Tag Archives: costume ideas

Birthday parties — theater style!

Aubrie Silva celebrated turning 7 years old at Greasepaint

Before the opening of yesterday’s performance of “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.” at Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale, board member Wendy Claus called “birthday girl” Aubrie Silva up on stage — presenting her with a light blue Greasepaint t-shirt and leading the audience in a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday to You.”

Scottsdale mother Francine Silva let the theater know ahead of time that she was bringing Aubrie, who has two siblings, over to celebrate her birthday at the show with a group of ten friends. Silva even brought a tent and benches along so the girls could spend an hour or so before the show having their nails and temporary tattoos done by big sister Annelise and one of her friends.

Silva proudly notes that Annelise is the oldest member of Greasepaint LIVE — a group of young performing artists who “bring entertainment to shelters, senior centers and other organizations.” The 17-member group also “provides peer mentoring programming to youth groups with a special focus on trying to reach children in Title 1 schools.”

Birthday girl Aubrie has “been to many Gammage shows,” according to her mom. But for some of Aubrie’s guests, this was the first experience with live theater. Silva told me that Aubrie “absolutely loved the show,” then offered her own description of Sunday’s performance — “all live, all wonderful, all beautiful.”

Aubrie Silva poses with friends on the Greasepaint Youtheatre stage in Scottsdale

It sounds like Silva had just as much fun as her daughter, getting in the spirit ahead of time with invitations that read “princess dresses and tiaras optional” and putting together small tubs of blue cotton candy with bows on top and labels reading “Genie in a Bottle” or “Clouds from Agrabah.”

Silva also put together “princess bags” for each guest — containing party favors that included roses, necklaces, crowns, wands and candy. Parents less inspired to gather their own favors always have the option of getting show t-shirts for party kids and their guests.

Aubrie Silva and party guests with members of the Greasepaint Aladdin Jr. cast

“Disney’s Aladdin Jr.” is being performed again this weekend, so there’s still time to plan a birthday or Halloween party around the show assuming you get tickets while they’re still available. Other Greasepaint shows this season, “Les Miserables” and “Cinderella,” also have great theme party potential.

Most theater companies who perform for families won’t mind you asking about birthday celebrations theater-style, so check with your local theater groups to see what they offer. Also check with folks like Childsplay, Cookie Company and Valley Youth Theatre.

Aubrie Silva and friends outside Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale

Something tells me that Aubrie will always remember her Greasepaint Youtheatre princess party. Before you know it, her mom’ll be calling to schedule a graduation party. Time is fleeting, and they grow so fast. Cherish every birthday, and remember the power of live theater as you’re planning all those joyous celebrations.

— Lynn

Coming up: A world of faces, Gershwin tales


Harem tales

Enjoy a new twist on A Midsummer Night's Dream at SCC on Oct. 28 & 29

I attended two shows in Scottsdale this weekend — each with something of a harem theme. First, a community college production of a Shakespeare work. Next, a community youth theater production of a Disney tale. Those of you still searching for Halloween costume inspiration take note.

The Theatre Arts program at Scottsdale Community College is performing William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” through Sat, Oct. 29. It’s one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, but director Randy Messersmith brings a unique twist to the work – setting the comedic escapade about the follies of love in ancient India rather than Athens.

Sets, costumes, music and props convey an “Arabian Nights” feel that keeps the play fresh even for those who’ve seen it performed countless times. With a little time spent on the storyline and characters before attending, it makes for a fun introduction to Shakespeare for teen audiences or those not terribly familiar with Shakespeare’s work.

I attended Friday night’s performance, and was especially impressed by one actor in particular – a recent theater graduate from the University of Arizona. Andy Cahoon, who performs the role of Lysander, has a firm grasp of Shakespeare’s language, delivering his lines comfortably and convincingly.

Sasha Wordlaw shines in seductress mode as she performs the role of fairy queen Titania, and Ryan Wetter’s Nick Bottom is a brilliant bit of buffoonery. Much of this production’s humor derives from movement choreographed by Karryn Allen that’s well executed by the entire cast.

