Tag Archives: High School Musical

Cat calls

When "Stage Cat" Pinky snaps, "Stage Mom" Lynn Trimble jumps

We’re constantly amazed by the diversity of calls our cat, Pinky, seems to share depending on her needs or wants.

The “feed me” call. The “water would be nice” call. The “drop everything” call reserved for formal notifications that your highness wishes to have her litter box cleaned.

Had Pinky read the audition notice for “Puss ‘n’ Boots” I’d no doubt be driving her in a pink cat limo to and from every performance this month at Mesa Arts Center.

“Puss ‘n’ Boots,” written by Steph DeFerie, is being performed by East Valley Children’s Theatre through Feb 27.

DeFerie’s adaptation of the classic tale earned her first place in EVCT’s 2010 “Aspiring Playwrights Contest.” I’m sure Pinky would approve.

Many cat caretakers (cats refuse to be owned) suspect their felines are nearly smart enough to read and write — if only they’d redirected all that energy they spend chasing rubber bands and snoozing on piles of fresh laundry.

Pinky ponders the history of cats in arts and culture

Still, the 2011 EVCT “Aspiring Playwrights Contest” is open only to writers of the human variety.

Just make sure the time spent crafting your musical or play doesn’t interfere with feline pampering time.

Submissions for the 2011 contest are due no later than March 15. Have your cat click here if you’d like more specific information, including submission guidelines.

Fans of Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” can see the work performed April 8-May 11 at Desert Stages Theatre in Scottsdale and June 15-29 at the Marroney Theatre on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson.

Fond as I am of Williams’ work, I suspect Pinky will let me park the limo for these puppies. It’s unlikely she’ll want to trade her cushy denim beanbag chair for a hot tin anything.

She’s more likely to hit the Hamilton Prep production of “Seussical Junior” being performed March 2 and 3 in Chandler, since she never misses an opportunity to sport a funky hat.

Whatever your cat’s fancy, you can support local arts and culture by attending these shows. Just coordinate with the cat first to be sure you’re only gone during nap time.

— Lynn 

Note: If your Arizona school or theater company is presenting something with a feline twist, please comment below to let fellow cat lovers know.

Coming up: Valley students balance arts and academics, The dance of motherhood, Talented students of Kiva Elementary, Musings on “Ten Chimneys,” A week of firsts

Photos: Christopher Trimble


Broadway, Bollywood and the Bard

My daughter mentioned hearing the other day that Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix would soon be opening its fall musical.

Because I’m always on the prowl for local high school theater productions, I did some homework and discovered that Xavier and Brophy Theatre will present “The Fiddler on the Roof” for just a few days — starting this evening.

They’ll perform the classic musical Oct 6, 7 and 9 and 7pm — with a 1:30pm matinee on the 9th (there’s no performance on Friday). Performances are being held at the Virginia G. Piper Performing Arts Center on the Xavier campus. Tickets are just $7.

“Fiddler on the Roof” first opened on Broadway in 1964, closing in 1972 after 3,242 performances. It’s set in 1905 Anatevka, a small town in Russia on the brink of the Russian Revolution. The town has a strong Jewish community but also several non-Jewish Russians who live alongside one another.

It’s a tale of tradition, prejudice, tolerance and change — critical issues facing contemporary society. And it’s the story of two parents seeking the best for their five daughters, which is one of many reasons I never tire of seeing it.

We took the whole family many years ago when the touring production came to ASU Gammage — and we had our own little fiddler, Lizabeth, in the family. Happily, it’ll return to ASU Gammage March 29-April 3, 2011.

In between the Xavier/Brophy and ASU Gammage productions, you can check out the 1971 film.

You also can enjoy a rare blend of Bollywood and the Bard as students from Highland High School perform Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labour’s Lost” from Oct 28-30 at 7pm (in the school’s auditorium). Tickets are just $5.

It’s one of Shakepeare’s early comedies, and has a relatively uncomplicated plot that makes it accessible to younger audiences. And, it appears, “all the aplomb, color, flamboyance and energy” of the Bollywood style of Indian dance.

