Tag Archives: Betty Buckley

South Park meets Broadway

Cartoon Central aired a new episode of South Park called Broadway Bro Down last week

We got some great advice in the television viewing department when our three children, now college students, were young. When in doubt, watch shows yourself before letting your children see them. The same goes for movies and other fare that might have content you’d deem inappropriate.

Parents who thought it’d be keen to watch last week’s new episode of “South Park” with their kids who love Broadway got a rude (and well-deserved) awakening if they took to the couch together without screening the content. Show creators hyped the Broadway theme, but failed to mention the other “B-word” that dominates the episode’s dialogue.

The premise of the episode is simple enough — men who take women to Broadway musicals fare better in the bedroom department. Hence the decision by South Park father Randy to take wife Sharon to New York for an entire weekend of musical theater. And more than two dozen local performances of “Wicked.”

The concept isn’t new, of course. When Broadway legend Betty Buckley was just 21-years-old, she performed one of only two female roles in the musical “1776.” She was Martha Jefferson to Ken Howard’s Thomas Jefferson, singing a piece called “He Plays the Violin.” Apparently musicians were deemed sexier than most even then. Still, the show’s creators left more to the imagination.

The “South Park” meets Broadway episode is entertaining enough, with all its scenes of popular musicals, but the addition of a mature-theme plotline dubbed “filthy” by an arts blogger for The New York Times added nothing to the episode’s charm. Instead, it left only minutes of content suitable for young viewers — and left adults craving a shower (of the solo variety) more than a show.

When Randy decides to write his own musical, for anything but artistic reasons, he lacks a certain sophistication in creating subtext — which four members of the musical theater pantheon attempt to help him rectify. Enter the four fabulously-drawn cartoon renderings of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Elton John, Stephen Schwartz and Stephen Sondheim.

Just a single line from the episode is “LOL” funny — despite the predictability of its subject matter. The musical created by South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone, as well as Robert Lopez, gets only a brief flash of shameless promotion as the episode draws to a close. Let’s hope a future episode of “South Park” parodies the musical titled “The Book of Mormon” in all its glory.

Just be sure the kids are tucked in tighly before you watch it.

– Lynn

Note: Actor Ken Howard, president of the Screen Actors Guild, will be speaking today at Arizona State University in Tempe. Click here to read details noted in a previous post.

Coming up: Shakespeare meets conspiracy theory

Tony Award winners heading to Scottsdale

Sometimes good news is bittersweet. I’m thrilled with the line-up of Broadway talent coming the the Valley during the 2011/12 season, but lamenting the loss of my best theater buddy. My 17-year-old daughter Lizabeth graduated Thursday night from Arizona School for the Arts in Phoenix, and heads to NYC this fall to start B.F.A. in acting studies.

I suppose it heralds a new stage in a relationship forged largely through our shared love of theater. I’ll be attending Valley theater events on my own, and she’ll be enjoying live theater on Broadway and throughout the region. Hopefully she’ll find time to call home now and then so we can swap stories.

Bebe Newerth has Tony Awards for her performances in Chicago and Sweet Charity

I’ll have plenty of Tony Award® winning powerhouses to take my mind off missing Lizabeth — Bebe Neuwirth, Tyne Daly, Patti LuPone, Jane Krakowski. Though it’s unlikely even their performances will never top my memories of watching Lizabeth perform in her final ASA Showcase at the Orpheum — where she and fellow theater students rocked “21 Guns” from “American Idiot” and did a twisted take on “Little Red Riding Hood” proud.

We’ve been enjoying art exhibits and live performances together at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts for as long as I can remember. Dance recitals. Outdoor symphony concerts. And most recently, an evening with Broadway legend Betty Buckley and Seth Rudetsky.

We were thrilled to see Kristin Chenoweth during her ARTrageous performance at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, though disappointed we’d missed her latte run to the local Starbucks. ARTrageous 2011, titled “An Evening on Broadway,” stars Marvin Hamlisch, Linda Eder and J. Mark McVey.

