Tag Archives: new seasons

Little bits of Broadway

“Punk Dudes Go to see Sound of Music” by Lori Wilson (formerly exhibited by Art Awakenings at the ASU Kerr Cultural Center in Scottsdale)

The 2012 Tony Awards are fast approaching, so it’s the perfect time to enjoy a bit of Broadway close to home. Here’s a sampling of weekend options, plus news of a few shows coming down the road…

  • The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix presents “Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music” Fri, May 18 at 7pm. It’s hosted by Jan D’Atri, and Dee Dee Wood (who choreographed dance scenes for the film) will be in the house. Folks are invited to wear costumes and participate in an on-stage costume contest, so haul out those lederhosen and draperies stitched into playclothes.
  • Arizona Broadway Theatre presents “Tarzan: The Broadway Musical” through Sun, May 20. It’s the work of Disney and Phil Collins, and features several songs not included in the movie soundtrack. (Watch for “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” during their 2012-2013 series.)
  • “La Cage Aux Folles” continues through May 20 at ASU Gammage (mature content/recommended for ages 13 & up).
  • Fathom Events presents two Broadway shows on film at theaters in Glendale, Green Valley, Mesa, Phoenix, Sierra Vista and Tucson — “The Phantom of the Opera” (Mon, May 21 at 7:30pm) and “Love Never Dies” (Wed, May 23 at 7:30pm).
  • Mesa Encore Theatre presents “Hairspray” at Mesa Arts Center May 25-June 3.
  • Valley Youth Theatre opens its 2012-2013 season with “Legally Blonde the Musical” at the Herberger Theater Center on Aug. 10, then presents the Arizona premiere of “How I Became a Pirate” (based on the children’s book by Melinda Long) at VYT in October. They’ll open “The Wiz” this June.
  • Fountain Hills Theater opens its 2012-13 season with “Sunset Boulevard.” Their next season also includes “The Full Monty” and four additional shows. Also watch for “The Soul of Broadway” coming to FHT Aug. 17-26.
  • The Sun City Grand Drama and Comedy Club presents “Little Shop of Horrors,” along with four other shows, as part of its 2012-2013 season.

You’ll find additional Broadway shows, and other performing arts events, in the daily calendar from Raising Arizona Kids magazine. Click here to explore offerings from other Arizona theater companies and learn more about the Arizoni Awards.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about Art Awakenings, which provides art opportunities for youth and adults living with mental illness.

Coming up: Once upon a Broadway binge

Once upon a party

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Though our daughter Jennifer turned 21 yesterday, she asked us to postpone her party until the semester wraps at ASU. But hey, since I’m the one who birthed her, I figured I deserved a party too and headed out for a quick spin of Childsplay’s 35th birthday shindig at Tempe Center for the Arts – where I heard lots of people rave about the lovely setting. Think outdoor fire. Lakeside walks. Illuminated art. And lots of fabulous people, some donning balloon hats crafted to look like ladybugs, mouse ears, green one-eyed monsters and more.

I happened on one of Jennifer’s elementary school classmates, Kaleena Newman, soon after I arrived. She’s currently touring with Childsplay’s “With Two Wings.” Newman and a fellow volunteer were charged with selling mystery bags of unknown goodies, which I managed to resist until later in the evening — when I chose the lone purple one. Picture me climbing a rock wall eating a mouthful of pastries and you’ll have a good sense of what I discovered inside. Something tells me Lizabeth will be rocking that first gift card.

I also ran into plenty of Childsplay actors, including D. Scott Withers, who donned a sort of Mardi Gras meets swami get-up as he passed out long strings of purple, green and gold beads. Also Jon Gentry, who looked so much more debonair than the day I saw him work the long ears in “Go, Dog. Go!”

I also chatted a bit with Debra K. Stevens about this weekend’s opening of “The Color of Stars.” Seems several school groups have already seen the show, and Stevens praised the students for making really astute observations and asking truly insightful questions. Finally, I talked Childsplay summer camp and life in general with Yolanda London. (I last saw London perform in “Rock the Presidents” — and yes, there is a CD for that.)

Naturally I took a spin around the room set up with all things silent auction. Think trips, jewelry, original art and more. Also lots of tickets and such donated by other theater companies and arts organizations. I left before the final bids were recorded so there’s no telling what I might be the proud owner of today. Maybe the single raffle ticket I bought from a young girl toting a basket and a big smile was a winner. But no matter — it’s all for a good cause.

