Tag Archives: Into the Woods

Sondheim — student style

I’d never really considered the difficulty of singing Sondheim until I watched the second act of ASA’s current production of “Into the Woods.” I’d spent the first part of the evening enjoying a Rising Youth Theatre dress rehearsal, so all the fairytale folly of “Into the Woods” was well underway by the time I got there.

My own stellar singing career consisted of back-up vocals in bars with a bent for country western tunes while working to put myself through grad school. I thought everybody read Kant and Sartre steeped in bowls of stale peanuts, but nowadays I suppose we should be grateful to find folks reading just about anything.

Original Broadway cast recording of "Into the Woods"

If you’re fond of reading fairy tales, you might enjoy the twist on all things “happily ever after” that’s at the heart of “Into the Woods” — a musical featuring book by James Lapine plus music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, a writer whose work I’m still exploring in the hot pink “Look, I Made a Hat.”

“Into the Woods” opened at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego in 1986, where George Takei of “Star Trek” fame opens his new musical “Allegiance” later this year. It moved to Broadway in 1987 with Bernadette Peters in the role of “Witch” and Johanna Gleason in the role of “Baker’s Wife” (the role Amy Adams will rock during this year’s Shakespeare in the Park production of “Into the Woods” from Public Theater in NYC).

The Arizona School for the Arts production, directed by Beck (she uses just a single name), was hysterical. Think funny, not frantic. The student cast in the role of Witch did an especially fine job singing Sondheim’s material. I’m hoping they’ll send a program my way so I can share the student’s name and give her proper credit for a truly solid performance.

I was less wowed by the set, built out (perhaps to house student musicians — who also did a stellar job) rather than recessed. I’d have preferred more of a deep, dark forest vibe, but that’s probably just my love affair with trees talking. And I’m about as qualified to design sets as I am to sing in front of even the most intoxicated patrons.

2006 Broadway cast recording of "Sweeney Todd"

Over in Glendale, Spotlight Youth Theatre is performing “Sweeney Todd: School Edition” featuring book by Hugh Wheeler plus music and lyrics by Sondheim. Music Theatre International notes that “Sweeney Todd” was adapted for youth performance by “working directly with Mr Sondheim to retain the dark wit and grand scope of the original work, with a few lyric and key changes to facilitate high school productions.”

“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is based on Christopher Bond’s take on “The String of Pearls,” believed by some to be rooted at least partially in historical events. It opened on Broadway in 1979 with a cast that included Len Carious (Sweeney Todd) and Angela Lansbury (Mrs. Lovett).

Some consider “Sweeney Todd” a tale of ruin and revenge — but I’ve always been more partial to its tender, rather than tenderized, side. A family torn apart. A young man pining for a girl who’s out of reach. A motherless boy seeking to protect a childless woman from harm.

Nowadays, a click of the mouse will get you Johnny Depp when you’d really rather find Sondheim. Fond as I am of Depp’s portrayal of Todd in the 2007 film, I’d be sad to see a generation familiar only with Sweeney on the big screen. Best to enjoy “Sweeney Todd” on stage but get your tickets as well for “Dark Shadows,” where we’ll all be treated to a bit of dracula meets disco as only Depp can deliver it.

Before the musical, there was this book

A final word before you head out to support all those students charged with singing Sondheim — best to leave kids younger than middle school age at home for these shows. “Into the Woods” is best appreciated by adults, though teens also love the fractured fairy tale vibe. And “Sweeney Todd” has mature themes, including murder, that your little one don’t need swimming around in their heads.

I took Lizabeth to see the Arizona Opera production of “Sweeney Todd” when she was barely in the double digits. To this day, she’s fed up any talk about the worst pies in London.

— Lynn

Note: Folks who follow theater can click here for a list of recent Drama Desk nominations, and here for news of this year’s Tony Awards ceremony (nominations will be announced May 1).

Coming up: How groovy is that?

