Tag Archives: Nine

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

The many faces of Childsplay

I’ll be donning my party clothes Friday night to join the fine folks of Childsplay for their “Childsplay Celebrates Its Greatest Hits Gala,” which kicks off at 6pm at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort.

Memories of my last Childsplay shindig are still fresh. And fabulous. Think all the energy and fun of a Childsplay production for children translated into the realm of grown-ups — but with no less imagination and wonder.

Lillian Castillo with Childsplay associate artist D. Scott Withers, who appeared in HAIRSPRAY with Phoenix Theatre late last year (Photo: Laura Durant)

Lillian Castillo (L) and D. Scott Withers in a Phoenix Theatre photo by Laura Durant

I’ve had Childsplay on the brain lately because it seems that everywhere I turn I discover another Childsplay artist lending his or her talents to additional creative enterprises — from television commercials to musical theater productions in other parts of the country.

D. Scott Withers, who performed the role of “Edna Turnblad” in this season’s Phoenix Theatre production of “Hairspray,” has been reprising the role with Arkansas Repertory Theatre (along with Lillian Castillo, who plays “Tracy Turnblad”) in a production that runs through May 8.

Jon Gentry (L) and D. Scott Withers perform in a Childsplay production of A Year With Frog and Toad (Photo: Heather Hill)

Allison Couture, whose husband recently left the touring production of “Billy Elliot The Musical” to accept a role in “Jersey Boys” on Broadway, worked for a time with the children in the “Billy Elliot” cast. Both are now NYC-bound.

Israel Jimenez, who teaches at Arizona School for the Arts, is known to many as “the face of SRP.” You’ll see his mug in commercials and on billboards throughout the Valley. Jimenez teaches ballroom dance at a local Fred Astaire Dance Studio (swoon) and is readying to direct “Frida” for Teatro Bravo.

Kim Manning is currently performing the role of “Liliane La Fleur” in the musical “Nine” at Phoenix Theatre, which you can enjoy through May 8.

Molly Lajoie Plutnicki teaches dance at Mesa Arts Academy and also keeps busy choreographing various theater productions. She’s both director and choreographer for Greasepaint Youtheatre’s “Schoolhouse Rock,” opening Fri, May 6 at Stagebrush Theatre in Scottsdale.

Yolanda London in a Black Theatre Troupe photo by Laura Durant

Yolanda London is rehearsing for “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,” a one-woman show about the life of singer Billie Holiday that Black Theatre Troupe of Phoenix opens May 13.

Todd Hulet recently staged a production of his original musical titled “The Wheels on the Bus” for Ovation! Musical Theatre Bainbridge in Washington.

Toby Yatso teaches at Arizona School for the Arts, and is nearly impossible to keep up with when it comes to acting, directing and other theater gigs throughout the Valley.

Yolanda London performs in the Childsplay production of Tomato Plant Girl (Photo: Heather Hill)

My soon to be 18-year-old daughter Lizabeth has trained with the talented artists of Childsplay for at least half her lifetime. She’s taken classes, attended summer camps, participated in the Childsplay conservatory program and more.

Childsplay has given her extraordinary opportunities to study with several of the Valley’s very finest theater talents — those noted above and many others. 

As we attend the “Childsplay Celebrates” gala Friday night, I’ll be celebrating not only the arts in education programs that’ll be funded with event proceeds, but the many gifts this theater company has bestowed on us.

– Lynn

Note: Click here  for “Childsplay Celebrates Its Greatest Hits Gala” event and ticketing information. The evening features cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction, dinner and entertainment. (Bring your teacher, birthday and holiday gift lists to snag all sorts of fun finds at the auction.) Click here for a full roster of Childsplay company and staff (including associate artists, members of the acting company, teaching artists and others).

Coming: Valley museums celebrate “International Museum Day” with special events and discounts

Call for children’s artwork: I’m looking for photos, drawings, paintings and such with a garden theme for Friday’s post celebrating “National Public Gardens Day.” To submit your child’s work for possible use in the garden post, please send it to me at rakstagemom@gmail.com no later than 5pm Thurs, May 5 (include your child’s first name, age, city and your contact info too). Thanks!

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

Too good to be Q?

