Friday, March 7, 2014
WAR HORSE is a remarkable story of courage, loyalty, and friendship between a boy and his beloved horse Joey. The tale began as a children's book of the same name by Michael Morpurgo and eventually became an Academy Award nominated movie by Steven Spielberg. Relatively few stories have enjoyed the trifecta of entertainment outlets like WAR HORSE has, but neither page nor screen quite captures the remarkable character of Joey like that of the stage.
In the play, produced by London's National Theatre, Joey the War Horse is portrayed by a puppet - not the Jim Henson type, the Handspring Puppet Company type. Handspring has taken the art of puppetry to a whole new level, and they saved some of their best creative juices to make Joey.
It takes three puppeteers to bring Joey to life: the Head, the Heart, and the Hind. Each puppeteer is responsible for what they call "an emotional indicator." For example, the Head puppeteer operates Joey's entire head, but the emotional indicator is the ears. When Joey is interested in something, his ears perk forward. When he's frustrated or angry, he'll pin them back. These emotional indicators help Joey communicate with the audience without words.
Still, one of the most impressive aspects of Joey is that he breathes. This has practically become a trademark for Handspring Puppet Company. They know that the believability of any puppet lies in its breath, and Joey's breathing makes him so real that he will have you eating out of his hoof within the first five minutes. Or rather, he'll be eating out of your hand (he's a fan of sugar cubes). Each of the three puppeteers work together to create Joey's breathing. He snorts, he huffs, he gasps, and he heaves with the power of three men, the same amount of lung capacity that a real horse has.
When all of these elements come together you have a living, breathing, life-sized horse. Joey perfectly balances artistic creativity with the audience's imagination. As if that wasn't enough, Joey has a heartwarming story to tell that the whole family will enjoy!
Check out our YouTube playlist for WAR HORSE and see Joey in action.
WAR HORSE plays at The Orpheum Theatre March 25 - 30, 2014. Recommended for ages 10 and up.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
The other day, I was reminiscing about my time as President of The Orpheum Theatre. I was trying to remember all that has happened in the past 33 years, all that time spent in the same office with the same responsibilities.
When you get to my age you need a lot of help finding the facts - the accuracies of the memories. But even with the haze of memory lane, I know I've been incredibly fortunate. How many people can say they have dined with the legendary Cary Grant? How many can say that they've worked with Gregory Peck, Tony Bennett, Yul Brenner, Jerry Seinfeld, Carol Channing, Tom Petty, Jay Leno, or Johnny Mathis?
I could go on dropping names, but the fact of this is that they didn’t come to Memphis to see me. They came to Main and Beale to perform for you at the iconic Orpheum Theatre. Thirty-three years into my career at the Orpheum and I can’t recall all of the fabulous shows, the great people, or the special events, but I do know this: with the recent run of WICKED, the Orpheum and the Memphis Development Foundation have welcomed approximately 275 Broadway engagements to Memphis, equaling over 2,000 performances. I am very proud of those numbers.
The Orpheum is fortunate to have a staff of very talented individuals with an exemplary commitment to detail in everything we do. They make me look good. We are honored to have a fantastic Board of Directors that is immensely generous with their time and financial support, hundreds of dedicated FOTO volunteers, and last but not least the generous sponsors, donors and patrons that allow us to keep moving forward with success.
The great memories certainly pile up after 33 years, and you have helped make them possible. Thank you!
Orpheum President and CEO
Monday, February 17, 2014
WAR HORSE - the Orpheum's next Broadway production performing March 25 through 30 - is a stage presentation like no other. The play follows the heart-warming story of a boy, Albert, and his horse Joey. When these two friends are separated by World War I, each goes on the adventure of his life in order to reunite.
Originally a book by Michael Morpurgo, WAR HORSE was later made into a Broadway play that had a very successful run at the Lincoln Centre in New York, winning five Tony Awards, including Best Play. Lastly, this captivating story story was picked up by director and producer Stephen Spielberg, and the resulting film was nominated for six Academy Awards. Now this magnificent production is touring the country, and it will make its Memphis premier at the Orpheum Theatre.
Absolutely everyone should see this magical production. It is astounding. This drama takes audiences on a historical journey with a level of creativity that, arguably, we haven't seen since PETER PAN and THE LION KING. Joey the War Horse isn't a real horse of course, but this life-sized puppet will have you in complete awe. From the moment you see Joey for the first time, your imagination will have you convinced that Joey could have been a Kentucky Derby contender. But don't take my word for it. You have to see Joey for yourself in order to fully understand how amazing Joey - and this is incredible show - really is!
Orpheum President and CEO
Friday, January 31, 2014
The idea for the Orpheum Centre for Performing Arts and Education - a free-standing, 40,000 square-foot, two-story building - started very simply as the brainchild of our VP of Community and Education Alice Roberts.
She came to me with the suggestion of purchasing a building on South Main that was for sale at a modest cost. We needed space for our growing 19 education programs, which currently serves almost 60,000 students annually. When the Orpheum was built in 1928, it was never taken into consideration that it would one day offer such expansive education programs. The theatre was simply not designed to comfortably house them.
