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Highlights- Mamma Mia! – Ozarkabilly – Between the Trees

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Highlights for February 15-February 22

Mamma Mia!
Although a Broadway play set to the music of ‘80s Swedish band, ABBA, might sound iffy, everyone we’ve talked to who’s seen Mamma Mai!, says they would ante up to see it again.

Even if you aren’t an ABBA fan, the story combined with the songs, will make you join the legion of fans—some 30 million who have seen the show. Said to have the same infectious feeling of “Hair,”—just a few generations later— “Mamma Mia!” is the story of a young bride-to-be who is searching her father, who is one of three men. Set on a Greek Island before the wedding, the bride brings the three likely suspects from her mother’s past back to the island that they last visited 20 years ago. Song like “Dancing Queen,” “Take a Chance on Me,” and other ABBA hits have brought audiences to their feet and dancing in the aisles.

This week’s production at the Walton Arts Center is one of 11 productions of Mamma Mia! that are running concurrently around the world. Shows at 7 p.m. today and Sunday; at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; matinee performances at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Ticket are $55-$65.

Ozarkabilly
Fans of Ozark hill music will be doing some foot-stomping this weekend when Springfield, Missouri’s Big Smith comes to town for two nights—Friday and Saturday—at George’s. Their blend of bluegrass and hillbilly music and well-honed vocal harmonies has been wowing fans with their original music since 1996. In addition to the expected musical instruments, don’t be surprised when band members whip out a sousaphone, trombone, accordion, spoons or bones.

While Big Smith plays in the garden on Saturday night, former Wildwood front man Jason Payton will bring his new band, the Payton Brothers Band to George’s lounge. Although the sound deviates slightly from the folk and bluegrass sounds that sent Wildwood to the top, leaning a bit more toward roots rock, the band has been building a big regional following around their home base of Bloomington, Ind. The group spent the summer touring the West Coast and Alaska. Jason and his brother Ryan share songwriting and vocal duties with Ryan jumping between mandolin, fiddle, banjo and telecaster and Jayson manhandling his Les Paul. Rounding out the quartet are Mike Faulkenberg on drums and Matt Hood on electric bass.

Between the Trees
Orlando, Florida emo-pop quintet Between the Trees seems to be poised for the big time, so catch them while you can. They’ll be playing The Music Hall at 8 p.m. on Sunday night. (The Music Hall is in the old Clunk Music Hall location and is the space that gave NWA audiences up-and-coming bands like this year’s Grammy nominees Death Cab for Cutie 10 years or so ago). Between the Trees puts out infectious melodies that are slightly reminiscent of The Rembrandts. Their album “The Story and The Song” debuted on Billboard’s Heatseeker South Atlantic chart at number three and their CD release party at Orlando’s Hard Rock Live drew more than 2,300 fans. They’ve been tapped to play the Bamboozle Festival this spring at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J. Here’s a chance to get up close and personal with some rising stars. An all ages show.

Hanging
Two art exhibits are worth checking out this month. At the University of Arkansas Fine Arts Gallery on the UA campus, don’t miss “By Any Means: Works from the National Drawing Invitationals” that opened Monday. The Norman R. Eppink Art Gallery at Emporia State University in Emporia, Kan., began celebrating the art of drawing in 1977 with what has now become the annual National Invitational Drawing Exhibition. Each exhibition brought together exceptional drawings by both established and emerging artists from across the United States. No effort was made to limit the exhibitions to a particular movement in art, and the term drawing was never defined. As a result, each annual was noted for a wide-ranging display of media, techniques and concepts. The UA exhibit consists of 31 representative drawings from the Eppink” collection including works by Donald Roller Wilson, Janis Mars Wunderlich, Robert Stackhouse, Phillip Pearlstein and Harvey Breverman.

At the popular west side coffeehouse, The Perk on Wedington, photographs by Marc Langille will be on display through March. A reception for Langille will be from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Friday. Langille is a nature and landscape photographer who captures the incredible detail of nature’s creatures, not normally seen by the naked eye. Most of his shots were taken in Northwest Arkansas.

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