Blog Archives

‘Spelling Bee’ makes awkward pretty cool

Charming, engaging and laced with a whole lotta awkward, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre allows the chance to look back at the junior high years from a different — and much funnier — perspective.

Although dealing with a group of competitive youngsters can be challenging, the glue that keeps the bee together is Rona Lisa Peretti (Andi Watson), the ladylike, peppy but nostalgic spelling bee announcer who encourages every child while reminiscing on her own champion days. Vice Principal Douglas Panch (Scott McLean Harrison) obviously struggles to be taken seriously, but the character’s delivery of improvised lines and hilariously crafted one-liners is not to be missed.

Patrick Halley as William Morris Barfee

Patrick Halley as William Morris Barfee

Most of the bee’s participants are outcasts at their own schools but manage to form relationships of some sort at the competition. But since the production relies heavily on improv, the musical gets added hilarity when volunteer audience members join the cast — some spelling words as simple as “cow,” and others spelling more difficult terms I wouldn’t dare attempt in front of a live audience.

Character Olive Ostrovsky (Conly Basham), luckily, comes into the bee with her best friend, the … Read more >

Quick Picks: ‘Spelling Bee,’ Senior Expo, more

Tommy Martinez as Chip Tolentino in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Tommy Martinez as Chip Tolentino in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee


W.O.W.APALOOZA returns to support Women’s Own Worth, an organization that offers financial support, therapy and programs to those affected by domestic violence and other violent crimes. The fundraiser — which includes drinks, dinner and a silent auction — takes place at the Governor’s Mansion from 6-8 p.m. Tickets are $50.


The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee opens at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre at 8 p.m. The Tony Award-winning comedic musical follows junior high students on the cutthroat quest of becoming a spelling bee champion while dealing with the nuances of adolescence. Opening night includes a post-show reception with champagne and hors d’oeuvres. Tickets are $30-$55.


Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art opens to the public at the Arkansas Arts Center. The exhibit features 93 works of modern and contemporary Latino art provided by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. The Arts Center is open 10 a.m to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.


The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Senior Expo takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Statehouse Convention Center. … Read more >

‘Spelling Bee’ misfits take stage at The Rep

Submitted Photo

Submitted Photo

Sixth grade is making a W-O-R-D-Y comeback.

Beginning Friday, cutthroat middle school students will compete for the spelling bee title when Tony Award-winning musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee opens at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre, reminding audiences of the quirks and nuances that come with growing up.

For the bee’s youngest competitor, Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre, the spelling bee is about taking part in healthy competition — and winning.

“Some of these characters are maybe thrown in there by their parents or do this every year, or maybe they’re the type of kid that competes in spelling but also plays softball and also plays basketball and takes art classes,” says Tessa Faye, who plays Logainne. “[For] my character, Logainne, this is an academic competition, and she’s there to win.”

Chip Tolentino is the previous year’s champion who comes from a very supportive background, but this time around throws him for a loop when he experiences “some of the changes that occur as you grow into manhood,” says Tommy Martinez, who plays Chip.

For other students, awkward moments kicked in a lot earlier.

William Morris Barfee (pronounced “bar-fay”) wears huge glasses, a middle part, has lots of sweat and … Read more >

Quick Picks: South Main Vintage Market, Shakespeare at the Shelter, more

Tammy Caple, of Benton, works on setting up her booth at the South Main Vintage Market at Bernice Garden in August 2014. | Arkansas Democrat-Gazette file photo

Tammy Caple, of Benton, works on setting up her booth at the South Main Vintage Market at Bernice Garden in August 2014. | Arkansas Democrat-Gazette file photo


Our House holds its fourth annual Shakespeare at the Shelter on Friday and Saturday from 7:30-8:30 p.m. The project brings together Our House clients, alumni and staff to study the works of William Shakespeare in order to practice skills beneficial in the workforce, such as confidence and teamwork. Tickets are $20 and will benefit the shelter’s kitchen and learning center.


Arkansas Sounds presents The John Bush Quitent at 7 p.m. at the Ron Robinson Theater. Little Rock native John Bush is a saxophonist who, along with his band, plays jazz music inspired by his upbringing. The band’s music has been compared to other Arkansas jazz artists such as Louis Jordan and Pharoah Sanders. Tickets are $10.


