Tag Archives: family theater

Disney alert!

As I said goodnight to my daughter Lizabeth one evening this week, I thought of how she’d soon be heading off to college. And I remembered one of her favorite sayings, from a Disney movie we saw together nearly a decade ago.

Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind…or forgotten.

It’s a mantra of sorts for the main character, Lilo, who discovers that her family is anything but typical. And that’s okay.

Disney stories are full of themes — like chasing dreams and overcoming adversity — that appeal to folks of all ages. So it’s no surprise that Disney books, movies and toys line the shelves (on a good day) of so many homes.

But there’s a special magic to seeing the “house of mouse” brought to life on stage. If there’s a Disney-lover in your family, mark your calendar now for these live productions of Disney classics, many of which have the added charm of being performed by young actors.

Camp Rising Star and Starlight Community Theatre in Anthem present “Disney’s 101 Dalmatians Kids” at 1pm and 7pm Sat, July 23.

They’re performing at the Safeway Shopping Center in Anthem (3665 W. Anthem Way, Ste 119-B). Tickets are just $5 at the door — making this a fun, affordable escape from the heat.

I used to shop the Outlets at Anthem for bargains on kids clothes when my children were younger.

Folks who hit the Anthem outlets Sat, June 23, between 2:30 and 4pm can enjoy a Disney “Shake it Up!” dance party presented by Radio Disney AM 1580. Dalmatians and dance — I like it.

Fountain Hills Community Theatre’s Youth Theatre presents “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” Aug 26-Sept 11 — and Desert Foothills Theater’s Gecko Teatro presents “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” in May 2012.

If your children love Disney, I don’t need to tell you that seeing the same show twice isn’t a problem.

You’ll have two chances to enjoy “Disney’s Aladdin, Jr.” come October. It’s being performed Oct 13-15 by Musical Theatre of Anthem and Oct 21-30 by Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale.

Mesa Arts Center presents “Choo-Choo Soul With Genevieve!” — from Disney Junior — for two Oct 8 performances that feature beatbox artist DC and musician Genevieve Goings. Think trains, hip hop, numbers and letters.

Lizabeth and I wanted to see a touring production of “Tarzan” while we were in Cedar City for last year’s Utah Shakespeare Festival, but we just didn’t have time to take everything in.

So I was excited to learn that Arizona Broadway Theatre is presenting the Arizona premiere of “Tarzan The Stage Musical,” based on the Disney film, April 20-May 27, 2012.

I remember seeing the Disney movie “Tarzan” with my three children when they were all 10 & under — and still get misty-eyed when I hear Phil Collins sing “You’ll Be in My Heart.”

Like most families, we can almost mark time by the stream of Disney stories through our lives. Our children are all grown now, but I’m glad we made time — when they were young — to enjoy all those afternoons of theater together.

— Lynn

Coming up: Going Grimm, Girl power!


Pinky’s picks

Update: Pinky has asked me to share this link to a raffle benefiting an organization called “Save the Cats Arizona” — which we learned of from our friends at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe. The raffle runs through July 31, 2011.

Several community theaters recently rolled out their 2011-2012 season announcements. But I imagine my cat “Pinky” fancies the new season for Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert more than most.

Hale opens their 2011-2012 season on Sept 2 with an Agatha Christie mystery titled “The Mousetrap” — a work that now holds the distinction of being “the longest running play in the world.”

Pinky isn’t terribly concerned that a murderer may be loose in London’s Monkswell Manor. But she’d love to be on the guest list if there’s any real prospect of finding mice trapped at mealtime.

It’s a Wonderful Life,” which opens at Hale on Oct 14, might seem to hold less cat-appeal, until you recall that the work — featuring one man’s struggle with doubt and disappointment — is set in a small town readying to celebrate Christmas.

We could treat Pinky to piles of pet store treats and toys come Christmas time, but she’d still find her bliss jumping into piles of crinkled up and discarded wrapping paper — and rubbing her wet little nose up against the corners of shiny packages under a tree sporting ornaments she’s sure were placed for her swatting pleasure.

Hale follows “It’s a Wonderful Life” with “A Christmas Carol,” which opens at the Gilbert theater on Dec 1. Even Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge, who takes such delight in denying comfort to the poor and downtrodden, couldn’t ignore the pitiful pleas of Pinky when she’s ready for dinner.

I imagine Pinky would eagerly curl up beside the fire with Tiny Tim, offering a gentle purr as warming as the fire’s glow — and have great fun sitting with Tiny Tim in a chair by a window overlooking bustling holiday season streets.