Classes are currently being held in the lobby which, because of scheduled public events and performances, keeps the Education Department from being able to offer as many classes as it needs to meet demand. Additionally, the lobby space isn't helpful for teaching some aspects of the arts. For example, the lobby's heavy carpeting can hinder students who are learning dance techniques from a teaching artist. Potentially life-changing educational experiences have in many ways been hindered by the space we currently have.
The more we looked at vacant buildings in Downtown Memphis, the more we realized that all of our options were just too far from the iconic Orpheum – the building that inspired so many of the students we serve.
We started looking at the space surrounding the theatre, and the parking lot immediately next to the Orpheum quickly became a target. It was beside the theatre, it was large enough for the Education Department's needs, and the owners were willing to sell. Needless to say, the Memphis Development Foundation purchased the parking lot, and planning for the Orpheum Centre for Performing Arts and Education went underway in full force!
Of course, it wasn’t easy getting everyone on board for a building with a $14.5 million price tag. But we got it done, and we are forever grateful for the many people who believed in this project from the very beginning.
Plans are nearing completion for an anticipated groundbreaking on March 18, 2014, but this project is by no means finished. Currently, we are just shy of having raised $10 million of our $14.5 million goal. There is still a lot to be done, but our confidence is high and new and existing supporters continue to rally around this extremely positive and important project that will continue to serve the Mid-South for generations to come.
Orpheum President and CEO
Thursday, January 23, 2014
|Jennifer DiNoia in Wicked. Photo by Joan Marcus.|
During its three-week run, the Orpheum expects to sell out every single performance, which could be as many seats as it would take to fill the FedEx Forum... three times! The good news is that there are still good seats available. The bad news is that tickets are going fast, so don't wait until the last minute to see this fantastic show.
This isn't as much a marketing ploy as it is a testament to how important blockbusters are to the Orpheum and to Memphis. A percentage of the tens of thousands of people that will see WICKED will also stay in Memphis hotels and eat at Memphis restaurants before and after the show. Those who decide to turn their WICKED experience into a long weekend will probably opt to see what else Memphis has to offer such as Graceland, Beale Street, and the Memphis Zoo.
The other blockbusters in recent memory include THE LION KING, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, and the forthcoming BOOK OF MORMON, which sells out wherever and whenever it performs.
Not many shows make it to this level of success, and the entire Mid-South is fortunate that all of these and more have performed at and continue to come to the Orpheum. In turn, the Orpheum is fortunate and very thankful that its patrons support its blockbuster shows!
Orpheum President and CEO
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
I have said many times that this acclaimed musical is one of the best and most unique public relations opportunities that our city has seen in a long time - if not ever.
Tens of thousands or even millions of people, not just in Great Britain but from all of Europe, will learn about Memphis' musical heritage and about our history.
As most of you know, the musical tells the story of a Memphis disc jockey who introduced "black music" to a white audience at a time when the prejudices of the past were very much in place.
Huey Calhoun, the DJ in the musical, is loosely based on real-life Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips, who made a name for himself in the 1950s.
We'll soon get more information about which East End theatre will house MEMPHIS, so stay tuned for more news about this exciting London engagement.
President and CEO
Thursday, December 19, 2013
The next Broadway show in our lineup, WICKED, is commonly called a “blockbuster.” There aren't many blockbuster shows out there. Only a small number of musicals can sell every seat from New York to Des Moines to Portland and down to San Antonio. PHANTOM, JERSEY BOYS, and LES MISERABLES are some examples of the half dozen or so productions that do well on Broadway and “on the road,” touring the country and sometimes even internationally.
These shows usually slow down after a few good years on Broadway and a trip or two around the touring hotspots, but every now and then a blockbuster takes on a life of its own. WICKED is a perfect example. This show, which just celebrated a decade on Broadway, prides itself on selling out every performance of the eight touring productions currently taking place all over the world. It is one musical that every theatre, the Orpheum included, wants as often as it can book it – taking into consideration, of course, that we don't "burn out" our audience.
Close on the heels of WICKED is another notable blockbuster: Disney’s THE LION KING. Both WICKED and THE LION KING are the godsends of any season ticket package.
We are very fortunate to have WICKED as our next Broadway show and the first for the new year. It will be here for three weeks. It's hard to believe that in that time, our 2,450-seat theatre will amass almost 60,000 patrons coming from all over the Mid-South to see this spectacular show. 60,000 – that is the equivalent of filling the FedEx Forum three times. Imagine three sellout nights at the Forum. I think it would take a rare superstar to sell 60,000 seats in Memphis. And WICKED is that rare superstar!
Tickets are selling fast at the rate of over 600 per day, and the show doesn’t open until January 29th – more than five weeks from now. When this musical has come and gone, I will start to look at when we can welcome WICKED back to the Orpheum a few years down the road. And then I will start to wonder when THE LION KING will once again parade down the aisles of the South’s most beautiful Theatre.
Orpheum President and CEO