Point of View

June 6, 2011, 3:31 pm
Filed under: Performing Arts News

Last year, the Adrienne Arsht Center and  City Theatre co-presented the world premiere production of Camp Kappawanna, an original musical inspired by Lisa Loeb’s Camp Lisa CD. The show played to happy family audiences that packed the theater for its two-week run and got rave reviews for its catchy music and loveable characters. This year, the hit musical—born and developed in the Center’s Carnival Studio Theater—is back by popular demand and goes on the road to delight audiences up and down the South Florida coast! The Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, the Broward Center in Ft. Lauderdale, as well as the Adrienne Arsht Center, all play host to the musical theater  treat that will satisfy families looking for something fun and entertaining to do this summer!

Photo by George Shiavone

Camp Kappawanna celebrates timeless camp experiences with hip music penned by Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb along with a book by Miami’s own Marco Ramirez. From beginning to end, Camp Kappawanna makes audiences of all generations feel as if they, too, are joining in the fun of summer camp!

November 24, 2010, 6:24 pm
Filed under: Performing Arts News, Volunteerism

Luis Valenzuela expresses his creativity in many forms:  Adrienne Arsht Center volunteer photographer, professional art photographer, visual artist, and fashion designer.  On October 28, adding to the excitement of our 5th Anniversary Season, the Center’s new uniform jackets and vests, designed by Luis for our ushers, tier leaders and docents, were worn for the first time.  The design of the vests and jackets is unique and according to Luis inspired by the architecture of the Adrienne Arsht Center.  The very distinctive asymmetrical design is unequivocally the Center’s own.   It is a flattering cut which works well on any body shape and size and can be worn for all occasions.  One of our most frequent volunteers, June Weinstein, wrote “How great we will look all decked out in our new uniforms!” and from volunteer Lupe Diaz: “The uniforms look great!

(L) John Richard, President and CEO of the Adrienne Arsht Center and Luis Valenzuela stands with two volunteers showing off their new uniforms. Photo by Manny Hernandez.

Having been associated with the Center since our opening in 2006, Luis has embraced the vibe of the Center. Who better to design a new look than someone so in tune with our image and energy?  Being a leader in the Green Movement for the last 15 years, Luis brought his zero-waste-in-fashion design concept to the new uniforms.  “I try to push the boundaries, to forge new ideas with my fashionable and provoking works, I pave the (run)way for a more promising and sustainable future with recycled and upcycled materials.” 

The fabric of the uniforms is made of recycled plastic bottles which have been cleaned, smashed, melted and reused. Both the fabric and design are exclusive to the Adrienne Arsht Center.   Aside from bringing a sharp new look to the Center, the new uniforms are manufactured locally and will help us in our pursuit to be a true leader in the LEED Program (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). 

Luis’ philosophy is in sync with that of the Center’s with regard to working toward a more environmentally friendly future.  “I think that our role in this Global mission of saving the planet is to create awareness of our environment. The artist has a venue to show people that even their discards can become art.”   And what venue could possibly be a better showplace than the Adrienne Arsht Center.

For more information about Luis Valenzuela check his website: www.luisvalenzuelausa.com

August 2, 2010, 5:03 pm
Filed under: Performing Arts News

Season 7 of Fox’s runaway hit, “So You Think You Can Dance,” is close to naming “America’s Favorite Dancer” after a season of spotlighting Miami superstar dancers Jose Ruiz and Alex Wong. The judges spent the season paying major compliments: “One of the most beloved dancers in the show!” “The best routine ever danced on any ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ stage!” “The brightest light in the competition!”

Top Ten for the 2010 Season of "So You Think You Can Dance"

Ruiz and Wong are just two of thousands of talented dancers who auditioned for the show last January on the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Knight Concert Hall stage, as well as in Chicago, Nashville, New York, and Los Angeles.

Sadly, the reality series voted Jose Ruiz off this week.  With only six dancers left this season, Ruiz will not go on to compete for the title but will continue on the SYTYCD national tour. Wong, who was a top contender, unfortunately was disqualified due to a lacerated Achilles tendon, but will compete next season.

