Tag Archives: Broadway shows

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

Oh-My-Oz!

L. Frank Baum is best known writing “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” published in 1900. Baum was born in New York in 1856 and died in California in 1919. In between he lived in South Dakota and Chicago. Fascinating choices.

Baum wrote several novels, short stories and poems — and dabbled in theater. His most popular novel inspired a play that landed on Broadway in 1903. Its run was short. But the movie that turned his story into a musical in 1939 (first telecast in 1956) is still a hit today.

The film (available in a special 70th anniversary edition) starred Judy Garland as Dorothy and Billie Burke as Glinda. Its “Over the Rainbow” earned an Academy Award for “best music song.” “Follow the Yellow Brick Road,” “The Lollipop Guild,” and “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” did not.

Check out the amazing color in this Warner Brothers wallpaper used during the digital release of the restored 1939 The Wizard of Oz film

In 1975, a new version of Baum’s tale hit Broadway. It was titled “The Wiz” and it earned seven Tony Awards, including “best musical.” Its best known song is “Ease on Down the Road.”

“The Wiz” is an R & B twist on the classic tale. It transforms Dorothy into a shy Harlem school teacher, a role played in the 1978 film version by Diana Ross. Lena Horne played Glinda, Michael Jackson played the Scarecrow and Richard Pryor played the Wizard.

Valley Youth Theatre performs “The Wiz” June 8-24, 2012 at the Herberger Theater Center. Like VYT’s “13” and “Annie” before it, “The Wiz” will bring impressive production elements to this spacious venue so audiences of all ages can enjoy talented youth performing on a grand stage.

A new Theater League production of “The Wizard of Oz,” featuring E.Y Harburg and Harold Arlen songs written for the 1939 film, comes to Mesa Arts Center and the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix this December. I’m told it includes an art deco Oz, munchkins and flying monkeys — making for a fun and unique way to enjoy some family together time during the holiday season.

Those seeking a more immediate Oz fix can head to Desert Stages Theatre in Scottsdale Aug 19-Sept 18 for their production of “The Wizard of Oz,” one of many works in their 2011-12 children’s theatre series.

Original company of Wicked on Broadway (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Novelist Gregory Maguire explores life in Baum’s pre-Dorothy Oz with his 1995 book titled “Wicked.” It’s the basis for the musical “Wicked,” which features book by Winnie Holzman and music/lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.

“Wicked” opened on Broadway in 2003 starring Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda the Good and Idina Menzel as the Wicked Witch of the West. Glinda has a bad case of the sparkles and the other a bad case of green. Joel Grey originated the role of the Wizard in “Wicked” on Broadway.

“Wicked” earned three Tony Awards and one Grammy Award. Best-loved songs from the musical include “Popular” (funny), “Defying Gravity” (inspiring) and “For Good” (heart-warming). “Wicked” is still open on Broadway and there are also London, Australia and touring productions.

The U.S. national tour comes to ASU Gammage (for a third time) Feb 15-March 11, 2012 — making tickets a lovely Valentine’s Day option. It’s a charming show for couples, sisters and mother/daughter outings. During previous ASU Gammage runs the show has sold out quickly, even warranting ticket lotteries and such.

A new Andrew Lloyd Webber production of The Wizard of Oz is currently being performed in London (Photo by Alastair Muir)

There’s a final option for those of you planning travel to London, where a new musical adaptation of the 1939 film opened this spring. This “The Wizard of Oz” features a few new songs, including “Red Shoes Blues,” by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice — known to many for their collaborations on “Evita,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

Texting O-M-G is so last year. Thanks to L. Frank Baum and those inspired by his work, the truly trendy will instead be texting “O-M-O” this theater season.

– Lynn

Note: If you need more Oz in your life, consider reading other Maguire works (including “Son of a Witch”) and stay tuned for a film titled “Oz: The Great and Powerful” due out in 2013.

Coming up: More stories meet stages

How to succeed at Hogwarts

Lizabeth was thrilled to see Daniel Radcliffe perform in “How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying” on Broadway during her last trip to NYC. But long before his stage work, which also included the play “Equus,” Radcliffe was working the wizardry angle as “Harry Potter” in a series of films inspired by J.K. Rowling’s books.

When Harkins Theatres put a special package of tickets for their upcoming “Harry Potter Week” at Tempe Marketplace on sale, those puppies went in a hurry. Something tells me that “Harry Potter Week” is about to become the Valley’s version of Broadway’s “The Book of Mormon” — meaning tickets for those who wait will be hard to come by.

Thankfully, Harkins Theatres has since opened up more seats and added additional locations, something that won’t be possible on Broadway until elders Price and Cunningham agree to cloning — which isn’t likely given the rigors of performing eight live shows a week.