Each evening will feature a special performance by students of Kriti Dance in Chandler, a studio specializing in the Bollywood style of dance popularized by “the Hindi film industry that closely resembles Hollywood.”

Thanks to Kriti Dance for answering the call yesterday when the magazine shared my high school musical quest via Facebook and Twitter. If your high school is performing a musical this season that’s open to the public, please let me know.

Unless, of course, you’re blending the Bard and ballroom dance…


Note: Lizabeth also shared with me that Southern Utah University opened their 2010-2011 theatre arts and dance season last weekend with “Love’s Labour’s Lost” — which there’s still time to enjoy. It’s being performed Oct 8 & 9 at the Adams Shakespearean Theatre in Cedar City, Utah — one of our very favorite places on the planet!

Coming up: Film as a vehicle for education reform

“Les Mis” light?

There’s nothing light about the musical “Les Miserables,” which trumpets through the fictional lives of young and old, honest and dishonest, industrious and indolent amidst turmoil in 19th century France.

It’s a tale of love, sacrifice and forgiveness that speaks to the hearts of mothers, fathers and children — as well as patriots, young lovers and more.

Not taking your children to see a live production of “Les Miserables” is the theater equivalent of never taking them to a baseball game. It’s part of the lexicon of American culture, which first gave rise to the art form of musical theater.

If you’ve been wary on previous occasions because you suspect your child might not make it through the entire production, there’s a shorter option with extra kid appeal.

It’s the “Les Miserables School Edition,” which is available for licensing by Musical Theatre International in collaboration with Cameron Mackintosh Limited. (The name Cameron Macintosh will ring a bell if you saw the Disney and Cameron Macintosh presentation of “Mary Poppins” when the musical came to ASU Gammage last season.)

Licensing provisions state that the entire cast must be 19 years or younger, that no one in the cast may be a member of an actors’ union and that the work is to be performed entirely by full-time elementary, middle or high school students.

Lizabeth first saw “Les Miserables” at ASU Gammage a good decade or so ago and listened to the soundtrack non-stop for some time thereafter. She played the music on the piano and violin — and still reminisces about the day she sang “Can You Hear the People Sing?” for one of the student performances held each Friday at Desert View Learning Center in Phoenix.

The other little girls favored “I Dreamed a Dream,” but Lizabeth has always been drawn a bit more to anthems of the underdog.

If your student might like to audition for a Valley production of “Les Miserables School Edition,” take note of the following… (See important update at end of post regarding new audition/performance dates.)

It’s being performed in September by Creative Stages Youth Theatre in Peoria as the opener for their second season, marking their first foray into musical theater.

Auditions are being held Sat, Aug 7 (and Sun, Aug 8, if needed) by appointment only. Auditioners are expected to “prepare a two minute song and a one minute monologue.” They should also “bring a photo, resume and be prepared to identify any rehearsal conflicts.” (Translation: Take along your family, school and activities schedules so you know when you’re not available to rehearse or perform.)

To learn more, visit www.csyt.org. You or your child can contact Jim Gradillas at jim@csyt.org to schedule an audition time.

Auditions are being held at a church called The Way in Peoria, which is home to CSYT. Performances will take place at Phoenix Center for the Arts’ 215-seat Third Street Theater.

To learn more about “Les Miserables School Edition,” visit www.lesmizschooledition.com. And stay tuned for a future post with more scoop on the upcoming 2010-2011 season at Creative Stages Youth Theatre.

— Lynn

Note: To explore other theater works licensed through MIT, visit them at www.mitshows.com. To learn about the touring production of “Les Miserables” coming to ASU Gammage for a brief run in June 2011, visit www.asugammage.com (it may sell out quickly so it’s not too early to start paying attention). To receive additional audition notices, sign-up with Durant Communications at www.durantcom.com.

Coming up: Spotlight on this year’s AriZoni Award nominees in children’s and adult categories

Update from Creative Stages website: “As many of you know, Creative Stages Youth Theatre is in the process of looking for a theatre space to call their own and we hope to have very good news in the next few weeks regarding the location and more information. So that our focus can be on finalizing the location and preparing the space with lights, sound, seating, etc…, we will be moving Les Miserablés to next April. The show will now be performed from April 15 through May 1. We anticipate auditions will held in February and all audition info will be posted on our website.” –Lynn 8/6/10

Standing ovation

Clapping can be serious business

We’ve been to many a show that earned standing ovations–from the touring production of “August: Osage County” at ASU Gammage to Arizona Theatre Company’s “The Glass Menagerie” at the Herberger Theater Center.

