Another Tony Awards adventure

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack (R) and daughter Kelsey on the ASU Gammage stage. Photo by Dan Friedman.

Arizona’s only Tony Awards voter, Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, flew to NYC this morning to enjoy festivities leading up to Sunday’s Tony Awards ceremony taking place at the Beacon Theatre with host Neil Patrick Harrris.  Jennings-Roggensack is executive director for ASU Gammage in Tempe, which presents touring Broadway productions through “Broadway Across America.”

Tuesday was opening night for “Million Dollar Quartet” at ASU Gammage, which blends historical fiction with the music and larger-than-life personalities of Jerry Lee Lewis (Martin Kaye), Carl Perkins (Lee Ferris), Johnny Cash (Derek Keeling) and Elvis Presley (Cody Slaughter). Also Sam Phillips (Christopher Ryan Grant), whose Dec. 4, 1956 gathering at Sun Records in Memphis inspired the work.

Tuesday’s audience seemed to favor Cash tunes, but it’s Lewis’ bad-boy shenanigans that bring this story to life. I was most taken with the show’s technical elements and actors’ exquisite command of all things movement. Seven of the eight cast members play instruments, so audience members enjoy piano and guitar licks along with riffs on harmonica, bass and drums. Two jumbo speakers on either side of the stage delivered the best sound I’ve experienced in two decades of Gammage-going.

The 2012/2013 ASU Gammage season opens with “Anything Goes.” Folks who watched last year’s Tony Awards ceremony saw Tony-winner Sutton Foster and the “Anything Goes” cast sing and tap the show’s title number, plus performances from two other shows coming to ASU Gammage next season — “Sister Act” and “Memphis.”

I’ve been taking Lizabeth to ASU Gammage for Broadway shows and other offerings for more than a decade, but now that she attends college in NYC, she also gets to enjoy plenty of shows on Broadway. So far she’s seen eight of this year’s Tony Award nominees, and I can tell she has a soft spot for “Once” — a musical we hope to enjoy together during my next trip to NYC. “Peter and the Starcatcher” is another one of her favorites, hailed like “Once” for its breathtaking simplicity and storytelling.

This is the eighth year that “Gammage supporters and advocates” are joining Jennings-Roggensack for a special “Broadway Adventure” and the Tony Awards ceremony. While Arizona viewers watch the Tony Awards Sunday night on CBS (click here for details), team Gammage will have some folks inside the Beacon Theatre and others inside the Tony Awards VIP section in Times Square, where the ceremony is being broadcast on the Sony JumboTron.

Other items on the ASU Gammage itinerary include lunching with folks from “The Book of Mormon,” getting backstage peeks at Tony-nominated shows, mixing historical perspectives with a walk along the “Great White Way” and meeting with stars, directors and set designers of shows from the current and future ASU Gammage season. Also donning gowns and tuxes for the post-Tony Awards gala at The Plaza Hotel.

“In the wee hours of the morning,” says Jennings-Roggensack, “I will slip away to join the casts of the best musical, best play and best revival at their celebratory after-parties.” Still, she says “the best part of all this is that we are already planning on these Tony Award-winning shows making their way to the Gammage stage.”

– Lynn

Note: Watch for an article about Roggensack and daughter Kelsey in the July 2012 issue of Raising Arizona KidsClick here for Tony Awards t-shirts and other offerings for folks eager to rock the Tony Awards vibe. And click here to learn about this month’s “Million Dollar Quartet” auditions in Las Vegas, L.A. and Austin.

Coming up: Fun with outdoor concerts, Art meets solstice

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