ARTrageous takes place Sat, Dec. 3 — making tickets or an evening of music together the perfect holiday gift. Choose the VIP ticket option if you’d also like to enjoy cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, dinner and an apres-concert desert reception — as well as local entertainment and a silent auction — to benefit the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

Hamlisch has not only a Tony Award®, but also three Oscars, four Emmys, four Grammys and three Golden Globes. When last Lizabeth was asked to write about a composer whose work she admired, Hamlisch was the logical choice. His music for “A Chorus Line” was recognized with a Pulitzer Prize, and we adore it.

Eder is a versatile vocalist who elevates everything she sings, from Broadway and jazz to country and pop. Her newest CD, titled “Now,” couples Eder’s artistry with that of Broadway and pop composer Frank Wildhorn. McVey made his Broadway debut as Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables” after his touring performance earned the Helen Hayes Award for “Outstanding Actor.”

Ben Vereen brings his musical autobiography to Scottsdale in November

Broadway fans should take note of at least two other offerings from the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts 2011/12 season. Tony Award® winner Ben Vereen performs a “musical autobiography” of his life titled “Steppin’ Out” on Sat, Nov 19. And the Tues, Dec 6 “Keyboard Conversations”® with Jeffrey Siegel (think concert plus commentary) features a “Gershwin and Friends” theme. (Check out the “Keyboard in the Sky”™ while Siegel tickles the ivories.)

I’d live on Broadway if they’d let me. I’d love to pop in and out of all sorts of theaters, and sneak occasional peaks at the daughter who’ll be honing her own acting craft just a few blocks away. But something tells me Lizabeth won’t be missing the theater together time nearly as much as me. And that’s as it should be.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to read a companion post featuring news of a new exhibit at the Scottsdale Civic Center Library — and related events that’ll up the exhibit’s fun factor.

Coming up: From Sondheim to South Park

Amazing meets A-MAH-zing

My daughter Lizabeth poses with Broadway legend Betty Buckley

Those of you who are puzzling over the title of this post clearly weren’t lucky enough to snag tickets to see the amazing Betty Buckley perform at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts last week with piano and comedic accompaniment by the “A-MAH-zing” Seth Rudetsky.

For all the time we spend with Rudetsky via our car radio and the SiriusXM Radio “On Broadway” channel, he might as well be my fourth kid. He certainly seems eccentric enough to be one of us.

Rudetsky opened last week’s show with tales of his own childhood foray into live musical theater productions like “HAIR” at an age when most kids can’t even spell four letter words. Many related to film clips projected onto a giant screen — including my personal favorite from a horror flick called “Carrie” (something folks my age saw during the waning days of drive-in movies).

Soon Rudetsky was introducing Buckley, known to many for her amazing performance in the musical “Cats,” which features the song “Memory” — a little number Buckley now calls her “signature song.” Other songs she performed that evening included “Meadowlark,” “Send in the Clowns,” and even “There’s a Fine, Fine Line” (from the bawdy “Avenue Q”).

My daughter, Lizabeth, may have been the only teen in the house that night. It seems Lady Gaga was also performing in the Valley, and while we admire her work on- and off-stage — we’re going to see if she’s got Buckley’s staying power before we go gaga for one of her gigs.

Buckley opened this Scottsdale concert (I’m told it was her third) with “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from “Sunset Boulevard.” The piece was requested by, and dedicated to, Linda and Sherman Saperstein, who were celebrating their wedding anniversary that evening and graciously stood while Buckley led the crowd in singing “Happy Anniversary to You.”

I noticed in reading my program that the concert was “presented with support from Linda and Sherman Saperstein.” I was delighted to meet Mr. Saperstein after the show, and offered my heartfelt thanks for the couple’s support of arts and culture. Without such generous souls, many of us would never get to experience a bit of the magic of Broadway in our own hometown.

