Tag Archives: Bring Him Home

Lynn & Liz do “Les Mis”

Cameron Mackintosh’s new 25th anniversary production of Boublil & Shoenberg’s “Les Miserables” is being performed at ASU Gammage in Tempe through Sun, June 12 — though the venue warns that only a “very limited inventory” of tickets remain. I saw the June 7 opening night performance with my daughter Lizabeth on the eve of her 18th birthday.

She mentioned feeling a little teary-eyed once we got to our seats – remembering that she’d been seated in a similar spot the first time she saw the musical a decade or so ago. That was the year, we reminisced, that she chose to sing “The People’s Song” at a school performance.

Lizabeth shared that while she didn’t understand everything that was happening on stage during her first “Les Mis” experience, she “was very affected by it.” This particular production left her reaching for Kleenex® more than once during the final hour — and sharing them with the woman seated next to her.

I’m a little more jaded, I suppose. Still, I was quite moved by J. Mark McVey’s (“Jean Valjean”) performance of “Bring Him Home,” which I listened to with my eyes closed. This solo earned the most audience applause, not surprising given that he’s delivered “Les Mis” performances nearly 3,000 times.

Michael Kostroff delivered the crass inn-keeper “Thenardier” with comic genius. Lizabeth knows him best from roles on television shows including “Disney’s Sonny with a Chance.” Young actors performing the roles of “Gavroche” and “Little Cosette” were delightful — and fans of all ages were thrilled to meet and chat with them after the show.

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Lizabeth and I agree that the work of scenic and image designer Matt Kinley, who trained with Motley Theatre Design Course, is breathtaking in this production. It’s inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo, author of the mid-19th century novel “Les Miserables” that inspired the sweeping musical. We also enjoyed the musical staging by Michael Ashcroft, who has done a great deal of work with the Royal Shakespeare Company in England.

The orchestrations were especially moving and memorable so we paid special attention to the “Playbill” bios of the folks who created them. Original orchestrations are from John Cameron and new orchestrations are by Christopher Jahnke. Stephen Metcalfe and Stephen Brooker provide additional orchestrations.

I made sure to compliment orchestra members as they exited the backstage area toting black cases protecting instruments from cello to oboe. My personal favorites were Will Curry (also assistance conductor) on viola and Eric Borghi on percussion. The orchestra was masterfully conducted by Robert Billig, with associate conductor Daniel Rein.

Folks expecting over-the-top set pieces and non-stop special effects may have felt disapppointed. This is a leaner, cleaner “Les Mis” that puts story first. I’m grateful that the production’s air of simplicity refocused my attention on Hugo’s tale and the time during which it was written — leaving me eager to explore more of both his visual art and writings.

– Lynn

Note: Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale performs “Les Miserables: School Edition” January 20-29, 2012 (Fri/Sat at 7pm and Sun at 2pm). Auditions are scheduled for Dec 5 & 6 (5-9pm). Call 602-889-7609 to schedule an audition.

Coming up: All things “Annie”

A weekend to remember

This is your last weekend to enjoy the works of Metropolitan Arts Institute students in the Imagining Dance exhibit from the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

It’s a weekend to remember for all sorts of reasons at our house. Celebrating Jennifer’s 20th birthday. Looking ahead to Lizabeth’s transition to college this fall. And readying for Christopher’s graduation with his first college degree.

But we’ll also be remembering more somber moments — in American and world history. Attending the ASA production of Laurie Brooks’ “Triangle,” a play about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 100 years ago (which made its world premiere at ASU in 2008). And recognizing “Holocaust Remembrance Day” on May 1.

Related community events include the “Yom Hashoah Holocaust Community Commemoration” at Temple Emanuel in Tempe. The service — which takes place Sun, May 1 at 7pm — will honor victims, survivors and their children.

“Habimah Emanuel,” the temple’s drama group, will present “a short performance” of the Broadway play “Rose” — which “deals with an aspect of the Holocaust.”

“Rose” was written by Martin Sherman. This production is directed by Paula Shulak. The cast includes Temple Emanuel members and local actors working in “an interfaith effort to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive in our own day.”

Phoenix Opera presents a benefit concert titled “Popera” — which features popular, spiritual and classical songs performed by “the stars of Phoenix Opera” — on Sun, May 1. Think “Bring Him Home” and “The Prayer.” Also “Ava Maria” and “Some Enchanted Evening.”

There’s a 2pm matinee at All Saints of the Desert in Sun City and a 7pm performance at All Saints Episcopal Church in Phoenix. The concert features ten Phoenix Opera singers and “international opera star” Robert Hale. Tickets are $20.

This weekend is your last chance to experience student works by young artists from Metropolitan Arts Institute on exhibit in the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art young@art gallery (which is actually located inside the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts).

And it’s the perfect weekend to visit the Musical Instrument Museum of Phoenix. Their “Listen to the World” event — featuring music, dance and workshops in celebration of their first anniversary — is free with museum admission.

Jordin Sparks & Friends” perform at the MIM Music Theater Friday night. Tickets start at $75 and include both a reception that evening and museum admission for April 30 or May 1. “Alaska’s fiddling poet” Ken Waldman presents free poetry, storytelling and song on Saturday.

The Poetry Center at the University of Arizona presents their young@art festival “From Page to Stage” on Sat, April 30 from 10am-5pm. The festival is all about youth writing and art. The Poetry Center is located at 1508 E. Helen St. in Tucson.