Hale opens “See How They Run” Dec 31, giving Valley theater-goers a chance to welcome the New Year with comedic farce and fast-paced frivolity. Pinky might not know what to make of this one — with its cockney maid, men dressed as clergymen and a whole lot of misadventures spawned by mistaken identity.

Pinky might favor a different “See How They Run” plot — perhaps something featuring plump quails bobbing their tiny heads as they cross the road, or quivering dogs terrified by cats with an inflated sense of self.

Hale notes that folks who attend their production of “42nd Street” — which opens Feb 16, 2012 — will “love seeing the underdog succeed.” But Pinky”s never pleased when the word “dog” and “success” appear in the same sentence, so this will be a harder sell.

Perhaps she’d be more receptive if we decked her out in a slick tux with tails, then gave her a tophat and cane, so she could try a little soft-shoe during songs like “We’re in the Money,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” or “Shuffle Off to Buffalo.”

I’m afraid to tell Pinky about “Barefoot in the Park” — a Neil Simon comedy featuring the adventures of two newlyweds and a matchmaking mother-in-law — which opens at Hale on Feb 21, 2012. She’s perfectly fine with living the barefoot life, but might resent the “park” mention given her indoor-cat status.

Rabbits hold plenty of interest for cats, so Pinky might be thrilled to learn that a rabbit named “Harvey” is coming to Hale on April 5, 2012. But only until she learns that Harvey, the imaginary companion of Elwood P. Dowd, is more than six feet tall — and invisible.

Pinky spends plenty of time watching our own bunny, named “Rugby” — as well as a pair of lovebirds named “Taffy” and “Trixy” — who occupy pet pads near a staircase perfect for panoramic viewing of all things potentially edible.

I’ll need to have a little talk with Pinky about this next one — “To Kill a Mockingbird,” opening May 25, 2012. It might be a lot like a conversation I had with my husband recently that ended with the quip “you’re so literal.”

The classic work, based on the novel by Harper Lee, is set in the Deep South of the 1930s. It has nothing to do with killing birds — or leaving them as trophies on a “Welcome” mat outside the front door. Instead, it’s a tale of friendship and love amidst of world filled with prejudice and hate.

Hale closes its 2011-2012 season with “Bye Bye Birdie,” opening July 13, 2012 — which follows a teen singing sensation drafted into the military during the 1960s. Having used more than my fair share of “cat eats bird” fodder already, I suppose I’ll have to find a different link to all things feline.

Happily, the musical’s songs include not only “Put on a Happy Face” but also “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” — no doubt a reference to the “nine lives” of cats.

I know pets aren’t typically allowed at community theater productions, so I suppose Pinky will have to settle for nibbling on programs we bring home from Hale Centre Theatre productions.

But you can’t really blame me for conjuring images of my cat with every mention of birds, mice or bunnies. I can only imagine how the dogs living next door might react to seeing the musical “Cats.”

— Lynn

Coming up: Dance and identity

Photo: Christopher Trimble

Old dog, new tricks

My husband presented me with a little something in red and white the other night. Not a Valentine’s Day gift, as you might expect. But a plastic card bearing the letters “AARP.”

Apparently I’m now old enough to get the senior discount at my local Denny’s, plus other benefits I’ll read up on some other time when I run out of crossword puzzles or Earl Grey.

As the phrase “old dog, new tricks” popped into my head, I recalled my most recent adventures with Childsplay — a Tempe-based theater company founded in 1977.

I attended last Saturday’s early matinee performance of “Go, Dog. Go!” at Tempe Center for the Arts — and was delighted by the endless parade of new tricks.

Count me among the many folks who never cease to wonder how on earth Childsplay manages to outdo themselves at every turn. It’s mind-boggling, and not because I’m 50.

My daughter, Jennifer, turns 20 this year. “Go, Dog. Go!” by P.D. Eastman was one of her favorite books during childhood. She’s hesitant to see a live performance based on the book for fear it will ruin her memories of the story somehow.

But I have strong evidence to the contrary — my own memories of absolutely elated preschoolers and ebullient parents who also attended last Saturday’s 1pm show.

Think one-ring circus colliding with comedic theater, and you have Childsplay’s spin on “Go, Dog. Go!” — a Steven Dietz and Allison Gregory adaptation of the book that features music by Michael Koerner.

Childsplay’s “Go, Dog. Go!” is a “theater in the round” experience brimming with actor (dog)/audience interaction — plus plenty of hats and pratfalls.

Think roller skates and all sorts of wheeled modes of transport. Think vollying a giant inflated ball back and forth a la rock concert. Think giant props, and plenty of them.