Dancer Alex Wong

Wong, 23, was a firehouse throughout the season, and it devastated both the judges and audiences when his injury caused him to leave the show. Host Mia Michaels told audiences that the show lost, “One of the greatest dancers – if not the greatest dancer – to ever come through our stage.” Wong is a former principal soloist with the Miami City Ballet, awarded this position when he was only 17 years old, after winning the prestigious “Prix de Lausanne” competition.

Originally from Pembroke Pines, Ruiz taught himself to dance at age 14. After developing his own style and technique as a B-Boy, Ruiz began competing around the world. This competition has provided him opportunities to step outside of his comfort zone with completely different styles of dance ranging from Bollywood to the quickstep. Without professional training, Ruiz amazed the judges with how well he performed each week.

Dancer Jose Ruiz

Two seasons ago, Miamian Jeanine Mason took the top title, and with all the dance talent residing right here in Miami, there’s no doubt that soon another hometown dancer will be honored with the title of “America’s Favorite Dancer.”

August 2, 2010, 4:46 pm
Filed under: Performing Arts News

While on the road for their nationwide tour, the cast of the Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights, which arrives at the Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House this March, has taken some breaks from their live-and-in-person stage performances to prove they can look just as fiery on TV.  Writer and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda led his troupe in their signature number, 96,000, on two widely viewed television shows—“Lopez Tonightand “So You Think You Can Dance.” Miranda received a Tony Award for his hip hop, salsa score for the show about a group of friends living in New York’s Washington Heights. In addition to creating the musical, he also played the lead role of bodega owner Usnavi in the show’s New York production, a role he reprises for the tour’s Los Angeles stop.

Touring as a member of the ensemble is also Miami native Rebecca Kritzer. Starting out with the cast in Tampa last October, Kritzer and her cast mates have since brought the spectacle to over 20 cities in the U.S. “In the Heights literally brings people to their feet,” remarks Kritzer. “Audiences always have a good time.”

As part of the ensemble, Kritzer was given the freedom to shape her own character: “I am the character essentially. I play my role as a flirt with a little bit of attitude.”

Appearing on national TV, however, was a whole new experience for the young performer. “It was cool bringing this thing that was created for live theater and molding it for television so that it is contained in this little screen,” she reflects. The fun the cast shared was apparent in its performances on both TV shows. The energy and the excitement of In the Heights reached thousands of viewers and this powerhouse musical has again proven its power has no limits.

Relive the excitement! Watch the cast perform on “Lopez Tonight” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtV4vg_rtnk.

August 2, 2010, 4:32 pm
Filed under: Performing Arts News

The future of classical music and dance at the Adrienne Arsht Center is bright, thanks to a new John S. and James L. Knight Foundation challenge grant that will support the Center’s Masterworks Season through 2013.

The $600,000 grant, part of Knight Foundation’s national Arts Program, will be matched with $1.2 million of private sector support, both through private and corporate funding. The first Masterworks Season to benefit from the grant will be the recently-unveiled 2010-11 season, which has been named the “John S. and James L. Knight 2010-2011 Masterworks Season” in recognition of the Foundation’s support.

“On behalf of the Adrienne Arsht Center and the Miami community, we express our deepest gratitude to Knight Foundation for its generous support for our Masterworks Season,” said M. John Richard, president and CEO of the Adrienne Arsht Center. “Following an inaugural year that was embraced by our patrons and participating artists, we are committed to solidifying the Masterworks Season as a permanent fixture in our repertoire of annual Signature Series. Knight Foundation’s gift will help us do just that. We encourage our community to demonstrate its appreciation for Knight Foundation and love for classical music and dance by answering this important funding challenge.”

The Masterworks Season series was launched in 2009. Since then, audiences have embraced classical music and dance presented by the Center. Thousands of patrons attended concerts and performances in the series’ first year and ticket sales consistently exceeded the Center’s budget estimates.

