Tag Archives: Broadway channel

Baby meets Broadway

Valley actor D. Scott Withers isn’t a father in real life, but says that hasn’t been a problem in tackling the role of a 40-something father of three in a musical titled “Baby” opening July 22 at Arizona Broadway Theatre in Peoria. Like all actors, Withers has done plenty of things onstage that he’s never done in real life.

He’s quick to point out that despite the musical’s appeal to parents or those expecting a child, it’s really a work about relationships. “The baby,” he says, “just puts a magnifying glass on them.” Seems his couple, the oldest of the three, experiences an unexpected pregnancy just as they’re preparing for life in the “empty nest.” One is thrilled, but the other — not so much, really.

The youngest expectant parents in “Baby” are college students. Another couple deals with infertility. “Parents will recognize these relationships,” says Withers. But plenty of folks without kids love the work for other reasons. Withers describes “Baby” as a cult favorite among musical theater lovers.

“The music,” says Withers, “is fantastic.” Think catchy, upbeat numbers and beautiful ballads. Just ask my daughter Lizabeth, who knows to crank up the volume every time the SiriusXM Broadway channel plays “The Story Goes On.”

Still, Withers says it’s “not a dance show.” Instead, it’s a “character driven” musical with a small cast. All the more reason to rejoice that seasoned actors like Withers are involved. Withers is a longtime “associate artist” with Childsplay in Tempe whose other plans this season include directing “The Music Man” and performing in “Gypsy.”

Baby” features book by Sybille Pearson, music by David Shire and lyrics by Richard Maltby, Jr. It was performed on Broadway in 1983 and 1984. Withers’ preference for the music over the writing is shared by several who’ve reviewed the work.

It’s infrequently performed in these parts (Withers recalls a Theater Works production from a decade or so ago), meaning that those who worship at the altar of musical theater will want to make the pilgrimage to Peoria for this production. For all its charms, “Baby” is a show that’s unlikely to come around again anytime soon.

After years of watching Withers perform in Childsplay shows like “Go, Dog. Go!” and “A Year With Frog and Toad,” I’m eager to witness his work with more mature fare. If his “Alan” in “Baby” is even half as engaging as his “Edna” in “Hairspray,” Valley audiences are in for a real treat.

— Lynn

Coming up: Performing arts “sneak peek” events, Childsplay’s 2011/12 season, Parenting meets performing arts, From book to stage, Girl power!

Advertisements

Amazing meets A-MAH-zing

My daughter Lizabeth poses with Broadway legend Betty Buckley

Those of you who are puzzling over the title of this post clearly weren’t lucky enough to snag tickets to see the amazing Betty Buckley perform at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts last week with piano and comedic accompaniment by the “A-MAH-zing” Seth Rudetsky.

For all the time we spend with Rudetsky via our car radio and the SiriusXM Radio “On Broadway” channel, he might as well be my fourth kid. He certainly seems eccentric enough to be one of us.

Rudetsky opened last week’s show with tales of his own childhood foray into live musical theater productions like “HAIR” at an age when most kids can’t even spell four letter words. Many related to film clips projected onto a giant screen — including my personal favorite from a horror flick called “Carrie” (something folks my age saw during the waning days of drive-in movies).

Soon Rudetsky was introducing Buckley, known to many for her amazing performance in the musical “Cats,” which features the song “Memory” — a little number Buckley now calls her “signature song.” Other songs she performed that evening included “Meadowlark,” “Send in the Clowns,” and even “There’s a Fine, Fine Line” (from the bawdy “Avenue Q”).

My daughter, Lizabeth, may have been the only teen in the house that night. It seems Lady Gaga was also performing in the Valley, and while we admire her work on- and off-stage — we’re going to see if she’s got Buckley’s staying power before we go gaga for one of her gigs.

Buckley opened this Scottsdale concert (I’m told it was her third) with “As If We Never Said Goodbye” from “Sunset Boulevard.” The piece was requested by, and dedicated to, Linda and Sherman Saperstein, who were celebrating their wedding anniversary that evening and graciously stood while Buckley led the crowd in singing “Happy Anniversary to You.”

