Tag Archives: Orpheum

Seuss sightings

Copperstar Repertory Co. presents Seussical at Higley Center for the Arts in March

Don the striped felt hats and ready the green eggs and ham — because all things Seuss are headed our way as families ready to celebrate the March 2 birthday of the man who brought us all those “things you can think.”

Fountain Hills Youth Theater opens its production of “Seussical Jr.” this Friday, Feb. 3. It’s family-friendly fare featuring favorite Seuss characters including Horton the Elephant, The Cat in the Hat, Gertrude McFuzz, Lazy Mayzie and Jojo.

Front (L to R): Elysha Nemeth and Skylar Bickley, Back (L to R): Emily Spets, Patrick Moyse and Peyton Jordan in Seussical Jr. at Fountain Hills Theater

Musical Theatre of Anthem opens its production of “Seussical Jr.” Feb. 17 at Boulder Creek High School in Anthem. “Seussical Jr.” features songs like “Horton Hears a Who,” “How to Raise a Child,” “It’s Possible,” “Green Eggs and Ham” and “All Alone in the Universe.”

The musical “Seussical” presented by Copperstar Repertory Co., in partnership with Higley Center for the Arts, opens March 23. “Seussical,” which debuted on Broadway in 2000, is based on more than a dozen Seuss stories. It’s longer than the later “Jr.” version and contains a military thread removed from the musical’s adaptations for youth.

I took daughter Lizabeth to see “Seussical” when the touring production starring Cathy Rigsby came to ASU Gammage as part of its 2002-2003 season. She was about 10 years old at the time, and loved everything about it. She still does.

“Seussical” features book by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, whose names are as famous to musical theater folk as Dr. Suess is to the rest of us. Flaherty wrote the music for “Seussical,” and Ahrens the lyrics. Their first team venture was a 1988 musical called “Lucky Stiff.”

Lizabeth performed in the Arizona School for the Arts production of “Lucky Stiff” at Greasepaint Youtheatre before heading off to NYC for college theater studies. It was directed by Toby Yatso, who’ll be narrating “Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham” for the Phoenix Symphony on March 17.

Cast members from the Musical Theatre of Anthem production of Seussical, Jr. (Photo: Olga Smirnoff)

“Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham” is being conducted by Joseph Young and performed at the Orpheum in Phoenix. It features Allison Stanford (soprano) and Aaron Zweiback (boy soprano) and Bill Wanser (percussion) as well as Yatso and actors from Valley Youth Theatre

I first saw the talented Zweiback perform during a Childsplay Academy performance featuring selections from the musical “Grease,” but he’s since performed with Phoenix Theatre and VYT.

The Phoenix Symphony production allows families to “follow and interact with Sam-I-Am as he rhymes his way through Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham.” It’ll feature “a rendition of Gerald McBoing Boing, an animated short film by Dr. Seuss and selections from Seussical the Musical.”

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax,” from the creators of “Despicable Me,” opens in movie theaters nationwide March 2. It follows the adventures of a 12-year-old boy seeking to win the girl of his dreams, and features lots of big names from Zac Efron and Taylor Swift to Betty White and Danny DeVito.

One Seuss, Two Seuss. Theater Seuss, Musical Suess. It’s all good. But I’m still not sporting the big hat.

– Lynn

Note: Check your local libraries and bookstores as Dr. Seuss’ birthday draws near for special Seuss-inspired activities for children and families. Click here to explore a PBS Independent Lens presentation called “The Political Dr. Seuss,” and here to enjoy PBS’ “The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That.”

Coming up: Here piggy, piggy…

Art meets New Year’s Eve

It's hard to miss the Orpheum Theatre's announcement that they're celebrating with Jerry Riopelle's Rockin' New Year's Eve with special guest Garland Jeffreys

My daughter Jennifer has a lovely childhood friend who often invites her for a New Year’s Eve slumber party. It’s nearly as much fun for me because I always put together a basket of treats they can enjoy together — hot chocolate, a gingerbread house kit, tasty pancake mix and such.

