Wednesday, April 10, 2013

THEATER: The Boiler Room Theatre (April Issue)

My first experience at The Boiler Room Theatre (BRT) was about a year and half ago, when I went to see “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”  I know it’s not a show for everyone, including my husband, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I love it.  And, after seeing it at BRT, I love it even more.  Geoff Davin, as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, was incredible.  I’m hoping to share more about him in a future story, but I digress…

Sondra Morton, the Operations Manager of BRT, recently gave me a tour of the theatre and told me of all things that make it so unique.  The BRT is a professional theatre with paid actors, many of which have had previous careers in New York City.  Brothers, Jamey and Corbin Green, wanting to provide cutting edge theatre in Williamson County, started the BRT thirteen years ago.  All that are involved in the theatre do it because of their passion for the art, not for ticket sales. There are seven to eight main shows a year, and the theatre hosts up to nine additional shows, as well.  The Act Too Players provides some of these additional shows.  Act Too Players is owned by Sondra and is a Performing Arts School at the Factory, which produces six fully staged productions each semester.

This month, from April 19th-May 4th, the BRT is presenting the musical “Floyd Collins.”  Sondra put me in touch with Jamey Green because this show is really “his baby.”  Jamey says that the musical has long been an obsession for him and the director, Laura Skaug.  As explained by Jamey, it is a true story about an entrepreneur in the cave region of Western Kentucky by the name of Floyd Collins, who is being played by the aforementioned Geoff Davin.  The way men became quickly rich and famous (or so was the rumor), was to discover a cave, claim it and charge people to tour it. The GREAT SAND CAVE was Floyd's discovery and was, he was sure, the way to completely change his and his family's fortune. There is no spoiler alert needed with the following: he was trapped in the cave. What followed was one of the first of what we call a "media circus."  All of this began in February of 1925.  So historically, the story itself is quite significant and it's a LOCAL story, occurring less than 100 miles from Nashville.

Jamey also says that among the many things about this musical that strikes him is its boldness. To tell a story like this requires very clever writing and it succeeds in his opinion. Jamey exclaims, “What's amazing to me, is that a story, which could come across as utterly depressing, is given such a treatment here as to be alternately riveting, moving and yes, at times, even humorous.  The score of this musical is one of the most brilliant ever written for an American musical.  The way it weaves themes in and out to specify characters and situations is close to operatic!  What's amazing in the score is the interplay of indigenous American musical styles such as bluegrass, country, folk and blues, with an almost classical, ‘legit’ framing.  Quite simply, the score is uncompromising, alternately gorgeous, discordant (but oh so appropriate and powerful) and fun and bouncy.  It's been a thrill for me in this rehearsal process to see some fantastic singer/actors being pushed to their limits by an unbelievably challenging score.  This is indeed a rarely performed musical, the technical requirements - that is set, lighting, script, music are considerable.  But I don't know any other musical like it.  It is unique.  There are many good reasons to see this this musical at BRT this April- I think the best however, would be that one isn't going to have many chances to experience it!”  I love Jamey’s enthusiasm about this show.  I’m dying to see it now! Aren’t you?

I really enjoyed my time with Sondra Morton learning more about The Boiler Room Theatre.  It’s definitely another one to add to my list of treasures that we have in Williamson County.  Sondra said, “It’s our own little New York right here in Williamson County.  The talent pool here is crazy.  This theater is very reminiscent of an Off Broadway house, but the Boiler Room isn’t the theater, it’s the people.”

The Boiler Room Theatre is located in The Factory at Franklin.  For more information, go to  For more information on Act Too Players, visit

MUSIC: Buddy Guy and Jonny Lang at The War Memorial Auditorium

The legend says that in the 1930’s Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at “the crossroads” to become a great blues musician.  Well, I can tell you that those crossing roads are Highway 61 and Highway 49 in Clarksdale, Mississippi right next to Abe’s Barbeque and what used to be the Delta Donut.  I know this because my childhood home of seventeen years was 1.5 miles from that spot.  Living in Clarksdale ignited my love for the blues.  Muddy Waters grew up in a shack not too far from my high school.  I spent summers going to blues festivals and blues musician Sam Myers stayed at my family’s lake house once, during one of those festivals…such a great memory.  Years later, while singing with my band in clubs on Beale Street in Memphis, I always made my way to places like BB King’s and Rum Boogie during breaks and after shows to hear some good Memphis blues.