The real stars of this production are two members of the design team, whose work elevates the feel of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to something akin to opera. The combination of scenic design by Kimb Williamson and lighting design by Paul Black does justice to the play’s reputation as a visual feast.

The SCC theater production students who tackled scenery construction for this one, as well as the electrical crew, deserve high praise for bringing the designers’ visions to life. I’m in awe of you, one and all.

I enjoyed costume designer Elizabeth Peterson’s work, but got a bit nervous when a pair of harem pants seemed to hit closer to the bikini line than the belly button. Maybe that’s just the mother in me talking.

The “Midsummer” mask work by Maren Maclean Mascarelli adds much to the show. I’ve seen this woman paper maché, and mold the human medium — and she’s fierce. SCC theater students are fortunate to study with her, and with Williamson and Messersmith too.

Enjoy Disney's Aladdin Jr. performed by Greasepaint Youtheatre through Oct. 30

Greasepaint Youtheatre performs the kid-friendly musical “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.” through Sun, Oct. 30. Whether the Scottsdale theater venue they call home is dubbed “Greasepaint Youtheatre” or “Stagebrush Theatre” depends on who you ask — but no matter, it’s got a perfectly-sized stage for serious productions.

“Disney’s Aladdin Jr.” is directed by Jodie Weiss, events specialist with Childsplay in Tempe. The musical is based on the screenplay by Ron Clementsand, John Musker, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. Jim Luig adapted the musical’s book and wrote additional lyrics.

But it’s the contributions of Alan Menken (who wrote the music), plus Howard Ashman and Tim Rice (who wrote the lyrics) that fans of musical theater most fervently praise. Best loved songs from the show include “Arabian Nights,” “Friend Like Me” and “A Whole New World.”

I attended Sunday’s matinee performance, where the packed house included enthusiastic audience members of all ages. The cast delivered a high-energy performance full of dance, acrobatics, humor and song. Liz Grannis (Princess Jasmine) and Andrey Lull (Aladdin) are well matched as the romantic couple at the center of the story. Lull delivers both a strong vocal performance and a kiss complete with dip.

The script is full of humor — playing on words, adding new twists to songs well loved by the “yuppie generation” and sprinkling dialogue with fun expressions like “riff raff” some of us thought only our mothers were accustomed to using. Actors Jacob Stovall (Jafar), Amanda Rahaman (Genie) and Lexa Rose (Iago) are the perfect comedic trio.

Greasepaint’s production of “Aladdin Jr.” has the feel of a glorious piece of big musical theater — making good use of its large cast in the song and dance department, and adding a trio of live musicians whose performance on keyboard, drums, saxaphone and flute gets the joint jumpin’ with a jazzy big band vibe.

John Luke Osorio serves as musical director and Ariana Ziskin as choreographer. The artistic team boasts some impressive resumes. Josef Rahaman and Kris Rahaman did set and properties design. Nathalie Koyabe did costume design. Pete Bish did sound design. Andrea Williams serves as stage manager.

Lighting design is the work of Bob Nelson, who proves in the production that less can be more. His work is subtle, adding to the ambiance of Agrabah both day and night without screaming at the audience. Be prepared, when you attend, for moderate use of fog and strobe lights.

Part of this production’s charm is the number of very young cast members, who bring both talent and a serious dose of adorable. Two other actors deserve special mention — Thea Eigo in the role of Abu and Grace Elsie in the role of Magic carpet.

Still, the fun, fabulous feel of this show is a collective triumph for the entire cast and creative team. As I observed those involved in the show before, during and after Sunday’s performance — it was clear that Greasepaint Youtheatre understands the importance of theater as a team sport.

