Cash makes ‘Candide’ climb

Roy Cockrum, right, with Knoxville Symphony Music Director Aram Demirjian and his wife, Caraline, at a dinner Cockrum hosted prior to the opening performance on Friday.

Several years ago when our client Pilot Flying J got into the racing business by sponsoring a professional NASCAR driver, company CEO Jimmy Haslam told me, “Money equals speed, Mox.” What he meant was that the more money you put into a racing team, the more successful the team will be.

So, this week I learned a similar lesson. Money equals talent. Another client of ours, Knoxville lottery winner Roy Cockrum, poured a ton of money into underwriting the current joint Knoxville Symphony and Clarence Brown Theatre production of Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide” and the result is over-the-top amazing. What that generous infusion of cash did was allow Clarence Brown’s artistic director, Cal MacLean, to audition singers in New York and Chicago and bring them to the Knoxville stage. The result is spectacular.

Those voices, combined with a lively and creative on-stage performance by the Knoxville Symphony and its energetic music director, Aram Demirjian, caused the production to soar. A lengthy piece (first half is 75 minutes and the second half is an hour), it seemed to fly by. The set, lighting, costumes and sound virtually transported the audience around the globe as Candide, the eternal optimist, experienced wars, disasters, slavery and all other manner of depravity. (Don’t even get me started on the sheep!)

Cockrum was delighted with the results of his largesse when I caught up with him after the show Friday night. “I went to see a production of ‘Candide’ by the Washington National Opera in May at the Kennedy Center in preparation for this,” he beamed. “This was better.”

The show, based on a 1759 satire by philosopher Voltaire, opened last Friday and continues through Sept. 16. Don’t miss this chance to see New York-quality performers right here in K-town.

At the dinner in the ballroom at Kitchen 919, Cockrum gifted Demirjian with a baton with Demirjian’s name on it.

Cockrum making a few remarks.

Rachel and Terry Ford at the dinner. She’s executive director of the Knoxville Symphony.

Seated, Russ and Holly Watkins. Standing, Alan Carmichael, left, and Frazier Marsh. Russ is president of the Symphony Board.

Bill Riley, president-elect of the Symphony board, with his wife, Alexa.

Carole and Paul Gary, a childhood friend of Cockrum.

Bruce and Lisa Hill. Cockrum says they are a part of his “posse!”

Laurel and Steve Williams.

Katey and Michael Crowder.

Cockrum with Congressional candidate Renee Hoyos. (He’s an avid Democrat.)

Seated, Linda Gay Blanc and Marshall Peterson; standing, Dr. Kenneth Elliott, a member of the board of the Roy Cockrum Foundation.

Standing, Peter Xiques and Benita Hofstetter Koman, the executive director of the Roy Cockrum Foundation; seated, Steve and Vickie Reddick.

John Winemiller, left, with R.J. Hinde.

On the back of each place card was this quote from “Candide.”

Then, off to the show. We were not allowed to take pictures during the show, but the set sure was fantastic.

The magical set of “Candide.”

Roy’s friends, from left, Lisa, Alice and Peter Xiques, during intermission. Alice, who is 93, read three translations of “Candide” in preparation for seeing this production.

Clarence Brown Theatre’s artistic director, Cal MacLean, center, with Margie Nichols and John Gill during a reception following the show.

Aram Demirjian with his parents, Ara and Karen, and wife, Caraline.

Clarence Brown Theatre Managing Director Tom Cervone and his wife, Susan Creswell.

Sheadrick and Rosalyn Tillman at the reception.

A very happy Roy Cockrum with Linda Gay Blanc, center, and Lisa Xiques following the show.

Peggy and Ron Turner.

James Newburn, left, and Jed Diamond.

Cal MacLean and Townes Osborn in an intense discussion, apparently.

The show has gotten rave reviews.

Here’s one from Chicago:

Here’s what Amy McRary of the News Sentinel had to say:


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8 Responses to Cash makes ‘Candide’ climb

  1. Rusha Sams, on September 7th, 2018 at 3:51 pm said:

    Thanks for sharing these behind-the-scenes people who have lifted this production over the top. Can’t wait to see it.


  2. Cynthia Moxley, on September 7th, 2018 at 4:01 pm said:

    Rusha: I look forward to hearing how you all like it! Let me know.

  3. Gina, on September 7th, 2018 at 5:51 pm said:

    We are so lucky to have Mr. Cockrum who cares for the arts, and shares so much with us.

  4. Cynthia Moxley, on September 7th, 2018 at 5:56 pm said:

    Gina: You are so right!

  5. Tricia and Larry Kilgore, on September 7th, 2018 at 8:20 pm said:

    Wow! That was our reaction to the show. “What was the difference?”we asked ourselves. Then we read the bios. First class! A great collaboration! A must see! Can you tell we enjoyed ourselves?

  6. Cynthia Moxley, on September 7th, 2018 at 9:30 pm said:

    Tricia and Larry: We wholeheartedly concur!

  7. Lezah Pinnell, on September 9th, 2018 at 7:03 pm said:

    Burke and I saw it this past Tuesday !!! BEYOND !!!!!! It was so phenomenal. And all for $45 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you to Roy – a tremendous gift to Knoxville and to all who were lucky enough to see it.

  8. Cynthia Moxley, on September 13th, 2018 at 9:26 pm said:

    Lezah: I am so glad you liked it! We agree!

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