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First things first, so as not to bury the lede: The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain, though on Tuesday night it rained everywhere it pleased in Middle Tennessee. Thankfully, it remained dry inside TPAC's Jackson Hall where the stunning Lincoln Center Theatre revival of Lerner and Loewe's My Fair Lady opened for its Nashville run. And, man oh man, is it a loverly night in the theatre.
When it comes to taking classic American musicals and reinventing them for contemporary audiences, no one does it like Lincoln Center Theatre. Since their 1994 revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel, they've more or less owned the game. In some cases, it's delicate resculpting to highlight different moments or themes. In others, it's CPR and putting the paddles and clearing the room. My Fair Lady hews closer to the former. With minor injections of lines and sentiments from George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, the play upon which the musical is based, she's still the same Eliza Doolittle, but with a bit more steel in her spine.
All this is thanks to one man. In another generation, perhaps the one in which Frederick Loewe and Alan Jay Lerner created My Fair Lady, the name of director Bartlett Sher would be known in households across the nation. Families would be gathered in front of the television to watch the Ed Sullivan Show on CBS and they'd witness a young English actress named Julie Andrews singing songs from a smash Broadway musical that was the toast of the town. The man behind the magic would be introduced to the studio audience as one of the most electrifying and insightful directors of the past fifteen years, an auteur whose work on Broadway and in opera houses around the world was exciting and heartbreaking all at the same time.
Yet, in 2020, Sher's work is known but to those devotees of the live theatre and doesn't carry the cache once accorded to names like Jerome Robinson, Hal Prince, and Gower Champion. But the director behind such incredible Lincoln Center Theatre musicals as The Light in the Piazza (2005) and the breathtaking 2008 revival of South Pacific and the 2015 revival of The King and I has made a name for himself in both pioneering new works and reimagining classics.
Such is the case with his 2018 revival of My Fair Lady, the smash 1956 musical that made Julie Andrews a star. It takes a certain amount of balls to try and unearth new content with the classics, to be honest. When you have both a film (the classic, yet so-so 1964 adaptation starring Audrey Hepburn (and dubbed by Marni Nixon) and Rex Harrison) and a very living Julie Andrews who created the role and recorded it twice, once in monoaural for Broadway and later in stereo for London, re-thinking My Fair Lady requires a little chutzpah.
Sher's glorious revival of My Fair Lady takes material well-known to just about everyone and vividly restores it, taking the classic off the wall and cleaning it up to reveal the underlying vitality found in Shaw's original play. Most of us are familiar with Audrey Hepburn's lithe, spirited, but mostly well-behaved Eliza from the film. In the end, she comes back, just as Rex Harrison expects her to. She is largely worn by her costumes, frothy confections by Cecil Beaton, rather than the other way around. And the story's context just sort of feels out of touch for our era.
Enter Shereen Ahmed. No shrinking violet she (ha... inside joke), Ahmed's Eliza Doolittle is a cunning creature who knows a chance when she sees it. There's a fearlessness she builds into her Eliza that is thrilling. It may, at first, seem like innocence or ignorance, but Ahmed's Eliza gambles and wins. Clad for battle in Catherine Zuber's elegant couture designs, Ahmed goes round for round with Professor Higgins and emerges, in the end, a lady. Ahmed's creamy soprano weaves beautifully around the Cockney-accented songs and emerges with a silvery purity with Eliza's ladylike voice in "I Could Have Danced All Night." It's clear that Ahmed should become a force within musical theatre. If she can handle this score eight performances a week, she should be set.
And then there's her Higgins. Allow me, if you will, to journey back to the Summer of 1995. I was barely 13 the first time I ventured to Toronto and saw Laird Mackintosh as Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera at the Pantages Theatre. It was my first real musical and Mackintosh played the dashing young Vicomte, Christine's lover. There's something immensely emotionally satisfying in coming full-circle with an actor and Mackintosh's Henry Higgins is smashing. Instead of Rex Harrison's talk-sing approach to the role, Mackintosh is able to balance his gorgeous voice against the talk patter the role is written for. Yet it's his emotional vulnerability that sets him apart from Harrison's original. Mackintosh's Higgins is transparent: a man-child unable to juxtapose love into the life of his confirmed old bachelor.
In the scenes the two share, and there are many of them, the evolution of their relationship is clearer in Sher's production than perhaps ever before. As she finds her spine, his is all but lost, leaving him blubbering for mother (a splendid Leslie Alexander). Kevin Pariseau's Colonel Pickering feels somehow underutilized. The character is, for the most part, window dressing, or perhaps a humanizing veneer against Higgins' early patterns. But after his chauvenistic mutual admiration society number with Higgins, "You Did It," he's all but done.
Without Eliza's father, Alfred P. Doolittle, the comedic bubble would be burst and My Fair Lady would be a rather dour affair at three hours long. But thank goodness there's Adam Grupper playing Doolittle, the most original moralist in England. He sends his numbers, "With a Little Bit of Luck" and "Get Me to the Church On Time" all the way to the very back row of Jackson Hall. The latter, reconceived as an Edwardian Music Hall number, is a real showstopper.
