around we'll be in the company of some actors you will probably recognize.

Jane Carr will play Mrs. Bennet in this run of "Pride and Prejudice." Carr has starred in such films as "The Five-Year Engagement," with Jason Segel and Emily Blunt, and "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," as well as the television series "Dear John."

Jane CarrYou know how we roll around here when it comes to our 10x10 shows; we like to give our visiting actors the third degree. Kidding! But really, we do like to pick their brains about a variety of topics. Carr took the time to answer a few questions for us, and here they are for your reading pleasure!

1. Fill in the blank; Theater is  _________?

Occasionally very good.

2. Is there something you enjoy collecting?

No, not much of a collector. I like antiquing though.

3. What has been a memorable place to perform and why?

Wyndhams Theatre London. My first West End show. I think the prettiest theatre I ever performed in was The New Amsterdam on Broadway.

4. Is there a dish you love to cook when you are home?

I love to bake almost anything.

5. Was there some great advice you received as you began your artistic journey?

Watch older, established actors and learn from them.

6. What profession other than yours would you most like to attempt?

The list could go on forever. The nice thing about acting is that you get to pretend to have a million professions.

Check back here tomorrow to find out the other recognizable actor that will visit Northwest Arkansas this Friday, October 26 for L.A. Theatre Works' "Pride and Prejudice!"

Choosing Walton Arts Center performances for your family

Our new season has begun, and we want to make sure you get the most out of your visit to Walton Arts Center this year! With school back in session, we thought it would be a perfect time to focus on kids, and help navigate the path to choosing performances for the young ones in your life. We do put content warnings on a lot of our shows when it's available to us, but every parent (and child) is different, and what may be comfortable to one family may not be to another.

Photo by Bill FritschWe asked our friends over at NWA Motherlode to help us out, and let us know what shows they're excited about bringing their children to see this season at Walton Arts Center. Well, wouldn't you know those fabulous ladies went above & beyond and asked some of their readers that same question too so you all could have more information!

Gwen Rockwood of NWA Motherlode:

How old are your children? What shows are you excited to see with them this season?

My kids are 10, 8 and 5 – two boys and a girl. We are all really excited about seeing STOMP. And my two boys can’t wait to see Shrek on stage. My oldest son also wants to see WarHorse, and both boys want to check out Potted Potter because they are both fans of the Harry Potter series. My 5-year-old daughter is most looking forward to the Popovich Comedy Pet Theater and Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild LIVE.

How do you choose which shows to attend at Walton Arts Center?

We ask ourselves this question: “Have we ever seen anything like this before?” And if the answer is no, we try to get tickets to the show. For example, we knew that Blue Man Group is a one-of-a-kind experience that the kids would remember for a long time, so we made sure to leave room in the family budget to buy those tickets. We also base it on what experiences we most want to share with them. For example, I wanted to take my daughter on a special “Mom and daughter” outing after she recovered from getting her tonsils removed. We chose to go see Beauty and the Beast at Walton Arts Center one year. She had just seen the Disney film and it was the perfect event for us to attend together. We both loved it and have special pictures from that day in our family photo album.

With so many options, how do you decide that a show is a good fit for a particular age or personality?

I read, read, read! I’m a big believer in the fact that other parents will tell you what you need to know. So I go online to read reviews of the show written by other parents. If they mention that there are some scary parts, then I know it’s not a good fit for my 8-year-old and 5-year-old who are prone to having bad dreams. I also go on YouTube to try to find promotional clips of the actual performance so I can get a glimpse of what the show might be like. It’s also really helpful when the theater gives an age range as a guideline for parents to use when choosing shows for the whole family.

Shrek the Musical production photoNWA Motherlode reader Sarah White:

My daughter is about to be three and I haven't taken her to any shows yet; she actually only saw her first movie a couple of weeks ago, which was a good test of her attention span! This will probably be the first year I take her to see something, which should be a lot of fun.

I would LOVE to take her to Stomp, because she loves drums and her dad was a drummer in high school. But it might be a little loud for tiny ears. I'm sure Guess How Much I Love You would be a better starter show. Or the Dinosaur Petting Zoo, if I didn't think it would scare her.

So that offers some insight into how I would decide what shows to take her to: what age it might be appropriate for, her attention span, the noise level or potential scariness of large, loud objects and just what I think she would find fun. I'm not sure she's ready for something that isn't interactive and requires sitting down; she loves to dance and participate.

Guess How Much I Love YouNWA Motherlode reader Rosemary Rincon:

My children are 4 and 2. I am excited to take them to see Guess How Much I Love You, Dance Brazil, We're Going on a Bear Hunt and The Velveteen Rabbit.