The “Broadway by Request” show is a blend of beautiful vocal stylings and storytelling. Buckley drops plenty of names along the way — Stephen Sondheim, Bob Fosse and others that might take you by surprise.

Buckley’s passion for performance, and musical theater, was evident in each anecdote, as she proffered with panache her theater experiences from school days through today. Seems Buckley got her first gig from her first audition — on her first day in New York City.

But life in the theater isn’t all smooth sailing, as evidenced by her tales of an egregious agent Buckley had to do away with in short order. A single thread seemed to tie all of Buckley’s stories together. The woman never stopped knocking on doors — or pounding, frankly, if that’s what it took to land the roles of her dreams.

Buckley complimented the Scottsdale crowd for its sophistication after a few of her therapy-related revelations were accepted with warmth and good humor. Apparently some folks in the Midwest react to similar material by casting a pall over the theater. Buckley recalled the day her therapist, dismissed shortly thereafter, gave her advice we’ve all heard at one time or another (usually for free): “Get over it.”

After Buckley shared several songs featuring especially glorious belting, Rudetsky sent her offstage for “two cups of hot tea” — then took over the mic to demonstrate one of his own great passions: “Deconstructing.” He explained in detail the intricacies of Buckley’s vocal performance, then played a sample of her singing as he talked the audience through each element.

Buckley and Rudetsky (who has admired Buckley’s work since boyhood) make a powerful pair. Rudetsky caresses the keys like Buckley caresses the air — and both have genuine flair.

Lizabeth and Seth Rudetsky

Buckley and Rudetsky enjoyed a lengthy standing ovation after wrapping the show, and another after an encore featuring a single haunting song. Both graciously stayed long after the concert to autograph programs, CDs and such. We were thrilled to chat with them briefly, and I couldn’t resist the urge to solicit advice for Lizabeth as she heads off to study theater.

Buckley’s offered a single word: “Practice.” Seth had a great deal more to say (all of it good) but seemed genuinely puzzled about why, when Lizabeth rattled off the list of colleges/conservatories on her “short list” of favorites, she didn’t mention Oberlin College & Conservatory – his own alma mater. We love Rudetsky’s loyalty, and want to assure him that Oberlin tops the list of plenty of students at Arizona School for the Arts.

Now if only there was a “Seth-mobile” bumper sticker for the teen taxi that routinely blasts “Seth’s Big Fat Broadway” during all those drives between home, school and theater adventures…

– Lynn

Coming up: Bald chairs?, Fiddling around in Alaska, How hip is “HOP?”

Spoiled in Scottsdale?

Those of us who live in Scottsdale often get a bad rap for being richer or more pampered somehow than folks who live in other parts of the Valley. We actually downsized significantly when we moved to Scottsdale, and we weren’t living all that large to begin with.

Still, I often feel spoiled in the performing and visual arts department — thanks to the wealth of arts resources in our neck of the woods. Think Heard Museum North Scottsdale,  Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art — and many more.

Portrait of modern dance legend Merce Cunningham (from the DNA Dance website)

Tonight I’m heading out with Lizabeth, my 17-year-old daughter, to enjoy the latest legends to hit the local scene. I’ve seen more than my fair share of legends at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Most recently, I experienced the work of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company.

This evening we’ll be attending “Betty Buckley: Broadway by Request” at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Buckley received her first Tony Award after performing the Broadway classic “Memory” in the musical “Cats.”

Portrait of Broadway legend Betty Buckley (from Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts website)

Other Buckley credits include “Sunset Boulevard,” “Carrie,” “Wyatt Earp” and “Tender Mercies.” Tonight she’s performing vocal selections coupled with storytelling to include backstage anecdotes.

Buckley will be accompanied at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts by musician and comedian Seth Rudetsky, who helps our family make all those trips to and from high school each day feel fun rather than frustrating — though that’s hardly his greatest claim to fame.

