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’ll also be 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.

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. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Spotlight: The Perks of Being a Season Ticket Holder

Some of the perks of being a season ticket
holder include invitations to VIP events, like this
year's cast party for Disney's The Lion King.
The performers who grace the stage during the Orpheum’s Broadway productions aren’t the only ones who get star treatment – our season ticket holders do too!

This year, we are proud to offer three different season ticket package options – choose 4, 5, or all 6 shows in our upcoming Broadway season to truly make it the most magical experience for you and your fellow theatergoers.

Here are the enchanting shows you can choose from:
•    Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella, October 13-18, 2015
•    Pippin, November 17-22, 2015
•    Disney's Newsies, December 8-13, 2015
•    Matilda The Musical, January 12-17, 2016
•    A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder, February 9-14, 2016
•    Bullets Over Broadway, May 10-15, 2016

The Book of Mormon is also back by popular demand March 15-20, 2016, after its sold-out run in 2014. As a season ticket holder, you have the first chance to add this popular musical to your package and guarantee your seats. 
The 6-show package offers exceptional prices on the best seats in the house, while the 4- and 5-show options allow you the flexibility to create the exact season you want to see while still enjoying all of the perks of being a season ticket holder.

And what are those perks?

  • Performance exchange privilege: Can’t attend your regular performance? Exchange your tickets for another performance of the same show during the week.
  • VIP perks card: Enjoy special discounts at area restaurants and businesses.
  • Interest-free payment plan: Season tickets are easy on your budget with three interest-free credit card payments when purchased by June 30.
  • Priority ticket opportunities for concerts and events: Get your seats to some of the hottest shows before tickets go on sale to the general public 
  • Ticket forwarding: Last-minute conflict? Email your tickets to a friend.
  • Ticket resale: Change your mind about a show in your package? Post your tickets for sale on our secure website.
  • Premium prepaid parking at a discount: Purchase parking for the MLGW garage and never worry about finding a parking space all season long!
  • Exclusive VIP invitations: Attend pre- and post-show chat-backs with casts and other special events throughout the year.
  • Mobile tickets: Download your season tickets on your smartphone so they’ll also be easy to locate or forward.
And those people who choose all six shows have some extra added benefits:
  • Guaranteed seats for next season: Season ticket holders can renew their seats each year before packages go on sale to the public.
  • Upgrade opportunities: Be first in line to upgrade your seats next season!
Interested in tickets? Starting May 18, new season packages can be purchased for the 2015-2016 Broadway shows. Here’s how to secure yours:
  • Call our Orpheum box office at 901-525-3000 to talk with one of our diligent team members, or visit the box office or the ticket counter at The Booksellers at Laurelwood in person.
  • You’ll choose the performance day that you’d like to see each show: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday evenings, or Saturday or Sunday matinees. 
  • Decide where you’d like to look for seats: VIP; Gold Circle; Orchestra, Mezzanine and Grand Tier; Back Orchestra and Balcony; and Galleries. Each section has its own ticket prices based on the number of shows you’d like to see and the night you’ve chosen. Check out the interactive seating chart at
  • Our box office agents will work through all of the details with you to secure the best seats for your budget and your schedule.
We’re very excited about our upcoming Broadway season and hope you are too. If you are already a season ticket holder, you have until May 1 to renew your seats online, by phone or in-person. We can’t wait to welcome you this fall!

Luxury suite sponsorships are also available. Learn more online or email Michelle at

The Orpheum’s 2015-2016 Broadway Season is sponsored in part by Memphis Area Honda Dealers. View the brochure for the upcoming season below.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Spotlight: Young Performers Shine at the High School Musical Theatre Awards

Each spring it is the Orpheum’s honor to celebrate the talents of our region’s young performers and their tireless teachers. On April 20, we announced the nominees for this year’s High School Musical Theatre Awards, a performance and awards presentation showcasing students from 30 schools across the Mid-South. 

Now in its sixth year, the challenge presented to the HSMTA judges becomes increasingly difficult – our area’s gifted young thespians have made the competition even stiffer. Students vie for a number of acting, music, production, technical and management awards as well as overall production accolades during a show-stopping awards ceremony. 

In addition to the awards themselves, student nominees and representatives from all of the eligible productions put on a showcase of impressive musical numbers.  Joining them this year will be host Kyle Dean Massey, a veteran Broadway and television star. On Broadway, Massey has appeared as Wicked’s Fiyero, Next to Normal’s Gabe and as Pippin himself, and is a recurring character on ABC’s Nashville this season.

As you can imagine, an immense amount of work goes into bringing the HSMTAs to life each year, from the judges who attend performances from fall to spring to the students who come together for five days of intense rehearsals – not to mention the dedication of our own Orpheum education staff, which brings each piece of the puzzle together.

 “The HSMTAs foster a sense support and community,” said Lindsay Crosnes, manager of education and community programs. “Schools that would really never have interacted are now going to see each other’s shows.”

At this week’s Lead Actor/Lead Actress kickoff meeting, there was a definite sense of camaraderie as students from competing schools complimented one another on the performances they were nominated for. While the HSMTAs are a competition, it’s largely a friendly one. MacLean Mayers, last year’s Lead Actor winner and 2015 nominee, told the group of fellow nominees this week that the friendships he made last year are still going strong. 

