Tag Archives: Broadway

Get the scoop

Best to get the scoop on all things theater from trusted sources

Folks eager to get the scoop on celebrity comings and goings turn too often to unreliable sources. Before you buy that next gossip rag, or grace some tacky tell-all website with another hit, consider the source.

Folks who love theater will soon find plenty of compelling fare on the Actors’ Equity Association website — which recently launched “The Narrative Project” to gather and share accounts of actors’ professional experiences. The project is part of preparations for next year’s AEA “Centennial Celebration.” The organization was founded in 1903.

Actors’ Equity Association is (“AEA” or “Equity”) is a labor union representing more than 49,000 actors and stage managers in the U.S. The union “seeks to advance, promote and foster the art of live theatre as an essential component of our society.” They negotiate wages and working conditions, and provide benefits like health and pension plans to members.

Tonight’s Tony Awards ceremony will include the presentation of a special award to the Actors’ Equity Association, but also something a local AEA member put on my radar. This year’s event will feature not only live performances from several shows (including two shows not nominated who graciously accepted the invitation to perform), but also a beamed-in performance aboard a cruise ship. Not everyone is doing their happy dance.

Whatever your position, be wary of where you get the scoop. I’ve talked this week with folks I respect on both sides of the issue. Best to consult primary sources for such things. In this case, it’s Actors’ Equity Association and the organizations who’ve jointly administered the Tony Awards since 1967 — The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing.

If you’re eager to learn more about Broadway behind-the-scenes, check out this morning’s CBS Sunday Morning story on the “Gypsy Robe” — a longtime tradition for opening nights on Broadway.

When it comes to getting the scoop on individual actors, look for opportunities to hear actors themselves doing the talking. They beat all those other talking heads every time. Frequent interviewers of theater professionals include Charlie Rose and James Lipton.

Click here for more information on tonight’s Tony Awards ceremony.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about the gypsy robe tradition (including where these babies live today). If it’s a real ice cream scoop you seek, check out this blog where I spotted the lovely specimen pictured above. For actor accounts of earning their AEA card, click here.

Coming up: The adventures of Arizona Tony Awards travelers, From big stage to small screen

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

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Going rogue?

I've always got my eye out for art -- like this "Right Eye from an Arthropoid Coffin" (1539-30 B.C., Egypt) recently spotted at the Brooklyn Museum in NYC

I feel a bit rogue sometimes — writing for an Arizona magazine, but finding such delight in covering NYC arts and culture. So I decided maybe it was time to share with readers in both states, plus others, my rationale for marrying the two. The initial lure, of course, was our youngest daughter Lizabeth. Like many born and raised in Arizona, she’s chosen to further her arts education in NYC — so I visit several times a year in “mom mode.”

But the bridge between Arizona and NYC (plus Chicago and other communities with a heavy arts footprint) is a two-way street. Many who teach and create art in Arizona communities hail from NYC or other parts of the country, and I enjoy giving voice to the places and spaces that’ve nurtured the gifts enjoyed by Arizona art lovers.

Art is all around and deep within us. Traveling without covering regional arts and culture would be like refusing to breath another city’s air. Suffocating. Rather than distracting Arizona readers from the beauty of our own arts bounty, I hope my writing “on the road” inspires a greater appreciation for the multitude of marvels here at home. Photos from a children’s museum in Manhattan or Las Vegas might inspire a family to visit the Children’s Museum of Phoenix or the Tucson Children’s Museum. So it’s all good.

Sometimes it feels like the art is keeping an eye on you -- like "Curious and Curiouser" by Mary Lucking and David Tinapple in the Arizona Science Center lobby

I’m fortunate to have lots of “Stage Mom” readers in NYC, and hope my blogging on both states’ offerings inspires them to consider the depth and breadth of Arizona arts and culture. We get plenty of bad press, and I’m privileged to cover what’s best about our state. Young poets, skilled playwrights, talented musicians, inspiring dancers, gifted actors. Also arts educators in our schools, museums and various community venues. Tourism takes place in both directions — and I’m an unapologetic missionary for the Arizona arts scene.

I suppose some of my kinship with NYC was born of years attending touring Broadway productions at ASU Gammage. I take special delight on reporting from NYC about shows I’ve seen on Valley stages — plus shows that’ll likely head our way during future tours. Only seeing “War Horse” performed at Lincoln Center in NYC enabled me to appreciate how fortunate we are that it’ll gallop into ASU Gammage during their 2012-13 season.