Along with my hometown, my brother was definitely a strong influence to my love for music and specifically the blues.  I sat in the corner of the garage many nights listening to his band rocking the songs of many blues greats. Almost thirty years later, he’s still singing the blues in a band called The Delta Royals (  One musician in particular that my brother introduced me to was Buddy Guy.  Although he’s considered “Chicago Blues,” Buddy has always been one of my favorites.  The first time I saw him perform was in the late nineties at the Memphis in May festival.  I was blown away at how he played that black and white polka dotted electric guitar.   He was incredible.  Fast forward to the present, and at age 76, he’s still got it.  I was able to see him at the War Memorial Auditorium (WMA) downtown Nashville on March 1st.

The WMA has recently been revived as another great Nashville music venue.  It’s beautiful architecture is just icing on the cake to its near-perfect acoustics and intimate atmosphere.  Getting close to 100 years old, the WMA has an extraordinary history that includes being home to the Nashville Symphony, the Grand Ole Opry, and stage to hundreds of artists including David Bowie, The Eagles, Ray Charles, KISS, Robert Plant and now Buddy Guy.

Jonny Lang opened for Buddy, which made for an amazing show.  I had an extra ticket and decided to take Caroline Lewis, a young guitar student I know, so she could experience the talents of two of the greatest guitar players ever to take the stage.  In the age of over produced computer generated pop disasters, I have decided to make it my personal mission to expose as many of the new generation that I can to real music.  I made sure Caroline took it all in, experiencing the playing abilities, tone, stage presence and raw talent unfolding before her.  After the show, I told her to focus on guitar players like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jimmy Page, the two we just saw and all the others I could recall.  I explained to her how the popularity of musicians like those is dying out and being replaced by the Justin Beibers of the world.  Fortunately, she realizes what a tragedy it is and plans to stay invested in becoming a guitar player modeled by my list of authentic musicians.

Join me in taking the advice from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to "teach your children well".  Nashville and all around it provides some of the best classrooms in the country, the War Memorial Auditorium included.  

ART: Olga Alexeeva and O Gallery (April Issue)

Walking in to the O Gallery in the Marathon Village in Nashville, I was shocked to find such a large amount of eclectic art displayed from floor to ceiling.  I thought that there was no way it was all from one artist, but after meeting Olga Alexeeva, I quickly understood.  She is unlike any artist I have ever met.  She says that art is an expression of life and life is a kaleidoscope so art should be a kaleidoscope, too.

Leaving her professional acting career in Moscow, Olga relocated to Nashville in 1991 to be with her sister, a Russian refugee.  Olga says Nashville became a green, peaceful, picturesque haven for her, but during her first ten years here, she was basically just trying to survive.  Her biggest struggle was the language barrier, but after learning English and getting settled, Olga found that her soul was hungry for something more.  She tried many different outlets for her creative mind and painting was last on her list.  She thought she was not good enough.  Her attitude toward art was that she couldn’t paint because she couldn’t draw.  However, Olga’s mind was changed when Nashville artist and teacher, Hazel King, used her Southern hospitality to make Olga feel comfortable with taking a class.

All experiences from theater, history and life in general poured from Olga to the paintings.  Inspiration from different teachers had an imprint on her.  She’s tried everything once.  She said, “Curiosity is the most important ingredient for success.”  She has an ongoing ability to look for something new, and says you should “never arrive.”   A lot of people told her to pick one segment, technique or style and become good at it.  She didn’t want to do that.  She feels that everybody creates from the material within themselves.  She has had eclectic life experiences with lots of layers and does not want to be limited.  If she tries to make herself create through logic, it’s not coming from her soul.  If something is not going in the right direction or it’s not natural, she stops.

Olga still takes classes, even though she teaches them now.  She does not teach a technique.  She just instructs everyone to discover themselves by relating to her previous experience of not knowing she was an artist.  She would have never painted, if she had another opportunity.  She lives by her motto: “Be a child and try everything once to have a taste of it before you decide what you want to do.”  She asks her students to be brave and allow themselves to be bad until they get better.  She has been very humbled by the way her students have come back to her to say that their lives have been changed and their eyes have been opened to beauty.  Olga is proud to have a role in that.

The O Gallery received The Nashville Scene’s “Best of Nashville” Award for “Best Gallery” in 2012 and I think it was very deserved!  The gallery is absolutely stunning.  It’s one of my new favorites, and I plan to return soon for a girl’s night out painting party with a little wine and lots of creativity!

For more information go to


I’ve been writing about my experience with the theater for a while now, but this is the first time that I’m writing “post-production.”  There’s a lot that goes into a show before it hits that stage and I love being a part of it.  However, sharing my experience with this particular show had to be after seeing it.  Traces is like nothing I have ever seen before.  It’s almost difficult to describe, but I will give it my best shot.