I noticed in reading my program that the concert was “presented with support from Linda and Sherman Saperstein.” I was delighted to meet Mr. Saperstein after the show, and offered my heartfelt thanks for the couple’s support of arts and culture. Without such generous souls, many of us would never get to experience a bit of the magic of Broadway in our own hometown.

The “Broadway by Request” show is a blend of beautiful vocal stylings and storytelling. Buckley drops plenty of names along the way — Stephen Sondheim, Bob Fosse and others that might take you by surprise.

Buckley’s passion for performance, and musical theater, was evident in each anecdote, as she proffered with panache her theater experiences from school days through today. Seems Buckley got her first gig from her first audition — on her first day in New York City.

But life in the theater isn’t all smooth sailing, as evidenced by her tales of an egregious agent Buckley had to do away with in short order. A single thread seemed to tie all of Buckley’s stories together. The woman never stopped knocking on doors — or pounding, frankly, if that’s what it took to land the roles of her dreams.

Buckley complimented the Scottsdale crowd for its sophistication after a few of her therapy-related revelations were accepted with warmth and good humor. Apparently some folks in the Midwest react to similar material by casting a pall over the theater. Buckley recalled the day her therapist, dismissed shortly thereafter, gave her advice we’ve all heard at one time or another (usually for free): “Get over it.”

After Buckley shared several songs featuring especially glorious belting, Rudetsky sent her offstage for “two cups of hot tea” — then took over the mic to demonstrate one of his own great passions: “Deconstructing.” He explained in detail the intricacies of Buckley’s vocal performance, then played a sample of her singing as he talked the audience through each element.

Buckley and Rudetsky (who has admired Buckley’s work since boyhood) make a powerful pair. Rudetsky caresses the keys like Buckley caresses the air — and both have genuine flair.

Lizabeth and Seth Rudetsky

Buckley and Rudetsky enjoyed a lengthy standing ovation after wrapping the show, and another after an encore featuring a single haunting song. Both graciously stayed long after the concert to autograph programs, CDs and such. We were thrilled to chat with them briefly, and I couldn’t resist the urge to solicit advice for Lizabeth as she heads off to study theater.

Buckley’s offered a single word: “Practice.” Seth had a great deal more to say (all of it good) but seemed genuinely puzzled about why, when Lizabeth rattled off the list of colleges/conservatories on her “short list” of favorites, she didn’t mention Oberlin College & Conservatory — his own alma mater. We love Rudetsky’s loyalty, and want to assure him that Oberlin tops the list of plenty of students at Arizona School for the Arts.

Now if only there was a “Seth-mobile” bumper sticker for the teen taxi that routinely blasts “Seth’s Big Fat Broadway” during all those drives between home, school and theater adventures…

— Lynn

Coming up: Bald chairs?, Fiddling around in Alaska, How hip is “HOP?”

Math problem

I’ve always sucked at math. But I’m feeling particularly inept this weekend because there are more shows I want to see than hours I have for taking them all in. Now that is a serious math problem.

Tonight I could stay close to home and enjoy “Six Characters in Search of an Author” performed by the NYC-based Aquila Theatre at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, or head downtown for opening weekend of “Lost in Yonkers” performed by Arizona Theatre Company. “Yonkers” has special appeal because it features two young actors, one of whom goes to school with my 17-year-old daughter Lizabeth. It’s always fun to support young actors in our midst!

If I head to Phoenix College, I can enjoy the Arizona Jewish Theatre Company production of “My Name is Asher Lev.” I’m intrigued by this piece because of the subject matter (art and Jewish identity), the fact that it’s being directed by Layne Racowsky (whose work I know best from their youth theatre productions) and because I was so smitten with the last work I saw the Arizona Jewish Theatre Company perform (“Hard Love” — also a work about Jewish identity).

I’m seriously tempted to head to Theatre Artists Studio in Scottsdale (near Paradise Valley Mall) to see a Lee Blessing play titled “Eleemosynary.” The cast includes Maureen Watson (known to many for her work with Childsplay in Tempe and her producing director gig at Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale) and another student Lizabeth knows from Arizona School for the Arts, 16-year-old Tasha Spear — as well as Judy Lebeau.