The winter break is a great opportunity to get children together for play dates, but I was never big on hosting them at our house. Instead, I often took them to see shows with friends — or helped them do craft projects together at a local museum or art studio.

The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix is presenting a children’s activity with a New Year’s Ever twist that’s just $2 (per craft) with museum admission. It’s called “Celebrate with Sound! Noisemakers for New Year’s Eve” and it takes place Fri, Dec. 30 from 10am-5pm. www.themim.org.

Radio Disney AM 1580 Phoenix presents “Noon New Year’s Eve” Sat., Dec. 31 from 9am-noon at the Phoenix Zoo. The annual event features more than 20 tons of snow, songs from Radio Disney’s “Top 50 Countdown  of 2011,” interactive entertainment, prizes and activities (including resolution writing). www.radiodisney.com/phoenix.

The Phoenix Symphony presents a “New Year’s Eve Celebration” Sat, Dec. 31 at Symphony Hall. The concert, featuring conductor Joseph Young, and soprano Lindsey Geroux, will include “classics from New York to Vienna.” Think Cole Porter, Leonard Bernstein, Rodgers & Hammerstein and more. www.phoenixsymphony.org.

Actors Theatre of Phoenix presents a New Year’s Eve performance of “Hunter Gatherers” at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix, and is offering a special theater/dinner package for those who would also like to dine at My Big Fat Greek Restaurant before the show (theater/meal packages are also available on New Year’s day). Call 602-253-6701 to make reservations. www.atphx.org.

Arizona Theatre Company presents a New Year’s Eve performance of “Daddy Long Legs” at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix, complete with complimentary champagne or sparkling cider before the show. Dinner/theater packages for those who would also like to dine at Sam’s Cafe at the Arizona Center that evening are available by calling the box office at 602-256-6995. www.arizonatheatre.org.

Hale Centre Theatre brings a bit of farce to New Year’s Eve festivities with a performance of “See How They Run,” a British comedy featuring the follies of a reverend who marries a former actress — plus a cockey maid and four men donning clergy garb. Two showtimes are available on Sat, Dec. 31, and each ticket includes party favors plus dessert bar and soda. www.haletheatrearizona.com.

Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria presents a New Year’s Eve gala titled “Hollywood Nights,” a fancy affair including cocktail/hors d’oeuvre reception, three-course dinner, a “Broadway Showcase,” and dancing on stage as the orchestra plays. The Sat, Dec. 31 event features emcee Cory McCloskey of Fox 10 “Arizona Morning.” www.azbroadwaytheatre.com.

If your Arizona arts group is presenting a New Year’s Eve celebration not noted here, please comment below to let our readers know.

– Lynn

Note: Always check age recommendations and other details before purchasing tickets. For a comprehensive listing of family-friendly events, click here to enjoy the Raising Arizona Kids calendar.

Coming up: Keeping pace with “Glee”

Winter camps & workshops

Proof (from Greasepaint's Aladdin, Jr.) that the coolest kids do musical theater

Greasepaint Youtheatre of Scottsdale, home to ten young actors performing with Theater League’s “The Wizard of Oz” at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix through Sunday, recently announced the following winter workshops for youth:
 
Musical Theatre Dance
Featuring music from “The Muppets!”
For ages 6-12
Tues, Dec. 27 from 9am-3pm
Taught by Ariana Ziskin, who choreographed “Disney’s Aladdin, Jr.” for Greasepaint Youtheatre earlier this season. Participants will peform at 3pm for family and friends.
 
All Things Shakespeare
Featuring an adaptation of a well-known Shakespeare work
For ages 10 & up
Wed, Dec. 28 from 9am-3pm
Taught by Dawn Rochelle Tucker, education director for Southwest Shakespeare Company in Mesa. Participants will perform at 3pm for family and friends.
 