South Main Vintage Market sets up shop at The Bernice Garden for another market filled with unique vintage and antique items from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Vintage items are at least 20 years old, and antique items are at least 50 years old. The market will also sell “upcycled” items, made from … Read more >

Quick Picks: Little Rock Fashion Week, Steak Cook-Off Championship, more

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette file photo (2014)

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette file photo (2014)


Little Rock Fashion Week, which began July 13, continues events until Saturday. Some are free, such as Wednesday’s Beyond the Runway, a panel discussion providing a behind-the-scenes perspective of Little Rock Fashion Week at the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library. The event closes Saturday with Big Night, a feature of fall-winter clothing, at 8 p.m. between Fourth Street and Capitol Avenue. Tickets are $60, and the dress code is red cocktail attire.


Comedian Julie Scoggins visits Little Rock for a four-night performance at The Loony Bin Comedy Club. Scoggins has toured for more than 15 years and can be heard on various syndicated radio shows. She performs at 7:30 p.m. each day, with 10 p.m. performances on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $7 on Wednesday and Thursday and $10 on Friday and Saturday.


Arkansas Sounds presents Iron Tongue and Adam Faucett & the Tall Grass at 7 p.m. at theRon Robinson Theater. The two groups will pair for an evening that will show off their talents, which include rock, blues and more. Tickets are $10.


The Arkansas Steak Cook-Off Championship takes place from 1-10 p.m. … Read more >

Ron Robinson Theater announces summer, fall/winter 2015 movie schedule

The Ron Robinson Theater has revealed its summer and fall/winter movie lineups, which offers 29 screenings that range from family friendly, comedy, horror, adventure and more. Some screenings honor important dates related to the film, such as Back to the Future on Oct. 21, which shows on the date lead character Marty McFly used the DeLorean time machine to travel to the future, and a week-long showing of all eight Harry Potter films to recognize Potter’s July 31 birthday (there will also be Harry Potter-themed concessions).

Tickets for the showings are $5 each, except for Harry Potter showings, which cost $7 each or $25 for an eight-movie pass.

Beer and wine will be available for all screenings scheduled after 5 p.m.

Summer 2015

Read more >

Sherwood’s Katie McGowan, Matt O’Baugh star in ‘Ink Master’

Matt O'Baugh & Katie McGowan of Black Cobra Tattoos in Sherwood| Courtesy of Spike TV

Matt O’Baugh & Katie McGowan of Black Cobra Tattoos in Sherwood | Courtesy of Spike TV

Two native Sherwood tattoo artists will soon put central Arkansas on the ink-filled map.

Katie McGowan and Matt O’Baugh, of Black Cobra Tattoos, will star in season six of Spike TV’s Ink Master, a reality-TV competition that pits 18 tattoo artists against one another until one winner is crowned and takes home the $100,000 prize. Ink Master‘s new season premieres tonight at 9 p.m.

And this season, it’s master vs. apprentice.

Not only will each competitor have to face the other artists from across the country, they have to rival against someone from their own shop, too.

O’Baugh, owner of Black Cobra Tattoos, has been a tattoo artist for 14 years. Aside from being an award-winning artist, he also has experience as a blacksmith and knife maker. O’Baugh prides himself on his versatility, as he has been known to create tattoos that range from darker, dramatic works to more colorful and majestic portraits. View his work here.

McGowan, O’Baugh’s apprentice, has been a tattoo artist for five years. Her works are colorful, bold and have also won her various awards. She … Read more >

Quick Picks: Czech That Film Festival, Mini Comic Con, more

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette file photo

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette file photo


Little Rock’s Movies in the Park kicks off its 2015 lineup with a screening of Divergent at sunset (approximately 8:18 p.m.) at the First Security Amphitheater. The 2014 sci-fi film follows Tris (Shailene Woodley), a teenager who discovers she is considered a member of a targeted faction of society and embarks on a quest to learn more. The event is free to the public.


Get acquainted with the world of gin and tonics at the Gin & Tonic with David Burnette class at Eggshells Kitchen Co. from 6-8 p.m. Burnette is the bar manager at South on Main, a SoMa restaurant known for its inventive menu options. Registration for the class is $50, which covers all drinks and light snacks. For more information, click here.


