Tag Archives: John Lennon

Monday, Monday

The house was full of baby boomers Sunday afternoon as Phoenix Theatre presented an updated version of the work they debuted in 2007 — a “nearly true story of the Mamas & Papas” dubbed “Dream a Little Dream.” It explores the intertwined and sometimes twisted personal and professional lives of four musicians — John Phillips, Michelle Phillips, Denny Doherty and Mama Cass. It’s directed and choreographed by Michael Barnard.

The work originated as a monologue performance by Doherty, first performed in Nova Scotia during 1996. It was directed by Paul Ledoux, who now shares the bookwriting credit with Doherty. Seeing Doherty’s take made me long for a version akin to the movie “Vantage Point” — which considers events from the perspectives of several folks close to the scene of a crime.

Explore the life and times of The Mamas & The Papas through May 27 at Phoenix Theatre

The Phoenix Theatre cast includes two actors from their previous production of “Dream a Little Dream” — Alisa Schiff-Warner (Mama Cass) and Michael Sample (John Phillips). Evan Siegel (Denny Doherty) and Tori Anderson (Michelle Phillips) are new to Phoenix Theatre. All four are members of Actor’s Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers in the U.S.

Behind all the groovy tunes (and sometimes within them), there was plenty of “Sturm und Drang.” Sexual liaisons. Drug use. Lousy choices in matters big and small. It made me think the show should be required viewing for high schoolers who assume too often that all those hippie years were laced with magic rather than mayhem. The show’s final scenes are especially bittersweet, and touching even to those who already know how the story ends.

“Dream a Little Dream” features dozens of songs, so fans of The Mamas & The Papas get a good fix. My personal favorites during the show included “500 Miles” and “Monday, Monday.” Also “San Francisco,” sung by Sam Sherwood (Scott McKenzie) in front of vintage footage from the “City on the Bay” and “Dream a Little Dream” featuring soulful, bluesy vocals by Kimball.

Much of the show’s humor stems from vignettes with fellow famous folk like John Lennon (Sam Sherwood) and Ed Sullivan (Beau Heckman). Its greatest visual appeal is lighting (Mike Eddy) with a psychedelic vibe and costumes (Connie Furr-Soloman) equally lush in pattern and color. Dark set elements apparently painted to make a glow in the dark effect possible were a bit off-putting.

I’d have preferred a cleaner palette for the show’s other design elements — and wish the live band’s sound hadn’t been somewhat muted by its placement behind the show’s backdrop. Still, it’s a fun bit of musical theater meets memory lane. Haul out your go-go boots and all things fringe. Then take a spin back in time, grateful if you’re old enough to have both lived through and survived the ’60s.

— Lynn

Note: Phoenix Theatre performs “Dream a Little Dream” through May 27 — click here for show and ticket information. Click here to read more about the life and times of The Mamas & The Papas in a Vanity Fair piece titled “California Dreamgirl” by Sheila Weller .

Coming up: Mark Lewis talks Beatles tribute “RAIN”

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Crepes and creativity

When my girls were younger, we loved heading into Tempe on weekend mornings to hit a little creperie that used to live on Mill Avenue. They loved watching folks pour the batter for paper-thin crepes they’d later eat with warm butter, cinnamon and sugar as we sat on a comfy couch playing board games or reading from an odd assortment of local papers.

I recalled those board game days while driving to Flagstaff last weekend with Lizabeth and two of her friends from high school. One recently celebrated a birthday and Lizabeth had chosen a board game as her birthday gift. They unwrapped it in the car and played for most of what should have been a trip to Prescott.

Instead, we ended up missing the turn off and heading farther north for what we’ve affectionately dubbed our “eight hour drive to Prescott.” I like to think that the Pokemon made me do it. Somehow a “smart phone” blasting the Pokemon theme song in five languages, plus rap, made it to the center console of the car we’d borrowed from James’ parents for the trip.