My neighbors must think it odd. Every day after I take my mail from the mailbox, I stop in my tracks to see what’s arrived. I probably did the same thing umpteen years ago, hoping Donny Osmond would actually reply to some of my fan mail. He never did, and so I’ve moved on. (Davy Jones and Bo Donaldson were no better.)

Nowadays I watch for announcements of upcoming music, dance and theater performances. I learned that lesson the hard way, seeing a poster of the musical “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” featuring Osmond hanging on a wall of the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix only after it had come and gone.

I did a curbside happy dance when I opened a humble looking envelope from Phoenix Theatre the other day. It announced their 2010-2011 season—something not even posted on their website yet. Better yet—they told me I could share it with our readers right away, even though a certain show (a Tony Award winner for best new musical) won’t be ‘official’ until March.

I had an inkling a couple of months ago when a Phoenix Theatre 2010/2011 season survey hit my virtual mailbox—something I received because I’m on their e-list, the modern day version of a mailing list used to send news via e-mail instead of snail mail. The survey, something they’ve done for years, invites patrons to vote on possible shows for the coming season.

The surveys were also available in the programs patrons received when attending Phoenix Theatre productions earlier in the current season, and each survey included a place for respondents to provide their name and such (so stuffing the survey box wasn’t a problem).

Patrons were asked to select two choices in each of four categories, with combined results weighing heavily in the decision making process when it came time for artistic director Michael Barnard and his team at Phoenix Theatre to decide on the 2010-2011 season.

What would you have selected from the following options?

Large musicals: Hairspray, Nine, Damn Yankees, The Drowsy Chaperone, My Favorite Year, Annie, La Cage Aux Folles or The Mystery of Edwin Drood? Mid-season musicals: Avenue Q, Iron Curtain, Hats! The Musical, Working or Wildest? Intimate musicals/revues: The Marvelous Wonderettes, The Big Bang, No Way to Treat a Lady, Twisted TV or Pump Boys and Dinettes? Comedies: Unnecessary Farce, Noises Off, Boeing Boeing or The Wallace and Ladmo Show?

The survey also asked patrons which type of programming they enjoy seeing most at Phoenix Theatre—offering four choices to choose from: new Broadway musicals, classic Broadway musicals, comedies and world premiere musicals. The trend, according to Phoenix Theatre marketing director Brian Kunnari, is towards newer Broadway musicals rather than Broadway classics.

Hence the upcoming season will feature the following:

• “No Way to Treat a Lady”

• “Hairspray”

• “3 Redneck Tenors”

• “Noises Off”

• “Nine”

There’s also a little something almost too good to be true—something, I’m told, involving a Q.

I suspect there will be a happy dance or two Friday evening, Feb. 26th, when Phoenix Theatre takes to the Madison Event Center in downtown Phoenix for its “Phoenix Theatre LIVE” event featuring “song, dance, comedy, cocktails and supper club dining.”

If you’re free, you may want to don your “studio audience glam” and join the fun. Visit www.phoenixtheatre.com ASAP for details and ticket info.

If an evening with Phoenix Theatre sounds fun, imagine joining artistic director Michael Barnard in London this spring for “400 years of theatre in one week.” The deadline to register for this baby is drawing nigh, so check out the details right away if you might want to take part in this April 24th to May 1st adventure.

There’s a trip brochure at the Phoenix Theatre website, or you can contact Beth Reynolds at the theater for more information (602-889-5299 or e.reynolds@phoenixtheatre.com).

Travelers will enjoy three theatre productions, including “Love Never Dies,” Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to “Phantom of the Opera”—and excursions to sites every theater buff dreams of seeing (Shakespeare’s home in Stratford-upon-Avon, the Globe Theatre and more).

Today, I fear, will bring a rather uneventful trip to the mailbox. Unless there’s news of a Valley stop for a national tour of “Next to Normal,” nothing’s likely to rival my excitement over all things Q…

–Lynn

Note: The “Broadway Across America” national touring production of “Avenue Q” comes to ASU Gammage in Tempe March 4th-9th. I’m attending opening night so look for a review of the show soon after. Better yet, find me and say “hello” at the show!

Update: It’s official! Phoenix Theatre’s 2010-2011 season includes “Avenue Q.” To enjoy adult puppet theater in the meantime, check out the adult puppet slams presented by Great Arizona Puppet Theater in Phoenix (www.azpuppets.org).