The Czech That Film Festival will set up in Little Rock to present five films made in the Czech Republic at Ron Robinson Theater. The event begins with a 7 p.m. showing of Clownwise on Friday, with four other films to be screened Saturday. Czech actress Eva Jenickova, who has a role in Clownwise and other notable Czech projects, will be present. The festival is … Read more >

Quick Picks: Ralphie May, Feast in the Field, more




Comedian Ralphie May is set to perform at Rev Room at 7:30 p.m. May’s comedy special, Ralphie May: Unruly, debuted on Netflix on Feb. 27 and was filmed at Atlanta’s Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center. Tickets for the 18-and-up show are $20, and seating will be limited on a first-come basis. Tickets will benefit the family of Sonny Smith, a Johnson County reserve sherrif’s deputy who was shot and killed during a burglary investigation. May grew up in the Johnson County town of Clarksville. Click here to purchase tickets.


In honor of Foster Care Awareness Month, the Centers for Youth and Families will present a free screenning of ReMoved at the Chenal 9 Imax at 6:30 p.m. The independent film depicts the life of a 10-year-old girl and her experiences in the foster care system after her removal from her home and separation from her brother. According to the center’s website, the screening is aimed to educate others on foster care and create connections to build healthier families. For more information, visit the organization’s website here.


The Central Arkansas Library System ends its winter-spring lineup of films at the Ron Robinson Theater with a … Read more >

Spotlight on Little Rock Film Festival shorts: The Other Side

For partners Kate and Abby, getting to the other side is one bullet-ridden game of chicken.

The Other Side, a 20-minute short dark comedy directed and written by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Scott Brown, follows a young couple that discovers the victim of their failed burial job, Ethan (Brandon Bales), is actually a survivor, emerging from a body bag that was thrown in the desert to find his chance at survival is in the couple’s hands. But the three come across bigger life-and-death circumstances when they are faced with an unexpected confrontation with a gang of bigoted meth heads.

The Other Side took off on the festival circuit in March when it premiered at the Taos Shortz Film Fest in Taos, New Mexico, where it was awarded People’s Choice Honorable Mention.

Filmed in the scorching temperatures of a Palmdale, California, desert, the short begins with Kate (DeDe Drake) and Abby (Lidiya Korotko) on the open road exploring the dark side to the age-old joke, “Why did the chicken cross the road?” But it’s learned that Abby actually longs to reach a more fulfilling side of her relationship with Kate.

The characters of Kate and Abby, which each had hundreds … Read more >

2015 Movies in the Park season announced

89A5095D-8EF9-4B83-A018-F1F82FE5C3E8Little Rock’s annual Movies in the Park makes its return in June to kick off its 11th season, the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau announced via news release May 11. Through July, a mix of classic and recent movies — including romantic comedies, action flicks and family-friendly films — will show each Wednesday at sundown at the First Security Amphitheater in the River Market District, and picnics and pets are welcome.

The amphitheater will open an hour before films begin.

The 2015 schedule is as follows:

Learn more about Movies in the Park here.… Read more >

Quick Picks: Weekend studded with theatrical openings, Home Show

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette file photo

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette file photo


The Central Arkansas Library System presents The Godfather at Ron Robinson Theater at 7 p.m. Admission is $5.


Celebrity Attractions presents Camelot at the Maumelle Performing Arts Center for just four performances. Shows are 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday, and tickets are $42-$68.50 and available through Ticketmaster.


The hills are alive at The Weekend Theater with The Sound of Music — that much-loved musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein about Maria and the von Trapp family. The production opens Friday and continues on the weekends through March 1 with a couple of additional Thursday dates.


The Community Theatre of Little Rock opens Rehearsal for Murder at The Studio Theatre on Friday. This murder mystery was adapted from a 1982 TV film about a playwright left heartbroken after the supposed suicide of his fiance on the night of her Broadway debut. Performances continue on weekends through March 1.


The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra presents Dancing & Romancing at the Connor Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $19-$58.


The Home Builders Association of Greater Little Rock hosts the 63rd … Read more >

Syd Hayman is a beauty, entertainment and pop culture fanatic who enjoys trying different metro restaurants that satisfy picky eaters. Tweet her at @TheSydRichi.