It all went horribly wrong somewhere between Hebrew and Portugese – but we made the best of it. Like me, one of Lizabeth’s friends finds the sight of trees intoxicating. The higher our elevation, the more spellbinding the green. And so I decided to push ahead instead of turning around.

The girls called a friend at NAU and suggested an IHOP rendezvous, but she’d just paid for Wi-Fi elsewhere and didn’t want the cash to be for naught. Just another sign I was traveling with a generation experiencing the world in sometimes tough to translate ways. Still, the trip to Flagstaff proved a delicious detour when I stumbled on a creperie well worth the drive.

I chose a crepe with bananas, strawberries and chocolate chips – which melted into chocolate heaven when placed in a delicate crepe crafted by the “thumbs up guy” in one of my photos below. I like to think of him as the food artisan who got my visit to Flagstaff during “Artists’ Open Studio” weekend off to a delicious start.

I hit several outdoor courtyards sporting colorful wall murals, unique combinations of sculpture and seating, and shops filled with artisan wares of the non-edible variety. The caramel apples dipped in coconut or M & M candies displayed in a storefront window don’t quality as art, but I was pleased to stumble on them – drawing inspiration for future adventures in home “cooking.”

I enjoyed the photography of Steve Barth, a Jersey-born Air Force veteran who recently relocated from Salt Lake City to Flagstaff. And jewelry by ceramic artist Karen Myers – both spotted at The Artists’ Gallery in historic downtown Flagstaff. It’s full of fun finds for folks seeking unique holiday, birthday or teacher gifts.

A shop called The Rainbow’s End beckoned me with vintage clothing and a hip assortment of shoes and handbags akin to The Shoe Mill in Tempe – including the mustard-colored satchel I bought to replace a new tote Jennifer took to ASU before I had a chance to use it.

A place called Crystal Magic, which describes itself as a “resource center for discovery and personal growth” — with its many offerings related to Eastern religions and philosophy — reminded me at once of both Jennifer and my mother. Shelves full of fairies reminded me of all those Shakespeare works enjoyed with Lizabeth.

I explored a local bookshop and music store too — something I try to do in every town I visit, an homage of sorts to our own Hoodlums Music and Movies and Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe and a way to support the local folks who keep print and music treasures alive.

Soon it was time for the trip back to Prescott so I headed to Late for the Train, where I found both espresso and counters faced with corrigated aluminum covered in loads of liberal bumber stickers quoting everyone from John Lennon to Napoleon. Also The Rendezvous, where we got directions on finding our way back to the freeway.

I’d asked the girls find directions on their cell phones, forgetting for a time that it’s still possible to simply ask another person, face to face, for assistance — cementing in my mind something I’ve long suspected. I’ll never be cut out for “The Amazing Race.”

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— Lynn

Note: The colorful cat sculpture included in this slide show is part of the Coconino Coalition for Children and Youth “Promoting Assets with Sculpture” (PAWS) program. Learn more at www.coconinokids.org. Find Old Town Creperie at www.oldtowncreperie.net and The Artists’ Gallery at www.flagstaffartistsgallery.com.

Coming up: Zoo tales & curious critters

Stories & songs with Bill Harley

Maybe you didn’t make it to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix for the recent celebration of John Lennon’s 70th birthday.

Bill Harley brings family-friendly story and song to the MIM in Phoenix on Sunday (Photo: Tom Thurston)

No worries. Sunday will be another fabulous day at the MIM as Grammy Award winner Bill Harley brings his family-friendly fare to the MIM Music Theater.

I spoke recently with the prolific singer/songwriter, storyteller, author and playwright — and his team was kind enough to send me review copies of his latest CD (“The Best Candy in the Whole World”) and soon-to-be-published paperback (“Between Home and School.”)

Harley is the father of two grown sons and currently lives with his wife Debbie near Providence, Rhode Island. He grew up in Indianapolis and Connecticut.