Some people seem to spy art wherever they go -- like this "Untitled" (1961) by Lee Bontecou that's exhibited at the Phoenix Art Museum

Some assume that Arizonans are settling for mediocre on-stage and museum fare, but trips to NYC have heightened my appreciation for local offerings. Sometimes I find things that Arizona could use a lot more of — like arts and culture originating in Africa. Other times, I find modest NYC exhibits of Native American or Latino artworks that make clear the excellence of Arizona collections.

Stumbling on the Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s “Pattern Wizardry” in NYC years after I’d taken my children to enjoy the traveling exhibit at Mesa’s Arizona Museum for Youth reminded me, like Dorothy in her ruby red slippers, that you needn’t head over the rainbow to find what’s good and right in the world.

Still, we know that plenty of Arizona families travel — making choices when they do about where to invest precious resources like time and money. In an amusement park world, I’m keen on reminding parents to consider arts and cultural destinations too. Youth theater in San Diego. Orchestral concerts in Los Angeles. Public art in Las Vegas. Dance performance in Orlando. It’s all part of upping their appreciation for aesthetics, and the arts and culture industry so critical to a healthy American economy.

Teach your kids to look for art wherever they go -- like this eye detail on the glass house by Therman Statom located just outside the SMoCA young@art gallery in Scottsdale

It’s easy to take Arizona arts and culture for granted, forgetting just how exceptional our own theater companies from Childsplay to Valley Youth Theatre can be. Seeing touring productions from other parts of the country often reminds me that some of the country’s best artists live right here among us. Wowed as I was by a touring Kennedy Center production of “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical” performed a while back at Higley Center for the Performing Arts, it confirmed my suspicion that Childsplay in Tempe routinely achieves the same high quality of theater performance for students and families.

Seeing works performed during the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City each summer always makes me more committed to attending Southwest Shakespeare Company productions here at home. Admiring works of glass art at the Brooklyn Museum last week left me eager to explore more glass art here at home. Similarly, performances enjoyed here in the Valley up my appreciation for works by artists in other places. During my last trip to NYC, I spent an evening watching local arts programming from Thirteen WNET New York Public Media — eager to watch a show about young poets after covering state Poetry Out Loud finals here in the Valley.

Comparing and contrasting are essential to the craft of theater criticism and other elements of arts reporting, so I’d be foolish to check my memories of places like the Louvre, the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the door when entering “Stage Mom” mode. The more I experience, the more I have to share with Arizona readers. “Going rogue” has a lovely ring to it, but there’s a circle to what I do — and Arizona will always be my center.

— Lynn

Coming up: Let’s talk “Bully”

Once upon a theater camp

Aaron Zweiback performs in Green Eggs & Ham with The Phoenix Symphony on St. Patrick's Day

I was reminded while reading Mala Blomquist’s post this morning that spring break camps will soon be upon us, and was busy trolling for camps with an arts and culture twist when interrupted by a call from 12-year-old actor and ASA student Aaron Zweiback, whose theater teachers include Xanthia Walker.

I first met Zweiback last summer when my daughter Lizabeth, who now studies acting in NYC, was a teacher assistant with Childsplay Academy in Tempe. She’d invited me to see the final performance of a summer workshop with a “Hairspray” theme. Zweiback was one of several campers performing snippets of the musical for family and friends — and his Edna a la bathrobe was a hoot. He’s also done theater camps with Phoenix Theatre.

I ran into Zweiback after a recent Valley Youth Theatre performance of “Charlotte’s Web” — during which he rocked the rat role — and put fist to ear with the typical “call me” sign after chatting with his dad. In a rather spooky coincidence, I’d been wondering earlier this morning whether he’d ever have time to actually pick up a phone.

Today was the day, and the call couldn’t have been better timed. Turns out Zweiback is performing in several shows I’ll be seeing in coming days and weeks. I learned yesterday that I’ll need a little snip to a torn part of my left knee, but decided to postpone all things arthroscopy for another two weeks in order to keep my review calendar mostly intact.