Kyle Van Frank is nominated as a Lead Actor this year for his role as Robbie Hart in St. Benedict at Auburndale’s production of The Wedding Singer. As a former Supporting Actor nominee, the senior and Orpheum STAR Council member has now been a part of the HSMTAs for four years.

“I think it gives the schools something to look forward to, a goal, to build a community within the high schools and build a larger and stronger theatre community in the city in general,” he said. “I just think it’s a great opportunity in general for students to have the bigger theatres in town participate with high school students cause we don’t always get a lot of those opportunities.”

And those opportunities transcend the Mid-South for the winning Lead Actor and Lead Actress, who travel to New York City for the National High School Musical Theatre Awards ceremony. Look for a new blog post next week for the scoop on what happens at Nationals and MacLean Mayers’ insights as one of last year’s winners.

To see the entire list of 2015 nominees and learn more about the High School Musical Theatre Awards program, visit We’d love for you to join us May 11 as we celebrate the accomplishments of these students, schools and teachers over the past year. Learn more about the ceremony and get ticket information here.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Broadway Buzz: Assembling a Dream Team for Kinky Boots


Kinky Boots, the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, was created by a dream team of talented and original artists; pop icon Cyndi Lauper, who won a Tony for her infectious score, four-time Tony-winning librettist Harvey Fierstein, and director/choreographer Jerry Mitchell, who also took home a Tony for his dances. “Because we’re all different, we brought in what we know and we all worked together to make it right – to make you laugh and cry,” says Lauper.  “Harvey is such a good storyteller and so is Jerry.  They have a lot of heart and I feel very blessed to be among them.”

Based on an independent film inspired by true events, Kinky Boots tells the story of Charlie, the owner of a failing English shoe factory, teaming up with Lola, a drag artist, to serve a niche market – making sturdy boots for cross-dressers.  But a successful Broadway show
and, make no mistake, Kinky Boots is a huge hit is anything but a niche market – it needs to speak to a wide and diverse audience.  Jerry Mitchell says he knew the musical would speak to a lot of people, the moment he watched the film. “I got very emotionally caught up in the story of the fathers and the sons,” he says.  “And I thought, 'well that to me is the nucleus of something really strong,' because it’s a universal idea for us: how do we measure up in our fathers’ eyes?” 

That’s certainly the way producer Daryl Roth felt when she first saw the film at Sundance in 2006.  Within a year, she had optioned the musical rights and brought producer Hal Luftig on board. The two enlisted not only Mitchell, but playwright Harvey Fierstein, who says he was attracted to the intimate story at the center; the “bromance” between Charlie and Lola, a.k.a. Simon. “The real love story here is these two gentlemen who become friends,” says Fierstein. "And I thought it was a good opportunity to do this realistically.”  He was also attracted to the theme of self-acceptance, which translates not just to the two lead characters, but all the workers in the factory:  “It’s the human stories; that’s what theater’s for.”

Fierstein called Lauper, who he had known socially.  She was drawn to the project, as well: “It’s a story about an outsider.”   Lauper enthusiastically signed on and she, Fierstein and Mitchell began a four-and-a-half year creative odyssey to translate Kinky Boots to the stage. “I don’t keep track,” explains Mitchell. “Time to me is not the point.  Getting it right is the point.” 

Cyndi Lauper, who grew up listening to Rodgers + Hammerstein cast albums, took to writing for characters and dramatic situations, like a duck to water. “Everybody asks the question about pop songs and theater songs,” she says. “I just think that, in some ways, they’re very similar; and in other ways, they’re not.  You need to be economical; you have to say something simply.  And you have to have your story – a beginning, middle and end – because if the song goes nowhere, well, what are you talking about?”

Harvey Fierstein, a veteran of several musicals, including the smash hit La Cage aux Folles, gave Lauper an education in writing for the theater. “Her lessons were a lot of fun for me,” he says, “frustrating sometimes, but fun, on the other hand.”  In particular, he showed Lauper how to weave music and dialogue effectively, something she resisted at first.  Fierstein told her, “when it’s done right, you will never notice, but the show must move on.”  A perfect example is the elaborate and catchy opening sequence, “The Most Beautiful Thing in the World,” which they crafted with Jerry Mitchell.  Fierstein explains, “that tells the story of all the characters, in relationship to shoes.  Everyone in that opening number is defined by a pair of shoes and you know who they are.”

Although the show is mostly set in the workaday world of a shoe factory, the dream team wanted to create a sense of joy and uplift for the audience, in the way only a Broadway musical can do.  The first act finale, “Everybody Say Yeah,” is an explosion of energy.  Mitchell has the cast dancing on moving conveyor belts, which had been used to deliver shoes earlier in the musical.  “We had so much fun creating that number,” exclaims Mitchell, “because it is a celebration of making the first pair of kinky boots and everyone in the factory gets involved.” 

And the show’s final numbers, “Raise You Up/ Just Be” literally does that to the audience every night. “They’re standing up, cheering, dancing and singing,” says Jerry Mitchell. “And they don’t want to leave the theater!  That’s sort of a magical moment.  And then, when they do walk out of the theater, you know, they’re all abuzz.  That’s the kind of joy that is rare in a musical.”  

See the joyous musical born out of the famous collaboration live on stage May 19-24. Find more information and ticket details here.