Not to diminish the show's human stars in any way, but Michael Yeargan's set is one of the most impressive we've seen this season at TPAC. In some moments, the look is painterly with the emotive colors of J.M.W. Turner. And then reality presses through impression with Higgins' London townhouse emerging from behind a scrim, gliding forward in near full scale. Reimagined for a proscenium stage instead of the Vivian Beaumont Theatre's thrust-stage configuration, the set still does other tricks that I'd prefer to let you be surprised by when you get to see it happen in person.
If there is a "But..." to be had, it's a small one. While fifteen musicians in the pit is high for a lot of road tours, compared to the twenty-nine who played the original Robert Russell Bennett orchestrations at the Beaumont, the lush sound you're expecting sometimes feels a little thin. Que sera sera... the score is still gorgeous and the show's overture one of the most thrilling ever to be played in the theatre. With a big beautiful ensemble numbering 33 actors onstage, you're treated to visual splendor at every turn.
My Fair Lady is often called one of the "perfect" musicals. Created in the Golden Age of the American musical, it balances a witty book with songs worth their weight in gold. And, though it's a hard claim to make, this may be as close to the perfect production of the show as you'll ever see. It's a big show, boldly staged, beautiful to look at, and has more talent per square inch than that 40-foot stage deck can hold.
My Fair Lady plays TPAC's Jackson Hall through Sunday. Tickets are available at TPAC.org.
Read more by O&AN's Will here.
For those with a thirst to celebrate, Red Bull Unlocked is the key. In city after city, the most exciting bars, clubs, mixologists, performing artists, and more take over a local landmark building to showcase their signature ambiance while also collaborating for a must-see mashup. And now it's Music City’s turn to seize the spotlight, as the event brings 10 bars together in East Nashville’s Five Points neighborhood.
Fueled by the best of Nashville’s thriving music scene, Red Bull Unlocked has curated an eclectic night of show-stopping entertainment performances including a pop-up Whiskey Jam show, DJ sets, musicians, and more. The full lineup is here:
- Whiskey Jam (feat. Dozzi, Willie Shaw, and Johnny Hayes)
- A.B. Eastwood
- Daisha / Rap Girl
- Boom Bap (DJ Collective feat. DJ-Rate, Case Bloom)
- Whiskey Disco (DJ Collective feat. Coach, Jim O'Shea)
- Old Crow Medicine Show’s Jerry Pentercost (DJ Set)
- DJ Stretch
- DJ Griffin Green
- The Play Mates (Drag Show feat. Sasha, Vanity, Deception, Aura Mayari, Corlis Todd, and Carmin Triple C)
Counting down to the epic celebration, Daisha shares, “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to perform in so many of Nashville’s top spots all in the same night. Fans can expect a lot of bops and high energy. I want people to dance and have a good time.”
Ward Guenther, Whiskey Jam Founder, adds, “Red Bull has been enjoyed at Whiskey Jam since the very first night, so it's only fitting Whiskey Jam is enjoyed at Nashville's first Red Bull Unlocked. Looking forward to this!”
Red Bull Unlocked Istanbul
Photo courtesy of Red Bull
Local favorites including Pearl Diver, Tin Roof, Lipstick Lounge, White Limozeen, and more will join forces for one epic night. Full list of bars and partners below:
- The Dive Motel
- Lipstick Lounge
- Pearl Diver
- Play Dance Bar
- Rosemary & Beauty Queen
- The Stage
- Tin Roof
- Whiskey Jam
- White Limozeen
- Woolworth Theatre – Opening Fall 2022!
- Eleven Eleven - Opening 2023!
Date: August 21, 2022
Time: 6 PM – 11PM CT
Location: 1102 Forrest Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Entrance: Ticked event
Rumble Boxing, the boxing-inspired group fitness studio, opened its doors for the first time in Nashville on June 20 at 609 Overton St, Nashville, TN. The hottest workout on the block is hosting its official grand opening from August 4th-7th with daily classes, membership specials, and prizes from local vendors. The new Rumble Boxing studio is currently offering a buy one class, get one free promotion for the Nashville community.
Rumble Boxing delivers 45-minute, 10-round, strength and conditioning group workouts, crafted around teardrop-style aqua boxing bags and high-intensity strength training circuits. This brings all fitness levels together to experience what Rumble is known for: combining the sweet science of boxing with high energy and positive vibes.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
This boutique fitness brand offers serious benefits like increased stamina and strength, with cardio that’s actually fun. The seasoned trainers at the new studio are thrilled to serve their local community while offering this fun, new modern approach to boxing and welcome members of all fitness levels to the Rumble family.
The new Rumble Boxing studio is owned and operated by Blake Baskin and Antonio Compton. With their background in the fitness industry, this dynamic duo is excited to bring their passion for boxing and group fitness to Nashville. As business and life partners, Blake and Antonio aim to create a strong community within their new Rumble Boxing studio and share their message of non-apologetic inclusivity.