— Lynn

Note: Photos above feature (L to R) Andy Cahoon (Lysander), Paula Vasquez (Hermia), Kaylyn Riggs (Helena) and Chris Ellis (Demetrius) in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Scottsdale Community College — and Andrey Lull (Aladdin), Liz Grannis (Princess Jasmine) and Grace Elsie (Flying carpet) in “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.” at Greasepaint Youtheatre.

Coming up: Born to be blue?, Celebrating birthdays — theater style

The CATS meow

I like my cats curled up on couches or stretched out on window sills. Seeing Andrew Lloyd Webber bring T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” to life in all its furry feline glory, a process he started late in 1977, is about as thrilling as sniffing a felt mouse stuffed with catnip.

But I’m taking a new look at the musical “Cats,” thanks to photos shared by Spotlight Youth Theatre of Glendale — which is performing the work through Sun, Sept 18. Enjoy these snippets of “Cats” creativity photographed by Alayne Vogel of Memory Layne Photography, which are laced with lovely bits of Andrew Lloyed Webber news and trivia…

  • Webber has composed many works you’ve likely never heard of — including “The Likes of Us,” “By Jeeves,” “The Beautiful Game,” and “The “Woman in White.” My personal favorite is “Whistle Down the Wind.”

  • Webber’s awards include seven Tonys, three Grammys, seven Oliviers, a Golden Globe, an Oscar, two International Emmys, the Praemium Imperiale, the Richard Rodgers Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre and The Kennedy Center Honor.

  • “The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall,” a 25th anniversary production presented by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh, will be screened live at hundreds of North Americans movie theaters Sun, Oct 2 (including theaters in Glendale, Mesa, Phoenix and Tucson). Visit www.fathomevents.com for details.

  • “The Phantom of the Opera” has grossed more than $5.6 billion worldwide — with box office revenues that “are higher than any film or stage play in history” (including “Avatar,” “Titanic,” “E.T.,” and “Star Wars”).

  • Until recently, only “By Jeeves,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Evita,” “The Likes of Us,” and “Sunset Boulevard” were available on license from Webber’s “Really Useful Group.”

  • Today the BBC reports that “Really Useful Group” is starting a rollout of major musicals to education and amateur markets. These shows will include “Whistle Down the Wind” and “Starlight Express.” Versions of “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera” for UK and Irish schools are “identical to the professional productions.”

I’m told that Spotlight Youth Theatre added an extra performance of “Cats” Sat, Sept 17, at 1pm. Shows have been selling out and we certainly don’t want anyone showing their claws.

— Lynn

Note: Learn more about “Cats” and the rest of Spotlight Youth Theatre’s 2011/12 season at www.spotlightyouththeatre.org. Those interested in buying tickets to “Cats” should call Kenny Grossman at 623-521-8093. Learn about all things Andrew Lloyd Webber (including licensing rights) at www.andrewlloydwebber.com.

Coming up: More Andrew Lloyd Webber on Valley stages — plus a bunch of things that have nothing to do with Andrew Lloyd Webber.

From new to nostalgic

Valley audiences are currently enjoying one of Broadway’s newest offerings at Phoenix Theatre — the first local theater production of “Avenue Q” in Arizona.

But the 2011/2012 season just unveiled by Phoenix Theatre is all about nostalgia. Good call in terms of capturing the likely mood of Valley audiences.

They’ll open the season with “Boeing, Boeing” — a comical farce “in the tradition of” last year’s “Noises Off.” Minus the sardines and plus three flight attendant “fiancees.” Think suave architect confronted with unexpected schedule changes. I’m looking forward to watching this man sweat.

Gypsy” takes to the stage in October — which conjures images in my mind of stage mamas donning “Mama Rose” costumes and charicatures for Halloween. It’s a classic musical about an age-old struggle with the temptation to live vicariously through our children.

A Christmas Story,” based on the classic film of the same name, opens just before Thanksgiving — and follows the adventures of a young boy who has his heart set on finding one particular toy under the tree. It’s your chance to step into the world of an “all-American 1940s family.”