Aaron Zweiback recently performed in Charlotte's Web at Valley Youth Theatre

So life looks like this for me and my knee: See Zweiback and others perform in “Gypsy” at Phoenix Theatre this weekend, limp my way through a trip to visit Lizabeth over spring break, then catch a returning flight in the wee hours that gets me home just in time to hit another Zweiback gig — The Phoenix Symphony performing “Green Eggs and Ham.” Then squeeze in the surgery thing (with a doc who took his kids to see a friend from the Valley perform in “Grease” on Broadway a few years ago). I’m told the wait won’t worsen what ails me.

Turns out “Green Eggs and Ham” includes all sorts of amazing folks from Valley stages. ASA teacher and renowned Valley actor Toby Yatso, with whom both Lizabeth and Zweiback have studied voice, is narrating the story. Zweiback does his “boy soprano” thing as “Sam I Am” and shared that the theatrical piece of the concert is being blocked, choreographed and directed by Bobb Cooper, VYT’s producing artistic director.

There’s another Sam in Zweiback’s life as well — an actor named Sam Primack whose little mittens I once guarded with care as backstage mom for a Greasepaint Youtheatre production of “Oliver.” He and Zweiback were in “A Christmas Story” at Phoenix Theatre earlier this season, and both are cast in Childsplay’s world premiere production of Dwayne Hartford’s “The Color of Stars.”

Sam Primack poses with a VYT fan after performing in Charlotte's Web

After Zweiback shared a bit about auditioning for all these shows, I invited him to write a guest blog with audition tips for young actors — and he graciously agreed. It takes a generous spirit to share one’s own “secrets to success” and Zweiback certainly has one. I fully expect to see him performing on Broadway stages one day, and hope he’ll also keep an eye out for opportunities to audition for roles in works by William Shakespeare where his intellect and gift for comedy would shine.

If the ticket fairies are working in my favor, I’ll be able to enjoy the work of another Valley-trained actor while in NYC next week. Nick Cartell, who has performed with VYT, Phoenix Theatre and other Arizona companies makes his Broadway debut this month in a revival of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

Katie Czajkowksi and Aaron Zweiback after a Childsplay summer camp performance based on the musical Hairspray

I’m also looking forward to the Homestead Playhouse production of “Holes,” being performed at Copper Ridge School in Scottsdale March 28-30, because another young performer I met after the Childsplay “Hairspray” camp performance landed the warden role. Katie’s mom, Deb Czajkowski, recently got in touch to share the happy news — and her thoughts on the many benefits of theater for youth.

I hope those of you still wondering what your children or teens might enjoy doing over spring break will do a little theater camp legwork. One day, perhaps, you’ll get to turn to your child and share the old theater adage for good luck — “Break a leg!” Just try to keep your own body parts intact in the meantime…

— Lynn

Note: Click here to read Mala Blomquist’s post on spring break camps and here to learn about all sorts of summer camps. Find additional spring break camps at Voices Studio, Creative Stages Youth Theatre and Mesa Arts Center (if you’ve got one, send me the scoop at rakstagemom@gmail.com).

Coming up: Spring break NYC-style, Hometown boy makes Broadway debut

“Smash” earns a callback

Folks who tune in to the new NBC series Smash will enjoy views of Times Square in NYC

A pair of dueling divas singing “Let me be your star.” A tough-minded producer who looks downright docile compared with her ex-in-the-making. A man concerned that Broadway is beating out baby as he begins the adoption process with his musical-making wife. An assistant credited too readily with generating the concept for a musical he’ll never shepherd to the stage. And a director who seems more creepy than creative.

It’s just another day in New York City — complete with cabs, subways, liquid power lunches and actors hoofing it as waitstaff. Also auditions full of people who’ve never heard of “audition 101” gems like “don’t dress like the character you want to play” and “beware the director who calls you to his apartment in the wee hours.”

The characters feel complex enough to carry audience interest for the long run, and the seeds of plenty of potential plotlines have already been sewn. Emotional baggage. Intellectual property. Wardrobe misadventures. It’s all there — in one smartly-written package.

Like the best Broadway musicals, the first episode of “Smash” builds slowly towards a big finish, with lots of high points along the way. Also plenty of issues to ponder between episodes. Which ranks higher in the hierarchy of humanity — talent or kindness? When is trusting your gut a sign of fear — and when is it a sign of courage? And who’s the bigger downer — a cynical New Yorker or a defeatist Midwesterner?