Update: “Sweeney Todd School Edition” is also part of Greasepaint Youtheatre’s 2012-2013 season — which also includes “13,” “Disney’s the Little Mermaid Jr.,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and “Dear Edwina.”  Click here for details. 5/1/12

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A delightful detour

Detour Company Theatre was founded in 2000 to “provide quality and authentic arts education and performance opportunities for adults with developmental and other challenges, including deafness, blindness, and autism.”

I learned about Detour from Susan Silverman, director of the classical ballet program at Dance Theater West and artistic director for Story Book Ballet Theater (both in Phoenix). Story Book Ballet Theater collaborates in performance with Detour Company Theater, Free Arts of Arizona and Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Detour’s founder and artistic director, who goes by simply “Sam,” holds an M.F.A. in theatre from ASU — and is currently working with more than forty five performers and “coaches” who blend story, music and dance as their work together builds confidence and self-esteem.

I attended Tuesday night’s rehearsal for their next show — a musical review featuring songs from shows performed during the last decade. Think “The Wizard of Oz,” “Oklahoma,” “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” “Grease,” “Guys and Dolls” and more. Then check out a few rehearsal photos — featuring cast members, coaches, interpreters and director Sam — below…

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The rehearsal was held at the John Paul Theatre on the Phoenix College campus, which you’re already familiar with if you attend Arizona Jewish Theatre Company productions. Turns out Detour is actually performing two shows at the John Paul Theatre this month.

“Into the Woods,” their first production featuring Detour actors as well as Detour coaches, opens Thurs., Jan. 5 and is also being performed Jan. 7, 8, 13 & 14. “Some of Our Best,” which sounded amazing during Tuesday’s rehearsal, runs Jan. 6-8, 12 & 14. There’s no cost to attend because the company has a “free for all, donate as you can policy.”

Detour recommends making reservations on their website or by calling 480-538-0874 so you’ll be assured a seat. To learn more, visit them online at detourcompanytheatre.org.

— Lynn

Coming up: The fine art of costumes, Learning from the masters

Photos: Lynn Trimble

Old friends, new year

I ran into an old friend on Friday while waiting in line at a favorite breakfast haunt with my daughter Lizabeth. We ended up sharing a table and lingering over talk of films, showtunes and such.

I met Alan, who hails from Philadelphia, more than a decade ago when he was still in music teacher mode — and charged with teaching Christopher, then in elementary school, to play saxophone.

Nowadays he’s a hypnotherapist. And Christopher’s sax is long gone. Still, I run into Alan fairly often since we’re both ASU Gammage season ticket holders. He enjoys shows with his wife Anita, while I usually take Lizabeth along.

My husband James knows better than to try and wrestle either of us for a ticket. And we’ve already seen everything from “Starlight Express” to “Les Miserables” together.

Earlier in the day I’d been musing over what to feature for a New Year’s post — with little success. Clever New Year’s resolutions with a theater-geek twist topped my list, but I’d had far too little espresso to make that magic happen.

I set what seemed a more manageable goal — culling some of my favorite lines from all sorts of Broadway showtunes. But alas. So few really translate without the music. And many simply aren’t fit for family magazine fare. Think There’s a moment you know…. from “Spring Awakening.”

In reality, I’ll be hibernating long before the official New Year is upon us. But I’m rallying just long enough to offer one-liners of the mostly G-rated varety. Consider this post a preview of sorts. I reserve the right to make changes as (or perhaps if) the inspiration strikes.

Whether you love my list or hate it, I hope it inspires you to consider some of your favorite quotes from stage and screen — and how you might sum up your own hopes for the New Year in a simple sentence or two.

Life’s too quick (Rent/Out Tonight). A person’s a person, no matter how small (Seussical/Horton Hears a Who). What do you do with a B.A. in English? (Avenue Q). Don’t be the bunny (Urinetown).

I may not be smart but I ain’t dumb (Sweeney Todd/Not While I’m Around). And all these things I feel and more/My mother’s mother felt and hers before (Baby/Story Goes On). Don’t want a nation under the new media (American Idiot).

Because I knew you, I have been changed for good (Wicked/For Good). There’s life outside your apartment (Avenue Q). Well they can kiss my tush (Spamalot/Diva’s Lament). Let me be a kid (Runaways).