“Go, Dog. Go!” is a full-blown “bells and whistles” production.

During intermission, families had lots of great options — including going outside to run off some steam and hitting the Childsplay gift boutique for books, CDs, stuffed animals or signed cast photos (there’s even an adorable silver sparkly photo album just for holding Childsplay memories).

Too few headed to the exhibit of glass works currently featured in the TCA Gallery. It’s full of whimsical kid-friendly fare, including several multi-media works with neon lighting.

Several enjoyed educational materials with fun dog-related themes found throughout the lobby — including matching games featuring dog breeds and characteristics, and words from the show presented in diverse languages.

Childsplay offers all sorts of educational programs — from field trips and school tours to Childsplay Academy classes for children and teens. Online registration for popular summer programs starts today, Feb 12, at 10am.

Learning and laughing — it never gets old.

— Lynn

Note: The 9th annual “dog friendly” “Liver Life Walk” takes place Sat, March 19. Click (or paw) here for details.

Coming up: Fun with cats

Photos courtesy of Childsplay

From storybook to stage

Childsplay performs a a musical adaptation of P.B. Eastman’s “Go, Dog. Go!” at the Tempe Center for the Arts Jan 29-March 6

Telling and reading stories is one of the most enchanting parts of childhood. But today’s kids have additional options for enjoying their favorite tales — including movie and stage adaptations of classic and contemporary children’s books.

Consider the case of P.D. Eastman’s “Go, Dog. Go!” The book comes to life this weekend as Childsplay presents a preview at Tempe Center for the Arts.

I’m told the preview and opening night are already sold out, so don’t delay if you’re eager to take in the show.

Childsplay’s “Go, Dog. Go!”– recommended for ages 3 & up — is adapted by Steven Dietz and Allison Gregory, with music by Michael Koerner. 

It runs Jan 29-March 6, with 1pm and 4pm shows both Saturdays and Sundays. An ASL interpreted performance takes place at 1pm on Sun, Feb 27.

Take the kiddos to Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe Sat, Jan 22, at 10am if you’d like to enjoy some charming “Go, Dog. Go!” moments with Childsplay.

Changing Hands notes that children will be “exploring the world of story using dramatic play to guide kids through an exploration of scenes from P.D. Eastman’s Go, Dog Go!” and promises that “They’ll even create some of their own!”

Another book for children was literally “on the go” last weekend as the cast of Cookie Company’s upcoming “Unstoppable Me!” took a bit of the show on the road — performing selections at Desert Ridge Marketplace.

The cast of Cookie Company's "Unstoppable Me!" performed last weekend at Desert Ridge Marketplace

Cookie Company is affiliated with Phoenix Theatre, which offers more mature fare in “No Way to Treat a Lady” through Jan 30.

“Unstoppable Me!” runs Jan 28-Feb 6 at Greasepaint Theatre in Scottsdale. It’s based on the book by Wayne W. Dyer with Kristina Tracy. It has the shortest run of the shows noted here so you have just a small window of opportunity to see it.

This iPhone "app" is proof that some stories have moved to both stage and super-small screen

Though “Unstoppable Me!” is best for K-grade 4 students, I’m eager to see is myself — having recently seen one of its cast members, Walter Belcher, offer a moving performance in the Black Theatre Troupe production of August Wilson’s “Fences.”

Many adult actors who perform brilliantly here in the Valley in works for children also can be seen in works for older audiences (by older, I mean no longer required to do homework).

I’m especially excited about seeing Childsplay’s Yolanda London appear in an Actors Theatre production titled “This” which opens at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix this Friday. And Kristen Drathman, a Valley actor frequently seen in Phoenix Theatre productions, performing in “Go, Dog. Go!”

Youth Works, which is part of Theater Works in Peoria, brings “James and the Giant Peach” to the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts Feb 3-20.

Enjoy "James and the Giant Peach" at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts next month

It’s based on the book by Roald Dahl — which recounts the adventures of James as he finds a way to escape from two odd aunts who take him in after his parents die in a tragic rhinocerous accident.

The adventures of "James and the Giant Peach" exist in book, stage and movie form

Theater Works presents “The Desperate Hours” on another stage Jan 28-Feb 13.

I’ve always been a fan of reading books before seeing them portrayed on stage or screen (whether big screen or handheld device).

Childen who read these stories before seeing them performed have a chance to imagine the setting and characters free of someone else’s images.

But once your child reads or listens to a book, there’s nothing more fun than seeing it come to life on stage. Unless, of course, you finish off an afternoon at the theater by cracking open another exciting book.