Marvelous Wonderettes” recounts the lives and loves of teens attending their 1958 prom. Think lipstick, cotton candy and familiar tunes from “Lollypop” to “It’s My Party!” Again, I love the dress-up possibilities.

Their next production, “Nine to Five: The Musical,” offers brushstrokes of a later decade in which accomplished women too often overshadowed by underachieving men decided they’d had enough. It’s Dolly Parton meets revenge on the chauvenist pig.

Finally, Phoenix Theatre presents “The Spitfire Grill,” a story of second chances for a young girl who revitalizes a town as she “makes a new life for herself.”

I’m especially excited about Phoenix Theatre’s choices as the mom of two daughters, for whom performance art has always provided a peek into the past lives of girls and those who have paved paths before them.

In a hurried culture, it’s good to remember while we’re speeding forward.

— Lynn

Note: Next up for Phoenix Theatre this season is the musical “Nine” — which runs April 13-May8, 2011.

Coming up: Another Christmas classic comes to the Valley next season

“The Wiz” launches Greasepaint season

I did things a bit differently this weekend — I went to see shows I’ve never been terribly fond of. “The Wiz” (being performed by Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale) and another I’ll reveal in a later post.

I had to do it. I’d never seen either show before — but was convinced that I hated them. It’s a lousy approach to take, whether you’re dealing with unfamiliar people or unfamiliar art.

Greasepaint Youtheatre’s opening night of “The Wiz” was a classy affair –complete with a small, elegant silent auction and fancy finger food from candy corn cookies to chocolate-dipped strawberries.

It’s hard to sit on your hands during “The Wiz.” Once the synthesizer hits a steady beat, patrons start clapping and tapping away. But I poised my pen and prepared for the worst.

I was disappointed. My “shows I love to hate” list just got shorter, and I have the cast, crew and creative team of Greasepaint Youtheatre’s “The Wiz” to blame.

I still can’t get those “Ease on down the road” lyrics out of my head — but now they are blissfully accompanied by images of whimsical sets, creative costumes and vibrant vocals.

What color were Dorothy’s slippers in the 1900 book “The Wonderful World of Oz” by Frank L. Baum? You’ll find out when you see “The Wiz.”

A few of the hightlights: Any time Asijah Adolph (Dorothy) opened her mouth to sing (she’s a triple threat and she’ll sing to packed arenas one day). Katie Cook’s (Glinda) singing and genuine sparkle (you also can see her in Mesa High School’s “Joseph”). And several spectacular dance numbers choreographed by Laurie Trygg– featuring everything from soft shoe to tumbling.

In the serious acting chops category, Orly Schlesinger (Evillene) was the stand out. Bransen Gates (Tin Man) and Rhetta Mykeal (Addaperle) also delivered especially strong performances. I’ll have to give Paul Thompson (The Wiz) higher marks for his monologue work than his musical stylings, due in part to a persnickety mic.

“The Wiz” — as performed by Greasepaint Youtheatre with direction by D. Scott Withers — seems a perfect blend of Cookie Company and Childsplay. I trust all three will consider this high praise.

Most of the audience members were between early elementary school and “it’s none of your bleeping business” age — and all laughed heartily throughout. Don’t go if your little darlings can’t handle a mild swear word every now and then (which means, of course, that you will also need to burn your many remote controls).

Those who know me well won’t be at all surprised with my disgust for words like “schizophrenaphobia” — used in this show to disparage one of the characters in a manner that no advocate for those with cancer or autism would (or should) ever tolerate. It does garner laughs, as does the show’s one “fat” joke.

So does the bit of Lady Gaga banter used to summon the flying monkeys. And Scarecrow’s sloppy stabs at standing.  And Lion’s passion for those peculiar poppies.

Greasepaint Youtheatre’s “The Wiz” is a playful show that resonates with a powerful message. Ease on down the road. Believe in yourself. Embrace even your hang-ups. But never let go of your sparkly shoes.