In the past I have always chosen every show to take them to regardless of the appropriate age they list on the show because I know every WAC show is awesome. Sometimes we have been lucky with shows, even if it said it was for middle school age and other times it was just too way over their head. This year because I am bringing a 2 year old with me, I decided to be more age specific and only go to the shows listed for lower elementary age. The price is fantastic and the shows always are also, we love going!

The Velveteen Rabbit presented by ODC/DanceWe hope this helps you and your family as you plan your visits to Walton Arts Center this season. Many thanks to the ladies at NWA Motherlode, and their readers, for helping us bring this information to our patrons!

Alley 38 - An interactive theatre experience

Have you heard about Alley 38 yet? It's described as "a theatrical walking expedition through uncharted places," but we didn't fully grasp the idea until we actually went on the walk. Whoa, you guys. This is such a fun performance!

Conceived and produced by Artist's Laboratory Theatre (ALT), Alley 38 is part of the Artosphere Festival. ALT received an Artosphere Partner Grant to help bring the idea to life.

Patrons meet at the corner of Block and Spring street in Fayetteville (free parking at the meters after 5pm), and without giving too much away, are divided into two groups. There is a guide in each group, and you remain with them throughout the evening. Winding through the alleys of downtown Fayetteville, a story develops along the way and you find yourself anxious to find out "What is happening next??"

Here's a map of the area covered in Alley 38. While there is a lot of walking, there is plenty of stopping to rest along the way (sometimes you even get a chair!). There is also a brief (about 10min.) intercession where free drinks and snacks are offered.

Alley 38 runs through Sunday, May 27, and all performances begin at 7:30pm. At only $12/person, this is a perfect way to spend a spring evening discovering art, theatre and Fayetteville!

Alley 38 starting point

The Importance of Being Earnest - Patron feedback

The Importance of Being Earnest was a hit with our audience! It was the second performance in our 10x10 Arts Series, and the first play we have ever had in the series. After these reviews, we will certainly be looking to offer more plays in the 10x10, and to work with Aquila Theatre again. They were brilliant!

Here are just some of the many comments from our Earnest audience:

  • Very good job of refreshing a period piece. I especially liked the scene changes. Still funny after all these years!
  • Excellent! Happy! Joyous! Grateful for sharing the show with you!
  • Well Done! Great production- acting direction, and segue’s from one scene to the next. We liked the way it was updated as well! Good job!
  • Great Acting, great comedy and I enjoyed the modern spin. Put me in such a better mood! Oddly fit difficulties of life.
  • Loved the show! It was hilarious and I am so grateful for the 10x10 series.
  • This is my second play that I have been to, never really thought much about them. My wife drags me to them, must say I’m starting to enjoy them. This show was wonderful and funny. I have grown to like plays. Thank you!

Thanks to everyone that came out and enjoyed the show! We had just as much fun as you! Our next 10x10 show will be January 20, 2012 with Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band.

The Importance of Being Earnest - Part 2

Yesterday we had a q & a with Peter F Gardiner who plays Jack Worthing (Earnest) and Merriman in Aquila Theatre's "The Importance of Being Earnest." The play will be at Walton Arts Center this Saturday, November 5 at 8pm, and is part of our 10x10 Arts Series in which most of our tickets are only $10. Yes, you heard me right, $10!! Quick, hop over here and purchase tickets now!

Ok, on with the rest of the story. Today, we've got a q & a with Guy Oliver-Watts who plays Algernon in Earnest. He definitely had a different perspective on some of the questions, and it was great to see how he and Peter differed in their answers. Read on for some intriguing facts on Guy. 

1.       "I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression." ---How are you wonderfully expressive?

2.       “Oh! it is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn't. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read.”---What have you read recently but shouldn’t? 

3.       One of the characters pretends to have a friend in the country that he can ‘visit’ anytime he wants to get away from social engagements…where would you go if you could visit anywhere?

4.       If you could switch identities with one well-known/famous character for a day, who would it be? Why?

5.       The New York Times describes Aquila as “modernly hip” – what two words would you use to describe YOURSELF?

6.       Can you think of a time you got caught bending the truth?


7.       If you could uproot any classic what time period would you place it in and why?



Responses from Guy Oliver-Watts who plays Algernon 


1. When I am at my least self conscious and able to articulate or focus on something/some character outside of myself.

i.e.  When I write songs, sing, act or when I express my love to my wife and children, most of the time at least I leave them in no doubt about it.

2. A Terry Pratchett novel...amusingly written etc... but fundamentally an utter waste of several hours of my life when nothing was learnt.