Sometimes shows that seem to deserve the honor fail to rouse the crowd. Other times patrons are on their feet for performances that feel uninspiring.

We rarely experience a standing ovation at the movie theater, unless it’s for something like the 1975 cult classic “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Rocco Fiorentino has performed with Tony Bennett, Stevie Wonder and Elmo

But a “Standing Ovation” of sorts will be coming to movie theaters this week–in the form of a  movie featuring a song and dancefest of young performers ala “Glee” or “High School Musical.”

I’m a bit older than the average fan for this one, but can still appreciate the themes it tackles–including friendship, loyalty, competition, self-doubt and following one’s dreams.

I spoke recently with two of the young performers who appear in the film–both of whom shared with me that they got involved at the suggestion of their voice teacher, Sal Dupree, who plays “Mr. Wiggs” in the movie.

Elevating clapping to a fine art at a 2009 Kinetica Art Fair

It reminded me of the importance of performing arts teachers of all sorts in the lives of young singers, dancers and actors. Lizabeth’s own voice teacher, Michelle Hakala, will soon be off to pursue graduate study and stage work in NYC–and I marvel at all she’s done to enhance Lizabeth’s confidence and technique.

Soon Lizabeth, a senior theater major at Arizona School for the Arts, will be applying for college and conservatory study. Time passes so quickly, and I wonder what it must be like to have a piece of your child’s young life preserved on film.

Babies seem to prefer seated ovations

In most cases, our memories are captured purely, but no less powerfully, by heart.

I always learn something, feel something, discover something when I talk with young performing artists, whether they’re here in the Valley or performing elsewhere on stage or screen.

So it was when I chatted by phone with Alanna Palombo, who plays Alanna Wannabe in “Standing Ovation.”

Alanna Palombo stars in "Standing Ovation"

First, go for it! Alanna says she really didn’t expect to land a part when she auditioned at age six for a community theater production of “Annie,” but she tried out just for practice and was cast as orphan Molly.

From there the career of this 10-year-old triple threat has soared. (It probably didn’t hurt that mom put her in dance lessons at the ripe old age of two–something Palombo took to instantly).

Rocco Fiorentino is a musician and advocate

Second, believe in yourself! Pianist, composer and singer Rocco Fiorentino, a 13-year old “musician and humanitarian” who makes his film debut in “Standing Ovation,” praises the film’s “message of hope and inspiration.”

Fiorentino, who is blind due to premature birth, says the film mirrors his “really positive outlook on life.” His message to young movie-goers? “Do what you want to do,” urges Rocco. “And never give up on your dreams.”

Parents often say these sorts of things to their children, but teens too often meet them with rolling eyes and sighs of disgust. Picture taking your tweens to a movie that might actually help them get the picture.

Anita Blaytron's "Standing Ovation" at the DFW airport in Texas

The importance of family and friendship. The value of hard work and integrity. It’s all here–shining through in “20 original songs, 5 classic tunes and 13 spectacular dance numbers that feature over 100 talented dancers.”

A trip to see “Standing Ovation,” opening Friday, July 16, might be the very thing to inspire your child to find or pursue his or her passion.

In a media landscape riddled with mean girls and lean girls, with rough guys and tough guys–this movie sounds like a perfectly entertaining antidote.


Note: Check out The Little Rock Foundation, a New Jersey non-profit organization established in 1997 that grew out of the frustration Rocco Fiorentino’s parents felt in seeking resources to help children and families affected by blindness or visual impairment. Remember too that local organizations who work with visually-impaired youth and adults need ongoing community support.

Coming up: “Save the dates!” as Valley arts organizations announce upcoming fundraisers, News you can use from the Arizona Commission on the Arts

Broadway tackles family matters

Rogelio Douglas, Jr. and Arielle Jacobs

Actress Arielle Jacobs, who performs the role of “Nina” in the touring production of “In the Heights” opening tonight at ASU Gammage, probably has a lot to say about Arizona’s immigration debate. 

