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Lexington's cultural scene a horse of many colors

Phillip Giandiletti of New Jersey was among the cast performing during a promotional event for the  musical 42nd Street, presented by the Lexington Theatre Company outside the Lexington Opera House in Lexington, Ky., on July 13, 2015. Mayor Jim Gray presented Tony award winning actress Karen Ziemba a key to the city and renamed Short St. to 42nd Street temporarily.  The musical runs July 23-26. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff
Phillip Giandiletti of New Jersey was among the cast performing during a promotional event for the musical 42nd Street, presented by the Lexington Theatre Company outside the Lexington Opera House in Lexington, Ky., on July 13, 2015. Mayor Jim Gray presented Tony award winning actress Karen Ziemba a key to the city and renamed Short St. to 42nd Street temporarily. The musical runs July 23-26. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff Lexington Herald-Leader

Horse Capitol of the World is only scratching the surface.

Yes, the Bluegrass is known as the place where many of the world's finest Thoroughbred horses are born and live. But that is merely one thing that the greater Lexington area is known for.

And yes, there is also a certain college basketball team named after another spirited animal, and then there is the spirit that is best served neat or on the rocks, depending on your taste.

But Lexington and its contiguous counties are also the home of a burgeoning arts and entertainment scene based both on the indigenous culture that surrounds us and a broad mastery of forms known far and wide.

The last few years have been particularly creative for the Lexington scene, with the launch of several new initiatives, and expansion of established ones.

In theater, 2015 saw the launch of two new companies that aim to give the Bluegrass a foothold in professional productions. The Lexington Theatre Company (Lexingtontheatrecompany.org) with a production of the Broadway hit 42nd Street featuring Tony Award-winner Karen Ziemba and a cast of national and local talent unlike anything we have seen a local troupe produce.

Headed by Lexington-based Broadway talents Lyndy Franklin Smith and Jeromy Smith, the company aims to continue presenting as a summerstock group based at the Lexington Opera House, increasing its number of annual productions in coming years.

Meanwhile, Athens-West Theatre Company (Athenswest.org) launched with its first production last winter, John Patrick Shanley's Doubt, and has announced a three-show 2015-16 season with To Kill a Mockingbird, 33 Variations and Golden Boy of the Blue Ridge featuring Winchester's own Mark Mozingo reprising the role he created in New York.

Athens-West performs at the newly revitalized Downtown Arts Center, a venue that also boasts a new feature on the local scene: modern dance. Troupes Blackbird Dance Theatre (Mykct.org/blackbird.html) and Movement Continuum (Facebook.com/movementcontinuum) have added their flare to a local scene long-dominated by ballet troupes such as Lexington Ballet and Kentucky Ballet Theatre.

And the theater scene enjoys a variety of sustained groups led by Lexington Children's Theatre (Lctonstage.org) and out of town by The Woodford Theatre (Woodfordtheatre.org).

Carrying the music torch is the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra (Lexphil.org), earning continued accolades for its innovative programming under music director Scott Terrell. A pair of Chamber Music Festivals bookend the summer of the performing arts season, depending on how you look at it.

The Chamber Music Festival of the Bluegrass at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill (Shakervillageky.org) attracted national attention when Live from Lincoln Center cameras came in to document the event for an upcoming broadcast on PBS. The Chamber Music Festival of Lexington (Chambermusiclex.com) covers two weeks in August, led by Lexington native and Los Angeles Philharmonic associate concertmaster Nathan Cole.

Broadcasting indigenous Kentucky music to the world are two radio shows: The Woodsongs Old-Time Radio House (Woodsongs.com), which records most Mondays at the Lyric Theatre, and Red Barn Radio (Redbarnradio.com), which records most Wednesdays at ArtsPlace.

For those that like to rock, a new venue, Manchester Music Hall joins a scene this fall that includes Cosmic Charlie's (Cosmic-charlies.com), Al's Bar (alsbarlexington.com), Willie's Locally Known (Willieslex.com) and a burgeoning group of smaller venues.

For visual art aficionados, the big news is the coming of the 21c Museum Hotel in early 2016. It will join the Art Museum at the University of Kentucky (Finearts.uky.edu/art-museum) and the Lexington Art League (Lexingtonartleague.org) as major presenters in a scene that also includes a number of smaller galleries.

All that, and we didn't say one thing about horses.

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