Tag Archives: Arizona Theatre Company

Tony watching

Jim Parsons (L) and Kristin Chenoweth announcing the 2012 Tony Award nominees. Photo courtesy of ASU Gammage.

Watching the Tony Awards ceremony is a longstanding tradition at our house, and our daughter Lizabeth was especially excited about viewing this year’s awards after seeing eight of the shows nominated for one or more 2012 Tony Awards.

I’m fondest of the acceptance speeches, which so often include odes to parents, spouses, partners and kids. Remarks by Audra McDonald topped my list this year. McDonald assured her daughter that although winning the award made it a very special night, the more important day was Feb. 14, 2001 — the day Zoe was born.

Lizabeth once recounted meeting McDonald after attending one of her shows. She was eager to ask her a few questions, but noted that McDonald’s daughter was with her and decided to let the opportunity pass — figuring she’d want to get home at a decent hour on a school night.

When a pair of gentlemen accepted an award for “Newsies,” one offered a simple “Look mom, a Tony!” And Paloma Young, winner for best costume design of a play for her work on “Peter and the Starcatcher,” thanked her father for giving her “way too much adventure for one little girl.”

John Tiffany, winner of a Tony Award for best direction of a musical for his work on “Once,” thanked his family for giving him the gift of music. Another director, Mike Nichols, recalled being at the Beacon Theatre as a child. Nichols won a Tony Award for best direction of a play for his work on “Death of a Salesman.” Seems the site of this year’s ceremony was once his neighborhood movie theater.

Christian Borle, known to many for rocking the Tom Levitt role on the television series “Smash,” earned the Tony Award for best performance of an actor in a featured role in a play for his work on “Peter and the Starcatcher.” His remarks shared thanks for “making my mom so happy.”

James Corden, who won the Tony Award for best performance by an actor in a leading role in a play, thanks his “baby mama” and future wife for teaching him to say “us” instead of “I” and “we” instead of “me.” And Nina Arianda, winner of a Tony Award for best performance of an actress in a leading role in a play for her work in “Venus in Fur,” was ever so cherubic after Christopher Plummer handed her the award. “You sir,” she told him, “were my first crush.”

Most moving were remarks by Steve Kazee of “Once,” winner of a Tony Award for best performance by an actor in a leading role in a musical. Kazee lost his mother to cancer this past Easter, and shared something he recalls her saying — “Stand up and show them whose little boy you are.”

While most folks in Arizona were watching such moments on TV, others were enjoying the Tony Awards ceremony in New York. ASU Gammage organized a June 7-10 trip to NYC, with the option of staying an extra night to see the Tony Awards at the theater or in VIP seating in Times Square.

While in NYC, the ASU Gammage folks spent three evenings seeing shows and had several meals with Broadway professionals. Saturday’s itinerary included time with cast members from “The Book of Mormon,” “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and music types from both “Wicked” and “The Book of Mormon.”

They also spent time with both the president and vice president of Disney Theatricals Group — and I’m hoping all involved resisted the urge to break into a rousing chorus from “Newsies” or “Beauty and the Beast.” The latter is a “special engagement” for the 2012-13 season at ASU Gammage.

In addition, they toured several parts of NYC — a “renaissance” portion of 42nd Street, the Art Nouveau-style New Amsterdam Theatre (where presidents Obama and Clinton appeared just last week), parts of the NYC subway system, the 9/11 Memorial and Manhattan’s financial district. I’ve experienced them all, and was happy this time around to be tucked under a quilt sitting on the couch next to Lizabeth.

Now that she’s attending college in NYC, annual traditions like watching the Tony Awards on television are bittersweet reminders of the fact that she’ll soon be creating her own traditions far from the nest that nurtured her love for Broadway.

— Lynn

Note: The 2012 Tony Award winning play, “Clybourne Park,” is part of Arizona Theatre Company’s 2012-13 season — click here for details.

Coming up: Go “Jimmy” Go, “Les Mis” meets movie theater, Reimagining “Stage Mom”

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Once upon a painting

My favorite scene from “Red” — which runs through May 20 at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix (Photo by Chris Bennion)

Now that our three college-age kids are home for the summer, we’ve got a bit more help around the house. Not with the heavy lifting, but more modest tasks like snatching papers off the printer and delivering them to me at my laptop. When they come with a smile, I feel doubly blessed.

Recently Jennifer was the bearer of a bio I’d printed about artist Mark Rothko, whose work is at the heart of a play called “Red” that’s being performed by Arizona Theatre Company through May 20 at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix. I find his work perplexing, despite reading myself silly on the subject.

