Tag Archives: ASU Gammage

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”

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings.


Million dollar moments

Austin Cook (center) with 2012 Camp Broadway youth at ASU Gammage in Tempe

Dozens of kids attending this year’s Camp Broadway at ASU Gammage saw Wednesday night’s performance of “Million Dollar Quartet,” then spent time with cast members and other fine folks who work on the show. The opportunity to interact with performers and other theater professionals is part of each summer’s “Camp Broadway” experience.

Camp Broadway participants enjoying lunch at ASU Gammage

Before enjoying a buffet lunch featuring cold cuts, burgers, assorted desserts and even some healthy stuff, campers in small groups of a dozen or so rotated through various stations. Three with ASU Gammage professionals who addressed marketing, technical elements of theater and such — plus another one with several members of the “Million Dollar Quartet” team.

Campers learned how the show’s set gets assembled in each city, how musicians manage tricks like playing a piano set behind them or standing on a double bass, how cast members prepare for their roles and plenty of other tricks of the trade. Also that equipment used in “Million Dollar Quartet” is all new but designed by 1950s specifications so it gives a genuine ’50s sound, and that the whole set weighs about 10,000 pounds.

Smiling faces participating in this year’s Camp Broadway in Tempe

During lunch, cast members took turns answering questions for eager campers, counselors and ASU Gammage VIPs. Each talked about how they caught the theater bug, shared a bit about where they’re from, discussed their college background and offered some sage advice.

Parents dream of moments such as these for their children — when grown-ups they admire share guidance not so different from their own, but more readily accepted because it didn’t come from mom or dad. Find your passion, team MDQ told them. Work hard. Practice. Be disciplined. Treat fellow theater folk (and all folk) with respect. Ignore the naysayers. Be yourself. Believe in yourself.

L to R: Lamont, Marie, Cook, Ferris, Presney and Krug from the first “Million Dollar Quartet” national tour during a Camp Broadway event at ASU Gammage

Kelly Lamont (Dyanne) recalled her first performance at the age of three or four. Think “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.” Alyssa Marie (u/s Dyanne) spoke of doing her Molly thing in “Annie” as a seven year old. Austin Cook (u/s, Jerry Lee Lewis) discussed his experience “on the classical side,” which started with an “Amahl and the Night Visitors” gig when he was 11.

Lee Ferris (Carl Perkins) admited he was all about baseball until a choir teacher suggested he try out for “Guys and Dolls” — while John Michael Presney (u/s Carl Perkins, Asst. Stage Manager) shared a tidbit from his 2nd grade performance in “Will Rogers Follies.” Seems his big entrance was popping out of a box. “I got stuck,” he told the campers, “in front of 2,000 people.”

John Michael Presney (R) with Camp Broadway campers at ASU Gammage

Stage Manager Michael Krug got his first backstage experience during a college program in technical theater. “I’ve never been a performer,” he shared, “because I can’t sing, act or dance.” After revealing that he’d rocked the Elephant Bird role as a fifth grader in “Horton Hears a Who,” Krug took some good-hearted ribbing from cast members — who pounced on his offer to show them the tape.

I was seated during lunch next to a Juilliard-trained musician named Steve, one of two music directors working with this year’s campers. The other hails from Pace University, where our daughter Lizabeth is a sophomore. He offered plenty of pearls, including one that’ll be a relief to parents who can’t afford oodles of voice lessons or private coaching for their child. Just sing a lot, he suggested, because using the muscles makes them stronger.

Camper and counselor enjoying Camp Broadway at ASU Gammage

One of the younger campers assumed I was a performer, and sweetly suggested that I sing for him. I assured him he’d be better off if I didn’t, then made the rounds to various tables — asking campers at each, “What’s the best thing about Camp Broadway?” Answers ranged from “everything” to “it’s awesome” — and lots of campers told me it was the chance to learn singing, dancing and acting in one place.