This year’s season will include the Sanford and Dolores Ziff Classical Music Series, a Signature Dance Series, and for the first time, four Pops performances. Scheduled artists include the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra (Nov. 15, 2010), Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (Dec. 11, 2010), violin virtuoso Joshua Bell (Jan. 18, 2010), Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre (Feb. 17-20, 2011), and the Boston Pops Orchestra (March 19, 2011), among others.

Visit www.arshtcenter.org/masterworks1011 for additional Masterworks Season information.

July 21, 2010, 2:54 pm
Filed under: Performing Arts News

One name comes to mind when the words dance, surrealism, Latin soul and drag queens come together in the headlines. The talents of the fiercely quirky Rosie Herrera, New World School of the Arts graduate and established choreographer, have again captured the attention of dance fanatics on the national level. The Hialeah visionary was invited back for the second year in a row to the American Dance Festival in North Carolina, bringing with her the world premiere of Pity Party, commissioned by the American Dance Festival and the Adrienne Arsht Center. Hosted at Duke University, the American Dance Festival (ADF) is the largest, most distinguished and selective showcase of modern dance in the country. Uniting choreographers, dancers, teachers, critics, musicians and scholars alike from around the world, ADF prides itself on being “One of the nation’s most important institutions” (New York Times).

Choreographer Rosie Herrera, photo from Miami Herald

Various Stages of Drowning: A Cabaret, the piece that originally catapulted Herrera to national prominence, premiered at the 2009 HERE & NOW new works festival in the Center’s Carnival Studio Theater, co-presented by Miami Light Project and the Adrienne Arsht Center. It crossed traditional arts boundaries by incorporating multiple media of art-dance, theater, opera, cabaret, and video along with a unique list of characters—drag queens, bakers, and a 4-year-old, to list a few. She successfully pulled together a piece that mimicked a dream-like state and it caught the eyes of the director of the prestigious American Dance Festival.

Earlier this year, Herrera returned once more as a guest artist to HERE & NOW, where she presented a preview of another brand new piece titled Dining Alone that focuses on solitude and aging. Also commissioned by ADF and the Adrienne Arsht Center, the dance will receive its official premiere at the American Dance Festival in July 2011.

Photo of Herrera's new dance, Pity Party, by Eric Madrid

With such an exciting track record, the arts audiences and presenters alike are waiting in anticipation to see what Herrera will bring to the stage next.

The World Premiere of Herrera’s Pity Party took place at ADF on Monday, July 12. The Adrienne Arsht Center is brimming with pride for the local’s success and is excited to watch as one of its own continues to stun the world with her gale force talent.  Check out the first-hand behind-the-scenes account at ADF with our very own Scott Shiller, Executive VP of the Adrienne Arsht Center, here. 


Arsht Center Takes On the Tony Awards
June 28, 2010, 9:15 pm
Filed under: Performing Arts News

Members of the Adrienne Arsht Center Board of Directors and executive team celebrated talent and glamour last week at Radio City Music Hall during the 64th Annual Tony Awards, offering moral support for our “family” of performers.

The reigning performances from last season- which included Billy Elliot, Hair, Shrek The Musical, Rock of Ages and West Side Story, were no match for this season’s record-breaking ticket sellers honoring musicals that provide a playground for Tinseltown’s A-listers and a stage for Afrobeat, Blues, Frank Sinatra and rock and roll to live together in harmony.

Winning Best Musical and three other categories was the original story set in the American South in the 1950s, Memphis. Two-time Academy award winner Denzel Washington and Tony-winner Viola Davis became the first black performers to win best actor and best actress award in the same season.

The life of the party, host Sean Hayes delivered steamy scenes with co-host Kristen Chenoweth and continued the night with comical wardrobe selections and poking fun at both Hollywood and Broadway.

Bebe Neuwirth and Nathan Lane - stars of the Addams Family; Photo courtesy of the Tony Awards

One of Hayes’ co-stars in Promises, Promises, scene-stealing Miamian, Katie Finneran, won for best featured actress in a musical. Best featured actor in a musical went to Levi Kreis as rock ‘n’ roll wild man Jerry Lee Lewis in Million Dollar Quartet.