— Lynn

Note: Childsplay and Cookie Company productions feature adult actors performing family-friendly works, while Youth Works features young performers presenting family-friendly fare.

Coming up: Theater cats (no Andrew Lloyd Webber required), Musings on “mature content” theater as ASU Gammage presents a touring production of “Spring Awakening,” Valley veterans participate in a national arts contest, It’s a jungle (and farm) out there!

Photos provided by Childsplay (photo by Heather Hill features cast members from a previous run), Phoenix Theatre and Theater Works.

Cookies, crayons and Cinderella

“I had a mouse once. I named it Annette Funicello.” I may have embarrassed myself over this one. Friday night I enjoyed opening night of Cookie Company’s “Cinderella Confidential,” their first production at the historic Stagebrush Theatre in Old Town Scottsdale.

Cookie Company's "Cinderella Confidential"

From left: Kristin Hailstone as Deb Jabber, Daniel Cardenas as Sonny Glamour, Brianna Quijada as Cinderella. Photo by Laura Durant.

I let out more than a few hearty laughs (some might consider them roars—even snorts) when the actors delivered this and other lines amidst a flurry of physical comedy and costumes ala Mardi Gras. I wasn’t alone. On the giggle-o-meter, this show clearly hit 5 stars with kids and grown-ups alike.

It’s the best type of family entertainment. Plenty for mom and dad to enjoy and plenty for kids to love too. “I’m a reporter,” quips one of the characters. Another replies, “I thought you said you weren’t a puppet.” And at another point in the show: “This woman is the love of my life,” exclaims the prince, “at least for now.”

I admit the lines lose something in translation. So take in the show for yourself. It plays Oct. 25th and Oct. 31st-Nov. 1st and tickets are just $15 each. You can learn more at cookiecompany.org. Elfin sweatshop humor. Royalty sporting galoshes. Free milk and cookies after the show. And autograph signing with the cast. What’s not to love?

Stagebrush Theatre holds a special place in my heart. My two daughters each performed there with Greasepaint Youtheatre during their early elementary school years. I wondered, as young viewers came through the lobby in their princess dresses and crowns, how many of them I might be watching on stage one day. (And never fear. Plenty of princes came for the show too. I worked a volunteer table of coloring crafts, and dads decorated some of the finest shoes.)

Volunteering can tell you a lot about an organization. I’ve been really impressed with the organization and communication in all my volunteer experiences with Phoenix Theatre. Tomorrow I get promoted from crafts table diva to storyteller, so let’s hope I rise to the occasion. I feel a pink feather boa coming on but suspect I will cop out with jeans and a tasteful tee.

I met some really warm, genuine people at my little crafts station—including a Raising Arizona Kids magazine subscriber who does music therapy (more on that in a future blog). She told me about a lovely wine bar located right behind the theater (within walking distance for adult patrons but not too close for the younger set). It’s called Su Vino Winery. I usually hit Sugar Bowl on Scottsdale Rd. après-Stagebrush, but I’m always thrilled to learn of other options. Man cannot live on ice cream alone (but you wouldn’t have wanted to tell my mother that).

Before I sign off, let me leave you with some Cinderella trivia I gleaned from a map and display in the Stagebrush Theatre lobby: Cinderella is one of the oldest fairy tales in the world—about 1,160 years old. You can proudly tell your children that it is even older than you are.

Check out the display yourself and learn what makes the Native American version of Cinderella unique, the country where the original story began, and the origin of the first written version—plus a bit about the original woman with the lost shoe. (I always thought it was me.)

I like to learn. I love to laugh. I got it all Friday night (in one hour, no less). I’d have enjoyed it even without the crayons and free cookies…


Coming soon: The sparkle returns—Kristin Chenoweth’s performance at ARTrageous to help celebrate the grand opening of the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts newly remodeled Virginia G. Piper Theater.

The following is a Cinderella Confidential review just submitted by Riley, a 3rd grader, who attended the show:

My favorite part of the play was the beginning because of the fake, huge t.v. and the two reporters. One reporter was a “Glitter” reporter and the other was an “Information” reporter. The play was very hilarious. The characters made me laugh. The prince was so funny and playful. I had one encounter with the prince and two encounters with the boy reporter. This story is different from the storybook Cinderella because Pinnochio and Jack are in it. I recommend coming early to get good seats. It’s very nice for kids. At the end of the play, we got milk and cookies. We even had a chance to take pictures and get autographs from the cast. I would go again to see the same play.

(Riley: I love the fact that you are so concise and use examples and descriptions. Thanks for sharing this. Keep writing! And let us know if you ever decide to audition and do a show. We’d love to come see you perform! –Lynn)