Her maternal grandfather, originally from the Philippines, petitioned for 17 years before receiving United States citizenship—moving to America with his wife and three children in 1965.

But we didn’t talk politics when we spoke. Instead, we chatted about her early experiences with arts and academics, and the message she hopes “In the Heights” will bring to Valley families. 

Jacobs’ first formal arts training was ballet lessons at the age of three, something she’s certain must have been her idea because her parents “never forced anything on me.” 

When Jacobs tired of ballet, she explored other forms of dance including jazz, tap and flamenco. As a child, she’d “get bored after six months” and want to try something new. 

It was fine with her folks, recalls Jacobs, as long as she gave whatever she was doing her very best. “They had very high expectations for me.” 

Jacobs admits to holding herself by the same high standards, and to having some very big dreams.

"In the Heights" Full Tour Company

“I wanted to be like Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston,” she quips. “I was really in love with them back in the day.” 

At the age of seven, Jacobs started voice lessons. 

Jacobs did some community theater in the San Francisco Bay Area where she grew up, including a stint as a Cratchit kid in a local production of “A Christmas Carol” at the age of 10. 

She also took some theater classes and attended theater-related camps. 

When asked about her decision to pursue a theater career, Jacobs offers a surprising response: “I didn’t really make a decision as much as it was made for me.” 

Elise Santoro and Arielle Jacobs

Jacobs graduated from high school with a 4.2 grade point average after taking AP classes, noting that her first love was biology and environmental studies. 

During the college admissions process, Jacobs focused on science programs—with just one exception. She applied to New York University and was admitted to their music theatre program. 

She originated the role of “Gabrielle” in the national tour of Disney’s “High School Musical,” so many of us have already enjoyed her work on the ASU Gammage stage. 

Jacobs sees plenty of parallels between her own life and that of character “Nina Rosario”–a high-achieving woman reticent to ask for help or support in times of stress or struggle. (She’d fit right in with the many RAK staffers who self-identify as ‘creative but compulsive.’)

Natalie Toro and Daniel Bolero

Every Valley theater-goer I know has had “In the Heights” on their ‘must-see’ list forever, but for the uninitiated Jacobs offers the following insight…

“Not all Broadway musicals are like ‘Showboat’ or ‘Carousel.’ ”

Jacobs hopes that “In the Heights,” which features Latin, hip-hop, soul and rap music, will introduce musical theater to people who might not explore it otherwise. 

“In the Heights” has a take-away message perhaps most powerful to parents. “One of the deepest themes in this show,” reflects Jacob, “is healing family riffs.” 

“Parenting,” share Jacobs, “can be harmful or supportive and loving.” 

“In the Heights” is a thoughtful yet joyful exploration of ways parents and children wrestle with making choices, claiming power and finding genuine sources of self-worth. 

I’m eager to take the journey… 


Kyle Beltran

Note: “In the Heights” earned 2008 Tony Awards® for Best Musical, Best Score, Best Choreography and Best Orchestrations—making it a delight to theater, music and dance aficionados alike. It features music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda (who traces the work’s “first incarnation” to his sophomore year at Wesleyan University), and book by Quiara Alegria Hudes. “In the Heights” will be performed June 15-20 at ASU Gammage in Tempe. Weekend matinees will feature Miranda reprising the role of “Usnavi” which he originated on Broadway. Saturday’s afternoon performance includes a talk-back with Miranda for audience members after the show.  

Coming up: Summer arts offerings from local community colleges, Desert dance delights, More new season announcements, Focus on “Free Arts of Arizona”

Photos by Joan Marcus (2009) courtesy of ASU Gammage

Update: Lizabeth and I saw the show Tuesday night. There were some cast changes, so we didn’t get to see Jacobs perform, but the cast we saw was quite remarkable and received an enthusiastic standing ovation from a very-close-to-full house. Visit www.asugammage.com for reviews by “Gammage Goers,” Valley Broadway enthusiasts who share written and videotaped comments after seeing ASU Gammage Broadway series shows.