The nights biggest winner, Red, took home Best Play and five other categories, including Best Direction. Back in a revival from the 1984 original, “La Cage aux Folles” took home three awards including Best Musical Revival and Best Actor.

Greenday also took the stage, performing scores from the acclaimed musical American Idiot.

Never has there been a dominant presence of Hollywood actors in Broadway, ranging from Scarlett Johansson, to heart-throb Wolverine actor- Hugh Jackman. A victory for Hollywood actors followed nearly all acting nominations, including Catherine Zeta-Jones in the musical about love’s endless possibilities “A Little Night Music” and Johannsen’s first Tony for “View From the Bridge”. Other notable nominees were Jude Law in Hamlet, and Red’s Alfred Molina.

Overall, the Tonys demonstrated a resilient Broadway family and that more than ever, the presentation has grown to mainstream popularity. 

 Can’t wait for next year!

January 12, 2010, 7:29 pm
Filed under: Performing Arts News

The Adrienne Arsht Center has had some “hall of fame” taste for programming recently. On March 15th , two music legends—Jimmy Cliff and ABBA, both with strong ties to shows at the Center—will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Last summer, via London’s West End, the Center presented 3 weeks of the hit musical The Harder They Come in its only U.S. appearance. More than 9,000 Miamians attended the show at the Knight Concert Hall..The stage musical is based on the now cult classic 70s movie of the same name, which featured the music of Jimmy Cliff throughout the soundtrack, as well as Mr. Cliff in the movie’s lead role. The film has widely been credited with creating large-scale international awareness and popularity for reggae music for the first time.

Opening on March 30 at the Center, as part of the BROADWAY IN MIAMI series, Mamma Mia! isthe 12th longest running show in Broadway history (and on track to become number 11 this year). The show is a jukebox musical featuring dozens of f ABBA’s greatest hits, and has been seen by millions around the globe. Since their first album in 1973 (Ring Ring), and although their last studio album was released in 1981 (The Visitors), the group’s popularity seems to be as strong as ever with more than 370 million albums sold, 14 simultaneously running productions of Mamma Mia! worldwide, and a 2008 major motion picture by the same name.

The 25th annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be on March 15th at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.

We Remember Merce
August 5, 2009, 4:46 pm
Filed under: Performing Arts News

With the recent passing of legendary modern dance choreographer Merce Cunningham, leaders in the Miami arts community remember the man, his legacy and his time here in 2007 for the groundbreaking event Merce in Miami.

Photo by Annie Liebovitz

Photo by Annie Liebovitz

Adrienne Arsht Center’s Director of Education, Deanna Costa, gives us her Point of View:

The passing of modern dance great Merce Cunningham brings a flood of memories to my mind. As a dancer, I mourn the loss of a living link to the history of modern dance as Mr. Cunningham was part of a group of dancers and choreographers that helped shaped what we know as contemporary dance today. I recall the hours I spent in the dance studios of my undergraduate years being trained by teachers who had studied with him; how watching his choreography on stage can still prompt a physical reaction in me, taking me back to those warm up exercises and movement qualities that have been engrained in my muscles. As an arts administrator, I reflect on his work and contributions to the arts from an “insider’s point of view” having had the pleasure and honor of working with the Cunningham company during the two week Merce in Miami project that the Center produced in February of 2007. The commitment of each member of the Cunningham staff and cast, the professional approach to education and outreach, and the high quality of presentation and performance are clear indicators of how the company has thrived for 50 years. I am proud to say I played a small part in Merce in Miami and I am grateful for having been able to do the work while Mr. Cunningham was at the helm. I can’t help but feel fortunate to have been here – in the right place, at the right time, so to speak – to see the Center and various arts partners around Miami-Dade County put together and host such an important and extensive exploration of the works of a man who, at the time, was a living legend.

