Tag Archives: The Mousetrap

Ode to the Oliviers

Scene from "Matilda the Musical" featuring characters Matilda and Mrs. Phelps (Image: Quirk Books). The show earned seven 2012 Olivier Awards.

I spent a lovely afternoon at Sunday’s Lawrence Olivier Awards in London thanks to a live online broadcast that’s got me appreciating all the modern technology I’ve typically scoffed at until now.

I was just a teen when the awards, first dubbed The Society of West End Theatre Awards, originated in 1976, but married and in graduate school when they became the Lawrence Olivier Awards in 1984.

In between, I studied for a year in Europe — but spent most trips to London exploring museums and architectural wonders rather than theater offerings. One of many oversights committed during my youth.

The awards are run by the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), which commissioned sculptor Harry Franchette to create the award that’s an elegant take on the young Lawrence Olivier as Henry V at the Old Vic in 1937.

I was struck by several aspects of the ceremony and its broadcast. Though the SOLT’s partnership with MasterCard is evident, there were no tacky commercials or other interruptions we accept too readily as American television viewers.

Instead, breaks during various portions of the ceremony were filled with live performances — of works nominated for an audience award — on a beautiful outdoor stage surrounded by theater fans.

The BBC Radio 2 Olivier Audience Award, voted for by the public, went to “Les Miserables” — a musical Arizona audiences can enjoy at ASU Gammage come September.

I was struck as well by the tasteful fashions worn by presenters, nominees and recipients – despite the ceremony’s lovely lack of obsession over such things. Way to rock the flats, “Matilda” girls. You’ll need those ankles for future roles.

“Matilda the Musical” led the list with ten nominations, and waltzed away with seven awards. The Royal Shakespeare Company production is based on Roald Dahl’s charming tale.

The musical’s director noted early in the ceremony that “productions are like children” — sharing that he’d still love both if one of two nominees he directed was chosen best new musical. Later, the award went to “Matilda the Musical.”

There’s a point in the musical, he explains, when Matilda pummels three times into her pillow — then looks up and shares the final bit of the story. Seems it’s “a metaphor for the healing power of imagination.”

“Matilda the Musical” director Matthew Warchus then delivered my favorite remarks of the evening — All kids have it. We all have it. Our educational system should promote it more. That was the gist of it — but there’s more.

Creative imagination, says Warchus, is the key to surviving life and improving it for all of us. It’s more important, he reflects, than science, math and testing — perhaps even literacy.

His riff made me wonder — Might more children achieve the literacy we so value if reading and writing were pressed more often into the service of creative imagination rather than the mere consumption of content?

They’re heady things, these British award shows. Words and ideas loom larger than the flashy sorts of sets and such we seem to favor for award shows on this side of the pond. Dry wit and genuine humility trump the faux and flashy.

Sunday’s ceremony included special recognition of the 60th anniversary of “Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap” — which continues to enjoy the theater world’s longest continuous run.

Seems Christie grandson Matthew Prichard, who shared remarks during the presentation, was given rights to the show for his ninth birthday — but admits to feeling fonder at the time of the gift with two wheels. Prichard notes that he gives income earned on the show to lots of charities.

I learned of the Mousetrap Theatre Projects, which serves more than 12,000 students each year, during remarks from its founder — which inspired me to explore other outreach efforts like the SOLT’s own “Autism and Theatre” program.

The Society of London Theatre presented two special awards during this year’s ceremony — one to Dame Monica Mason, honoring her career with the Royal Ballet, and another to lyricist Sir Tim Rice.

Rice shared reflections on the journey of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” from school show to musical theater sensation, and his reluctance to make the original “Jesus Christ Superstar” album — also noting that NYC audiences are fonder by far of current “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Evita” revivals than NYC theater critics.

My own budding theater critic, Lizabeth, had perfectly lovely things to say about both shows — but did share that seeing Ricky Martin shake his bum during “Evita” was rather the low point of it all. I’ll have to add seeing a slew of West End theatre productions together to my bucket list.

