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Setting the stage: Broadway duo to give Arkansas Symphony Orchestra audience a song and dance

by Eric E. Harrison | February 9, 2023 at 1:31 a.m.
Joan Hess and Kirby Ward join the Arkansas Symphony for “Dancing & Romancing,” a Valentine’s Day-centered pops concert, Saturday and Sunday at Little Rock’s Robinson Center Performance Hall. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

Broadway veteran singer-dancers Joan Hess and Kirby Ward join the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and conductor Geoffrey Robson for "Dancing & Romancing," a Valentine's Day-centered pops concert pairing, 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at Little Rock's Robinson Center Performance Hall, 426 W. Markham St. at Broadway.

The second concert of the orchestra's 2022-23 First Orion Pops season focuses on music from the Great American songbook.

The program includes George Gershwin's Overture to "Girl Crazy," "Fascinating Rhythm," "The Song Is You" and "Shall We Dance?"; Jerome Kern's "I Won't Dance"; "Luck Be a Lady" from Frank Loesser's "Guys and Dolls"; Irving Berlin's "I Love a Piano" and "Cheek to Cheek"; Louis Prima's "Sing, Sing, Sing"; Cole Porter's "Friendship" and "Begin the Beguine"; the overtures to "42nd Street" and "West Side Story"; a handful of Broadway and film numbers ("All That Jazz" from Kander & Ebb's "Chicago," "I Could Have Danced All Night" from Lerner & Loewe's "My Fair Lady," "Shall We Dance?" from Rodgers & Hammerstein's "The King & I" and "Singin' in the Rain" — music by Nacio Herb Brown, lyrics by Arthur Freed), Johnny Mercer's "Blues in the Night," Warren & Gordon's "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" and Miller, Garland, & Razaf's "In the Mood."

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Hess' Broadway credits include "Mamma Mia," "Crazy for You," "Kiss Me Kate," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" and "Bells Are Ringing." On TV, she appeared in HBO's "Flight of the Conchords" and "My Favorite Broadway: The Love Songs," hosted by Julie Andrews, part of the PBS Great Performances series.

Ward performed on Broadway in "Show Boat," "Woman of the Year" and "Never Gonna Dance" and off-Broadway in the revival of "Coconuts" and in "Company." On television he's appeared on "Law and Order, Special Victims Unit" and "General Hospital"; film appearances include "For the Boys," "Pennies From Heaven" and "S.O.B." He choreographed portions of Las Vegas acts for Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor, in both of which he appeared for a number of years as a singer and dancer. He trained Bette Midler and James Caan in song and dance technique for the movie "For the Boys." And he recently directed an original short film, "Down in the Mouth," on which Hess served as script supervisor.

Sponsor is the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Tickets are $14-$72, $10 for active-duty military, free to all Arkansas students with the purchase of an adult ticket using the Entergy Kids' Ticket. Call (501) 666-1761, Extension 1, or visit

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