His piano performance has graced Broadway shows that include “Les Miserables” and “Phantom of the Opera” — two of my favorites from the pre-“Avenue Q” and “In the Heights” era.

It would appear that I’m spoiled in many ways — because my husband James was kind enough to alert me to the fact that if I leave my laptop right this minute, I might also be able to catch some of “Opera in the Park.”

It’s a free viewing of a filmed performance of “La boheme” by Arizona Opera taking place at the Scottsdale Civic Center, adjacent to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

I may be spoiled, but don’t blame Scottsdale. Unless of course you want to pin it on my husband and Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. They’re guilty as charged — but it’s a good thing.

– Lynn

Note: This post describes March 26, 2011 performances that have already taken place.  Click here for information on upcoming performances at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Coming up: Art and “Asher Lev”

Math problem

I’ve always sucked at math. But I’m feeling particularly inept this weekend because there are more shows I want to see than hours I have for taking them all in. Now that is a serious math problem.

Tonight I could stay close to home and enjoy “Six Characters in Search of an Author” performed by the NYC-based Aquila Theatre at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, or head downtown for opening weekend of “Lost in Yonkers” performed by Arizona Theatre Company. “Yonkers” has special appeal because it features two young actors, one of whom goes to school with my 17-year-old daughter Lizabeth. It’s always fun to support young actors in our midst!

If I head to Phoenix College, I can enjoy the Arizona Jewish Theatre Company production of “My Name is Asher Lev.” I’m intrigued by this piece because of the subject matter (art and Jewish identity), the fact that it’s being directed by Layne Racowsky (whose work I know best from their youth theatre productions) and because I was so smitten with the last work I saw the Arizona Jewish Theatre Company perform (“Hard Love” — also a work about Jewish identity).

I’m seriously tempted to head to Theatre Artists Studio in Scottsdale (near Paradise Valley Mall) to see a Lee Blessing play titled “Eleemosynary.” The cast includes Maureen Watson (known to many for her work with Childsplay in Tempe and her producing director gig at Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale) and another student Lizabeth knows from Arizona School for the Arts, 16-year-old Tasha Spear — as well as Judy Lebeau.

From a mere math perspective, compelling reasons to hit “Eleemosynary” are starting to add up. Theatre Artists Studio counts Debra Rich Gettleman, who writes and blogs for Raising Arizona Kids magazine, among its members. Her work is brainy and biting, and always leaves me wanting more. I love the vibe of the venue, which I last enjoyed during the Scottsdale Community College performance of “The Diviners” (they used the studio while their on-campus digs were being renovated). And “Eleemosynary” features lots of fun words, something it’s hard for a wanna-be-wordsmith to miss.

Sure, I could wait to hit most of these tomorrow night (Aquila Theatre is a one night gig). Or head out Saturday night to see Arizona artists ages 15-18 perform for the chance to win a $1,000 first prize in this year’s “Arizona Young Artists Competition” at the Herberger Theater Center. Finalists in acting, dance and voice will be competing for top honors. It doesn’t take a math whiz to know that this is a seriously good thing.

But I’ve already got tickets to see Betty Buckley perform “Broadway by Request” at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Considering how much time we spend in the teen taxi listening to musician and comedian Seth Rudetsky on the Sirius XM “On Broadway” channel, Lizabeth would be heartbroken to miss anything involving Rudetsky, who’s accompanying Buckley on piano.

Once again, the math just isn’t in my favor — because tomorrow is the final night of Southwest Shakespeare Company’s performance of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.” I can feel less bummed (and guilty) about missing that one, though, since it’s already sold out. I hope the same isn’t yet true for the Scottsdale Community College production of “The Bald Chairs,” which I’m also eager to see should the math ever work in my favor — it opens March 31 so the odds are more in my favor. 

