One of the oldest community theaters in the country, Theatre Memphis has been putting on high-quality productions for 90 years. The 2010–2011 season features six highly acclaimed plays and musicals fit for auditory and sensory feasting. Tony Award nominee for Best Book of a Musical, [title of show] (January 14–30), is a love letter to the musical theater that follows two struggling writers in a race to craft an entry to a musical theater festival. Amadeus (February 4–20) traces Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as he rises to become the number one ranked composer in the eyes of Austrian Emperor Josef. March 11–April 3, the stage and its reddest curtains dance to Cabaret, along with a charmingly carefree nightclub performer. Richard III, the third in William Shakespeare’s acclaimed three-part Richard series, appears April 8–24, preparing the stage for Picnic (April 29–May 15) and Crazy for You (June 3–26).
The Memphis Symphony Orchestra has been breaking strings and the hearts of screaming fans since its inception in 1952. This year, the orchestra will once again resonate throughout the elegantly crafted Cannon Center, sending seasonal shivers down the tickled spines of all audience members. The Home for the Holidays performance includes vocal joys from soprano Ashley Brown, best known for her portrayal of Mary Poppins on Broadway, in addition to a medley of carol-worthy classics performed by the Memphis Symphony Chorus and the University of Memphis Concert Singers. The evening's combination of power and cheer will cause many to be moved to tears, which will likely form puddles in the theater, making exiting nearly impossible without an inflatable raft.
Levitt Shell, a performing-arts hub in historic Overton Park, celebrates 75 years of hosting memorable music performances with its Sunset Soiree. A large lineup of more than 15 musical acts showcases a wide range of sonic genres, and includes folk singer Sid Selvidge and Kelley Hurt, a jazz vocalist known for lending her sultry pipes to "Coulda Woulda Shoulda" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins and several GPS receivers. Attendees open their ears for soothing serenades while lounging on the open lawn, and, like 4th of July picnics and Bruce Willis movies, the evening ends with a fireworks display. All proceeds from the event benefit Levitt Shell.
Providing a stage for bands of roaming musicians to ply their melodic wares, Hi-Tone Café also feeds hordes of Memphis's hungry with its wide-ranging menu. Start things off with a Middle Eastern staple, hummus and a handmade pita ($4), or go for the gustatory gold of upstate New York with nine hot wings plus celery and carrots ($7). Six-ounce burgers ($6) use beef from local Neola Farms, except for the handmade veggie burger, which eschews meats both domestic and foreign for oats, veggies, soy, and sesame. The New York–style cheese pizza (slice $2.50/small $9.50/large $12.50) pays homage to sewer-dwelling, martial-arts-competent teenage reptiles whose genetic mutations make pizza their only digestible option, while eclectic topping posses grace the varied house specialty pizzas (slice $4/small $13/large $16). The barbecue pizza puts grilled chicken or pulled pork in barbecue sauce instead of marinara, and the Greek pie is comprised of eggplant, artichoke, roasted red peppers, and feta cheese. Toppings ($.50 per topping for a slice/$1 per topping for a small/ $2 per topping for a large) such as bacon and Roma tomato can be annexed and terminated at will, unlike tenancy on Russia's first mandatory moon colony.
Theater should inspire wonderment. That's the view at Tennessee Shakespeare Company, an artistic organization dedicated to bringing new life to William Shakespeare's words. Each of its productions aims to burrow beneath the play's familiar surface, finding deeper explorations into psychology, government, and philosophy. This approach brings new life to the timeless works—TSC's Macbeth, for instance, highlighted the civilian cost of civil war, while an all-female Julius Caesar embodied "a bold new way to look at honor, womanhood, and power," according to The Commercial Appeal. That same sense of exploration is extended to contemporary pieces. Once a year, the company members hang up their iambic pentameters to produce the Southern Exposure festival featuring new works from the region.
Canada's Classical Theatre Project shatters modern preconceptions about the dryness of Shakespeare by infusing the romantic tragedy of Romeo and Juliet with a potency and youthful electricity that snuffs reluctance in the Bard-averse. On an inventive chalk-circle set, the Toronto players whisk viewers to an Elizabethan marketplace in the 16th century, engaging the imagination without relying on cumbersome stage props. Hearts melt as Romeo, the Montague, and Juliet, the Capulet, fall in love against the odds, sweeping the audience along on their way to ghost prom. Shakespeare’s colloquies come naturally from the mouths of the virile acting talents, who translate the text for this generation’s ears without changing a word. Classical Theatre Project's rendition of Romeo and Juliet, intended for ages 11 and older, treats Shakespeare's tragedy like a rock concert, except with better enunciation and a higher mortality rate. A surviving artifact established in 1890, the historic and lovingly restored Orpheum Theatre adds majesty to the performance with its brocade draperies and crystal chandeliers.