At the end of the day you’re another day older (Les Miserables/At the End of the Day). I really need this job (Chorus Line/I Hope I Get It). Nice is different than good (Into the Woods/I Know Things Now). Give a man enough rope (The Will Rogers Follies).

Just breathe (In the Heights/Breathe). A lawyer is a shark (Legally Blonde/Blood in the Water). Brush up your Shakespeare/And they’ll all kowtow (Kiss Me, Kate/Brush Up Your Shakespeare). It sucks to be me (Avenue Q).

You see what you look for, you know (Company/Being Alive). Children may not obey, but children will listen (Into the Woods/Children Will Listen). We were born to consume/From the cradle to the tomb (Walmartopia).

For life is quite absurd (Spamalot/Always Look on the Bright Side of Life). I wish I could go back to college (Avenue Q). My child is next in the line that has no ending (Baby/Story Goes On).

In everything you do/Always be yourself (Billy Elliot/The Letter). It’s not the time to overthink (Legally Blonde/Bend and Snap). Everyone’s a little bit racist (Avenue Q). Happiness is two kinds of ice cream (You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown/Happiness).

 I want my life to be something more than long (Pippin/Corner of the Sky). What you want is right in front of you (Legally Blonde/What You Want). Never met a man I didn’t like (The Will Rogers Follies).

In learning you will teach/And in teaching you will learn (Tarzan/Son of a Man). How do you measure a year in the life? (Rent/Seasons of Love).

— Lynn

Note: Where song titles aren’t listed, the song title is the same as the quote noted for that show. Feel free to comment below with your own favorite (and family-friendly) Broadway one-liner.

Coming up: New year, new theater

What’s your weekend style?

Maybe you’re a fan of festivals. Or marvel at all things multicultural. Or believe that reading books is best of all.

Whatever your weekend style, there’s plenty to enjoy in Arizona this Labor Day weekend — including a rich variety of arts events and experiences.

Your style: Art adventures

“Epeolatry: The Worship of Words” at the ASU Step Gallery in Tempe. Sept 3 (noon-3pm; free). National multi-media group exhibition curated by Intermedia BFA candidate Bucky Miller.

First Friday” artwalk throughout more than 70 galleries, art-related spaces and other venues. Sept 3 (6pm-10pm; free). Trollies leave Phoenix Art Museum for those who prefer to ride between venues.

Your style: Festival fare

Red Rock Music Festival” at the Sedona Creative Life Center. Sept 3-5 (times vary; youth and 3-day discounts). Music from Bach, Vivaldi, Gershwin — and plenty of Latin jazz.

Fiesta Septiembre” at the Wickenberg Community Center. Sept 4 (11am-6pm; free). Photography exhibit, folk dancing, mariachi music, arts and crafts, and kids’ activities.

Pine-Strawberry Arts and Crafts Guild Craft Festival” at the Pine Community Center. Sept 4 & 5 (times vary; free). 75 artist booths, raffle and kids’ activities.

Flagstaff Art in the Park Labor Day Show” at Wheeler Park. Sept. 4-6 (times vary; free). Arts and crafts, live music, kids’ activities.

Your style: Multicultural marvels

“Multi-media photographic art of Stacie Schimke” at the Irish Cultural Center in Phoenix. During “First Friday” hours. Free. Enjoy a traditional Irish meal by chef Frank Hand for just $10.

The Fine Art of Fine Print: Newspaper Sculpture and Costumes” at Galeria 147-Arizona Latino Arts and Culture Center in Phoenix. During “First Friday” hours. Free. Enjoy exhibit opening plus live entertainment including music, dance, painting and spoken word poetry.

Your style: Museum musings

Sandcastle Summer Send Off” at the Phoenix Art Museum. Sept 3 (6pm-10pm; free). Features live music, sandcastles, cool drinks and ice cream — plus free general admission (including “Cezanne and American Modernism” exhibition).

“Free admission” to downtown Phoenix museums on the Artlink “First Friday” map. Sept 3 (6pm-10pm). Includes Heard Museum and Children’s Museum of Phoenix.