From a mere math perspective, compelling reasons to hit “Eleemosynary” are starting to add up. Theatre Artists Studio counts Debra Rich Gettleman, who writes and blogs for Raising Arizona Kids magazine, among its members. Her work is brainy and biting, and always leaves me wanting more. I love the vibe of the venue, which I last enjoyed during the Scottsdale Community College performance of “The Diviners” (they used the studio while their on-campus digs were being renovated). And “Eleemosynary” features lots of fun words, something it’s hard for a wanna-be-wordsmith to miss.

Sure, I could wait to hit most of these tomorrow night (Aquila Theatre is a one night gig). Or head out Saturday night to see Arizona artists ages 15-18 perform for the chance to win a $1,000 first prize in this year’s “Arizona Young Artists Competition” at the Herberger Theater Center. Finalists in acting, dance and voice will be competing for top honors. It doesn’t take a math whiz to know that this is a seriously good thing.

But I’ve already got tickets to see Betty Buckley perform “Broadway by Request” at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Considering how much time we spend in the teen taxi listening to musician and comedian Seth Rudetsky on the Sirius XM “On Broadway” channel, Lizabeth would be heartbroken to miss anything involving Rudetsky, who’s accompanying Buckley on piano.

Once again, the math just isn’t in my favor — because tomorrow is the final night of Southwest Shakespeare Company’s performance of Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest.” I can feel less bummed (and guilty) about missing that one, though, since it’s already sold out. I hope the same isn’t yet true for the Scottsdale Community College production of “The Bald Chairs,” which I’m also eager to see should the math ever work in my favor — it opens March 31 so the odds are more in my favor. 

Chances are, I’ll give up on the math entirely. English was always my better subject, so I suppose most of the weekend will find me writing about theater rather than enjoying it firsthand. So I hope the rest of you will do me a favor. Pick at least one of the shows I’m longing to see and get yourself a ticket (or more if you want to take along family or friends). Then drop me a note about your experience. Who knows — I might even ask you to elaborate for a “guest blog” so you can spend some time in the “reviewer” chair. It beats the heck out of sitting at home snuggled up with a calculator.

— Lynn

Note: Those of you seeking performing arts options for younger children can always consult the print or online calendar from Raising Arizona Kids Magazine.

Coming up: Choosing a college theater program, Baggage — with wings

My fondness for “Fiddler”

Scene from "Fiddler on the Roof" (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Most folks know the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” thanks to songs like “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Tradition.”

It’s a lovely part of one of our own family traditions — enjoying touring Broadway productions, and other performing arts fare, at ASU Gammage in Tempe.

Often I take in shows with just my 17-year-old daughter, Lizabeth, herself a bit of a fiddler after a decade or so of violin study. She’s the family musical theater expert — and eagerly awaiting letters from the colleges where she recently completed B.F.A. auditions.

But seeing “Fiddler” at ASU Gammage — like “Phantom of the Opera” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” — has been a family affair.

The musical has plenty of elements that appeal to children — the rooftop fiddler, the sibling spats, the grandma “dream sequence,” the lively songs and dance sequences.

I first saw the show while parenting three young children, but this time around I’ll have the perspective of a mom with three grown children grappling with many of the issues treated in the show.

The longing to belong. The urge to break away. The pull of duty. The push of desire. The traditions shared by generations. The new paths forged by youth. The interplay of the personal with the political.

I confess to forging my own path with the song “If I Were a Rich Man” several years ago while performing with fellow parents at a talent show.

We were chaparoning a summer camp session of the Phoenix Girls Chorus, and changed up the words as an homage to artistic director Sue Marshall (who now heads the blossoming Arizona Girlchoir).

Thankfully, “If I Were Miss Sue” made its debut before the advent of YouTube and viral videos. Seems to me I did something similar with “Memory” (from the musical “Cats”) one year during a parent talent show at my children’s elementary school.

My favorite audio of the “Fiddler” variety is a recent interview with Harvey Fierstein that Lizabeth and I heard in the car one day — where we often listen to the SIRIUS XM “On Broadway” channel.