While I adored every performance during Sunday’s Olivier Awards show, a few will likely live longest in my memory — a stunning pas de deux that should be required viewing for all those “Dance Moms” settling for sickening alternatives to actual artistry, the vocal performance of a haunting song from “Whistle Down the Wind” that I first heard when Lizabeth performed it during a Greasepaint Youtheatre fundraiser, and the lavish “Circle of Life” from the cast of “The Lion King” — which made me remember the magic of seeing the musical with Lizabeth long before her NYC theater adventures.

I’ll be more mindful of the bridge between Broadway and the West End thanks to that one magical evening I felt honored to be part of the virtual audience for the 2012 Olivier Awards. London, anyone?

– Lynn

Note: Click here to see the full list of Olivier Award winners and highlights from the ceremony — plus here to enjoy West End news reported by Broadway World.

Coming up: Musings on “Smash” and “New York 22″

Mysteries take center stage

Parenting is full of mysteries. Why siblings raised in the same home have such different personalities. Why teenagers don’t recognize the infinite wisdom of their elders. Why toddlers find pots and pans more fascinating than all those fancy toys.

Natalie Schmidt as Mollie Ralston in the Hale Theatre production of The Mousetrap

But sometimes it’s nice to enjoy mysteries of other people’s making. Mystery writer Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” is being performed at Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert through Sat, Oct 8. The play follows guests at Monkswell Manor snowed in on a wintry night as one of them turns up dead and the rest work to uncover the killer.

“The Mousetrap” opened in 1952 in London, where it’s still performed today — making it the world’s longest running play. Folks favoring mysteries with a shorter run can follow the campaign foreplay of the Christie who calls New Jersey home. Or the trial of Michael Jackson’s so-called doctor.

Arizona Theatre Company opens its world-premiere production of playwright Jeffrey Hatcher’s “Sherlock Holmes and The Adventure of the Suicide Club” Thurs, Oct 13 at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix.

There’s nothing funny about suicide, of course — something Governor Christie seems to have overlooked in all that “I’m not running” rhetoric. But the topic has been treated by various writers through the ages, including Robert Louis Stevenson — whose trio of short stories dubbed “The Suicide Club” was first published in 1878 by “London Magazine.”

I read the online ATC play guide one night after attempts to watch a bloody crop of television crime series season premieres left me nauseous. I prefer murder and mayhem theater style. I crave food for thought more than I hunger for violence.

Arizona Theatre Company describes “Sherlock Holmes and The Adventure of the Suicide Club” as a “puzzling mystery that questions the boundaries of friendship, love and murder.” But the study guide hints at the work’s subtler themes — the evolution of war, citizen searches for justice outside the law, the nature of addictive personalities and more.

Mark Anders and Remi Sandri in the Arizona Theatre Company production of Sherlock Holmes and The Adventure of the Suicide Club (Photo: Tim Fuller/ATC)

My husband recalls reading plenty of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories as a child. If I’ve read even one, I don’t remember it. I get the feeling we’d both find plenty to enjoy in Hatcher’s work — which takes a playful rather than purist approach to the character of Sherlock Holmes.

I was intrigued to learn from the play guide that while Conan Doyle rarely has Sherlock Holmes use telephones or other technology of the day, technology was critical in helping Hatcher research Holmes’ character. Apparently Hatcher’s first foray into the Amazon Kindle was checking on whether certain words or phrases were used in Holmes dialogue written by Conan Doyle.

Like the play “War Horse,” which continues to enjoy galloping ticket sales in London and NYC, Hatcher’s “Sherlock Holmes” reflects the impact of changing technology on cultures in conflict. I get the feeling that the play’s reference to suicide speaks to something beyond isolated acts of desperation.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about Hale Centre Theatre, here to learn more about Arizona Theatre Company, here to explore the works to Agatha Christie, here to explore the work of Arthur Conan Doyle and here to visit London’s Sherlock Holmes Museum. Click here for suicide prevention resources.

Coming up: Valley visual arts offerings, Hedgehog meets goldfish, More NYC adventures

Pinky’s picks

Update: Pinky has asked me to share this link to a raffle benefiting an organization called “Save the Cats Arizona” — which we learned of from our friends at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe. The raffle runs through July 31, 2011.

Several community theaters recently rolled out their 2011-2012 season announcements. But I imagine my cat “Pinky” fancies the new season for Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert more than most.

Hale opens their 2011-2012 season on Sept 2 with an Agatha Christie mystery titled “The Mousetrap” — a work that now holds the distinction of being “the longest running play in the world.”