Your style: Saving solutions

Into the Woods” at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts. Sept 3-5 (times vary). “Theater Works” is offering half-price adult tickets during Labor Day weekend.

The Foreigner” at Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert. Sept 3-5 (times vary). Student tickets just $10 for opening weekend with “STU” code.

Your style: Creative writing connoisseur

“First Friday Poetry” at Changing Hands Bookstore. Sept 3 (7pm; free). ASU Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing event featuring Lois Roma-Deeley.

“Curiosity Day with Curious George” at Changing Hands Bookstore. Sept 4 (10am; free). Family event celebrates 70th birthday of monkey Curious George with costume storytime, video presentation, tasty treats and fun activities.

“The Pirate of Kindergarten” at Changing Hands Bookstore. Sept 4 (noon; free). Family event features award-winning children’s illustrator Lynne Avril (her 60 + picture books include the “Amelia Bedelia” stories).

“Club Read: Windblowne” at Changing Hands Bookstore. Sept 4 (2pm; free). Tween/teen event best for ages 8-12 includes free pizza, author chat via “Skype” and more

Whatever your style, you can always find family-friendly events listed online at www.raisingarizonakids.com.

–Lynn

Note: Please consult with venues before attending to confirm date/time, location, age range, price and such.

Coming up: A good knave is hard to find

Photo: www.rainbowweekend.org

Weekend whimsy

There’s a little something for everyone when it comes to family arts and entertainment this weekend. Here’s a roundup by category–featuring everything from concerts and musicals to nature walks and museum exhibits–with a bit of whimsy thrown in just for fun…

From sweeping beauties to singing mermaids

Theater performances include “Cinderella: A Ragtime Musical” at Desert Stages in Scottsdale, “Grease” at Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix, “The Little Mermaid” at Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Mesa, “Two Bad Mice” by Great Arizona Puppet Theater in Phoenix, “Into the Woods” at Theater Works in Peoria (featuring a fabulous raffle)

From choral auditions to singing with Elmo

Music events include “Phoenix Boys Choir auditions” at the Phoenix Boys Choir in Phoenix, “Andreas Klein” (piano) and “Rahim Alhaj” (Iraqi oud) at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, “Breakfast with Elmo” (including song and dance) at Family Time in Gilbert

From movies in the park to movies at the museum

Community movie events include “Movie Night at the Park” (“Hoot” plus lessons on burrowing owls) at Estrella Mountain Regional Park in Goodyear, “Dinner and a Movie” (“G-Force”) at Eddie’s House in Scottsdale, “Movies in the Ballpark” (“Cars”) at Goodyear Ballpark, “Kid’s Night Out Movie Night” (“Spirited Away”) at the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa

From art walks to hands-on art projects

Art activities include “Downtown Chandler Art Walk” (art/entertainment), “Free Art Friday” (art projects/games) in Tempe, “Great Expectations and Dreams: Arizona Teens Speak Up” at ASU Downtown (to benefit PCH cancer/blood disorder patients)

From baseballs to carved dolls

Museum exhibits include “Goose Bumps! The Science of Fear” and “Solarville” at the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix, “Play Ball: The Cactus League Experience” and “Jump to Japan: Discovering Culture Through Popular Art” at the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa, “Therizinosaur: Mystery of the Sickle-Claw Dinosaur” at the Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa (adjacent to the Arizona Museum for Youth), “What Moves Us: Art of Transportation from the Permanent Collection” at the ASU Art Museum in Tempe, “Visions: Text Messages” at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, “Hopi Katsina Dolls: 100 Years of Carving” and “More Than Child’s Play: American Indian Dolls” at the Heard Museum in Phoenix

From flashlight tour to wildflower walk

Nature activities include “Wildflower Walk” at The Arboretum at Flagstaff, “Hummingbird Banding” (professionals band, onlookers watch) at Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, “Summer Saturday Evenings” at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, “Silent Sunday” at South Mountain Park in Phoenix, “Flashlight Tours” at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix

For additional details–including dates/times, fees/reservations, recommended ages and such–check with hosting venues. Additional information on many of these events/activities is also available through the online calendar for Raising Arizona Kids magazine.