I also asked several of the campers how they’d heard about Camp Broadway. “My Nana made me come,” one told me. But that was last year. Returning this year was her idea. Another told me her mom signed her up, and that she plans to return next year now that she’s smitten with all things musical theater. There’s more to life, she says, than Beyonce and Mariah Carey.

Lee Ferris talks with youth participating in this year’s Camp Broadway

Several of the campers I chatted with described Camp Broadway as a great opportunity for self expression, adding that they feel especially free to be themselves in the theater setting. Some plan careers on stage or behind the scenes, and several expect to take lessons learned during Camp Broadway to school and community theater auditions in the coming year.

Everyone affiliated with “Million Dollar Quartet” did a remarkable job interacting with the campers. All were patient, friendly and genuinely engaged in sharing their knowledge. During lunch, they took time to talk with campers individually, pose for photos and autograph items from show programs to Camp Broadway t-shirts.

Alyssa Marie with a happy camper at ASU Gammage in Tempe

You can see “Million Dollar Quartet” at ASU Gammage through Sunday. Click here for ticket information, and watch for news of next year’s camp because slots tend to fill quickly. Following ASU Gammage on social media is a great way to get the scoop before word of camp dates and various promotions hits the streets.

— Lynn

Coming up: Broadway meets cruise ship?

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings. 6/13/12

Another Tony Awards adventure

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack (R) and daughter Kelsey on the ASU Gammage stage. Photo by Dan Friedman.

Arizona’s only Tony Awards voter, Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, flew to NYC this morning to enjoy festivities leading up to Sunday’s Tony Awards ceremony taking place at the Beacon Theatre with host Neil Patrick Harrris.  Jennings-Roggensack is executive director for ASU Gammage in Tempe, which presents touring Broadway productions through “Broadway Across America.”

Tuesday was opening night for “Million Dollar Quartet” at ASU Gammage, which blends historical fiction with the music and larger-than-life personalities of Jerry Lee Lewis (Martin Kaye), Carl Perkins (Lee Ferris), Johnny Cash (Derek Keeling) and Elvis Presley (Cody Slaughter). Also Sam Phillips (Christopher Ryan Grant), whose Dec. 4, 1956 gathering at Sun Records in Memphis inspired the work.

Tuesday’s audience seemed to favor Cash tunes, but it’s Lewis’ bad-boy shenanigans that bring this story to life. I was most taken with the show’s technical elements and actors’ exquisite command of all things movement. Seven of the eight cast members play instruments, so audience members enjoy piano and guitar licks along with riffs on harmonica, bass and drums. Two jumbo speakers on either side of the stage delivered the best sound I’ve experienced in two decades of Gammage-going.

The 2012/2013 ASU Gammage season opens with “Anything Goes.” Folks who watched last year’s Tony Awards ceremony saw Tony-winner Sutton Foster and the “Anything Goes” cast sing and tap the show’s title number, plus performances from two other shows coming to ASU Gammage next season — “Sister Act” and “Memphis.”

I’ve been taking Lizabeth to ASU Gammage for Broadway shows and other offerings for more than a decade, but now that she attends college in NYC, she also gets to enjoy plenty of shows on Broadway. So far she’s seen eight of this year’s Tony Award nominees, and I can tell she has a soft spot for “Once” — a musical we hope to enjoy together during my next trip to NYC. “Peter and the Starcatcher” is another one of her favorites, hailed like “Once” for its breathtaking simplicity and storytelling.

This is the eighth year that “Gammage supporters and advocates” are joining Jennings-Roggensack for a special “Broadway Adventure” and the Tony Awards ceremony. While Arizona viewers watch the Tony Awards Sunday night on CBS (click here for details), team Gammage will have some folks inside the Beacon Theatre and others inside the Tony Awards VIP section in Times Square, where the ceremony is being broadcast on the Sony JumboTron.

Other items on the ASU Gammage itinerary include lunching with folks from “The Book of Mormon,” getting backstage peeks at Tony-nominated shows, mixing historical perspectives with a walk along the “Great White Way” and meeting with stars, directors and set designers of shows from the current and future ASU Gammage season. Also donning gowns and tuxes for the post-Tony Awards gala at The Plaza Hotel.