The TCA lobby was filled with all sorts of whimsical carnival-style games, and a photo booth folks entered after dressing up in accessories like neon wigs stashed in a nearby cardboard box. Also passed hors d’oeuvres and drink stations — plus four ASU student playing upbeat jazz fare. I left before they broke out the cake, suspecting Jennifer would let me indulge in one of her birthday cupcakes back home.

While at the soiree, I introduced myself to Colin Ross of “Rock the Presidents” fame. He’s a charming lad who thought I deserved the respect of a “ma’am” when we met, but I’m at the age where “miss” sounds a million times better than “you just won the lottery.” Ross’ parents done good, but I’m still in recovery.

I decided to cut out while in the throws of a nasty cough left over from a recent bout of bronchitis. It’s hard to party when you’re feeling both ancient and sickly. Plus, I was eager to get home to my own birthday baby. Someone asked as I left whether Jennifer was excited about being old enough to drink. Not really, I said. But she does have a hankering to play a mean batch of bingo.

– Lynn

Note: Play passes are now available for Childsplay’s 2012/13 season, which includes the return of “Rock the Presidents” and “June B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells.” Also “Recipe for Disaster” and “Boats” as well as two works based on books for youth — “The Giver” and “A Wrinkle in Time.” Plus a chance to “Occupy the Barnyard!” with “Click, Clack, Moo!”

Coming up: From barber shop to deep dark woods, Fun PBS finds, Musings of a musician mom

The agony and the ecstacy

Actors Theatre of Phoenix has seen plenty of both in recent months after announcing that a huge infusion of cash would be needed to complete their current season, then deciding to move forward with a 2012-2013 season announcement though still working to raise full funding.

So it’s fitting I suppose that the first show planned for their 2012-13 season is Mike Daisey’s “The Agony and the Ecstacy of Steve Jobs.” Daisey and his play became the focus of significant controversy after NPR’s Ira Glass retracted a January episode of “This American Life” featuring Daisey and the play due to “significant fabrications” — and Daisey’s been bombarded with more bad news since.

Folks eager to explore Daisey’s own take on his work can read an article Daisey wrote that’s titled “The Sin of Activism” — published in the April 2012 issue of American Theatre magazine, which has featured works of late that celebrate its four key values — artistry, diversity, global citizenship and activism.

Turns out Daisey was trained to think of activism as a dirty word, but drifted in that direction as his work “circled more and more around the fundamental conflict between the human and the inhuman in our culture.” His article for American Theatre details the evolution of his thought, process and product.

Today he’s a converstion story. “Action is the root of theatre,” writes Daisey. “Activism is the public face of that action. We need an American theatre that recognizes this. Now more than ever.” And I suppose Actors Theatre wouldn’t mind folks heeding the call by advocating on their behalf.

Following Daisey’s “The Agony and the Ecstacy of Steve Jobs,” Actors Theatre will stage “Opus” by violinist-turned-playwright Michael Hollinger — which imagines a string quartet preparing to perform a hefty bit of Beethoven at the White House when the erratic behavior of their resident genius necessitates that someone else  (who’s younger, less experienced and female) take his place. Think rehearsal room as pressure cooker.

New is next to godliness at Actors Theatre, and thank heavens for it. Next up is “The Fox on the Fairway” by playwright Ken Ludwig – described by Actors Theatre as “one of America’s greatest living writers of farce.” Ludwig is well-known to theater folk for writing “Lend Me a Tenor” and “Crazy for You.” But now, it seems, he’s turned his attention to “one man’s eternal love affair with golf.”

Also “A Steady Rain.” This baby was written by Keith Huff, lauded by Actors Theatre for helping to write and produce a little something on AMC called “Mad Men” — which Huff says he’s left behind to pursue other projects. “A Steady Rain” follows a pair of Chicago police officers whose mutual loyalty is tested when an unfortunate decision begets guilt, fear and corruption.

Actors Theatre plans to close its 2012-13 season with “Good People” by playwright David Lindsay-Abaire, whose “The Rabbit Hole” won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for best drama. It’s the tale of a single mother with a special needs daughter who moves to the suburbs in search of new opportunities after losing her dollar store gig. “Good People” was nominated in 2011 for a Tony Award, the year “War Horse” went home with best play honors.

Turns out there’s a lovely piece about “Good People” and Lindsay-Abaire in the current issue of American Theatre magazine as well. It’s penned by Christopher Wallenberg, who details the playwright’s own working class roots and growing realization that new American plays weren’t reflecting the real struggles of folks to make it in a land that sometimes fails to deliver on its promises.