–Lynn

Note: If you’re on the prowl for art-related books, music or movies, try your luck at the free “Bargain Book Sale” from 9am-4pm today at the North Valley Regional Library in Anthem.

Coming up: From lemons to lemonade, Multicultural performance art, Season openers from Valley theaters, ASU Libraries’ Child Drama Collection, All about art walks, More movie reviews

Graphics from Cafe Press. Click here to see their extensive selection of gift items in black, white and beyond.

Update: Thanks to Carley Conder for sharing the news that renowned choreographer Charlotte Boye-Christensen, freelance choreographer/teacher/dancer originally from Denmark, is in Arizona for a six day residency. To enjoy a free showing of Boye-Christensen’s new work set for CONDER/dance, attend a Sat, Aug 21, performance at ASU FAC122 (11:45am-noon).

“Little Red Riding Hood” lives!

Never fear, my dears… 

Contrary to what you may have read in yesterday’s post, “Little Red Riding Hood” is alive and well. She’ll soon appear on a West Valley stage for Theater Works’ “Into the Woods” opening in August. 

I find this thrilling for many reasons, not the least of which is my eagerness to feature images of other characters from fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm

“Into the Woods” is a creative take on the famed brothers’ fables in musical theater form–complete with music and lyrics by contemporary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, proud recipient of oodles of Tony Awards.

“Into the Woods” features the intertwined adventures of beloved characters such as Rapunzel, Cinderella, Jack (of beanstalk fame) and many more.

The work “explores both the whimsy of wishing and the darker side of the forest.” It’s fun for all ages because it can be enjoyed, and interpreted, on so many levels. I find something new each time I see it. 

Fun-loving theater goers needn’t wait until August to get their fix… 

If your child is still searching for the right summer camp fit, consider the four remaining camps offered by Youth Works, which include: 

“Enchanted Forest” for ages 4-6. Three sessions: June 28-July 2, July 5-9, Aug 2-6. All 9am-noon. $150/session. 

“Build a Play Workshop” for ages 7 to high school. July 5-9, 9am-4pm, $150. 

“Honk! Junior The Musical” for ages 7 to high school. July 12-30, 9am-4pm, $450. 

“Monster Mash Inside Out Techie Workshop.” Aug 2-6, 9am-4pm, $150. 

If you’re a fan of cabaret-style entertainment, mark your calendar for two Theater Works cabarets taking place this summer.

Their “On The Air!” cabaret, being performed July 16-20, features a “live broadcast” over the fictional oldies station “KDOG.” Theater goers will enjoy 18 chart toppers originally sung by Connie Francis, Bobby Darin, The Platters, The Drifters, Elvis Presley and more—plus comedy routines including a reprise of Abbott & Costello’s famed “Who’s on First.”

Their Aug 13-15 cabaret theme has yet to be announced—so stay tuned to www.theaterworks.org for further details. Theater Works cabarets are presented at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts and include entertainment and appetizers for $29. Wine is available at additional cost, though this is hardly a concern of the “sippy cup” crowd. 

By now you may have surmised something noted by Theater Works executive director Jack Lytle, one of several eloquent speakers featured in a recent video from the City of Peoria…

“We have something,” says Lytle, “for everyone.” 

–Lynn 

Note: Theater Works has just announced that there are still scholarship opportunities for summer campers, and that discounts apply when your child attends more than one camp or you enroll siblings in their summer camps. Get details by visiting the Theater Works website or calling Robyn Allen at 623-815-1791, ext. 103. Also note that Theater Works recently posted a job opportunity in their youth theater program—details also available online.

Coming up: Summer movie reviews, Spotlight on CONDER/dance, Weekend arts picks

Fun FAQs: “Into the Woods” earned three Tony Awards in 1987–“Best Score” for Stephen Sondheim, “Best Book” for James Lapine and “Best Actress in a Musical” for Joanna Gleason (“Baker’s Wife”). Bernadette Peters, “The Witch” in both the 1987 Broadway premiere and the 1997 Broadway revival, will star at the Dec 4, 2010 ARTrageous event at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

The big bad musical

Have you been turning to television rather than theater to get your forensics fix? Bones. CSI. Dexter. All feature some fascinating whodunits.