How to meet a star

I’m not talking Lea Michele or Nathan Lane, Ellen Degeneres or Phil Donahue, Taylor Swift or Neil Patrick Harris. I’m not referring to some tacky tour through homes in the Hollywood Hills.

I’m talking about stars right here in our own midst, stars you haven’t likely heard of but will admire once you meet them.

They’re the students of Hi-Star Center for Children, who’ll be performing their annual school musical—“a Broadway-style production”–tonight, May 27, at 7pm at Alhambra High School in Phoenix.

It’s free and open to the public, and it’s typically attended by 500 or so folks from around the Valley. Clearly it’s something special to behold.

Performing is much more than a pastime for these children and teens, who study and perform the arts in order to develop and improve language, information processing, coordination and motor skills.

The students of Hi-Star Center (ages five through high school) live with special needs such as autism, speech-language impairment, mild to moderate mental retardation, emotional disability, severe learning disability and severe sensory impairment.

Students at all developmental levels experience both an “intense academic program” and a “modified performing arts program,” according to assistant director Susan Sorgen-Jones (a proud RAK reader of nearly 20 years).

I connected with Sorgen-Jones via a mutual friend at Childsplay, a Tempe-based nonprofit specializing in “theater for young audiences and families.”

Sorgen-Jones shared with me that Hi-Star Center students enjoy music, drumming, choir, acting, dance and “masterpiece” art and music. “Each year,” she says, “all students are asked to perform and participate in several events.”

These include a play about the first Thanksgiving, a holiday-theme choral presentation, a Valentine-theme poetry reading, an art show and a musical theater production.

You can join the fun this evening as they present “The Wizard of Oz.” Rehearsals began in April when students started learning lines, songs nd stage blocking amidst “a great deal of laughter.”

“We set a ‘Stomp’ number into the play for our high school students,” shares Sorgen-Jones. “They are using brooms and trash cans and cleaning up Emerald City.”

I suspect their Emerald City will sparkle like no other.

Sergen-Jones says she marvels at the “changes and confidence that develop during this process” and is hoping to forge a partnership with someone who might be able to help the center document this important and inspiring work.

She notes that performance art helps their students “develop awareness of others and enhance self-esteem.” I have to wonder, in this day and age so fraught with bullying and blistering banter, why more schools aren’t implementing arts programming to support the growth of social skills and healthy lifestyles among students.

I was delighted to discover several arts-rich components of the Hi-Star Center curriculum when I visited their website. Just this academic year alone, their elementary-level students have studied a myriad of musical styles (orchestral music, Mozart, folk music, Ella Jenkins and Stomp) and a variety of storytellers/artists (Margret Wise Brown/Susan Jeffers, Alan Say/Jan Brett, Faith Ringgold/Dr. Seuss, Lois Ehlert and others).

Hi-Star Center students in the secondary program have studied the life and art of Norman Rockwell as well as the history and use of bells. They’ve enjoyed studying choir, participating in a book club and papermaking with native plants. Field trip destinations have included the Arizona Museum of Natural History and the Chinese Cultural Center.

It’s no wonder these students have the talent and tenacity to perform what Sorgen-Jones describes as “a full-run version of a musical” every year. They’ve done “The Other Mikado,” “The Other Grease,” “The Other Cinderella,” “The Other Nutcracker” and many more—each production dubbed the “other” because “they are like no other you have ever seen!”

The landscape is littered with stars whose only claim to fame is stardom. I won’t name names, but I suspect you can rattle off your own list with ease. If not, you’ve clearly spent more time with theater than television, and that’s a good thing.

I can’t imagine anything finer than an evening spent watching the work and wonder of students steeped in the arts—whose imaginations and insights will no doubt make contributions the rest of us can only hope to approximate during our time here on Earth.

That’s true star power…


Dancing your way through summer

Students at Plumb Performing Arts Center

The Valley’s summer camp scene features all kinds of dance options for preschoolers through teens–including week- or month-long programs as well as daily drop-in classes in everything from classical ballet to musical theater.