“A Chorus Line” Dance
Featuring the Broadway choreography from the musical “A Chorus Line”
For ages 12-18
Thurs, Dec. 29 from 9am-3pm
Taught by Anthony Toudjarov, who recently performed in “A Chorus Line” with Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria. Participants will perform at 3pm for family and friends.
 
Each Greasepaint Youtheatre workshop noted above costs $40. Call 602-889-7609 to learn more or click here to register.  
 

AJTC Curtain Call production of "Fiddler on the Roof, Jr." (Photo: Mark Gluckman)

Curtain Call Youtheatre with Arizona Jewish Theatre Company, which presents “Fiddler on the Roof, Jr.” through Sunday at Phoenix College, recently announced several winter workshops being held at Temple Chai in Phoenix:
 
Squeak and Meow
Featuring fairy tales about cats and mice put into musical theater form
For ages 4-7
Wed, Dec. 21 and Thurs, Dec. 22 from 9am-3pm
Taught by Elizabeth Peterson, performer with The Blue Bike Kids Show. Participants will perform at 3pm on Dec. 22 for family and friends.
 
A Bit of Glee
Featuring acting, singing and movement techniques
For ages 8 & up
Wed, Dec. 21 and Thurs, Dec. 22 from 9am-3pm
Taught by Ariana Ziskin, who directs the Bravo troupe at East Valley Children’s Theatre. Participants will perform at 3pm on Dec. 22 for family and friends.
 
The Great Flying Ship of Ivan the Impossible
Featuring song, dance and story based on a fairy tale about Ivan and his friends
For ages 4-7
Wed, Dec. 28 and Thurs, Dec. 29 from 9am-3pm
Taught by Elizabeth Peterson, performer with The Blue Bike Kids Show. Participants will perform at 3pm on Dec. 29 for family and friends.
 
Mythology Comes to Life
Featuring ways to build characters for the stage through voice and movement
For ages 8 & up
Wed, Dec. 28 and Thurs, Dec. 29 from 9am-3pm
Taught by Colin Ross, member of the 2011-12 acting company for Childsplay
 
Each Curtain Call Youtheatre workshop noted above costs $120 ($200 for one child taking two workshops). Click here to learn more.
 

Actors appearing in Annie, Jr. at Desert Stages Theatre

Desert Stages Theatre, which has a children’s theater performing “Annie, Jr.” through Dec. 18, recently announced three winter workshops taking place at their Scottsdale theater:
 
Music Theory Class – Musical Tools for Industry Success
Featuring a crash course in reading music and music theory
For ages 12 & up
Dec. 19-23 from 2-4pm
Taught by Mark 4man, DST mainstage music director.
 
A Little Bit of Broadway and Pop
Featuring song and dance to music participants help select
For ages 4-10
Dec. 26-30 from 10am-2pm
Taught by Desiree Vaughan, who performed in DST’s “Bye Bye Birdie” earlier this year. Participants will present a performance for family and friends.
 
Princess Parade
Featuring song, dance, arts & crafts and the opportunity to transform into your favorite prince or princess
For ages 3-12
Dec. 19-23 from 10am-2pm
Taught by DST instructors.
 
Prices for each Desert Stages Theatre camp noted above vary (from $100-$250). Click here for details.
 
– Lynn
 
Note: If your theater company or performing arts venue is offering winter break classes for children or teens, please comment below to let our readers know. Please note that workshops noted above may have minimum/maximum enrollment figures.
 
Coming up: Youth theater meets improv

They’re off to see the wizard…

Valley actors who are performing in The Wizard of Oz presented by Theater League

When the Theater League production of “The Wizard of Oz” rolls into town next week, ten Valley youth ages 8-12 will be joining the national touring cast for nine performances — taking place Dec. 6 & 7 at the Mesa Arts Center, and Dec. 8-11 at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix.

The youth were invited to participate through Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale, and have been learning their lovely Munchkin moves the past several weeks with choreographer Jodie Weiss. Andrea Parker-Swenson, whose daughter Olivia is one of the 10 Munchkins, has been serving as event coordinator. Maureen Dias is the company’s producing artistic director.