Museum of Contemporary Art Executive Director and Chief Curator, Bonnie Clearwater gives us her Point of View:

It was a great joy and privilege working with Merce Cunningham on MOCA’s 2007 exhibition exploring his collaborations with visual artists as part of the Merce in Miami celebration. He was a pioneer in the truest sense who recognized the remarkable possibilities that emerge when art, dance, and music intersect. Artists who collaborated with him were transformed by the experience and vice versa. Miami’s overwhelming embrace of Merce Cunningham and his work was a once-in-a-lifetime event, and served as an opportunity to introduce his legacy to new generations. He spent a memorable afternoon at MOCA, recalling his experiences and meeting with members that ranged from our high school Junior Docents to MOCA Trustees. His genius and his kindness left an impression that we will carry with us always. We will truly miss him.

Visual Artists and collaborator of Merce Cunningham, Daniel Arsham, gives us his Point of View:

I was introduced to Merce in his apartment on 18th street in October of 2006. Merce was 86 then, I was 25, and had just been commissioned by him to create the Decor for his new work eyeSpace. We talked about a lot of things that evening, none of them had to do with the new piece. 

When Bonnie Clearwater told me that Merce was looking at my work in anticipation of working with me I had to jog my memory of who he was. I knew his name from my studies on Duchamp but my knowledge of dance didn’t extend much past knowing the names of him, Martha Graham, and a vague recollection of what happened at the Judson Church. I became a student again. I went to see Merce’s company four times that fall at the Joyce Theater, and watched as much video of his company as I could. Had I been asked by another choreographer to make a set a would have been in trouble as I had no experience whatsoever with the stage, in fact the first time I was ever on a “stage” was two days before the premiere of “eyeSpace” at the Arsht Center in Miami.

Merce worked with chance and thought of an evening of dance as three separate arts coming together for the convenience of the audience. The Dance, the Music and the Decor were all created independently of each other without the collaborators knowing what the other is doing. When these three are brought together the outcome can be remarkably congruous. About working this way he told me ” I want to open the possibilities to various results and no /one/ is particularly better”. What a miraculous vision to believe in me at that age and that point in my career. I wouldn’t have trusted me to do it! He had a remarkable ability to trust, and I believe had had no fear of failure.

I never really knew what Merce thought of my design, we never spoke directly about it. The piece did become part of his company’s repertoire which was his way of voicing approval. We did talk about a great many other things usually having to do with animals. After I recalled to him my experience fly fishing in North Carolina, we talked for an hour or so about how chance plays a role in the action of casting the line upstream and letting it float downstream.

My chance meeting with Merce has profoundly shaped both my life and my practice. He was a remarkable person and was unlike anyone I have met in my life. His courage and penchant for risk and experimentation is an inspiration to me. Meeting Merce has led to other collaborations and introduced me to an entire new world of people who have become very important in my life. If there is one thing that I have learned from him it is that anything has the “possibility” to work, It may not always be successful but the only way to do it, is to do it.

Dean of Dance for New World School of the Arts, Daniel Lewis, gives us his Point of View:

Although I never danced for Merce Cunningham he has been a part of my life since 1949. One of his dancers at this time, Judith Dunn, had a father who was my doctor. He recommended tap dancing to correct a club foot I was born with, and thus my career started to develop at age five. Merce had a second major effect on my life in the 60’s when I saw him perform Collage III, at Connecticut College during the American Dance Festival; he was powerful, majestic and arresting on stage. When the company was scheduled to perform in Miami in February 2007, I was so pleased to be part of the productions and there I found a third major effect of Merce on my life: The students from the college of the New World School of the Arts performed in the lobby before each performance in both theaters. They did two works, one by Dale Andree, faculty at New World School of the Arts, in the Ziff Ballet Opera House and one by Mr. Cunningham in the Knight Concert Hall performed before “Oceans.” The work the students performed was staged by Robert Swinston. Robert was my student at Juilliard, and in the company was Melissa Toogood, a graduate of the college dance program of New World School of the Arts. I’ve had many other encounters with Mr. Cunningham, the Cunningham School and Company over the years, from seeing the performance of “Oceans” in a Quarry in Minneapolis to doing a site visit of the Cunningham school for their accreditation. Having the Cunningham Company in Miami was so special for me. Although I never danced for Merce I now feel I was part of his work in a very small but special way. I am thankful to the Adrienne Arsht Center for giving Miami and me the opportunity to see and be part of a great artist at work.