“In the wee hours of the morning,” says Jennings-Roggensack, “I will slip away to join the casts of the best musical, best play and best revival at their celebratory after-parties.” Still, she says “the best part of all this is that we are already planning on these Tony Award-winning shows making their way to the Gammage stage.”

— Lynn

Note: Watch for an article about Roggensack and daughter Kelsey in the July 2012 issue of Raising Arizona KidsClick here for Tony Awards t-shirts and other offerings for folks eager to rock the Tony Awards vibe. And click here to learn about this month’s “Million Dollar Quartet” auditions in Las Vegas, L.A. and Austin.

Coming up: Fun with outdoor concerts, Art meets solstice

An old married couple

“La Cage Aux Folles” is one of the best musicals I’ve seen at ASU Gammage (Photo by Paul Kolnik/Courtesy of ASU Gammage)

They weren’t technically married, of course, since same sex marriage was strictly verboten when Brooklyn-born Harvey Fierstein (book writer for “Newsies” currently on Broadway) wrote the book for “La Cage Aux Folles.” But the musical’s two main characters — a transvestite dubbed Zaza and his merely gay partner named Georges — aren’t all that different from the rest of us long-wedded couples. They’re facing sacrifices for a child raised together, empty nest syndrome, everyday squabbles and the swift pace of time.

A revival of “La Cage Aux Folles” featuring George Hamilton as Georges and Christopher Sieber as Albin (aka Zaza) is currently on tour — and opened Tuesday night at ASU Gammage in Tempe. The marvels of Arizona weren’t lost on the spunky drag queen who did a bit of pre-show entertainment. Seems no one raised a hand when asked about black Jewish lesbians in the audience, prompting the performer to praise our state for its diversity in marvelously mocking fashion.

Such is “La Cage Aux Folles” — a show unappreciated by the timid yet adored by theater trollips. It’s showy, over-the-top (and sometimes nearly-nothing-on-top) fare full of outrageous humor about life’s little imperfections. Though some surely consider its subject matter profane, few musicals speak as convincingly of the sacred nature of family.

The musical opened on Broadway nearly three decades ago, yet it’s especially relevant nowadays as gay couples seek the right to be legally wed. But never fear. This is no mere morality tale. It’s a splashy bit of musical theater that left me feeling Tuesday night like I’d been transported straight to Broadway.

Lizabeth donned her purple “I’m Not Dead Yet” t-shirt for the occasion, an homeage to Sieber’s “Spamalot” gig. He’s also appeared in “Shrek” — but Lizabeth remembers him best as the widowed father in “Two of a Kind.” Think ABC meets Olsen twins. She was especially excited to meet Sieber after the show, and I’m wishing now that we’d brought along a beach ball and thick Sharpie pen. You’ll get the ball reference once you’ve seen the show.

From start to finish, everything about this production of “La Cage Aux Folles”  is magnificent. Lush lighting (Nick Richings), set (Tim Shortall) and costume design (Matthew Wright). Flawless hair and make-up design (Richard Mawbey). Kicky orchestrations and dance arrangements (Jason Carr). And a live band whose trumpet player gets plenty of toes tapping.

I especially enjoyed Sieber’s performance. The man is funny beyond belief. Also vocals by Michael Lowney, who plays the couple’s son Jean-Michel. His request that Georges and Albin straighten up their act to impress his finance’s conservative parents is at the heart of “La Cage Aux Folles.” In the end, they do plenty of housecleaning.

Lizabeth suggested the show is best for “mature” 13-year-olds and up. Though things like whips and pasties might go right over the little ones’ heads amidst all the rhinestones and ostrich feathers. It’s best, I suspect, to take just the high school and up set. Or a couple of girlfriends decked out in feather boas and sparkly ankle bracelets.

— Lynn

Note: Lizabeth also recommends “The Birdcage,” a hilarious film version of the “La Cage Aux Folles” story starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane (also Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest), and featuring music by Stephen Sondheim.