Mercedes Bischoff of Scottsdale, a 12-year-old 7th grader at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School, admits to being “a little bit nervous” given the size of the venues where they’ll be performing. She last performed in “Disney’s Aladdin, Jr.” on the Greasepaint Youtheatre stage. “It might be a bit intimidating,” says Bischoff.

An early gathering Munchkins with choreographer Jodie Weiss

Bischoff tells me they’ll be performing in the scene featuring the song “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead,” and marching across the stage during a scene in act two. The style of dance they’ll be performing, she says, is probably best described as lyrical or jazz.

Despite rehearsing together Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for three weeks, the Munchkins have never once been able to try their moves on the stages where they’ll soon perform with the touring cast. Their only dress rehearsal will take place the day the show opens in Mesa. Bischoff says they’re expected to arrive at 3:30pm for the 7pm performance.

Costume fittings also take place on opening day, but Bischoff isn’t worried. Careful measurements were sent ahead to “The Wizard of Oz” folks so there shouldn’t be any surprises. “The only thing we’ve heard about our costumes,” says Bischoff, “is that they’re big and flowing, some pants and some dresses.”

Munchkins trying a few poses during an early session with Jodie Weiss

“Ever since I was little,” shares Bischoff, “I’ve wanted to be an actress on Broadway.” Her first community theater experience was performing in “The King and I” at Desert Stages Theatre in Scottsdale when she was about five years old. The best part of being a Munchkin, she says, is learning all the steps — then getting to perform them with friends on the Orpheum and MAC stages.

This musical theater production of “The Wizard of Oz” is based on the Royal Shakespeare Company production inspired by the classic 1939 film – a movie Bischoff recalls watching often as a young child. But come next week, it’ll be her mom, dad and younger sister’s turn to watch. Because Mercedes and her friends are off to see the wizard….

– Lynn

Note: Greasepaint Youtheatre performs “Les Miserables” Jan. 20-29. Click here to learn more about their shows, workshops, camps, community outreach and more. Click here for “The Wizard of Oz” information and tickets. Mercedes Bischoff is in the center of the front/lower row in the top photo above (Photo by Andrea Parker-Swenson).

Coming up: Sticky fingers and snowy houses, Gallery welcomes young artists

Holiday dance memories

Jennifer backstage at The Nutcracker with Ballet Arizona

Both my daughters, now college age, danced in local holiday dance productions as children. Jennifer performed in “Frances Smith Cohen’s Snow Queen” and Ballet Arizona’s “The Nutcracker.” Lizabeth performed for many years in the Ballet Arizona production of “The Nutcracker” — in the roles of Mother Ginger’s child, grandfather mouse and party girl.

Afternoons spent together at holiday dance productions create wonderful family memories, like those I still cherish decades after seeing “The Nutcracker” performed in Colorado with my mother during many a holiday season. So I’m delighted to share news of options for Arizona families eager to create similar snapshots in time.

Your first opportunity to see “The Nutcracker” in the Valley this year will be the Ballet Etudes production, performed by youth dancers, opening Nov. 25. It runs through Dec. 11 at Chandler Center for the Arts. www.balletetudes.net.

Ballet and Friends performs “The Nutcracker”  Nov. 25-27 at the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix. It’s choreographed by artistic director Slawomir Wozniak. www.balletandfriends.org.

Another production of “The Nutcracker” featuring Valley youth will be performed by Southwest Youth Ballet Dec. 16 & 17 at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts. The production features music performed by the Chandler Symphony Orchestra. www.southwestyouthballettheatre.org.

“An Irish Nutcracker,” also featuring youth performers, is being presented by the Arizona Irish Dance Association in conjunction with Maguire Academy of Irish Dance. It’s coming to the Herberger Theater Center Dec. 17 and the Mesa Arts Center Dec. 18 — and features an Irish twist in both music and dance. www.maguireacademy.com.