Fierstein has performed the lead role of Tevye (the father and milkman in this tale inspired by the stories of Sholom Aleichem), and eloquently shares the impact the show had on him as a young Jewish boy.

My “kids” may roll their eyes when the “Fiddler” song “Sunrise, Sunset” comes through the car radio speakers. But I know that one day, they’ll appreciate the lyrics to this and other “Fiddler” songs that capture the currents of change in family life and the world beyond.

— Lynn

Note: Watch the ASU Gammage website for the early March announcement of their 2011-2012 season — and head to ASU Gammage this week to enjoy the musical “9 to 5.”

Coming up: More musical theater with a family-friendly feel, Valley students present a series of one-act plays

Sexy in the city?

I was thrilled to discover yesterday that fellow RAK blogger Debra Rich Gettleman—who writes “Unmotherly Insights” amidst other gigs that include parenting, acting, playwriting and more—made the daily ‘best of blogs’ for WordPress for the second time.

Big '80s hair is back...But is it sexy?

I shared the news with my husband and daughters over dinner as we celebrated Jennifer’s move to on-campus housing, and we got to wondering whether a “Stage Mom” post might fare as well if I jazzed up some of my titles (as if yesterday’s “potluck” teaser wasn’t exciting enough).

Debra’s post (titled “Sexy mama!”) features a photo of the orange and pink Dunkin’ Donuts logo. Jennifer suggested I try a little “social experiment”–punctuating my posts with words like “sexy” for a week or so to see what happens.

I started wondering whether any of my upcoming topics might actually warrant this description. Classes offered by private performing arts studios? Nope. Museum-related careers? Nope. Teaching tolerance through the arts? Nope.

Then it came to me…

The Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts recently announced their upcoming season. If you think of “sexy” as intriguing, exciting and provocative, this venue clearly qualifies. Those who consider the brain a bonafide erogenous zone may be especially inclined to agree.

One of King Tut's sexier moments?

For the ‘smart equals sexy’ crowd, they’ll present the likes of singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett, comedian and banjoist Steve Martin, and Tony-Award winning actor John Lithgow (known to fans of Showtime’s “Dexter” as “The Trinity Killer”).

For the ‘exotic is sexy’ arts lover, there’s the taiko drummers of Kodo—and The Mystical Arts of Tibet.

If jazz is what turns you on, get ready for jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, trumpeter Doc Severinsen & El Ritmo de la Vida, the Count Basie Orchestra and The Manhattan Transfer.

Sexy covered by a cat suit

Broadway buffs will delight in performances by Tony Award winners Bernadette Peters (who’ll grace the stage of the Virginia G. Piper Theater for the ARTrageous celebration in December) and Betty Buckley of CATS fame.

Fans of “Seth’s Big Fat Broadway” on SIRIUS XM are no doubt wondering whether the “a-mah-zing” Seth Rudetsky might accompany Buckley on piano, which would merit a “sexy” and “donuts” designation from some theater folk.

If you’ve read a good sampling of my 200 + “Stage Mom” posts (I never miss a day), you can likely guess what my personal favorite for the Center’s upcoming season might be…

It’s the Merce Cunningham Dance Company “Legacy Tour,” which offers your “last opportunity to see this great American dance company perform the choreography of the late Merce Cunningham before it disbands.”

My mother told me long ago that you don’t have to reveal everything to be sexy. And so I’ll offer just a few more peeks at what the Scottsdale Center for the Arts has in store…

Sexy in a Shakespearean sort of way

Film screenings. Holiday shows. Family fare. Classical music. Shakespeare. Rock opera. Political humor. Best-selling authors. Acting workshops. Hispanic heritage celebrations. Native American song and dance. And Scottsdale traditions including “Sunday A’Fair” and the “Scottsdale Arts Festival.”

Holding back a bit also gives me another excuse to go “sexy” with future posts. So stay tuned, and check the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts website in the meantime for more juicy details about all things “sexy” in their upcoming season.

When it comes to the Arizona arts scene, Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts brings “sexy” to the city…

–Lynn