“Smash” follows the journey of a small idea to the big stage — plus the lives of those whose best (and sometimes worst) efforts get it there. It’s relatable stuff for those not schooled in musical theater, but intoxicating for those who breathe to banter around words like “mix” and “belt.”

A critical question in the real world of theater gets asked within the first few minutes of the first episode — “Why isn’t anyone doing new musicals anymore?” And our first shot of the Shubert Theatre shows a marquee reading “Heaven on Earth.” The show clearly preaches to the choir, though I suspect it’ll yield plenty of conversion stories over time.

Making theater complicates life, and life complicates making theater. Such is the stuff of “Smash” — and executive producers, including Steven Spielberg, have certainly earned a callback.

— Lynn

 Note: Click here to learn more about NBC’s “Smash”

Coming up: Celebrating “Kids’ Night on Broadway”

South Park meets Broadway

Cartoon Central aired a new episode of South Park called Broadway Bro Down last week

We got some great advice in the television viewing department when our three children, now college students, were young. When in doubt, watch shows yourself before letting your children see them. The same goes for movies and other fare that might have content you’d deem inappropriate.

Parents who thought it’d be keen to watch last week’s new episode of “South Park” with their kids who love Broadway got a rude (and well-deserved) awakening if they took to the couch together without screening the content. Show creators hyped the Broadway theme, but failed to mention the other “B-word” that dominates the episode’s dialogue.

The premise of the episode is simple enough — men who take women to Broadway musicals fare better in the bedroom department. Hence the decision by South Park father Randy to take wife Sharon to New York for an entire weekend of musical theater. And more than two dozen local performances of “Wicked.”

The concept isn’t new, of course. When Broadway legend Betty Buckley was just 21-years-old, she performed one of only two female roles in the musical “1776.” She was Martha Jefferson to Ken Howard’s Thomas Jefferson, singing a piece called “He Plays the Violin.” Apparently musicians were deemed sexier than most even then. Still, the show’s creators left more to the imagination.

The “South Park” meets Broadway episode is entertaining enough, with all its scenes of popular musicals, but the addition of a mature-theme plotline dubbed “filthy” by an arts blogger for The New York Times added nothing to the episode’s charm. Instead, it left only minutes of content suitable for young viewers — and left adults craving a shower (of the solo variety) more than a show.

When Randy decides to write his own musical, for anything but artistic reasons, he lacks a certain sophistication in creating subtext — which four members of the musical theater pantheon attempt to help him rectify. Enter the four fabulously-drawn cartoon renderings of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Elton John, Stephen Schwartz and Stephen Sondheim.

Just a single line from the episode is “LOL” funny — despite the predictability of its subject matter. The musical created by South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone, as well as Robert Lopez, gets only a brief flash of shameless promotion as the episode draws to a close. Let’s hope a future episode of “South Park” parodies the musical titled “The Book of Mormon” in all its glory.

Just be sure the kids are tucked in tighly before you watch it.

— Lynn

Note: Actor Ken Howard, president of the Screen Actors Guild, will be speaking today at Arizona State University in Tempe. Click here to read details noted in a previous post.

Coming up: Shakespeare meets conspiracy theory

Kids’ Night on Broadway

Nick Jonas was just named national ambassador for Kids' Night on Broadway 2012

The Broadway League announced today that actor and musician Nick Jonas will serve as national ambassador for the 2012 Kids’ Night on Broadway® — which takes place next February at participating theaters in New York City and across the country.

Families who’ve long wanted to experience live Broadway theater together can start planning now. Kids’ Night on Broadway tickets are available for participating shows Feb. 5-9, 2012.

Tickets go on sale Tues., Nov 1 at noon EST at www.kidsnightonbroadway.com.

Participating shows (to date) include two Off-Broadway productions — “Million Dollar Quartet” and “Stomp” — plus eighteen Broadway productions, including a new show at the top of my list called “Seminar.” Especially kid-friendly selections include “The Lion King” and “Mary Poppins.”

All Kids’ Night on Broadway ticket holders can join Jonas at a pre-theatre party Tues, Feb. 7 at Madame Tussauds New York. I’ve enjoyed several Jonas Brothers concerts with my daughter Lizabeth and friends, and know what an absolute thrill this type of opportunity presents for the fans.

Nick Jonas returns to Broadway on Jan. 24

Nick Jonas was all of eight years old when he launched a successful stage career, and will be returning to perform the role of J. Pierrepont Finch in the musical “How to Succed in Business Without Really Trying” starting Tues., Jan. 24. Jonas fans will want to make haste in securing tickets for this baby.

