Entertainment Thrives on Change and Competition


THE LITTLE MERMAID: Celebrity Attractions’ closes August with the Broadway touring production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” Aug. 29-Sept. 3.

Courtesy photo

Part of the show of show business is what happens off stage. The theatre world is complex and competitive, but there’s room under the tent for everyone.

The addition of casino entertainment has made its mark locally. The new Margaritaville theatre is large and awesome. The Joint at the Hard Rock continues to draw big-name acts, and Osage Casino plans to expand. Instead of worrying about who is on top, I like to think that a confluence of activity creates excitement and converts people from side-liners to ticket buyers.

I believed that when the Center opened down the street from the in 2005, and when the Broken Arrow school system built its performing arts center several years ago, helmed by Mark Frie. A trained singer and actor, Frie put aside his stage career to devote himself to arts administration, while occasionally stepping back into the spotlight. You may have seen him onstage at the as Jean Valjean in “Les Misérables” or as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof.” Frie is now the new director of the Tulsa , filling the slot held by my former boss John Scott, who was Director for nearly 30 years.

John retired in June, as did Ed Payton, the of Celebrity Attractions. Going forward, “Bringing the Best of Broadway” to Tulsa will be the responsibility of a team led by the most capable Kristin Dotson (see article on page B2). Founded by our dear friend Larry Payton, Celebrity Attractions is in skillful hands with Dotson and her team. This is a new era in the arts filled with thrilling potential. And, yes, “Hamilton” is coming to Tulsa!

Celebrity caps the summer season at the with Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” Aug. 29 – Sept. 3. This is the Broadway touring show based on Hans Christian Andersen’s stories, with all those memorable tunes written by Alan Menken. Earlier in the month at the , catch Theatre Tulsa’s staging of the musical “Ragtime,” derived from the E. L. Doctorow novel about three groups of early 20th century Americans and their struggles, Aug. 18-Sept. 3.

Working backwards through the calendar, you will want to check out the last performances of Choregus Productions’ Summerheat International Dance Festival on Aug. 6 with Brian Brooks’ “Wilderness.” Brooks was one of the four choreographers who joined dance-world star Wendy Whelan on her “Restless Creature” tour last year and made a stop in Tulsa. Switzerland’s Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève performs “Glory,” Aug. 1. This work was the piece that attracted Choregus chief Ken Tracy to the group initially. Choreographed by Andonis Foniadakis, “Glory” is set to the Baroque music of Handel.

Without a doubt, singer/songwriter and guitarist Ed Sheeran’s Aug. 17 concert at the Center is the hottest ticket in town during August. There’s not one ticket left. I checked! He hauled off a wheelbarrow of Grammys last year and now has a second album with popular cuts like “The Shape of You.” He’s an entertaining performer and a prolific songwriter. This wily, red-headed young singer leans to the wild side and is loaded with charisma and talent.

The Hard Rock knows its audience. Traditional country singer Clint Black appears Aug. 5; Air Supply (“All Out of Love”) takes the stage Aug. 10. Dedicated to true country, Aaron Lewis lands in town Aug. 17, and Stephen Tyler and the Loving Mary band performs at The Joint Aug. 29. Lewis, who once fronted the rock group Staind, had the No. 1 country album in 2016 with “Sinner.” Tyler’s concert tours are a blend of Aerosmith music, solo material and a Beatles’ cover or two. He is joined by a Nashville-based sextet.

The Brady Theatre welcomes comedian Sinbad Aug. 19 and blues guitarist and singer Buddy Guy Aug. 29. For more comedy and blast-from-the-past entertainment, check out the reunited concert tour featuring Lindsey Buckingham and Christina McVie, formerly with Fleetwood Mac on Aug. 5, and comic Ralphie May Aug.18, both at River Spirit.

My inclination to see Ed Sheeran at the height of his career is matched by my plan to attend several outstanding acts slated for Cain’s Ballroom this month. I’m not a big country fan, but Jason Isbell (Aug. 22) is something special. Isbell’s storytelling capability has a lot in common with one of my faves, John Prine. Isbell writes thoughtful, reflective songs that draw you down a lane of ragged emotion. He and his band, 400 Units, are touring with a new album, The Nashville Sound, which includes a heart-wrenching song, “If We Were Vampires,” about a couple so much in love that they can hardly bear the realities of one dying first. I’m also loving City and Colour: coming to Cain’s Aug. 24, featuring singer/songwriter Dallas Green who has a voice people have referred to as “soulful falsetto” or “soothing soprano.”

And then there is Ben Folds at Cain’s Aug. 28 as part of his “Paper Airplane Request Tour.” Folds is a master keyboardist along with being a genius. I liked reading about how he collaborated with writer Neil Gaiman and Gaiman’s wife, singer Amanda Palmer, on a song-writing project. Folds has been married four times and admits that perhaps marriage is not for him. At the show, you can give him marriage advice or, better yet, request songs by sending them sailing to the stage in paper airplanes. Folds was recently named the first ever artistic advisor to the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center.

The show does go on and change keeps things interesting. I’m ready for the regular performing arts season to begin again next month. I hope you will join me in exploring the exciting year ahead.

Updated 07-24-2017

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