— Lynn 

Note: This Halloween emerald green is the new orange. Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale, an affiliate of Phoenix Theatre, performs “The Wiz” through Oct 31. Click here for show and ticketing information. When you go, be sure to welcome Maureen Dias-Watson, Greasepaint’s new producing director.

Coming up: Women playwrights and Arizona stages, The fine art of graduation gifts, Once upon a piano recital, Stop the “Glee” bashing!

Think pink

Think pink. What comes to mind?

Cotton candy? A Cinderella-style ball gown? Naked mole rats? Bubble gum? Flamingos? Rainbow sherbet? Maybe even Barbie’s vast collection of houses, cars and fashions?

At our house, it’s a smoky gray long-haired cat named “Pink” and a couple of talking bears–along with oodles of bygone toys from Polly Pocket to Strawberry Shortcake.

But pink isn’t just a color these days. It’s a pop star. It’s a women’s health movement. It’s a musical.

Yup, you can now enjoy all things pink with “Pinkalicious, the Musical,” which “celebrates all things pink while showing that being yourself is best of all.”

It’s part of an exciting new season just announced by Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix. Here’s the rest of the scoop…

“Grease” is the word when VYT opens its 2010-2011 season August 12-29. Never mind that the song “Summer Nights” only serves to remind me of Arizona’s blistering heat. There’s also “Hopelessly Devoted,” “Beauty School Dropout” and “We Go Together”–which remind me of a fabulous roll through the 50s, a decade I just missed experiencing firsthand.

“Pinkalicious, the Musical” hits the VYT stage October 1-17. It’s based on the book “Pinkalicious” by Elizabeth and Victoria Kann—which is refreshing in a day and age when our kids too often watch rather than read. Parents of pink-lovers take note: Pink outfits donned for the show can double as nifty 50s Halloween costumes. That’s more pink for less plastic. Priceless.

“Alice in Wonderland” devoid of Johnny Depp (some consider that a good thing) runs February 4-20 at VYT, which leads me to conjure images of tea party play dates and charming Valentine’s Day celebrations ala a trip to the theater. It’s another serious dress-up opportunity and chance to engage your child in both literature and live performance. Not everything happens on a movie screen, you know.

“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day” comes to VYT April 1-17. What’s not to love about seeing someone else have an absolutely wretched day for a change? Of course, I wouldn’t pitch it to my kids that way. For children, its a great opportunity to realize that bad days happen to everyone—and that sharing feelings is a good thing when no flying objects are involved. Treat yourself to a good read of Judith Viorst’s tale of the same name before and after you enjoy the show.

“Annie” closes out the VYT 2010-2011 season at the Herberger Theater Center June 10-26. At this point, our country will either continue to be plagued by economic challenges or experience improvements that leave more Americans feeling secure and optimistic. Either way, Annie’s tale is a good investment. It’s a classic musical that serves to remind us that we’ve faced tough times before—as a nation and as individuals—and that the sun will indeed come out tomorrow.

“A Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tail” also returns to VYT this season for a December 3-23 run. I find this one especially fascinating given that our family seems an odd pairing of Eeyores and Tiggers. I think everyone finds a bit of themselves in the charming characters of A.A. Milne’s “Hundred Acre Woods.” And what better anecdote to the stress of winter holidays than sharing the adventures of a bear and his honey—along with ‘sure to cheer’ characters like Piglet and Roo.

With that we’ve come full circle. So grab your pink pen and mark the above shows and dates in your calendar. If you’re not a fan of pink now, I suspect you will be after a simply “Pinkalicious” season with all things Valley Youth Theatre.


Note: Auditions for “Pinkalicious” will take place at VYT on Aug 2 & 3 at 3:30pm. For information on upcoming auditions, and ways to save money with VYT “season memberships,” visit Valley Youth Theatre online at www.vyt.com. Show tickets and memberships are also available through the VYT box office at 602-253-8188.

Coming up: “Twilight” tales, Summer of Shakespeare, Art and…babies?