The School of Ballet Arizona in Phoenix has partnered with Southwest Classical Dance Institute to present master classes for intermediate and advanced students, including a summer session with Rudolf Kharatian and Marat Daukeyev June 28-July 3.

Ballet Arizona also presents a summer intensive program that includes three- and four-week options. Students begin each day with a ballet class—and also study pointe, variations, modern, character, jazz, flamenco and Pilates.

Students in levels I-VII benefit from “added dance curriculum and immersion in week-long music and movement programs which feature an informal showcase of choreography.”

The School of Ballet Arizona program begins June 1. Details at www.balletaz.org.

Dance Theater West in Phoenix offers three summer dance options, including “A Summer Nutcracker” for ages 11 through teens with two years minimum experience in ballet (June 1-4). Training includes “classical ballet, partnering and optional pointe.”

Dance Theater West students-Photo by Todd Grossman

They’ll present three musical theater workshops featuring ballet, modern, jazz, acting, singing and sign language for ages 10 through teens. Themes include “High School Musical” (June 7-11), “Billy Elliott” (June 14-18) and “Alice in Wonderland” (June 21-25).

Dance Theater West also offers “Summerdance for Kids” for ages, including “Little Kids on Broadway” (June 1-4) with an afternoon option to participate in “A Summer Nutcracker” and “Little Kids on Broadway” with “arts & playtime” (June 21-25). Details at www.dancetheaterwest.com.

Phoenix Theatre presents “Summer of Dance” June 1-July 31—which features classes in musical theatre, Fosse, tap (2 levels), hip hop, yoga and turns/leaps. Students in the musical theatre class will explore “a new genre of musical theatre” every week, and students in the Fosse class will learn routines from the most famous Bob Fosse musicals.

The program offers several options, including a $10/class drop-in rate, a 5-pack of classes for $40 and a $125 pass for students who want the freedom to attend as many dance classes as they like each week. Classes meet various dates and times.

Phoenix Theatre also offers summer master classes for ages 16 and up—which cost just $25 each. Topics include the psychology of auditioning and a physical approach to acting, as well as two classes focused on improvisation and two classes focused on Shakespeare. Details at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Jeanne’s School of Dance in Mesa presents “Jeanne’s Summer Dance Camp Extravaganza

Students with Jeanne's School of Dance

2010” July 26-30 featuring “all the different styles of dance Jeanne’s has to offer”–which include ballet, tap, jazz, musical theater, lyrical and pom/cheer.

The school, which holds classes in four locations (Mesa, East Mesa, Chandler and Queen Creek), also offers a ballet summer intensive program for two 4-week sessions (June 1-24 and June 28-July 22). This program is for “serious ballet students” (usually nine or older) and includes training in ballet/pointe, modern, jazz, character, variations, dance theory and Pilates

Jeanne’s “Early Bird Special” for the summer intensive is offered through June 1. Details at www.jeannesdance.net.

Plumb Performing Arts Center in Scottsdale offers a summer program with weekly options June 21-July 8. The center will feature classes for various ages/abilities in five different studios. Classes offer full day (9am-3pm) and half day options (with morning session/afternoon session options for the preschool set).

Classes for preschoolers include tap/ballet, tumbling/jazz, ballet arts/craft and ballet story time. Classes for ages 9-12 include stretch condition/ballet barre, ballet center/leaps/jumps, tap, contemporary, choreography, hip hop and more. Details at www.plumbpac.com.

Student with the School of Ballet Arizona

Consider dance camps and classes as you’re reviewing summer options with your child.

Dance has much to offer your child’s world, and your child has much to offer the world of dance.


Note: For a comprehensive directory of summer programs for youth, consult “Summer Solutions” from Raising Arizona Kids magazine—which features hundreds of options compiled with care by our remarkable calendar & directories editor Mala Blomquist.

Coming up:  The power of performing arts for students with special needs

Today’s tidbit: Phoenix Theatre’s Greasepaint Youtheatre presents “Greasepaint’s Season Spotlight”–a celebration of all their performers and volunteers featuring entertainment, hors d’oeuvres, raffles, awards and more–tonight at Greasepaint in Scottsdale. Information on this fundraiser/performance is available on the Phoenix Theatre website.