Other than that, my mothers choice of English newspaper 'The Daily Mail'. It has an editorial that I find abhorant.

3. India or Africa because I've never been... or Rome & New York because I never tire of them

4. Obama...so I could triple the funding for the arts.. or Scarlet Johansson (I'm only human).

5. Occasionally inspired

6. not for a while...I'm a good liar.

7. Off the top of my head...Dr. Faustus in some present day political scenario.

Thank you Guy for some great answers to our questions! Judging by the responses from Guy and Peter, "The Importance of Being Earnest" is sure to be an entertaining show this weekend. Come on out Saturday night and party with us at the second performance of our 10x10 Arts Series. There will be a pre-show creative conversation with some of the actors, and after the show there's a party in our lobby, complete with music and a specialty cocktail. We hope to see you there!

The Importance of Being Earnest

Aquila Theatre will be performing Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" this Saturday, November 5 at 8pm as part of our 10x10 Arts Series. Earnest is such a witty and fun play, and there are so many fabulous quotes, like, "Never speak disrespectfully of Society, Algernon. Only people who can't get into it do that," and "Well, I know, of course, how important it is not to keep a business engagement, if one wants to retain a sense of beauty of life." 

We thought it would be fun to get to know some of the actors from Aquila Theatre, so we went sent them some interesting questions to answer. Here are the questions & their answers are below: 

1.       A quote from the play: "I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression." ---How are you wonderfully expressive?

2.       “Oh! it is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn't. More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn't read.”---What have you read recently but shouldn’t? 

3.       One of the characters pretends to have a friend in the country that he can ‘visit’ anytime he wants to get away from social engagements…where would you go if you could visit anywhere?

4.       If you could switch identities with one well-known/famous character for a day, who would it be? Why?

5.       The New York Times describes Aquila as “modernly hip” – what two words would you use to describe YOURSELF?

6.       Can you think of a time you got caught bending the truth?

7.       If you could uproot any classic what time period would you place it in and why?

Responses from Peter F. Gardiner who plays Jack Worthing (or Earnest) and Merriman 

1. I express myself through my acting (in 'The Importance of Being Earnest' and 'Macbeth' I get to play 8 different roles and that's just in 2 shows). Since my first play in 1991 ('Tess of the D'Urbervilles') I've played hundreds of roles and I find that this is one of the greatest ways for me to express myself. I also write and play songs on the guitar I find this a very satisfying way of expressing myself. I have written 3 full-length plays, I really enjoy expressing myself through play-writing. Socially I enjoy telling stories, telling jokes and 'playing the fool' so I also find this is a daily way of expressing myself in an informal way.

2. I bought a novel 'Matterhorn' 3 months ago. It's a great book and yet I've only read a quarter of it because I'm not a big reader. So I don't read the good stuff, let alone waste my time by reading stuff I shouldn't! Also in the last 12 months I've been in 5 different plays so I find myself learning and revising my lines, so - again I don't have the time to read stuff I shouldn't - I'm too busy getting on top of my lines. 

3. Italy. I've heard it's beautiful, the food's great, it's full of history and I've never been there before, and it's warmer than where I live in Britain. 

4. I'd love to be Han Solo for the day. A lot of people don't realize that he's a real person who helped bring peace, prosperity and love to a galaxy under threat from a great evil. I love the Star Wars movies and apparently Harrison Ford's a really big fan of my early work.

5. Expressive and Fun. But also Scottish and Short. Also Jealous and Ambitious. Also Artistic and Creative.

6. The last time I bent the truth a little bit was probably after the last time I stayed at my parents house. We always eat too much, stay up late, drinking, playing poker and partying into the wee wee hours, so come the next day my girlfriend and I just want to get home, lie on the couch in front of the TV and recover. So I might have told the odd white lie about needing to get home 'the morning after' for sundry weighty reasons; 'To meet people', 'To have lunch with someone', 'To prepare a chicken we've already bought' etc.......

7. I'd uproot 'Hamlet' and place him in a Modern Urban Scottish Setting, complete with drugs, drink, clubs, violence, family histories, distrust, friends, romances and rapier duels - a bit like a 'Shakespearean Trainspotting', or 'Hamlet in Hamilton',  perhaps 'The Dane in Dundee', or 'The Prince of Paisley', 'Deep-Fried Hamlet', these are just a few of the titles I'm playing with. I've also got an idea for a very good 40 year old Scottish actor to play the lead role in the version I've just described - in fact he's perfect! 

Great answers from Peter!! Check back tomorrow for another round with Guy Oliver-Watts who plays Algernon in "The Importance of Being Earnest."