Thanks to our local public television station — Eight, Arizona PBS — I’ve watched Jonas’ performance in the “Les Misérables 25th Anniversary Concert at the O2” not once, but many times. And I’ll be watching those television listings next year for Jonas’ guest appearance on the new NBC musical drama “Smash.”

Jonas has previously been seen on Broadway in “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Les Misérables” — plus productions of “A Christmas Carol” and “The Sound of Music.” “As someone who got their start as a kid on Broadway,” says Jonas, “it’s truly an honor to be involved in such a fantastic event.”

“Broadway played an enormous role in inspiring me to be the performer I am today, and as this year’s ambassador I hope I’ll be able to encourage kids across the country to get involved in the theater,” adds Jonas, “whether on stage, behind the scenes or in the audience.”

Folks fortunate enough to be in NYC beginning Mon, Oct. 31, can get their Kids’ Night on Broadway tickets at the Broadway Concierge & Ticket Center located inside the Times Square Visitor Center. Both NYC and out-of-town theater lovers can now enjoy the center’s new online chat component.

The presenting sponsor for this year’s event is The New York Times, the paper I faithfully carry with me and read each day. Other people have smart phones. I have smart journalism. Madame Tussauds New York is also a presenting sponsor, though the Arizona heat would make it hard for me to haul around a lovely bit of wax work as a show of support.

— Lynn

Note: There’s even a cause-related component to Kids’ Night on Broadway. This year it’s Givenik.com — “the only place on the web to get Broadway tickets and have 5% donated to the charity of your choice.”

Coming up: Arizona Jewish Theatre Company opens its 2011/12 season

A tale of Times Square

On 9/11, it was Broadway performers who filled Times Square in NYC

The media has been flooding viewers with images of a recent mass demonstration in New York City’s Times Square — dubbed the world’s most visited tourist attraction. It was the site of an “Occupy Wall Street” march last Saturday night, which thousands of people attended.

I had plans that evening to meet my daughter at the Gershwin Theatre in the city’s famous theater district — home to all things wonderful and adored by Broadway fans. We had tickets to see the musical “Wicked” with fellow parent/student pairings from Pace University.

Mamma Mia! meets Priscilla Queen of the Desert in Times Square

I was already in the area exploring sites my husband recommended — the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library and the Morgan Library & Museum. I walked up Madison Avenue to 42nd street, then cut across to the theater.

I suspect this Mamma Mia! man wants to be a firefighter when he grows up

I could tell something was up because various police vehicles in my path were mobilizing and heading towards Times Square. My daughter discovered the protestors as she exited the Times Square subway station, and began to worry she wouldn’t make it to the theater on time.

The Godspell gang sang in Times Square for Broadway Unites on 9/11

Though she beat the curtain time for “Wicked,” a show we’ve previously enjoyed at ASU Gammage in Tempe, others weren’t so lucky — trickling in during the first half an hour of the show. I’m assuming it’s not a typical occurence along the “Great White Way.”

I like to see Times Square filled with folks from The Book of Mormom

The event reminded me that Lizabeth took a lot of pictures last month at a 9/11 commemoration in Times Square called “Broadway Unites.” As the world is watching for images of protests in places like Times Square, it seems the perfect time to remind folks of other gatherings that have taken place there.

Kara DioGuardi of Chicago poses with FDNYers attending Broadway Unites 2011

If you’re planning a trip to NYC, visit the Times Square Alliance online to learn about current offerings and events. Those of you who can’t get to New York for Broadway shows can enjoy touring productions at ASU Gammage, Mesa Arts Center and the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix.

More Times Square fun with folks from Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Fans of “Wicked” will be thrilled to know that the musical returns to ASU Gammage early next year (tickets go on sale at 10am on Mon, Nov. 28). Theater League presents “The Wizard of Oz” in the Valley this December, and true fans of the classic L. Frank Baum story will want to enjoy both shows.

Protestors are popping up all over the place these days, but remember as you’re planning travel to NYC that Times Square is more than just a site for periodic protests. It’s home to shows that amaze and bedazzle — and some of the finest entertainment our great country has to offer the world.

— Lynn

Coming up: Reviews of “Wicked” and “Billy Elliot The Musical” on Broadway