Youth are invited to “come play with words, make books and help write Tucson’s longest poem.” Performers include “Stories That Soar,” the “Silver Thread Trio,” “Puppets Amongus,” “Mr. Tidy Paws & the Funtime Orange Band” and many more.

There’s haiku improv, a youth poetry slam championship and even art projects. Think tie-dye. Chalk art. Origami poetry. A detailed schedule of offerings is available online.

Whatever your weekend plans, make time to enjoy at least a bit of arts and culture with your children big or small. Time is so fleeting — and experiences with song, dance, theater, literature and art create some of our warmest memories, as families and communities.

– Lynn

Note: Read more about the topic of Holocaust remembrance in “Remember and Act: Engaging children in social justice” in the May 2011 issue of Raising Arizona Kids magazine.

Coming up: “The Other King & I”

I am what I am

As events unfolded last Sunday, I couldn’t help repeating the chorus of a song called “I Am What I Am” over and over again in my head. From the Broadway musical “La Cage aux Folles,” the song is a sort of anthem to self-acceptance.

Ironic considering my failure to execute my one big goal for the day — attending an Arizona Jewish Theatre Company production called “My Name is Asher Lev” — which tackles the topics of identity and self-acceptance.

Because it was to be my third theater outing of the weekend, I felt even guiltier than usual about leaving my husband behind to care for more mundane tasks like paying bills and caring for pets.

I assuaged my guilt by attempting to squeeze in just one more load of laundry before leaving for the afternoon. That’s where it all started to go horribly wrong. Turns out I had just enough time to make the show, but I breezed right past the final turn that would take me to my destination.

I was distracted, I suspect, by the song that was playing on the SiriusXM Radio “On Broadway” channel at the time. It was “Bring Him Home” from the musical “Les Miserables” — which has always reminded me of my 21-year-old son in poignant ways that only my husband and I fully understand.

When I got to the John Paul Theatre on the campus of Phoenix College in Glendale, where the Arizona Jewish Theatre Company performs, it was about ten minutes past showtime. And to their credit, they’d started the show on time — with a nearly packed house that would make it hard for me to find a seat without being disruptive.

So I snagged a program, information of their upcoming “Curtain Call” youth theatre production of “A Rockin’ Tale of Snow White,” and their “Summer Theatre Day Camps.” I hoped to find a little coffee joint nearby where I could review the program or read one of the daily papers I keep in my car for just such occasions.

When in doubt, follow this advice from a Cafe Press bumper sticker

I drove away, planning to return two hours later for a post-show talk back with Janet Arnold, Layne Racowsky and the show’s three cast members.

And I remembered that I’d been meaning to get to the historic district in Glendale to check out local arts offerings and photograph a bit of local flavor.

I found the flavor I was looking for at a coffee joint called “A Shot of Java” — which has a rare blend of cozy charm and quirkiness that makes it especially appealing. I stumbled on this little gem after parking nearby to photograph a sign that caught my eye because of its “Mad Hatter” motif.

I asked for directions to local museums. We used to have a bead museum, they told me, but it just shut down. “I know,” I said — vowing to photograph it anyway as a reminder of what can happen when we take local repositories of arts and culture for granted.

I used the time I’d allotted for “My Name is Asher Lev” to explore the City of Glendale further — and I’ll be sharing more about my fun finds in a future “Art Adventures: Historic Glendale” post complete with photos of plenty of signs.

My kids often tease me about my fondness for taking pictures of signs, but I felt somewhat vindicated as I watched a story about an artist with a similar affliction on the “CBS Sunday Morning” program earlier in the day.

I returned for the “My Name is Asher Lev” talk back, and discovered that audience members included students taught by one of the show’s actors. Their questions, and those of others who actually managed to see the play, were enlightening — and will be included in a future post that I’ll publish before the show’s final weekend performances (it runs through April 3).

My final stop of the day was a coffee shop I frequented when my daughter Lizabeth trained with the School of Ballet Arizona. Sitting at one of the outside tables was a friend I first met while Christopher attended New Way Academy in Scottsdale. I sat to catch up a bit before heading home to make dinner, asking how she’d spent her day.

Turns out she was lucky enough to catch one of the many productions I just didn’t have time to take in — the Ballet Arizona performance of “Modern Masters.” She described each of the three pieces they performed in beautiful and exquisite detail — leading me to wonder whether she might be a budding arts critic, or interested perhaps in writing a guest blog about a future dance performance.

Tonight I was planning to attend opening night of “Fiddler on the Roof” at ASU Gammage – a piece that feels especially poignant as James and I ready to send our youngest daughter off to college in the fall. But I knew better than to leave late in the hopes of making it in time. Once again, my plate is full with family responsibilities.

Still, I’ll be taking time out later this evening to write a post about the show — which I saw performed at ASU Gammage many years ago. It was a different production, but the story in all its grandeur does not change — and it’s one that all parents can relate to and learn from.

“Fiddler on the Roof” runs through this weekend at ASU Gammage, and if you’re not going tonight, there’s still time for you to learn from my mistakes. Get through all that work you brought home now. Make the kids use paper plates, and tell your family you’re boycotting laundry.

It rarely seems to work for me. But I never give up trying.

After all, I am what I am…

– Lynn

Note: My “Art Adventures: Historic Glendale” will post just in time for you to get a taste of the city’s historic district before it holds a free event titled “Artworks First Saturdays” from 10am-4pm on Sat, April 3. Watch for musings on “Family and Fiddler” tomorrow (Wed, March 30).

Coming up: New season announcements!, A new “Women of Broadway” series hits the Valley