Pinky isn’t terribly concerned that a murderer may be loose in London’s Monkswell Manor. But she’d love to be on the guest list if there’s any real prospect of finding mice trapped at mealtime.

It’s a Wonderful Life,” which opens at Hale on Oct 14, might seem to hold less cat-appeal, until you recall that the work — featuring one man’s struggle with doubt and disappointment — is set in a small town readying to celebrate Christmas.

We could treat Pinky to piles of pet store treats and toys come Christmas time, but she’d still find her bliss jumping into piles of crinkled up and discarded wrapping paper — and rubbing her wet little nose up against the corners of shiny packages under a tree sporting ornaments she’s sure were placed for her swatting pleasure.

Hale follows “It’s a Wonderful Life” with “A Christmas Carol,” which opens at the Gilbert theater on Dec 1. Even Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge, who takes such delight in denying comfort to the poor and downtrodden, couldn’t ignore the pitiful pleas of Pinky when she’s ready for dinner.

I imagine Pinky would eagerly curl up beside the fire with Tiny Tim, offering a gentle purr as warming as the fire’s glow — and have great fun sitting with Tiny Tim in a chair by a window overlooking bustling holiday season streets.

Hale opens “See How They Run” Dec 31, giving Valley theater-goers a chance to welcome the New Year with comedic farce and fast-paced frivolity. Pinky might not know what to make of this one — with its cockney maid, men dressed as clergymen and a whole lot of misadventures spawned by mistaken identity.

Pinky might favor a different “See How They Run” plot — perhaps something featuring plump quails bobbing their tiny heads as they cross the road, or quivering dogs terrified by cats with an inflated sense of self.

Hale notes that folks who attend their production of “42nd Street” — which opens Feb 16, 2012 — will “love seeing the underdog succeed.” But Pinky”s never pleased when the word “dog” and “success” appear in the same sentence, so this will be a harder sell.

Perhaps she’d be more receptive if we decked her out in a slick tux with tails, then gave her a tophat and cane, so she could try a little soft-shoe during songs like “We’re in the Money,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” or “Shuffle Off to Buffalo.”

I’m afraid to tell Pinky about “Barefoot in the Park” — a Neil Simon comedy featuring the adventures of two newlyweds and a matchmaking mother-in-law — which opens at Hale on Feb 21, 2012. She’s perfectly fine with living the barefoot life, but might resent the “park” mention given her indoor-cat status.

Rabbits hold plenty of interest for cats, so Pinky might be thrilled to learn that a rabbit named “Harvey” is coming to Hale on April 5, 2012. But only until she learns that Harvey, the imaginary companion of Elwood P. Dowd, is more than six feet tall — and invisible.

Pinky spends plenty of time watching our own bunny, named “Rugby” — as well as a pair of lovebirds named “Taffy” and “Trixy” — who occupy pet pads near a staircase perfect for panoramic viewing of all things potentially edible.

I’ll need to have a little talk with Pinky about this next one — “To Kill a Mockingbird,” opening May 25, 2012. It might be a lot like a conversation I had with my husband recently that ended with the quip “you’re so literal.”

The classic work, based on the novel by Harper Lee, is set in the Deep South of the 1930s. It has nothing to do with killing birds — or leaving them as trophies on a “Welcome” mat outside the front door. Instead, it’s a tale of friendship and love amidst of world filled with prejudice and hate.

Hale closes its 2011-2012 season with “Bye Bye Birdie,” opening July 13, 2012 — which follows a teen singing sensation drafted into the military during the 1960s. Having used more than my fair share of “cat eats bird” fodder already, I suppose I’ll have to find a different link to all things feline.

Happily, the musical’s songs include not only “Put on a Happy Face” but also “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” — no doubt a reference to the “nine lives” of cats.

I know pets aren’t typically allowed at community theater productions, so I suppose Pinky will have to settle for nibbling on programs we bring home from Hale Centre Theatre productions.

But you can’t really blame me for conjuring images of my cat with every mention of birds, mice or bunnies. I can only imagine how the dogs living next door might react to seeing the musical “Cats.”

– Lynn

Coming up: Dance and identity

Photo: Christopher Trimble