Have you ever been to a big city and stopped to watch the street performers?  I’ve seen children doing back flips on Beale Street in Memphis, artists on Jackson Square in New Orleans surrounded by painted live statues, New York dance crews in Times Square and of course lots and lots of singers in Broadway shows  in Nashville.  Imagine the best of all types of street performances that you’ve ever seen channeled in to seven performers, train them to be in the circus and give them access to the greatest theaters in the world with all the props, lighting, music and everything else that entails and you’ve got Traces.

This 7 Fingers Production could be called an “Urban Cirque de Soleil,” but there’s just more to it.  The performers are acrobats, singers, musicians, dancers and artists, but they let you know who they are as people and what they are about.  They’re not actors.  They’re on the stage as themselves.  It’s emotional, funny, intimate and exhilarating, maybe even a little confusing at times.  Not everyone will “get it”, but ALL will be entertained.   To find out more, go to

MUSIC: Andrew Fromm (March Issue)

If you ever want to see the “creatives” of Williamson County, you can always find some in downtown Franklin in one of the local coffee shops.  They’re meeting with others in their field or sitting with their MacBook’s open, working on their latest song, story, or whatever else they are creating.  One of those “creatives” that I run into from time to time, while getting my “venti iced non-fat white chocolate mocha no whip” (in case anyone ever needs to know), is Andrew Fromm.  Andrew is a songwriter that was introduced to me a few years ago through a mutual friend. If you’re like me, when you think of a songwriter in Nashville, bar lights, open mic nights and the hopes of a cut on the next Lady A album comes to mind.  However, Andrew does not fit that mold.  He’s a Jersey boy that already found success before coming to Music City.  I’d like to say he got his big break one night in New York, but “big break” doesn’t seem to define what happened.  It should be more like his “ginormous life changing experience.”  He sang a song he wrote called “I Need You Tonight” at a birthday party for a friend.  A lot of industry executives were there, including the Senior Director of A&R for Jive Records.  He told Andrew he wanted his song for a band called The Backstreet Boys, unknown in the U.S. at the time.  This lead into Andrew’s first cut being on The Backstreet Boys’ Millennium album that sold 25 million copies.  See how “big break” just doesn’t seem to fit?

Since that night in New York, Andrew has had an amazing career.  In addition to The Backstreet Boys, he’s written songs for NSYNC, Selena Gomez, Marc Anthony, Jesse McCartney and many, many more.  He won the Pop Contemporary Song of the Year at the 42nd Annual Dove Awards for the #1 single “Beautiful, Beautiful” performed by Francesca Battistelli.  Several of his songs have appeared on some of the “Wow Hits” albums and the list goes on…

Andrew has perfected his craft through his writing style that he calls “ the channeling effect”.  This is where the sound of the chord inspires him to want to sing something over the top of it, like a natural occurrence.  He says he just knows what the music is supposed to do.  With no pre-meditation, he can just sit down and write a song.  I’ve seen him do it and it looks as easy for him as breathing.

Andrew says he loves to see the reactions of people and how songs that he has written have affected their lives.  A girl once wrote to him and said her boyfriend got killed by a drunk driver.  The night before he died he sang “I Need You Tonight” in her ear.  This is a memory she will always have and a reminder to Andrew of what a special gift songwriting can be.  He says songs leave “little stamps on life.”

Recently, a lot of Andrew’s focus has been on the business side of music.  He says he likes how this allows him to use both sides of his brain.  Through Fromm Consulting LLC, he has brokered millions and millions of sales of music publishing catalogs all over the world, including the sale of producer Timbaland’s catalog (Justin Timberlake, Missy Elliott, Britney Spears, Aaliyah etc..).  His music business ventures continue to grow, but he says he will always continue to write.

Andrew has been a Franklin resident for six and a half years.  He says he moved from the New York Music scene to Nashville because it’s more structured and has a “9 to 5” mentality.  It’s also more conducive to having a family.  Now with a beautiful wife and baby boy, he definitely made the right decision to come down south and we’re glad to have him!

ART: Jolyn Grigsby & Kayleigh Miller (March Issue)

For several years, The Frist Center for the Visual Arts in downtown Nashville has invited student artists from schools in Williamson County to display pieces in their exhibit of student work. Elementary and middle school art teachers get to select two works per grade level and high school art teachers get to select two works from each art course offered at their schools.  I found out about the exhibit through a friend’s Facebook post showing her son with his art at The Frist.  Not long after that, I received an email from another friend saying that her daughter’s piece had also been selected.  Both of these children are near and dear to my heart so I had to share their art!