The “Harry Potter Week” package — which covers designated films from Mon, July 11 to Thurs, July 14 — is available (while supplies last) at Tempe Marketplace, Scottsdale 101 and Arrowhead 18 Harkins Theatres. It runs just $40 and includes tickets to all eight “Harry Potter” films.

Check the Harkins Theatres website for a list of additional benefits. Think free popcorn/drinks. “Harry Potter” swag. And early entry to the midnight premiere of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.” Be sure and read the fine print online because the brevity of blogging prevents me from sharing every detail.

For those of you who find a full week of “Harry Potter” just too thrilling to imagine, there’s another option — a “Double Dose of Harry Potter” package that runs just $18. It includes tickets to a 9pm showing of “Deathly Hallows” part one and the midnight premiere of “Deathly Hallows” part two (in 3D!).

The “Double Dose of Deathly Hallows” deal is available (while tickets last) at Arizona Mills, Arrowhead, Chandler Fashion, Gateway Pavilions, Norterra, San Tan Village, Scottsdale 101, Superstition Springs and Tempe Marketplace. Get your tickets at the box office or online at www.harkinstheatres.com.

For those of you eager to maximize this thrilling moment in movie-going history, Harkins Theatres presents “Arizona’s Ultimate Harry Potter Line-up Party” at Tempe Marketplace from 10am to midnight on Thurs, July 14. Think costumes, trivia contests, random drawings, freebie 2011 Harkins loyalty cups for the first 100 in line and more. (Please think water and sunscreen too.)

I’m told prizes for the random drawings include “Harry Potter” swag, Harkins Theatres movie tickets (also 2011 loyalty cups), gift cards, merchandise from participating Tempe Marketplace retailers and more. If you don’t see me there in line with you, there’s a simple explanation.

I’m traveling to New York with Lizabeth later this month, and it’s entirely possible that I’ll be living in “The Book of Mormon” ticket raffle line until my name gets called. Where is Harry Potter’s wand when a girl really needs it?

– Lynn

Coming up: “Stage Mom” posts from the Big Apple!

The musical “Hair” comes full circle

Your first pet. Your first kiss. Your first car. Most of us can recall a variety of “firsts” from our own lives.

But Caren Lyn Tackett of Boston, who performs the role of the Sheila in the current touring production of the Broadway musical Hair, recalls something more.

Tackett grew up listening to the original cast recording of "HAIR"

Stories of her parents’ first date – that night in the ‘70s when her mom took her dad to see the musical Hair during one of its earlier incarnations.

Eventually they married, and counted a signed cast album of Hair among their most prized possessions. Tackett grew up listening to the record over and over again. “I was obsessed with it,” she recalls.

Tackett first performed in Hair with the NYC Central Park production during 2008, and says she was especially thrilled with the show’s vibe within an outdoor setting.

Hackett first performed in HAIR at Central Park in NYC in 2008 (Photo: Joan Marcus)

You get the feeling in talking with Tackett that things like peace and love are more than quaint retro reminiscences. They’re values she’s thrilled to convey with every performance of Hair.

“I have a real personal identification with Sheila,” shares Tackett. “She’s a student, a real part of the tribe and very politically minded.”

Tackett describes Sheila as ambitious, sharing the beliefs of fellow tribe members but refusing to stop there. “She acts on everything she believes.”

Cast of the 2010 national tour of HAIR (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Sheila goes to Washington, D.C. to “try and levitate the Pentagon” and does all she can to engage others in the tribe who are content to champion ideas without acting upon them.

“I can still hear my mother’s voice,” muses Sheila. “Don’t let being a woman hold you back.”

We sometimes forget how little time has passed since gender and race were used with alarming regularity to devalue fellow citizens.

Hair serves as a powerful testament to the challenges of generations present and past – and inspires those who experience it to dream, and to do.

We spoke as Tackett was in Washington, D.C. with the Hair tourand with her family, which includes three-year-old daughter Ravyn Sioux (a name meant to honor Native American roots on both sides of the family).

Lawrence Stallings, Steel Burkhardt and Matt DeAngelis of the 2010 national tour of HAIR (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Apparently the tiny Tackett is already rocking the activism vibe during gleeful trips to see the Lincoln Memorial and other national treasures. “She loves to recite the stories and facts,” muses Tackett.

Seems Tackett was exposed to music early and often, describing her father’s family as “a bunch of jazz and blues musicians in the New England area.”

“My dad’s side is multi-racial,” says Tackett–recalling his role in establishing a “black and white orchestra” during the 1910s. “It was a big deal back then,” reflects Tackett.

Cast of the 2010 national tour of HAIR (Photo: Joan Marcus)

But Hair isn’t her only full circle experience. Seems Tuckett and Matt DeAngelis (Woof), both performing in the current national tour of Hair, have shared the stage before — during a student production of Godspell at Boston’s Masconomet Regional High School. They even attended the same elementary school.