“I like this guy,” Jennifer told me in delivery mode. Understandable when you consider that a rather Rothko-esque painting hangs in her room — a work she created many years ago during summer camp at the Oxbow School in Napa, California. That was the summer of welding and such.

I spent some time with one of Rothko’s works during a Saturday outing to the Phoenix Art Museum, where his “Untitled (Blue and Green)” created in 1968 hangs in a gallery of one of museum’s four floors. Rothko was an American painter who lived from 1903 to 1970, quite the remarkable span of U.S. history.

Near the painting there’s a brief explanation of its origin and significance, which notes that “Untitled (Blue and Green)” was “created in the final years of Rothko’s life.” Seems the work “marks a temporary reprieve in his long struggles with depression.” Two years after painting it, Rothko took his own life. Many believe he lived with bipolar disorder.

The play guide created by Arizona Theatre Company for its production of “Red” explores Rothko’s personal and professional struggles, sets his role as a founder of Abstract Expressionism in the larger context of art history and shares themes you might miss without some understanding of playwright John Logan’s approach. Think daddy issues.

I saw the play Sunday evening with youngest daughter Lizabeth, a proud survivor of freshman theater studies in NYC who was sorry she’d missed seeing “Red” during the Broadway run that earned it a 2010 Tony Award for best play. She’s making up for lost time this season, having seen eight of the 2012 Tony Award nominees.

This “Red” is a co-production of ATC with Seattle Repertory Theatre. It’s directed by Richard E.T. White, and stars Denis Arndt as artist Mark Rothko and Connor Toms as his assistant Ken. Both has significant Shakespeare experience — something I learned from reading their bios, but Lizabeth surmised from watching their movement and listening to their way with words.

Scenic design by Kent Dorsey, which demonstrates a layering that mirrors Rothko’s construction of his own work, is quite lovely. Costume design by Rose Pederson and lighting design by Robert Peterson are beautiful as well. Original music and sound design are by Brendan Patrick Hogan, who effectively uses music to convey each character’s vibe and the differences between them.

Both Lizabeth and I enjoyed Logan’s writing, and I’m eager to get my hand on a copy of the play so I can enjoy it free of others’ artistic impulses. It’s at once a treatise on the nature of art and artist, and a reflection on what makes us human — wrapped up with humor and a good dose of art history. Its themes resonate with creators and consumers of both visual and performing arts.

Folks steeped in philosophy, theology and literature will recognize something of themselves, and their craft, in Logan’s work. Those who’ve seen the films “Hugo,” “Coriolanus,” “Rango,” “Sweeney Todd,” “The Aviator” and “Gladiator” have already experienced Logan in screenwriting mode.

Seeing “Red” didn’t change my tepid response to Rothko’s paintings, but it did give me a greater appreciation for his journey — and plenty of food for thought while continuing my own.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to explore Rothko works at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Please note that “Red” contains mature language. Still, its themes can be appreciated by students of art in middle and high school.

Coming up: Playwright profiles

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Much Ado in Mesa

The Mesa Arts Center is especially lovely as the evening sun sets

I headed out to Mesa Friday night eager to see Maren Maclean’s performance in “Much Ado About Nothing.” Much of what our youngest daughter Lizabeth knows about acting, Shakespeare and herself stems from time spent with Maclean, whose Beatrice in “Much Ado” is fantastically funny.

Before taking my seat, I headed to a long table featuring wares being sold to benefit the Southwest Shakespeare Company — where I found a nifty necklace, beaded bracelet and two sets of earrings. Mother’s Day shoppers take note — performing arts venues have some of the coolest stuff at some of the lowest prices.

A Shakespeare bust, perhaps, for the mother who has everything?

I also spied a group of teens and stopped the adult walking with them to ask whether they were part of a school program, since I always like to hear student reactions to Shakespeare’s works. Turns out they were attending “Much Ado” as part of the Arizona Theatre Company’s Open Doors program — and had the opportunity to chat with a trio of cast members after the show.

While a nearly full house was enjoying “Much Ado About Nothing,” which is directed for SSC by David Vining, folks in another theater were watching the Mesa Encore Theatre production of “Ragtime,” which runs through Sunday. Tall MET banners in the MAC lobby herald their next production, the musical “Hairspray,” and reveal some gutsy choices for 2012/13 — including “Spring Awakening” and a “TBA” show signified for now by a pair of eyes peeking out from a purple backdrop.