First is Jolan Grigsby, a first grader at Johnson Elementary in Franklin.  His art teacher, Cassie Stephens, said that they have been traveling Europe in art class this year.  Transported by hot air balloon, their first stop was Paris, France.  Stephens explained that Jolan began his piece by choosing the colors to paint his sky and clouds.  Then he added green painted paper for the land.  Next, he learned how to draw and cut out the Eiffel Tower.  Once complete, he learned all about hot air balloons and how they work.  After creating his own, he added a snapshot of himself to the basket of the balloon. 
Jolan said that it was a lot of fun and he really likes Mrs. Stephens’ class.  He was excited and surprised to be chosen and couldn’t wait for his parents to see it.

My next little artist is Kayleigh Miller.  Also in the first grade, Kayleigh attends Westwood Elementary in Fairview.  Her art teacher, Tom Tjornehoj, said,  “Kayleigh's crayon-resist watercolor painting had been high on my list for the Frist for quite some time now.  Art is a very personal thing - I believe it comes from the soul and in determining which pieces of student art are 'better' or 'best' is truly a matter of personal opinion. There are some technical aspects involved, but much of it is purely visceral.  And Kayleigh's landscape scene definitely hit me from the perspective of personal appeal - I loved the effect she achieved in use of watercolor over crayon in her artwork - colors, lines, and shapes.”  Kayleigh said she was excited when her teacher read it to out loud to the class that she had been chosen and happy that her work will be on display in downtown Nashville.  She also said that Art is one of her favorite subjects and she loves to paint grass, hills, clouds, trees, the sun, the moon and other things you would see outdoors in the colors you see them in real life.  She liked the three trees in her work the best because they were all different sizes due to the distance where they were located.  She had a lot of fun doing this and she loves having the chance to be creative.

I love that these children and so many others are enjoying art and getting to display it in such a grand way.  It seems that the teachers are doing a great job of allowing the children to express themselves and explore their creative sides.  Everyday there are kids that come home with art and say, “Let’s put it up on the fridge,” but kids like Jolan and Kayleigh say, “Let’s put it up at The Frist!”

THEATER: TPAC's Catch Me If You Can (Winter Issue)

A lot of my experience with the TPAC, since the start of my column, has lead up to this month’s performance of “Catch Me If You Can” and it has taken me on quite the journey!  This year’s TPAC Gala theme was based around the show starting with a swanky 60’s pre-party.  I was greeted at the door of the event by the co-chairs representing “PAN AM Airlines” in retro pilot and stewardess attire.  Martinis were served, while excitement for the upcoming event spread.  Then the night of the Gala finally came and it was unbelievable.  The pre-party was only a small taste of the grand scale of the classic 60’s cocktail soiree.  I was taken back in time and loved every minute of it.   Guests entered TPAC’s Andrew Jackson Hall through an “airline concourse” and into a beautiful banquet right on the stage.  Broadway star Aaron Tveit crooned, while dinner was served.  I love the movie “Catch Me If You Can,” but the Gala raised my excitement level to see it live.

The show, based on the astonishing true story of world-class con artist Frank Abagnale, Jr., will land in Nashville for a limited engagement January 22-27.  This is part of the first national tour of the Broadway musical.  Kathleen O’Brien, TPAC president and chief executive officer said, “Even if you’re not familiar with Frank’s amazing life story or the Steven Spielberg film, you will be drawn in by this fabulous new musical.”  She also said that when she saw it for the first time, she was so blown away that she knew they had to bring it to Nashville and I’m so glad they did!  Once again, my anticipation increases before another great performance at the TPAC.  There are many great shows still happening this season, and this is definitely one you’ll want to “catch”!

For more information on the show go to and for tickets go to

MUSIC: The Electric Time Machine (Winter Issue)

I’ve been performing in bands for almost fifteen years.  I traveled a lot at first, but my family has kept me close to home for a while now.  My current band is called “The Electric Time Machine.”  Since this is the wedding issue of the magazine, I thought I would let you know about us because weddings are our specialty!  Our motto is “rockin’ you through the decades,” and we do just that!  We play everything from Chuck Berry to Lady Gaga with a lot of 80’s in between.  We dress in costumes to represent each decade and as you can see in the photos, I am the 60’s!  We are currently a four-piece band but plan to be a five-piece by spring with the addition of a keyboard player.