New is nifty, but relevance rules — and it’s something that Actors Theatre of Phoenix is nearing nicely with its 2012-13 season, which reads more “everyday” than “high art” during a period in American life in which few can afford time with theater experiences that feel more luxury than real-life. Let’s hope that Actors Theatre has accurately gauged the pulse of its audience, something absolutely essential to keeping their own heart beating.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to learn about the May 10 movie theater broadcast of a live on-stage performance of “This American Life” (complete with dance and other fun things you can’t see through a radio) — and here to learn about Annie Baker’s “Body Awareness,” being performed by Actors Theatre through April 15.

Coming up: Photography on the fly

Theater works

Happy campers participating in Youth Works Academy through Theater Works in Peoria, which hosts a free Summer Camp Expo this Saturday

Theater works in all sorts of ways. Think jobs, creative outlets for artists, shared experiences for citizens, positive experiences for youth and more.

Theater Works in Peoria is introducing folks to its summer camp options for children and teens this Saturday via their 2nd annual Theater Works Summer Camp Expo, which features drama-related activities for children and the opportunity to talk with Theater Works youth program staff about summer camp options for preschoolers through teens.

More fun with Youth Works Academy

The Sat, March 31 event takes place from 11am-1pm. Admission is free, and lunch (think hot dogs) is included. Sometimes theater works for tummies too. Folks who attend can enter for the chance to win a pair of silver passes to Castles N’ Coasters. If you’re game, just RSVP by March 30 to Athena Hunting at 623.815.1791 ext. 107. Theater Works, by the way, is located at 8355 W. Peoria Ave.

Theater works as well in forming community collaborations, like the Theater Works partnership with Ro Ho En (the Japanese Friendship Garden) in Phoenix to present “Sakura no Ne” (“Root of the Cherry Tree”) April 13-22. Also in helping us reflect on historical events and their meaning for our lives. Hence the April 13-May 13 Theater Works production of “All Through the Night,” a play inspired by stories of German gentile women during and after the Third Reich.

Jay meets giggling girls during Youth Works Academy

Theater Works recently unveiled their 2012/13 season, which opens with “Doubt” and wraps up with “Accomplice.” In between, there’s everything from “The Music Man” and “A Christmas Carol” to “Burning in the Night: A Hobo’s Song” and “Musical of Musicals.” This season’s “A Little Night Music” opens tomorrow night — Wed, March 28.

When you hit this Saturday’s Theater Works Summer Camp Expo, be sure and ask about other ways they’re making theater work for youth — from theater workshops and classes to puppet shows and special programs for homeschool students.

When theater works, we’re all better for it.

– Lynn

Note: Theater Works is seeking designers for the 2012/13 season — and Robyn Allen is accepting resumes at rallen@theaterworks.org. Also, a friendly reminder — The Arizona Governor’s Arts Awards take place tonight, March 27, at the Herberger Theater Center. Click here for details.

Coming up: Fun with freckles!

From Wallace to Willy

Pat McMahon and the cast of "The Wallace & Ladmo Show" (Photo: Centennial Theatre Foundation)

Like many parents born and raised here in Arizona, my husband James grew up watching “The Wallace & Ladmo Show” — the longest running same-cast children’s television show in history. Think 1954 to 1989. Thanks to a collaboration between Centennial Theatre Foundation, Actors Theatre and Desert Foothills Theatre, generations old and new can revisit the show via a production written and directed by Ben Tyler.

It’s being presented this weekend by Desert Foothills Theatre (and during June at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix). Performances take place March 23-25 at Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center in Scottdale. Folks eager to explore this and other historic fare can also visit the House of Broadcasting in Scottsdale.

Musical Theatre of Anthem performs "Willy Wonka" March 29-April 1 (Photo: Olga Smirnoff)

Another North Valley theater, Musical Theatre of Anthem, has exciting news to share. Their production of “Willy Wonka,” being performed at the Boulder Creek High School mini-auditorium in Anthem, opens Thurs, March 29 and runs through Sun, April 1. They’re also anticipating the opening of their new theater at 42323 N. Vision Wy. come July, just in time for summer theater classes.