Girls waiting their turn to audition for The Nutcracker with Ballet Arizona

The Ballet Arizona production of “The Nutcracker,” featuring choreography by artistic director Ib Andersen, is being performed at Symphony Hall in Phoenix Dec. 9-24. The cast includes both Ballet Arizona dancers and youth, some from the School of Ballet Arizona, selected through an audition process. Music will be performed by the Phoenix Symphony. www.balletaz.org.

A touring production featuring the Moscow Ballet, titled “Great Russian Nutcracker,” comes to the Comerica Theatre in Phoenix for just a single performance on Dec. 20. www.livenation.com.

A longtime Valley favorite, “Frances Smith Cohen’s Snow Queen,” is being performed Dec, 3-18 at the Herberger Theater Center. Cohen serves as artistic director for Center Dance Ensemble, the resident modern dance company of the Herberger Theater Center. This production, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” features both company dancers and youth (many  from Dance Theater West) selected through an audition process. www.centerdance.com.

The Arizona Dance Coalition presents “A Joyous Christmas” at various Valley locations Dec. 1, 3 and 4. It features guest artists Jeffrey Polston, formerly with Complexions Contemporary Ballet in NYC, and Astrit Zejnati, principal dancer with Ballet Arizona. Also AZDance’s professional dance roster, their “Children’s Christmas” company and dancers from “Movement E-Motion” — a dance program for “individuals with different abilities.”  www.azdancecoalition.org.

Make time for dance this holiday season  — because the rush of retail fades far too quickly, but shared experiences with on-stage magic last a lifetime.

– Lynn

Note: If your dance company is presenting a holiday dance production not noted above, please comment below to let our readers know.

Coming up: Thanksgiving fun — NYC style

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

Pardon my Pygmalion

Here’s a little something for those of you seeking just the right name for your baby boy: Pygmalion. The word, which has Greek origins, means “King of Cyprus” — which rather reminds me of Sara Bareilles’ “King of Anything.”

For others, the name Pygmalion conjures thoughts of playwright George Bernard Shaw – whose play titled “Pygmalion” references a Greek myth recounted by Ovid in which a sculptor who loathes women falls in love with his own statue of a beautiful woman.

Most know a later version of this story — the one told in the 1956 musical “My Fair Lady,” which is based on Shaw’s 1912 work. It’s the tale of a commoner, Eliza Doolittle, who undergoes a phonetics makeover at the hands of professor Henry Higgins.

Theater League brings “My Fair Lady” to two Valley stages this season — Mesa Arts Center Jan 31-Feb 1, 2012 and the Orpheum in Phoenix Feb 16-19, 2012. It features book, music and lyrics by Lerner and Loewe. Think “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly” and “I Could Have Danced All Night.”

In his preface to “Pygmalion,” Shaw disparages the language skills of his peers. “The English,” Shaw writes, “have no respect for their language, and will not teach their children to speak it.”

I suspect the Irish playwright, who lived from 1856 to 1950, would have plenty to say about most states deciding to drop cursive writing from the school curriculum. Blogging might take a beating as well.

Mesa Community College presents “Pygmalion” Jan 27-Feb 4, 2012 at Theatre Outback, located on the MCC campus. It’s one of four theater works in their “Theatre Arts and Film 2011-2012 Mainstage Season” — which includes some truly fascinating fare.

Those of you eager to experience Shaw’s work have another option as Desert Rose Theatre performs “The Dark Lady of the Sonnets” July 21-30 at St. Daniel the Prophet Catholic Church in Scottsdale. Each 7:30pm show is preceeded by a 7pm “pre-show chat” and followed by a “fun Q & A with the actors.”

Desert Rose offers this summary of the play: William Shakespeare is out on the town to meet his Dark Lady, the woman who inspired his sonnets. But a sleepwalking figure interupts his tryst. Who is this new, mysterious and fascinating woman with regal bearing? Could she end up his new muse?

Tickets for “The Dark Lady of the Sonnets” are just $10, and the fine folks at Brown Paper Tickets note a minimum age of 8 to attend. This production features Chris Michael Dennis, Diane Senffner, Kristina Rogers and Dave Edmunds.