“I always knew I would do theater,” says Tackett. Seems her high school acting peers were a close, supportive bunch. “It was such a beautiful experience.” She went on to major in musical theatre at Emerson College — but left to take an acting gig. 

Tackett is glad she realized early on that acting was a viable career choice, and that her parents were supportive of her decision. “Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t have a career in musical theater and that it can’t last,” insists Tackett.

“It’s never impossible.”

– Lynn

Note: HAIR is being performed at ASU Gammage in Tempe Dec 7-12. Visit the ASU Gammage website for show and ticket information, plus the scoop on special events and promotions for this and future shows. While the show does include brief nudity, Tackett notes that it’s done in a very tasteful way, and hopes this won’t discourage anyone from attending.

Coming up: “Evening of Arts” at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, Valley visual arts news, Art festivals featuring family fun

Musings on “Les Mis” at the movies

Our daughter, Lizabeth, has grown up at the crossroads of classic and contemporary Broadway — appreciating everything from Les Miserables and Chorus Line to In the Heights and Into the Woods.

We spent Wednesday night at the Riverview Cinemark Mesa 16

Wednesday night we did one of our favorite musicals together — Mesa-style, as the Cinemark Mesa 16 theater presented a special event for a single-evening of musical theater magic.

We saw the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert – presented by Cameron Mackintosh in association with Universal Pictures.

We last enjoyed his work at ASU Gammage, where we saw the Disney and Cameron Mackintosh production of Mary Poppins – a surprisingly spectacular telling of a story I once considered merely fair rather than fabulous.

We expected a full crowd for Wednesday’s movie event, arriving more than an hour before showtime. Turns out that only a mom and daughter duo snuggled under a blue fleece blanket dotted with multi-color snowflakes beat us to it, claiming the front and center seats I so often covet.

We used the extra time to explore the Mesa Riverview – a retail center you may know only by its most visible tenant – Bass Pro Shops (a nifty place when you’re shopping for the campers and fisherfolk in your life).

They’ve a good selection of restaurants and shops you won’t find in many other places.

There’s a Scout Shop for all things Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and an indoor pool inside one of three sites for Hubbard Family Swim School (their outdoor pool in Phoenix is a longtime favorite among Valley swimmers both casual and competitive).

Our favorite that night was Yodipity Yogurt, which sports ten yogurt flavors and dozens of possible toppings it’s hard to find elsewhere. We sat coloring pictures at a long counter where guests can string up their artwork using metal clips along a wire washline of sorts.

In a spacious courtyard outside the cinema entrance, there’s a fountain with an artistic flair — plus oodles of pristine white benches what make for some serious relaxation on a fair-weather afternoon or evening.

The Cinemark in Mesa also presents The Metropolitan Opera Live in HD events

We were pleased to find the theater nearly full when we returned, though rather dismayed by the gentleman who’d settled into the seat clearly sporting Lizabeth’s “Wild Things” sweat jacket. Happily, she asserted herself and reclaimed the spot she’d chosen early on.

The evening was special for several reasons, including the relative rarity of our time alone together outside the confines of dirty dishes or looming deadlines. Also the theater’s spectacular sound sytem that left me feeling each cast, chorus and orchestra member was right there with us in Mesa.

And the opportunity to see Nick Jonas, viewed by too many as a mere pop idol, return to his Broadway roots with such a mature performance in the role of Marius (Jonas played Gavroche in Les Mis on Broadway, but these aren’t his only theater credits). 

I must say, however, that there was nothing lovely about the lip-flapping and laughter of the the three teen girls seated behind us during the Les Mis concert presentation.

It’s all good and fine to get all tingly when Marius kisses Cosette, but I like Liz’s advice on this one: Just keep it to yourself. Listen, appreciate and respect the work.

Shows this spectacular don’t happen by accident — and it was Victor Hugo, not Nick Jonas, who first gave us Les Miserables. More history, ladies. Less heart throb — please.

Les Mis is one of those rare shows we can never get enough of. The concert performance we saw that evening in Mesa will soon be available on DVD.

No fan of Les Mis should pass up the chance to experience it, preferably on a big screen surrounded by fellow Les Mis aficionados.

For those eager to experience Les Mis live for the first or umpteenth time, Valley venues present at least two opportunities in the current season.

Creative Stages Youth Theatre in Peoria presents the school edition of Les Mis April 15-May 1, 2011 — giving me a whole new appreciation for tax day. (A change from the originally scheduled run.)

The Broadway touring production of Les Mis comes to ASU Gammage July 7-12, 2011. I loved it there the first time and I expect to love it again.

The June timing couldn’t be better for those of us gift shopping for graduating seniors, June birthday babies, romantic occassions like first dates or anniversary celebrations and such.

