Tag Archives: On Broadway

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

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?”

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