Musical Theatre of Anthem recently revealed its 2012/13 lineup, which includes “Our Town” (Sept), “Thoroughly Modern Millie” (Sept/Oct), “The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley Jr.” (Oct), “A Year With Frog and Toad KIDS” (Oct), “Thumbelina (A Swallow’s Tale)” (Nov), “Something Beautiful” (Nov/Dec), “Winnie the Pooh KIDS” (Feb), “Little Shop of Horrors” (March), “Dear Edwina JR.” (March) and another show that’ll be announced once rights are secured. Their 2012/13 season also includes a holiday show (TBD in Dec) and fundraiser (Feb).

This future home of Musical Theatre of Anthem should be ready in July

The Arts Council of the North Valley presents their “7th Annual Regional Teen Art Competition” at The Caepe School and Fellowship Church in Anthem Sat, April 28 and Sun, April 29. The works of more than 60 students from area high schools will be exhibited. Think paintings, sculpture, photography and drawings. A panel of professional artists and educators will select winners, and folks who attend can cast their vote for “Viewers’ Choice.”

The council also presents “Picnic Under the Stars” next month. The Sat, April 28 benefit includes “a live auction, raffle items, culinary delights, and a cash bar.” Click here to learn more about the council’s many programs, including educational outreach — or to sign up for Arts Council of the North Valley alerts featuring timely news on music, dance, theater and visual arts offerings.

– Lynn

Note: Both Musical Theatre of Anthem and Desert Foothills Theatre offer summer theater camps, so check their websites for details (and find additional camp options here).

Coming up: I’m more than these stripes

Feeling next to normal

Alice Ripley (L), Aaron Tveit (center) and J. Robert Spencer in "Next to Normal" at the Booth Theatre (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Some musicals mirror our lives. Others manage to change them. For our family, “Next to Normal” did both. So news that it’ll open Arizona Theatre Company’s 2012/13 season hits home. Our son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder during middle school, and the road from first symptoms to stability was a rocky one.

For many years, the everyday experiences of living with mental illness took a toll on every member of our family, including Christopher’s two younger sisters. For Lizabeth, who’s long been interested in stage and screen, the musical “Next to Normal” felt an anthem of sorts in ways that only she can fully explain.

“Next to Normal” imagines the life of a suburban family fraught with depression and denial. Parents Diana and Tom battle their own demons, and each other, long after the death of son Gabe. Other characters include daughter Natalie, a friend of hers named Henry and Doctor Madden.

It features music by Tom Kitt, and book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey — and is being directed for ATC by the company’s artistic director, David Ira Goldstein. The Broadway production won a 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama and three Tony Awards, including one for best musical score.

"Next to Normal" on Broadway (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Lizabeth saw the musical during its Broadway run at the Booth Theatre, and we traveled together last January to see the touring production featuring Alice Ripley (who originated the role of Diana on Broadway) at the Balboa Theatre in San Diego. I’m hoping she’ll be on fall break during Arizona Theatre Company’s Oct. 11-28 run in Phoenix.

If not, we’ll continue our tradition of exchanging show stories. I’ve enjoyed hearing her accounts of everything from “Seminar” to “Porgy and Bess.” Some shows, like “Godspell” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” she’s seen more than once. Others, like “The Book of Mormon,” are tough to take in on a college student’s budget.

If Lizabeth gets to “Freud’s Last Session” at New World Stages in NYC, we’ll be able to compare notes on imagined conversations between Sigmund Freud and C.S Lewis — because Arizona Theatre Company is co-producing the Southwest premiere of this work with San Jose Rep as well. A Feb. 14-March 3 Phoenix run means those of you with a warped sense of humor have Valentine’s Day planning in the bag.

The 2012/13 season for Arizona Theatre Company also includes “Lombardi” (a play about Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi), “Emma” (a musical based on Jane Austen’s novel), “The Sunshine Boys” (a Neil Simon play about comedians reuniting to rehash their old schtick) and “Clybourne Park” (a play exploring race and real estate in America, which received the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in drama).

Theater has long been a normalizing force amidst circumstances sometimes isolating and unpredictable. Works like “Next to Normal” remind families living with mental illness, or grief following the loss of a child, that they’re not alone. I’m not sure whether seeing “Next to Normal” again will feel more like applying a bandage or ripping one off. Both are necessary for healing.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about Arizona Theatre Company’s current season and here to explore their 2012/13 offerings (show are performed at both Tucson and Phoenix venues)

Coming up: Dust in the wind

Update: “Clybourne Park,” which my hubby James saw during his last trip to NYC, has been nominted for several 2012 Tony Awards — including best play. Click here for a full list of this year’s Tony Award nominees. 5/1/12

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”