ArtsFest 2010 began with a bang on Tuesday night with two sold-out events with charmed and appreciative audiences filling Reynolds Performance hall at the University of Central Arkansas and Hendrix’s Staples Auditorium.

At UCA’s Public Appearances "Broadway Series" opener, the crowd welcomed the Three Phantoms and the Conway Symphony Orchestra with wild applause, whoops and whistles, not a usual response to a symphony concert.

But who could resist such music?

Selections from Jesus Christ Superstar and The Phantom of the Opera showcased the orchestra, while the tenors joined in with popular favorites from Guys and Dolls, Company, Paint Your Wagon, Kiss Me Kate, Les Miserables and, of course, Phantom of the Opera.

Each tenor told how he began in musical theater, with Little singing "if Ever I Would Leave You" from Camelot; Schulman with "Bring Him Home" from Les Miz, and Mauer on "Gethsemane" from Nine.

The orchestra, led by Izzy Getzov, took to the Broadway tunes and responded to the cheers of the crowd and Getzov’s energetic direction with a joyful vibrancy.

Two standing ovations greeted the three tenors, Brad Little, Gary Mauer and Craig Schulman, bringing them back for an encore, with the audience taking "You’ve Gotta Have Heart" out into the clear and starry night.

Across town at Hendrix College, author Jeannette Walls filled Staples Auditorium auditorium with faithful readers of her best-selling The Glass Castle.

According to Judi Moore, president of Conway Alliance for the Arts, "Staples Auditorium was full and Jeanette Walls received not one, but two standing ovations and answered questions for much longer than the planned 15 minutes after her lecture. 

"I’m really glad I went," Moore said.

The latest work by Walls, a journalist and former MSNBC panelist, is ‘Half Broke Horses.’

"Read ‘The Glass Castle’ first," Moore recommends.

ArtsFest continues through Sunday afternoon. Go to www.artsinconway.org for an updated schedule.

Becky Harris is executive director of Conway Alliance for the Arts, sponsors of ArtsFest.