copious notes

Rich Copley: In 2012, Kentuckians hit it big and bigger

Herald-Leader Culture ColumnistDecember 30, 2012 

Kentucky went big in arts and entertainment this year.

Nationally, the breakout movie star of 2012 was indisputably Louisville native Jennifer Lawrence. Closer to home, Lexington saw the biggest locally-produced show ever from the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre.

So before we get on to 2013, here's a look at the big year that was.

At the movies ... : Having established herself as a critically acclaimed actress with her Oscar-nominated turn in Winter's Bone (2010), Lawrence cemented herself as a box-office draw, too, leading the cast of The Hunger Games, which came out in March. Her co-star in the post- apocalyptic thriller was fellow Kentuckian Josh Hutcherson of Union.

We will see Lawrence and Hutcherson again in the three Hunger Games sequels, due in November 2013, 2014 and 2015. But before that, we will be seeing Lawrence this award season. She is a contender in the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook, and is considered a strong contender for a second Oscar nomination for the performance (those will be announced Jan. 15). On Jan. 19, she will have her first turn hosting NBC's Saturday Night Live.

■ The year started with Lexington filmmakers William Brent Bell and Matthew Peterman surprising the movie industry with the strong opening of their horror flick The Devil Inside. The movie, reportedly made for less than $1 million, took in $33.7 million at the box office its opening weekend and ended up grossing $101.4 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. The movie also seems to have at least partially inspired a spoof called A Haunted House, opening Jan. 11.

Next up for Bell and Peterman is another horror movie, Wer, about an accused killer who might be more than meets the eye. Bell wrote in an email that it is being distributed by FilmDistrict and probably will open during the second quarter of 2013.

■ With Kentucky being the state where President Abraham Lincoln was born and Lexington being the hometown of his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, the Bluegrass got very close to Steven Spielberg's new American epic Lincoln.

Actress Sally Field visited the Mary Todd Lincoln House to prepare for her role as the first lady and brought a CBS film crew back this summer for an interview. The Kentucky History Center contributed the sound of one of Lincoln's pocket watches, and four Kentucky musicians from the band President Lincoln's Own appear in the movie, considered an Oscar frontrunner.

And the Tony goes to ... Ashland native Steve Kazee became the latest Kentuckian to win one of the major entertainment awards when he took home the Tony for best actor in a musical for his performance in Once, the Broadway adaptation of the revered 2006 independent film.

It was a bittersweet victory for Kazee, whose mother died in Ashland as Once was opening. Kazee had a modestly successful stage and film career before this year, but Once was his first chance to create a leading role. It probably won't be his last.

Car salesman-turned-opera star: One of the classical music world's most compelling stories was baritone Anthony Clarke Evans, who was working a day job selling Toyotas in Elizabethtown when he took a shot at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. He was named one of the five winners. Evans had studied voice at Murray State University but went to work after getting married. He has since given up the day job in favor of performances and recitals, and next year he will join the young artist program at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Ashley Judd, TV star? The Kentucky Wildcats had a championship season, but one of the team's biggest fans' didn't fare as well in her return to TV.

Judd starred in the ABC series Missing as a tough former CIA agent searching Europe for her kidnapped son. The show earned good early reviews and an Emmy nomination for Judd. But mediocre ratings, a concept that lagged as the show progressed and network TV's increasing reluctance to fund expensive dramas got Missing canceled after one season.

A similar fate befell onetime Lexington resident Allison Miller, whose prehistoric Fox series Terra Nova was canceled after one season. She bounced back with a role on Matthew Perry's latest comedy on NBC, Go On.

Judd might have a completely different next act. Rumors have been swirling that she might challenge Kentucky's senior U.S. senator, Mitch McConnell, for his seat in 2014.

Phantom finally arrives in Lexington: Twenty-four years after its Broadway opening, Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera opened in Lexington with UK Opera Theatre's production. The show, which broke records on Broadway, did the same when it opened in Lexington with an unprecedented 11- performance run that pulled out all the stops to wow the audience.

The Lexington Philharmonic turned 50: There weren't many snowy nights in 2012, but white flakes did fall on some of the tuxedos that Philharmonic patrons wore to the orchestra's movie-themed 50th anniversary celebration Jan. 14.

Setback at EKU Center: The Eastern Kentucky University Center for the Arts opened with much ballyhoo in 2011, including hiring well-known arts administrator Debra Hoskins to lead the 2,000-seat facility at her alma mater. But things went off the rails in June, when Hoskins resigned after the university tried to fire her. The center is now under the leadership of interim director Jill Price.

Meanwhile, the center's Community Operations Board and EKU are trying to settle a dispute over who has authority over the executive director before launching a search for a new one.

Changes at The Woodford Theatre: Also departing just over a year after arriving was Woodford Theatre director Steven J. Arnold, who left for undisclosed reasons this fall. The theater has retained Lexington theater mainstay Trish Clark as interim director.

Perlman returns: UK Symphony Orchestra fans were stunned when Itzhak Perlman played with them the first time in 2011. It was truly eye-popping when he returned in September for another turn with the student orchestra, delivering a marvelous performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.

Zahns raise their local profile: Film star Steve Zahn and his wife, Robyn Peterman-Zahn, have lived in Scott County since 2004, but 2012 was the year the couple really raised its profile on the Lexington theater scene. With their company, The Rep, which includes choreographer Diana Evans Pulliam as its director, they produced Bye, Bye Birdie at the Lexington Opera House in August. The show had special significance to the couple: They met during the 1991 national tour of Birdie. Then Zahn himself took to the stage in The Rep's second annual production of Peterman-Zahn's Smackdown for the Christmas Crown.

Retiring: The end of the 2011-12 school year saw two longtime Kentucky arts educators step down. Trumpet professor Vince DiMartino left his post at Centre College after 19 years at the school and 40 years in teaching. But local and international trumpet interests will keep him busy.

Union College theater professor Rebecca Ansary Pettys retired after 28 years as the Barbourville school's one-woman theater department.

In memoriam: The summer season at Danville's Pioneer Playhouse opened in June, days after artistic director Holly Henson died following a long battle with breast cancer. Henson had succeeded her father, Playhouse founder Eben Henson; they were the only artistic directors during the theater's first 62 years.

In May, EKU theater professor Homer Tracy died. He spent 30 years at the Richmond university building a strong musical program and launching numerous professional careers.

In Lexington, pianist and philanthropist Teresa Garbulinska died. She and her husband, Dr. Ronald Saykaly, launched an innovative composer-in- residence collaboration between the Lexington Philharmonic and the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington that will see its next iteration in 2013.

Rich Copley: (859) 231-3217. Email: Twitter: @copiousnotes.

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