63rd Annual Tony Awards
June 8, 2009, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Performing Arts News

Broadway celebrated its best and brightest at the 63rd Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall Sunday night, and it was clear that the theater community was in the mood to party. The dire predictions about the economic crisis adversely affecting ticket sales never came to pass—quite the opposite—the 2008-09 Season broke box office records. Forty-eight productions opened on Broadway this year alone—the most in any one season in more than a quarter century. And show after show premiered to rave reviews.


By the time the three-hour Tony telecast was over, the evening’s biggest winner also boasted the season’s littlest performers. Billy Elliot The Musical, based on the hit movie about the young boy from the English coal mines who, against seemingly insurmountable odds, fulfills his dream of becoming a ballet dancer, won 10 awards, including best musical. The best actor in a musical award was presented to the three young boys who take turns playing Billy at different performances. It was a historic moment when David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish took the stage to thank their moms and dads, sisters, and dance teachers—marking the first time ever a Tony acting award has been shared by three performers.


Winner Best Musical - Billy Eliot; courtesy of www.tonyawards.com

Winner Best Musical - Billy Eliot; courtesy of http://www.tonyawards.com


At the other extreme of the showbiz continuum, Angela Lansbury, the beloved 83-year- old entertainment legend, won for best featured actress as the adorably loopy medium Madame Arcati in Noel Coward’s martini-fueled comedy, Blithe Spirit. Lansbury also presented a richly deserved Lifetime Achievement Award to the great Broadway composer–and University of Miami alumnus–Jerry Herman, creator of Hello Dolly!, La Cage Aux Folles, Mack and Mable and Mame, the role that made Lansbury a Broadway star 43 years ago and for which she was awarded her first of five Tonys.

With just about everyone rightly predicting a Billy Elliot sweep over the other Best New Musical nominees—Next to Normal, Shrek The Musical, and Rock of Ages—the really fierce race was in the best revival category, between West Side Story and Hair. Arguably the greatest musical ever, West Side Story soars on Jerome Robbins’ dazzling game-changing choreography and Leonard Bernstein’s finest score–a miraculous fusion of jazz, Latin, symphonic, and musical theater. Moreover, this “bilingual” production introduces the concept of having the Hispanic gangs speak in Spanish in an attempt to infuse the story with greater authenticity. In the end, though, West Side Story was no match for the 2 ½ hour explosion of sheer joy that is the revival of Hair. Beeds, flowers, freedom, happiness transport the audience to a euphoric high that takes off with the opening Age of Aquarius and doesn’t let up till the sun shines in. At the end, following a beautifully touching anti-war tableau, the audience joins the cast on stage for the communally trippy “Be In” that would last all night were it not for union rules and overtime. And did we mention fine on-stage nudity?


Cast of Hair; courtesy of www.tonyawards.com

Cast of Hair; courtesy of http://www.tonyawards.com


Overall, this might have been one of the most entertaining Tony Awards telecast in recent memory. From the opening montage that showcased not only the nominated musicals but also Dolly Parton and Elton John, to the celebration of national touring companies featuring the casts of Jersey Boys and Mamma Mia! it was a three-hour entertainment bonanza. Plus the Adrienne Arsht Center’s summer hit, Slava Snowshow, competing against Liza Minnelli and Will Ferrell for Best Special Theatrical Event (Liza won); Yasmina Reza’s viciously funny comedy about marital discord God of Carnage won best play; a starry lineup of presenters including Jane Fonda, Jessica Lange, Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, Anne Hathaway, Edie Falco, and James Gandofini; and a dryly witty turn by Neil Patrick Harris as the show’s first-time host. It was a great party.

With any luck and plenty of moxie, Broadway will have as much to celebrate same time next year.

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