But the most intriguing case yet can’t be seen on any screen. It’s coming to the stage, right here in our own neck of the, well, woods.

It’s a case involving the “Big Bad Wolf,” who’s facing trial to determine whether he’s guilty of eating both “Little Red Riding Hood” and her grandmother.

How delightful to ponder a crime scene not riddled with bullets, crawling with clue-carrying bugs or taken over by high tech laser beam technology.

No Ford Bronco chases. No Nancy Grace commentary. No disturbing violence set to tacky pop tunes.

Just good old-fashioned fun…

Arizona Jewish Theatre Company presents the first of two summer camp productions by Curtain Call, their educational youth theater division for children and teens, on Thursday, July 1 at Greasepaint Youtheatre (formerly Stagebrush Theatre) in Scottsdale.

“The Big Bad Musical,” featuring the trial of the “Big Bad Wolf,” will be performed at 3pm and 7pm that day only, but matinee-goers need to stay mum lest evening patrons learn ahead of time of the jury’s verdict.

Admission is free, but donations—which go to the company’s scholarship fund—are always welcome.

Their second summer camp session (which runs July 6-30) also will present a final show (titled “Adventures of a Comic Book Artist”) and there’s still time for interested youth to enroll.

Janet Arnold, producing director for Arizona Jewish Theatre Company, recommends that folks check their website regularly for updates since they have plenty of other programs and performances in the works.

The tech-savvy among you can visit “AJTC Curtain Call” on Facebook to learn of upcoming auditions, productions and more.

Arizona Jewish Theatre Company will be doing youth productions Dec 11-12 and May 7-8 at their new performance venue, the John Paul Theatre at Phoenix College, though specific shows have yet to be announced.

Arnold describes the campus theater as “lovely” but also shared when asked that the group has just a single item on its “wish list” at this point—a theater home to call their very own.

I put this out there because you never know who might be reading, and it never ever hurts to ask.

Arizona Jewish Theatre Company will present three shows—all Arizona premieres—during their 2010-2011 season, which marks their 23rd season together. Here’s a sneak peek…

“Hard Love” by Motti Lerner, one of Israel’s foremost playwrights, tells the story of the brief marriage of a young ultra-orthodox couple and the decades of aftermath that follow the husband’s decision to abandon religion. Oct 28-Nov 7. Directed by Janet Arnold.

“The Last Schwartz” by Deborah Zoe Laufer is a “comedy on serious themes” that follows the Schwartz family as they gather for what may be the last time at the home of their recently deceased parents. Feb 3-13. Directed by Ben Tyler.

“My name is Asher Lev” by Aaron Posner, based on the Chaim Potok novel, considers the plight of a young Hassidic artist torn between his need to create and the traditions of his community. March 24-April 3. Directed by Layne Racowsky.

I’ve no doubt that many of you could easily make the leap from the title of this post to some of your most-hated musicals.

Go there if you must, but remember this too…

Arizona Jewish Theatre Company affords you the opportunity to discover some new best-loved plays.

Plus, being spotted at the theater can be an ever-so-convincing alibi.

–Lynn

Update: The Arizona Jewish Theatre Company’s “All Rights Reserved Teen Improv Troupe” is holding auditions on Thurs, Sept 16, 2010 in the Social Hall at Congregation Beth Israel (Shea & 56th St.). Auditions, for 13-18 years olds, begin at 7pm. To schedule an appointment time, please call 602-264-0402.

Note: You also can support Arizona Jewish Theatre Company by attending a “fun-raiser” on Thursday, July 1, at Sweet Tomatoes restaurant at The Pavilions in Scottsdale (9029 E. Indian Bend Rd.). 15% of proceeds from theater supporters who dine there between 4pm and 9pm that day will go to the theater.

Coming up: More fun with fairy tales as a community theater in the West Valley presents “Into the Woods” and more