The East Valley Mormon Choral Association performed Friday evening at MAC

During intermission, I strolled outside the theater to snap photos of red and yellow walls illuminated by Mesa Arts Center — but found myself drawn to a wide flight of stairs, where girls of all ages were gathered in matching navy blue dresses that reminded me of daughter Jennifer’s old chorus uniform. Soon I found a mom — and asked what they were up to. She shared that her 12-year-old daughter is in her second year with the East Valley Mormon Choral Organization, which performed a concert called “From Classical to Broadway and Everything in Between” at the Mesa Arts Center Friday night.

She was kind enough to share her program with me, so I could learn more about the organization — which is currently holding auditions for the 2012/13 season (auditions for the EVMCO symphony take place in August). Friday’s “Easter Concert” featured “I Dreamed a Dream” (from the musical “Les Miserables”), “Stouthearted Men” (from the operetta “New Moon”), “Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18” (by Sergei Rachmaninoff) and more. Their 2012 “Christmas Concert” takes place Dec. 1 at Mesa Arts Center.

Students in the ATC Open Doors program spoke with a trio of "Much Ado About Nothing" cast members after the opening night performance

After enjoying the second act of “Much Ado About Nothing,” I stayed for a talkback with members of the cast and creative tream — then made my way to the tiny Southwest Shakespeare Company studio where a trio of “Much Ado” cast members talked shop with Opens Doors participants. Truth be told, teens trump adults with better theater questions every time. Grown-ups eager to learn more about “Much Ado About Nothing” can consult the SSC play guide online and attend today’s 9am “Flachmann Seminar” with Maren Maclean Mascarelli, now the company’s education director.

Before Friday’s performance, artistic director Jared Sakren shared news of SSC’s 2012-13 season, which opens in September with “Love’s Labour’s Lost” and continues with Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” opening in late November. A January “Winterfest!” features “Hamlet” and “The Tempest” presented in rotating repertory by a single company of players. And works by other playwrights include Noel Cowards’ “Private Lives” (Feb/March) and William Goldsmith’s “She Stoops to Conquer” (April).

While admiring some of the Mesa Art Center’s architectual elements, I spied a poster for “Alice: A Wonder-Full New Musical,” coming to MAC in May thanks to Christian Youth Theatre in Phoenix — which is part of a national after-school theater arts training program started in San Diego. The pop/rock work by Jon Lorenz transforms two Lewis Carroll tales into a modern day adventure of high school students more smitten with listening to “The Red Queen” band than finishing their homework.

There’s a simple solution for that, by the way. Less pencil-and-paper homework, and more out-there-in-the-community arts education.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn about additional performances, events, exhibits and classes coming to the Mesa Arts Center

Coming up: Tomfoolery meets tango

Once upon a “Gatsby”

Zachary Ford (Nick Carraway) in the Arizona Theatre Company production of "The Great Gatsby" (Photo: Tim Fuller/ATC)

Our oldest daughter Jennifer, now a cultural anthropology student at ASU in Tempe, was incredibly keen on anything and everything by F. Scott Fitzgerald during one particular year of high school — so we spent lots of time chasing some of his harder to find works.

I don’t remember feeling nearly as enamoured with the American writer who lived from 1896 to 1940, best known to many for coining the term “Jazz Age” and writing about its many manifestations.

It’s harder to love something when told we ought to do so, or when everyone else seems smitten with it — which might explain why I felt so completely unmoved while watching “The Great Gatsby” unfold at Herberger Theater Center Saturday night.

The company of the Arizona Theatre Company production of "The Great Gatsby" (Photo: Tim Fuller/ATC)

The performance was pristine and passionate, and embraced with genuine enthusiasm by an audience that laughed and let out knowing sighs throughout. But I just couldn’t go there. The characters are odd in ways I find completely unrelatable, unlike those in “The Glass Menagerie” performed during Arizona Theatre Company’s 2009-10 season.

David Andrew Macdonald (Jay Gatsby) and Monette Magrath (Daisy Buchanan) in the Arizona Theatre Company production of "The Great Gatsby" (Photo: Tim Fuller/ATC)

If the lingering effect of anesthesia somehow blunted my ability to feel this story, it certainly didn’t curtail my appreciation for the beauty of this production, which features some of the best lighting, sets and costumes I’ve seen here in the Valley. It’s well-acted and directed, making for a sort of master class in bringing great literature to the stage.

David Andrew Macdonald (Jay Gatsby) in the Arizona Theatre Company production of "The Great Gatsby" (Photo: Tim Fuller/ATC)

“F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby” is adapted by Simon Levy, and directed by Stephen Wrentmore. Scenic design is by Yoon Bae, costume design is by David Kay Mickelsen and lighting design is by Dawn Chiang. It stars Zachary Ford as Nick Carraway, David Andrew Macdonald as Jay Gatsby and Monette Magrath as Daisy Buchanan.