Coming up: Pandora tales, Art meets oncology

Mothers making the journey home…

Women at Estrella Jail participating in the Journey Home program. Photo by Aaron Lavinsky. Courtesy of ASU Gammage.

Mother’s Day was the farthest thing from my mind as I drove into the parking lot for visitors to the Estrella Jail in Phoenix, which is temporary home for “approximately 1,000 inmates, predominantly female.” I’d been invited to see a performance by women participating in Journey Home — one of many community outreach programs of ASU Gammage in Tempe, which is headed by executive director Colleen Jennings-Roggensack.

We use lots of labels to describe people who’ve been incarcerated. Criminal. Loser. Nobody. And worse. We rarely think of women in jail as women first. Or mothers. But plenty of people living behind bars are parents, including two mothers I chatted with after this year’s Journey Home performance.

They’d gathered with other inmates in a small room filled with several desks — the kind with seat and surface attached, like those most of us used in grade school. A long table at one end held two-liter bottles of soda, plus plastic plates and cups. Also the cake that’d been cut and served in celebration of completing the Journey Home program.

Women participating in a community outreach program called Journey Home. Photo by Aaron Lavinsky. Photo courtesy of ASU Gammage.

As I celebrate Mother’s Day with my family, I’m mindful of the women I met that day — especially the two mothers who spoke proudly of their children. One has custody of her children. Another does not, though she’s hoping to regain it. Both beamed when asked about their children, sharing their children’s accomplishments like so many of us do. Doing sports. Playing violin.

After arriving at Estella Jail, I joined several folks from ASU Gammage plus those who’ve worked with Journey Home participants, in a waiting area that’s perfectly welcoming but still feels a bit like the bland interior of a shoe box . I chatted with a woman seated next to me, a mental health provider who told me she wished more Journey Home programs were out there to curb the hopelessness that makes life after incarceration so tenuous.

Officials checked our identification before leading back to the room where 25 women, ages 23 to 50, would be performing and sharing a bit about their Journey Home adventures. We’d already been told to leave purses and other personal effects at home. Audience members filled several rows of chairs, admiring a line of self-portraits that ran across the wall while waiting for the women to arrive.

Journey Home participants at Estrella Jail in Phoenix. Photo by Aaron Lavinsky. Courtesy of ASU Gammage.

Soon they entered, all wearing jail garb with wide horizontal black and white stripes, plus pink socks. The women performed several pieces featuring movement, stories and more — all met with warm and genuine applause. For six weeks prior to the performance, they’d met weekly for training in movement, visual arts, creative writing and storytelling.

The Journey Home program was inspired by a national prison project called Keeping the Faith, started by dancer/choreographer Pat Graney. It’s sustained by the partnership between ASU Gammage and Life Paradigms, a non-profit working to “educating and empowering women of color and their families.” Journey Home focuses on helping inmates to “develop tools to make positive choices” while encouraging them to “break the negative patterns of their lives.”

Journey Home participants at Estrella Jail in Phoenix. Photo by Aaron Lavinsky. Courtesy of ASU Gammage.

After the performance, several women spoke about the transformative nature of the Journey Home experience — and a common thread emerged. These women feel more confident, capable, caring and compassionate. They’re learning to believe in themselves and to imagine a future free of incarceration. The Journey Home program has served nearly 300 inmates during its first decade.

“Journey Home allows these women to develop creative tools that can help them make positive choices, and encourages them to break the negative patterns that lead to incarceration,” says Jennings-Roggensack. Ruth Acuna, an officer with Estrella Jail, says the program gives inmates a better understanding of their self worth. “We have seen the recitivism rate for the women who participate in this program significantly decrease.”

Fatima Halim (R) working with women at Estrella Jail in Phoenix. Photo by Aaron Lavinsky. Courtesy of ASU Gammage.

Journey Home participants work with several folks from Life Paradigms, including executive director Fatimah Halim, who administers the program and works with inmates on creative writing and storytelling. Also program director Teniqua Broughton, who specializes in movement and theater arts — plus psychotherapist Imani Muhammad, who does visual arts.