If you know anything about bands, you know that they don’t always get along, aren’t really friends off stage and very often break up because of “creative differences.”  I have been so fortunate the past eight years to be with a group that does not fit any of those descriptions.  The four of us have an incredible chemistry that translates very well on stage.  Everybody’s abilities and unique personalities fit together like pieces of a puzzle that result in a fun, high energy show filled with unexpected raw talent, not common in a cover band.

So let me introduce you to the guys… On bass guitar is David Larsen.  Playing as our 70’s fly guy, David’s bass lines can emphasize the groove of all styles of music, while keeping out of the way of the arrangement.  We kind of consider him the “band geek,” but it’s pretty much because he’s a very meticulous, musical genius.  Representing the 90’s is “Too Legit To Quit” drummer Jason “Chafa” Chafatelli.  With a drum set that lights up the night, his funk rhythms fill the room making it nearly impossible to stay in your seat.  And last, but certainly not least, is lead guitarist Jason Miller.  In his totally rad 80’s attire, he rocks rhythms with an emphasis on “full chords,” while his solos are a mixture of tone, emotion, speed and groove centered around scales and modes.  I saved this Jason for last to also mention that we’ve been playing together for the full fifteen years I’ve been in bands.  We met at Ole Miss and he and his wife moved here right after my husband and I did so that we could continue to create music.  He’s like a brother to me.  I am so blessed to have been in a band for so long with such an insanely talented, big-hearted, incredible guy.

I guess, since I’m describing members, I shouldn’t leave myself out.  With hair and Go Go Boots like Nancy Sinatra, my vocal style could be described as a Southern American Adele fused with Janis Joplin and a little Pat Benatar.  “Me and Bobby McGee” is my most requested song and as a big fan of Janis, I certainly take that as a compliment.

So book my band “The Electric Time Machine” for your wedding reception, corporate event, private party or club.  You won’t regret it!   We will take you back to your glory days no matter when they were!

For more information on TETM go to

ART: Kelly Harwood and Gallery 202 (Winter Issue)

With all the fabulous events held at his gallery and around town, this “gal about town” was bound to run into Kelly Harwood, eventually!  We finally met this summer, while he was modeling for a “What to Wear” for the Heritage Ball.  Now that I know him, I see what a treasure he is to Franklin!

Kelly is the owner of Gallery 202 and an amazing artist.  He has many different artistic styles and enjoys pallet knife florals the most, which he is asked to do quite often in his “in house” studio in the gallery.  If he gets a chance to hang any on the walls, it isn’t long before someone is taking them out the front door.  He also really enjoys painting landscapes, wild life, and abstracts.  He’s a frequent flyer all over the world, and he loves taking photographs and painting from them.  When you think wildlife, mallards and bobcats may come to mind.  However, Kelly’s repertoire of creatures includes many of the sea turtles he paints, while visiting his home in Maui.

Even though he’s a world traveler, Kelly says his favorite place to be is in Franklin.  If you ever go to his gallery, and you should, you will see why.  It is breath taking.  Historic Clouston Hall, Circa 1821, was purchased by Kelly over 2 years ago to be turned into the beautiful gallery that it is today.  A cannon ball burn on the floor and blood stains on the wall are referred to as Civil War “battle scars” and attribute to the gallery’s statement of “History Embracing Art”.  Occupied many years by the late artist and Franklin legend, Bunn Gray, it is only fitting that the landmark would become a home for the works of so many local artists.   Kelly says that the community has totally embraced the gallery.  It’s a part of several tours, and Kelly credits Margie Thessin for so many of the people from all over the globe who come to appreciate and purchase the wonderful art.   The gallery is also a main attraction on the Downtown Franklin Art Crawl the first Friday of every month.

Kelly is originally from Gadsden, Alabama, as is his friend of 26 years, Jim McReynolds.  Kelly says he begged Jim to move to Franklin to work with him in the gallery.  Jim did, and he is now the manager, in addition to many other roles.  Kelly also says that Jim is a “closet artist”, but I have not been privileged to see any of his work.  I won’t give up, though!

I see Gallery 202 and Kelly Harwood as being “very Franklin” with all the charm and creativity that, that entails.  It’s really all about local artists here and the friendships he has made.  Some of the other artists displayed are Julie Harvey, Tiffany Foss and Barbara Coons.  Barbara is one of my favorite artists in the gallery because of her use of guitars and maps.  Very clever!

In my most recent visit to the gallery, Kelly asked if I had sung there because the acoustics are outstanding.  While I am known to sometimes break out into song, I had not yet done it at the 202.  He said that I must so we went to the piano room, and I let out a little Adele.  He was right.  The historic hall not only embraces the art but music, as well.  Now that’s my kind of place!

For more information go to