George Bernard Shaw received the 1925 Nobel Prize in Literature, and you can learn more about his work by visiting the Nobel Prize website. The Nobel Committee is currently reviewing productions nominated for the 2011 Nobel Prize in Literature.

If you’re having twins, by the way, consider coupling the names Pygmalion and Hamlet. I owe that suggestion to my daughter Jennifer, though I think it might be a better choice for a pair of puppies you call “Pyg” and “Ham.”

– Lynn

Coming up: What would Robin Hood do?

One singular sensation

A Chorus Line won the Tony Award® for best musical in 1976

I spoke Monday morning with Arizona’s sole Tony Awards® voter, a singular sensation in her own right when it comes to Arizona arts and culture.

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director for ASU Gammage and assistant vice president for cultural affairs at Arizona State University, is in New York this week and will be attending Sunday’s Tony Awards® ceremony at the Beacon Theatre on Broadway.

The Tony Awards® venue changed this year, says Jennings-Roggensack, because Cirque du Soliel inked a five year contract for the award show’s former home.

She notes that the theater is located in the area of Spanish Harlem and hopes the streets will be bustling with eager onlookers, adding to the festive nature of theater’s most important night.

The smaller theater means seats aren’t available for the general public. Still, I’d love to be there — if only to see Jennings-Roggensack negotiate the evening wearing the four inch heels daughter Kelsey told her were a must with the low-back white sequin gown she’s selected for the evening. I’m told there’s also a gown with purple sequins in the mix.

Tune to CBS Sunday night to watch the 2011 Tony Awards® ceremony

While others are busy predicting this year’s winners, Jennings-Roggensack has her hands full seeing those last few shows she’ll have to vote on before this Friday at 5pm.

She flew into New York on Sunday, saw “Baby It’s You” that night and has “Anything Goes” tickets for Thursday evening.

She’ll be attending the Tony Awards® with Michael Reed, senior director of cultural participation and programming at ASU Gammage — who works with Jennings-Roggensack to select and secure touring productions for each ASU Gammage season.

I ran into Reed and his family during this year’s Arizona School for the Arts “Showcase” at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix, but didn’t yet have Tony Awards® fashion on the brain, so I can’t speak to this element of his NYC experience.

Personally, I’d like to see all the men sporting white dress shirts and skinny black ties ala “The Book of Mormon,” this year’s most nominated show. But it’s unlikely.

It’s a treat to chat with Jennings-Roggensack each year as the Tony Awards® ceremony draws near — because she’s a walking Broadway encyclopedia who never loses her zeal for the art form or her enthusiasm for the artists and others who make it all come to life.

She’s got a pretty good idea of who’ll walk away with the best musical award, but describes the best play competition as “a real horse race.”

I’ll be seeing “War Horse,” one of four shows nominated for best play, when I’m in NYC with Lizabeth later this month. And spending lots of time in line with folks entering raffles for “The Book of Mormon” tickets. But talking with Jennings-Roggensack makes me want to see it all.

The Book of Mormon is this year's most nominated show, with 14 nominations including best musical

Jennings-Roggensack expects Bobby Cannavale to win the Tony Award® for best actor in a play for his performance in “The Motherf**er with the Hat” and says Sutton Foster, nominated for best actress in a musical for her role in “Anything Goes,” is on her way to becoming “Broadway royalty.”

She describes the cast of “The Normal Heart” as “stunning” — praising Joe Mantello’s work as both actor and director, and calling Ellen Barkin’s performance “wonderful.” Barkin is nominated for best featured actress in a play. Jennings-Roggensack describes “Arcadia,” also nominated for best play, as “cerebral.” Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing lies in the mind of the beholder.

Jennings-Roggensack says she was “surprised — in a good way” by John Leguizamo’s performance in his one-man play, and was pleased to see the work attracting “a very multiracial, multicultural audience.”