After Journey Home participants finished their performance, those who’d been watching had a chance to share their reactions. Many, including Michael Reed, senior director of cultural participation and programming for ASU Gammage, spoke of being truly moved and inspired by the women’s journeys. Before the event drew to a close, each woman was asked to stand next to her own self-portrait.

A Journey Home participant reads from her work at Estrella Jail. Photo by Aaron Lavinsky. Courtesy of ASU Gammage.

Many described their paintings, sharing both traumas from their past and dreams for their future. Then several of the women, now artists, handed their painting to a person in the audience whose earlier comments had stirred them somehow. It was a moving gesture, a gift genuinely appreciated. I hope so much for all the mothers of the world today. And for the mothers and daughters who shared such beautiful pieces of themselves with us that day. May they have a safe journey home.

— Lynn

Note: A 2006 report by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics notes that 61% of people in state prisons and 44% of those in local jails have a mental health problem. Click here to learn more about mental health and prison policy.

Coming up: Silver linings

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings. 6/13/12

The road to “Rain”

Rain “Ed Sullivan” set (Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann)

One of my earliest childhood memories is tied to The Beatles, the British band that made their American debut on the Ed Sullivan show in 1963. I was three years old at the time, but soon I was strapping my father’s electric guitar over my little neck and strumming through imaginings of being my own tiny version of a rock star. During third grade, I used to chase a boy named Eric around the baseball diamond — eager to give him love notes full of The Beatles lyrics written in pencil on crumpled up pieces of wide-ruled notebook paper. Sadly, I ended up “marrying” another boy at the altar of a metal playground fence later that year.

I was a college student sitting in a German rathskeller in Heidelberg, at the end of a long table with a rustic feel, when programming on a television screen I’d been ignoring was interrupted by news of John Lennon’s death in December of 1980. That got my attention — as did news in 2001 that George Harrison, whose fascination with Indian culture was similar to my mother’s, died from the cruel tyranny of cancer. Harrison was in his sixth decade of life, as I am now.

Rain “Sgt. Pepper” set (Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann)

The Beatles have been a backdrop for much of my life, and the life of Mark Lewis (plus many millions of others) as well. Lewis is the founder of “Rain: A Tribute to The Beatles” to ASU Gammage this week. They began as “Reign” but changed the name after people kept flubbing the spelling. Rain recreates the music (and more) of The Beatles — making for a lovely bit of memory lane for us old-timers and a smashing reintroduction for younger souls never steeped in Beatlemania. (Poor dears.)

Lewis also got into the music groove quite early in life — thanks to piano lessons started at age five that left him “an accomplished pianist” by age 13. In between, Lewis encounted music by The Beatles. Blame it all on his mom. She made him turn the television channel, under protest, as he was deep in the throws of a Walt Disney show. Seems The Beatles were about to make their American television debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. Soon Lewis was the proud owner of the “Meet the Beatles” album.

Rain “Abbey Road” set (Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann)

Today he’s the father of two sons, ages 18 and 23, who keep busy with their own musical adventures. One graduates from college this month with a degree in journalism, after resisting the temptation to drop out and tour with Wayward. Another graduates soon from the Reno high school where he’s done marching band, youth honors jazz band and more. He’s trying out for a professional drum corps, and readying to enter the University of Nevada at Reno as a music major. Whether the music becomes a profession or simply something he loves is “something he’ll have to figure out for himself,” says Lewis.

But back in the day, Lewis was a kid born and raised in L.A., who went to Hollywood High School. He joined a band that went on to play a club in Calabasas called the Mine Shaft, where Dick Clark first heard them perform. Clark was looking for a band to perform songs by The Beatles for a “Birth of The Beatles” film (eventually released in 1979).