Black and Gay-Owned Business
Rumble Boxing Store with Dolly Parton Mural
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“We own who we are, and this brand aligns with that perfectly,” said Antonio. “This is what we want to create and bring to this community: a fitness class that is designed for anyone and a place for people to be who they are. As a Black and gay-owned business, we want to help lower the division we see in the world right now. Our goal is to bring people together through Rumble, set everything aside, and have fun.”
To echo their message of acceptance and inclusion, Blake and Antonio commissioned a local Nashville artist to paint an 11 X 6-ft. mural of Nashville icon and philanthropist, Dolly Parton. The massive portrait features the country star in Rumble Boxing gear in the lobby of the studio.
The excitement and buzz around Rumble allowed Blake and Antonio to recruit top-tier trainers to head up the new studio, including Head Trainer Oronde Jones, a well-known celebrity trainer in the Nashville market.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“Compared to other fitness classes, Rumble is a class you can truly get lost in for 45 minutes. With the dark room, you don’t have to worry if anyone is paying attention to you. The music is awesome and inspiring, and the beat drops right when you need it the most. Also, with boxing being a sport you can never truly master, you’re always improving and crafting your skill. On the floor, you’re consistently doing something new, which prevents you from ever hitting a plateau.” Said Oronde Jones about his favorite part of Rumble.
Rumble has massive brand loyalty and widespread appeal, partly thanks to attracting top names like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Jason Derulo, David Beckham, and Kevin Hart to its studios.
About Rumble Boxing
Founded in New York City in 2017, Rumble is a group fitness concept delivering a mix (or combination) of boxing-inspired circuits and the transformative power of resistance training. Pro and amateur fighters glove up together, no matter their fitness level or skill, to reveal their inner fighter. The experience is a 45-minute, 10-round, full-body cardio and strength workout crafted around specially designed water-filled, teardrop-style boxing bags. Rumble was founded by Noah Neiman (former Barry’s Bootcamp Master Trainer, and cast member of Bravo’s Work Out New York), Eugene Remm (Co-Founder of Catch Hospitality Group (Catch Restaurants, CATCH STEAK, Lexington Brass), Andy Stenzler (Co-Founder Cosí, Kidville), and Anthony DiMarco (13-time IRONMAN, former Managing Director, Google).
Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?
For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:
A Gay Cruise
One of the best options to have in mind when all of this passes is a good, nice and long (pun intended) gay cruise. Or cruise in general, for that matter. Bear in mind, social distancing will still be a thing in the post-COVID world. But COVID-19 likely doesn’t mean that cruises will cease to exist. On the contrary, though cruise ships will probably keep the number of passengers smaller than before, it is believed that they will become an even bigger hit in the following period, especially because they are all going to go a lot more environmentally-friendly. On the bright side, is there any better way of celebrating the end of the pandemic than by cruising around some magnificent seas, stopping by at great cities and having romantic dinner nights at nice restaurants?
A getaway in nature
On the other hand, there is always the option of stepping away from the hustle and bustle of large cities, and spending some time in a place that’s not only healthy, but also beautiful. Some of the destinations that plenty of people will look for are the ones that can cater for both peace of mind and amazing things to see or do. One such destination is New Zealand, one of the greenest countries on Earth right now. Not only will you be visiting the magnificent country that gave us the beautiful Shire from Lord of the Rings; this is also a destination that’s excellent for everyone who prefers relaxing to partying. If you’re up for some partying, you will be able to hit Auckland, while if you’re for something calmer, there’s plenty of amazing places that you can see and visit.
Dancing Around at Pride
Pride parades are also events that you want to have in mind for the post-COVID world. Such events have always been quite important, but it seems that they are now more important than ever. The virus has canceled more than 75 Pride parades all around the world, which is one of the reasons why we must support the ones that will see the light of day once the pandemic stops. Truth be told, the upcoming Prides will perhaps be the best Prides ever organized. Give the gays a couple of weeks of quarantine, then let them outside and see what kind of party they are able to throw!
A road trip
If you’re, as well, waiting for the day to wake up and say “long gone are the days when we were not allowed to go wherever we wanted?”, and if staying at one place gave you a lot to think about, then your first post-COVID travel experience should definitely be a nice road trip. You can practically choose which country you want to tour, and you can either take your own car (you have probably missed it so much), or rent one at your destination. Australia is an amazing country for this, though, as it offers the possibility of seeing the Great Ocean Road, which is an amazing thing to see and experience. On the other hand, if you do not want or cannot leave your country, you can also choose to go on a domestic road trip – there are amazing things to see in your vicinity as well.
Holiday for a single guy
If you’re single, or you’re traveling someplace with another single friend, then you should definitely organize a nice vacation for yourself or for you and your single friend, and hit one of the best European cities. Europe has been greatly affected by the virus, which means that now it’s time to pay it back and get it back on its feet by traveling there and seeing all the amazing things it offers. Any city you choose in Europe – you will not make a mistake. Apart from being able to see great landmarks, you will also have the chance to have a drink at great gay clubs and pubs, and join unforgettable gay parties. And if the gay scenery is not your forte, worry not, as Europe indeed has to offer so many different and magnificent things.