Few companies excel like Arizona Theatre Company in “theater as teacher” mode. Their play guides are interesting reads — especially in the case of “The Great Gatsby.” Explore it online if you’re eager to learn more about the Roaring ’20s, the Prohibition era and the Jazz Age. Also what the ’20s meant for women’s rights and developments in New York City. There’s even a nifty timeline filled with truly fascinating fare.

I may never share my daughter’s insights into the world or writings of F. Scott Fitzgerald, but Arizona Theater Company is certainly inching me closer.

— Lynn

Note: Arizona Theatre Company performs “The Great Gatsby” at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix through April 8. Click here for details.

Coming up: Taking risks

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

I really stepped in it this time…

Sarah Agnew, Robert O. Berdahl and Luverne Seifert in "Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps" by Arizona Theatre Company (Photo: Tim Fuller/ATC)

I’m not sure what “it” was — but it did a little number on my right ankle that’s had me rocking a lovely black boot secured by icky Velcro straps for weeks.  Might have been that last trip to Mesa Arts Center, when something possessed me to haul out the high heels, and I came home feeling a bit like the wobbly-legged wonders pictured above.

I slowed my pace for a spell until graduating this week to a fabric brace and sneakers. Best I missed opening night in Phoenix for Arizona Theatre Company’s production of “Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps,” because their openings tend to attract a rather elegant bunch.

Sarah Agnew, Jim Lichtscheidl and Luverne Seifert in Arizona Theatre Company's "Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps" (Photo: Tim Fuller/ATC)

Instead I hobbled over just last night for my third encounter with the show. I first saw “Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps” performed at ASU Gammage by a national touring company. Next I enjoyed a production at the Utah Shakespeare Festival, where I sometimes take short getaways with my youngest daughter Lizabeth.

I’d be up to 117 steps now if the show had anything to do with actual steps — and probably in a full body cast. But thankfully, “39 Steps” actually refers to a clandestine organization of spies. Not something I’m likely to join since I’m sticking out like a sore foot these days.

Jim Lichtscheidl, Robert O. Berdahl and Liverne Seifert in Arizona Theatre Company's "Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps" (Photo: Tim Fuller/ATC)

Hitchcock directed a 1935 film titled “The 39 Steps,” which was loosely based on a 1915 John Buchan novel called “Thirty-Nine Steps.” After nearly 1oo years, the story is still going strong, though everyone who crafts a new film or stage version adds their own spin.

Staged adaptations typically included homages to assorted Hitchcock works. The Arizona Theatre Company production, an adaptation by Patrick Barlow, opens with the clacking sound of an old-time film projector after someone sounding like Hitchcock runs through the usual bit of theater etiquette.

Barlow’s adaptation, being performed at the Herberger Theater Center through Feb. 26, is a pastishe — an artistic work that cobbles together several earlier incarnations of a piece. It’s got elements of the novel, Hitchcock film and Broadway production — and it’s enormously clever (though a tad too cheesy at times).

The production features four actors performing more than 150 roles. Robert O. Berdahl plays Richard Hannay and Sarah Agnew plays the major female roles (Annabella, Pamela and Margaret). Actors Jim Lichtscheidl and Luverne Seifert, dubbed “the Clowns,” play every other role.

All excel in physical comedy and dialects, delivering the detail that’s key to farce feeling truly funny. It’s directed by Joel Sass, who stretches most scenes beyond the typical level of absurdity expected with such fare.

Sarah Agnew, Jim Lichtscheidl and Robert O. Berdahl in Arizona Theatre Company's "Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps" (Photo: Tim Fuller/ATC)

“Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps” begins as a mild mannered-man trying to enjoy an evening of theater meets a mysterious woman. Her tale is taller than most, and deadlier too. Soon Mr. Hannay finds himself ensnared in a web of intrigue spiraling out of control. You might say that he’s the one who really stepped in it.

The show is a perfect introduction to farce for folks who’ve yet to experience this particular genre of comedy. You don’t have to follow every little plot twist to enjoy it. But if that’s your vibe, you’ll be pleased to know that both Arizona Theatre Company and the Utah Shakespeare Festival offer online play guides for “Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps.”

Robert O. Berdahl in Arizona Theatre Company's "The 39 Steps" (Photo: Tim Fuller)

Those of use who’ve seen it several times find something new in each viewing. We catch more of the Hitchcock references. Appreciate differences in the ways best-loved scenes are handled. And relish each actor’s fresh take on the frolicking misadventures.