And she’s surprised that Robin Williams wasn’t nominated for his performance in the play “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo.” She describes Mark Rylance, nominated for best actor in a play for his work in “Jerusalem” as “the next Olivier.”

“I’ve been watching the Tony Awards® since I was a baby,” says Jennings-Roggensack. “It was a big deal at our house.”

– Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about the 2011 Tony Awards® — including FAQs about who gets to vote, when the ceremony is being broadcast in your area, and how you can get tickets to see nominated and winning shows on Broadway.

Coming up: More pearls from Colleen Jennings-Roggensack — including her musings on “The Book of Mormon” and insights into Broadway trends

Touring shows with a Tony Awards® twist

Jackie Burns performing the role of Elphaba in Wicked (Photo by Joan Marcus)

In a perfect world, we could simply hop the light rail (or Elphaba’s broom) and hitch a ride to NYC for the latest and greatest Broadway productions.

Thankfully, there’s a plan B — attending touring productions of Broadway shows at three Valley venues during the 2011/12 season.

Theater League’s “Broadway Series” includes four shows that’ll be performed at both Mesa Arts Center and the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix

My Fair Lady,” coming to Arizona Jan 31-Feb 19, 2012, earned six Tony Awards® (including best musical) in 1957 and one in 1976 (for best actor in a musical).

The “Broadway in Your Backyard” series at ASU Gammage in Tempe features seven shows. ASU Gammage also presents three special engagements, including “Wicked” — a musical that earned three Tony Awards® in 2004 (best actress in a musical for Idina Menzel, costumer designer and scenic designer).

Other Tony Award® winners coming to ASU Gammage include “West Side Story,” “Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific,” “Green Day’s American Idiot,” “La Cage Aux Folles,” and “Million Dollar Quartet.”

Kyle Harris and Ali Ewolt performing in West Side Story (Photo by Joan Marcus)

West Side Story” earned two Tony Awards® in 1958 — one for best choreographer (Jerome Robbins) and another for best scenic designer. The revival earned a 2009 Tony Award® for best actress in a musical. The touring production of “West Side Story” opens the 2011-12 Broadway season at ASU Gammage on Sept 27.

The touring production of “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific” comes to ASU Gammage Jan 10-15, 2012. The revival earned four 2008 Tony Awards® — for best revival (musical), actor, lighting design and director.

The original “South Pacific” earned nine 1950 Tony Awards®, including best musical, actor (musical), actress (musical), score, libretto and director. Also best supporting or featured actor (musical), supporting or featured actress (musical) and producers (musical).

Green Day’s American Idiot” — which earned two 2010 Tony Awards®, for scenic design (musical) and lighting design (musical) — takes to the ASU Gammage stage April 24-29, 20102.

La Cage Au Folles” earned six Tony Awards®, including best musical, in 1984. Also actor (musical), book (musical), director (musical), score and costume designer. One revival earned 2005 Tony Awards® for best revival (musical) and choreographer.

Douglas Hodge earned the 2010 Tony Award for best actor in a musical (Photo by Uli Weber)

The most recent revival received three 2010 Tony Awards® — for best musical and director. Also best actor (for Douglas Hodge). The touring production comes to ASU Gammage May 15-20, 2012.

Million Dollar Quartet” rounds out the 2011-12 “Broadway in Your Backyard” series at ASU Gammage June 5-10, 2012. It earned a 2010 Tony Award® for best actor in a featured role (musical).

I hadn’t imagined, while watching last year’s broadcast of the 2010 Tony Awards®, that I’d be able to enjoy touring productions of three winning musicals right here in the Valley so soon thereafter.

But I’m thrilled that’s the case, and even more excited now to watch the 2011 Tony Awards® ceremony knowing that several of the shows being honored this year may soon find their way to Arizona.

– Lynn

Note: ASU Gammage is sponsoring a Tony Awards® contest, with a very nifty prize for the winner. Click here to learn more.

Coming up: A conversation with Arizona’s only Tony Awards® voter

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