I guess Lizabeth won’t be too terribly surprised with her 18th birthday gift…

– Lynn

Note: When you think movie theaters, think St. Mary’s Food Bank — which will be accepting frozen turkey and non-perishable food donations  as well as cash donations at select Harkins Theatres and other sites on “2010 Super Saturday” — Sat, Nov 20. Click here to learn more.

Coming up: The year in arts

Valley actor and director ‘noises off’

Lizabeth came home from school on Thursday with an interesting “to do” list–gather info for a community service project, return borrowed books to her voice teacher, and pick a night to see “Noises Off” at Phoenix Theatre. Such is the life of a senior theater arts major.

"Noises Off" runs Aug 25-Sept 12 at Phoenix Theatre

It reminded me that “Noises Off” will open Phoenix Theatre’s 90th season this week–and that associate artistic director Robert Kolby Harper, who’ll appear in the fabulous farce, recently did some of his own ‘noising off’ as we discussed trends in musical theater.

“Musical theater has always reflected the temperament of the culture at hand,” observes Harper. The ’50s were a sort of golden era with a “happy, feel good focus.”

During the ’60s, “our thinking as a culture became less linear because of Vietnam.” As the ’70s ushered in new styles of popular music, Sondheim brought us the first “concept musical”–called “Company.”

"3 Redneck Tenors" runs Sept 29-Oct 17 at Phoenix Theatre

Today a good story isn’t enough, reflects Harper. A good musical must also consider “the human condition.”

“As our culture has grown up,” says Harper, “musical theater has gotten more thoughtful.”

Many of today’s musicals, such as “American Idiot,” are “used as instruments to get across a particular point of view.” Sometimes, notes Harper, the stories get a little bit boring.

"Hairspray" runs Nov 10-Dec 12 at Phoenix Theatre

Harper says he enjoyed seeing “American Idiot” in New York (“there was some amazing lighting”) although he confesses to wishing someone would just turn the music down a tad. (I hear you.)

So what of today’s musical theater landscape? “We have a little bit of everything,” reflects Harper. “Musical theater is becoming incredibly artistic because everybody is diversifying.” Think “Spring Awakening” and “[title of show].”

"No Way to Treat a Lady" runs Jan 12-30 at Phoenix Theatre

As we question ourselves more on issues like war and sexuality, we see those struggles reflected in works of musical theater. “The point of view of the underdog is more popular than it used to be,” adds Harper.

Another trend? The use of on-stage cameras, huge screens and other technology. It’s due in part, says Harper, to the growing influence of multi-media in all parts of American culture.

Musical theater is growing in popularity as it’s being developed by younger and younger artists, observes Harper.

He cites the musical “Rent” as an example–noting that it was “the first one in years that was a huge hit by an unknown.”

"Avenue Q" runs Feb 23-March 20 at Phoenix Theatre

“Now it happens all the time,” muses Harper. He describes “Avenue Q,” which Phoenix Theatre will present Feb 23-March 20 of next year, as a prime example.

Still, many seasoned musicals continue to attract new audiences. Harper recalls being struck by the incredibly long line of patrons waiting to see “The Phantom of the Opera” last time he hit New York.

“Lots of people still haven’t seen it,” notes Harper. “I don’t care if that’s all they see–because the point is that they tried it.”

I’m reminded of Lizabeth’s first trip to DC and NYC, during which fellow travelers were thrilled to see “Phantom” on Broadway while Lizabeth and a fellow student made their way to the Booth Theater to experience “Next to Normal.”

It’s all good, I suppose.

"Nine" runs April 13-May 8 at Phoenix Theatre

After all, reflects Harper, many Broadway visitors will return home to support their local community theaters.

Soon the Valley’s many theater companies (including Phoenix Theatre, Arizona’s oldest) will open their 2010-2011 seasons. They’ll offer everything from classic to contemporary, giving us all a bit of Broadway–and beyond.

To enjoy an insider’s look at Phoenix Theatre’s 90th season, and your own conversation with associate artistic director Robert Kolby Harper, you can enjoy “A Noises Off Tea” at The Ritz-Carlton Phoenix, featuring an exclusive opportunity to chat with Harper about his role in the comedic play “Noises Off” and more.

The event takes place at noon on Wed, Sept 1, and costs $35. Phoenix Theatre promises ‘no sardines, but a lovely English Tea.’ For reservations, call 602-468-0700.

Prepare those dialing fingers and pointed pinkies…

–Lynn

Note: You can double the fun by seeing Harper and others perform in “Noises Off” live at Phoenix Theatre and renting the 1992 film version of “Noises Off” starring Michael Caine and Carol Burnett (direction by Peter Bogdanovich). Other comedies coming soon to the Valley include “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” (Mesa Arts Center, Aug 27-Sept 12) and “The Kitchen Witches” (Tempe Center for the Arts, Sept 17-Oct 3).

Coming soon: Focus on fall festivals, Music and dance with William Shakespeare, “Eat Pray Love”–museum style