The friend I took along Sunday night loved the way various set pieces rolled in and out, including Highland pole dancers (not that sort of pole) and a bevy of sheep. Set design for this production is by Richard Hoover, who earned a 1999 Tony Award for scenic design — for his work on a production of Tennessee Williams’ “Not About Nightingales.”

Thoughtul music choices and sound design anchor this production in nostalgia, and the generous use of shadows adds a lovely element of surprise. Lighting design is by Barry Browning, sound design is by Reid Rejsa and shadow puppetry is by Michael Sommers.

There’s more sexual inuendo in this production than others I’ve seen — and more peaks and valleys in terms of pacing. Still, it’s a delightful romp.

Teens who love spy novels and thrillers may be intrigued to see a work based on earlier incarnations of the genre. Adults who adore “take me away” comedy will find plenty of on-stage foibles to distract from their own. No need to wear high heels when you go. Just enjoy the onstage danger from a distance, and let someone else step in it this time.

— Lynn

Note: The New York run of “Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps” ended on Jan. 16, but you can still click here to read their study guide.

Coming up: Local high school performs “Beauty & the Beast”

A budding romance

Megan McGinnis and Robert Adelman Hancock in Daddy Long Legs (Photo: Tim Fuller/Arizona Theatre Company)

Jerusha Abbott (Megan McGinnis), the oldest orphan in the John Grier Home, learns one day that she’s been chosen by a generous benefactor to receive full college tuition with room and board. But there’s a catch. Nine of them, actually — all recounted in the benefactor’s sole letter to Abbott.

She’s delighted to escape the orphanage, but puzzled by college life and fellow students whose experiences with family, friends and privilege she’s never shared. Still, she honors her benefactor’s request to write once a month — often writing more often as she has anecdotes or questions to share.

Megan McGinnis in Daddy Long Legs (Photo: Tim Fuller/Arizona Theatre Company)

Abbott knows only that her benefactor is lanky and tall, having seen him leaving the orphanage the day word came of his generosity. And so she dubs him “Daddy Long Legs,” assuming he’s terrribly old and boldly asking in her letters whether he’s got black hair, grey hair or no hair at all.

But her benefactor, Jervis Pendleton (Robert Adelman Hancock), is young and rather handsome. Also bookish and a bit of a loner. As Pendelton reads Abbott’s letters, which he’s sworn never to answer, he comes to admire her curiosity, innocence and wit. Once they meet, under false pretenses, his admiration turns to adoration. It’s something he can’t share, for reasons revealed during the course of the play.

“Daddy Long Legs” features book by John Caird, who also directs the work. Prior directing credits have earned Caird both Tony and Olivier Awards. The musical features music and lyrics by Paul Gordon, whose music and lyrics for “Jane Eyre” earned a Tony Award nomination.

The writing is well-paced and humorous, the music sentimental and sweet. Together they convey the evolving and sometimes conflicted emotions of Abbott and Pendleton. Both McGinnis and Hancock originated their roles at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura, California.  

The only weakness in Sunday night’s performance at the Herberger Theater Center was the sometimes nasal quality of Hancock’s vocal performance — but it’s easily overlooked with the exceptional quality of all those high notes. Abbott’s vocals were clear and melodic, the perfect embodiment of the character’s wonderment at the world around her.

Megan McGinnis and Robert Adelman Hancock in Daddy Long Legs (Photo: Tim Fuller/Arizona Theatre Company)

Although “Daddy Long Legs” is a tale of self-discovery and budding romance, it also explores some weightier themes — the role of women in society, the limitations of charity by checkwriting, the nature of God and the lure of socialism. Apparently all were on the mind of Jean Webster, the novelist whose work inspired the musical.

“Daddy Long Legs” is set in New England during the early part of the 20th century. Its simple but dramatic set consists of a darkly-paneled library filled with book-laden shelves, plus desk, lamp and chair — and an assortment of trunks that morph into everything from bed to mountaintop.

A teen who sat next to me at the performance toyed every once and a while with her cell phone — failing, I suspect, to recognize how opportunities for women have evolved since Webster penned her novel in 1912. There’s a comprehensive study guide on the Arizona Theatre Company website that does a magnificent job of making clear just how far we’ve come, and how we got here.

In the end, I was struck be something far simpler — Abbott’s realization that the bravery needed to face the everyday exceeds the courage called for in times of crisis.

— Lynn 

Note: Arizona Theatre Company presents the Arizona premiere of “Daddy Long Legs” through Jan. 15. Click here for show and ticket information, and here to read the play guide.

Coming up: Reflections on 1,000 posts