Rain “Shea Stadium” set (Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann)

After the show, Clark asked the band to record and send him an audition tape featuring four songs by The Beatles. Lewis shared three the morning we spoke, just days after Clark’s death in April — “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “All My Loving” and “She Loves You.” Others auditioned as well, but Lewis and his bandmates got the gig. Lewis says they “did more than 30 songs in one-and-a-half days” for the film. “Dick Clark came to the recording sessions,” recalls Lewis. “He was the nicest guy.”

Clark and the band were among those who attended the movie’s premiere. Lewis recalls Clark approaching the band to tell them they’d done a great job, impressed that he’s remembered each of their names. “Dick Clark was an icon,” says Lewis. “He changed our careers — he put us on the map.” That map’s taken “Rain: A Tribute to The Beatles” to Broadway and beyond, even earning the show a 2011 Drama Desk Award for outstanding revue. Click here for ASU Gammage show and ticket information. Then sit back and let it be.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about Mark Lewis and “Rain” band members

Coming up: “Annie” tales

Update: Click here to learn about a documentary called “The Beatles: The Lost Concert.” 5/8/12

Anthem to angst

Scene from the touring production of "American Idiot" (Photo: Doug Hamilton)

I was steeped in angst as a teen. Still, the angst in “Green Day’s American Idiot” feels a tad over the top. I attended the opening night performance at ASU Gammage, then called my daughter Lizabeth on the drive home to compare notes because she saw the show some time ago on Broadway.

“You’ve never had that kind of angst,” she told me. “That’s true,” I replied, “I’ve never shot heroine.” I’m old enough now that I don’t even remember whether “shoot” is the right word for it. Parents eager to take their kids to “American Idiot” take note — it’s full of foul language, simulated sex and drug use, and other mature themes like suicide. Not necessarily a reason not to see it, just something to know before you go.

There aren’t a lot of musicals out there with the “American Idiot” vibe, so it’s an important notch to have in your theater belt. Expect lots of loud music and pounding movement, and brush up on the lyrics before you go since they’re hard to fathom on some of the ensemble numbers. Or just wing it — it’s plenty possible to get the gist of the show without understanding every word.

Kids leave home. Some try drink and drugs. Some enlist in the military. Some have sex, and some have babies. Some get jobs, but lament their 9 to 5 existence. All are bored, and none find fulfillment. Kids return home. Some with war wounds. Some with track marks. Some with broken hearts. One even admits near the end of the musical that his mother was right — though my daughter says she never heard that line. There’s much in “American Idiot” that reads differently depending on your age and A.Q. (angst quotient).

My own favorite scenes take the noise down a notch with soulful solos accompanied by acoustic guitar. Without these interludes, the high volume existential head banging takes on a surprising sameness — as if you’re watching a game of show and tell, but realize before too long that everyone’s brought the same thing to share.

I was thankful I had Lizabeth to translate, since I’d have mistaken all those hoodies in “Know Your Enemy” for a nod to America’s most visible arrest of late without her assuring me that they were there on Broadway too. She also made sense of my least favorite scene — featuring a slick general surrounded by dancing girls in sparkling shift dresses. I was fonder by far of the show’s choreography, thinking how much thinner I’d be if there was an “American Idiot” workout. But we agreed the aerial work was wonderful.

It’s hip these days to include digital projections in theater works, but “American Idiot” still does it best with a backdrop dotted with television-like screens and digital images of cityscapes and such rolling across it. The musical opens with three main set pieces — a sofa, a recliner and a bed built for two. Along the way there’s a tower that’s transformed into transportation, a shifting set of tall metal stairs (complete with cellist underneath them), a shopping cart that gets hoisted skyward and a row of beds for wounded warriors whose IVs drop from overhead.

When one of the show’s characters quips that “nobody seems to agree on anything these days,” you wonder how they knew all those years ago to channel events of the current election cycle. Though “American Idiot” explores the lives of youth, it’s safe to say nowadays that idiots exist at every age and stage. It’s just that musical versions of midlife crises aren’t nearly as much fun.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about “American Idiot” and other ASU Gammage offerings (and be sure you stay until the curtain call ends, or you’ll miss a little something that’s worth waiting for).

Coming up: Hangin’ with Haring