Chances are, I’ll give up on the math entirely. English was always my better subject, so I suppose most of the weekend will find me writing about theater rather than enjoying it firsthand. So I hope the rest of you will do me a favor. Pick at least one of the shows I’m longing to see and get yourself a ticket (or more if you want to take along family or friends). Then drop me a note about your experience. Who knows — I might even ask you to elaborate for a “guest blog” so you can spend some time in the “reviewer” chair. It beats the heck out of sitting at home snuggled up with a calculator.

– Lynn

Note: Those of you seeking performing arts options for younger children can always consult the print or online calendar from Raising Arizona Kids Magazine.

Coming up: Choosing a college theater program, Baggage — with wings

Sexy in the city?

I was thrilled to discover yesterday that fellow RAK blogger Debra Rich Gettleman—who writes “Unmotherly Insights” amidst other gigs that include parenting, acting, playwriting and more—made the daily ‘best of blogs’ for WordPress for the second time.

Big '80s hair is back...But is it sexy?

I shared the news with my husband and daughters over dinner as we celebrated Jennifer’s move to on-campus housing, and we got to wondering whether a “Stage Mom” post might fare as well if I jazzed up some of my titles (as if yesterday’s “potluck” teaser wasn’t exciting enough).

Debra’s post (titled “Sexy mama!”) features a photo of the orange and pink Dunkin’ Donuts logo. Jennifer suggested I try a little “social experiment”–punctuating my posts with words like “sexy” for a week or so to see what happens.

I started wondering whether any of my upcoming topics might actually warrant this description. Classes offered by private performing arts studios? Nope. Museum-related careers? Nope. Teaching tolerance through the arts? Nope.

Then it came to me…

The Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts recently announced their upcoming season. If you think of “sexy” as intriguing, exciting and provocative, this venue clearly qualifies. Those who consider the brain a bonafide erogenous zone may be especially inclined to agree.

One of King Tut's sexier moments?

For the ‘smart equals sexy’ crowd, they’ll present the likes of singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett, comedian and banjoist Steve Martin, and Tony-Award winning actor John Lithgow (known to fans of Showtime’s “Dexter” as “The Trinity Killer”).

For the ‘exotic is sexy’ arts lover, there’s the taiko drummers of Kodo—and The Mystical Arts of Tibet.

If jazz is what turns you on, get ready for jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, trumpeter Doc Severinsen & El Ritmo de la Vida, the Count Basie Orchestra and The Manhattan Transfer.

Sexy covered by a cat suit

Broadway buffs will delight in performances by Tony Award winners Bernadette Peters (who’ll grace the stage of the Virginia G. Piper Theater for the ARTrageous celebration in December) and Betty Buckley of CATS fame.

Fans of “Seth’s Big Fat Broadway” on SIRIUS XM are no doubt wondering whether the “a-mah-zing” Seth Rudetsky might accompany Buckley on piano, which would merit a “sexy” and “donuts” designation from some theater folk.

If you’ve read a good sampling of my 200 + “Stage Mom” posts (I never miss a day), you can likely guess what my personal favorite for the Center’s upcoming season might be…

It’s the Merce Cunningham Dance Company “Legacy Tour,” which offers your “last opportunity to see this great American dance company perform the choreography of the late Merce Cunningham before it disbands.”

My mother told me long ago that you don’t have to reveal everything to be sexy. And so I’ll offer just a few more peeks at what the Scottsdale Center for the Arts has in store…

Sexy in a Shakespearean sort of way

Film screenings. Holiday shows. Family fare. Classical music. Shakespeare. Rock opera. Political humor. Best-selling authors. Acting workshops. Hispanic heritage celebrations. Native American song and dance. And Scottsdale traditions including “Sunday A’Fair” and the “Scottsdale Arts Festival.”

Holding back a bit also gives me another excuse to go “sexy” with future posts. So stay tuned, and check the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts website in the meantime for more juicy details about all things “sexy” in their upcoming season.

When it comes to the Arizona arts scene, Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts brings “sexy” to the city…

–Lynn