Two of Harley’s “Best Candy” stories are originals — while others are adapted from the British Isles, Africa and Appalachia. While you’re at the MIM for Harley’s concert, take some time to experience musical instruments from these (and other) regions.

"Best Candy" from Bill Harley is a decadent dessert for those with a sweet tooth for storytelling

I asked Harley whether storytelling seems a dying art. “It can’t really die,” shared Harley, “because it’s what people do.” Storytelling, says Harley, is what makes people human.

While talking about the family-friendly nature of his show, Harley noted that “songs and stories always go hand in hand culturally.” But what exactly is a story?

Story is “saying what happens before and imagining what happens after,” reflects Harley. “History is the winner telling the story.”

“My job,” says Harley, “is to watch, listen and pay attention” — adding that artists help others take a second look, to notice things they might otherwise miss.

So what are we missing as parents today? Many would say it’s family together time. Or ways to connect and communicate with our kids. Which is why a shared experience of story and song might be just the ticket this weekend.

Bill Harley's "Between Home and School" is an ode to the fine art of communicating

“I’ve done my job,” says Harley, “if I give kids and parents a common language.” Harley loves seeing parents and children in the audience elbowing each other during his show with a “Yup, that’s us” grin.

We focus too often, observes Harley, on what we think kids need to learn in order to grow up. It’s no less important, he says, to honor children’s emotional lives.

Harley describes his work as more descriptive than prescriptive — hoping concertgoers will leave considering not simply what they know, but what they feel.

–Lynn

Note: Harley performs this Sunday at 2:30pm at the MIM Music Theater. Visit www.themim.org or call 480-478-6000 to learn more about this concert and others in the MIM 2010-2011 Concert & Film Season.

Coming up: Reflections on NPR, “Glee” and GQ magazine

Cupcakes for peace?

Photo: Getty Images

I was in great company Saturday as I commemorated the 70th birthday of musician, artist and peace activist John Lennon at the MIM — the majestic Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix.

I was lucky to get there after my car died, apparently to show me who was boss as it slowed to a crawl on the freeway and I begged it to give me just one more round of 100,000 miles.

I was on the way downtown to drop Lizabeth off for a QSpeak Theatre event before heading to the MIM when my car started shifting itself into lower and lower gears.

This has become a rather unwelcome tradition for our family.

The last one to go was a white Volvo station wagon that never made it through the day long ago when I had three “stage mom” gigs — getting the kids to their annual piano recital, getting Lizabeth to something “Nutcracker” related and something else that has slipped my mind over time.

My husband James came to our rescue soon after we’d coasted to a local gas station, so I was able to get to the MIM in time for the 2:30pm performance by Tetra String Quartet playing works by John Lennon.

This gracious fellow was ever so patient as museum patrons made that all important decision -- chocolate or vanilla (Photo: The MIM)

I stopped first by the MIM Cafe, where elegant black and white cupcakes decorated with various musical symbols (what, no peace signs?) were being given out for free — and had to check a mirror soon after to assure I wasn’t making my way through the MIM with a cupcake moustache a la those lovely “Got Milk?” commercials.

The cupcakes were from the newly renovated Fry’s Marketplace at Tatum & Shea, which seems to have become a sort of museum of menu items and more in its own right. They’re especially yummy for those of us who enjoy a bit of cake with our frosting.

Soon the musical performance began, as well over 100 museum patrons looked on — sometimes humming, singing and clapping along while others the world over were similarly engaged in communal birthday celebrations for the legendary John Lennon.

Everywhere I turned there was an homage to Lennon. Greeters at the ticket counter donned eyeglasses with round rose- or blue-colored lenses. Middle age music lovers sported endless variations of Lennon t-shirts. I even ran into a young couple who told me of another museum guest whose arm is tatooted with Lennon’s self-portrait.

I never found the man with the inked homage, but I did locate the exhibit featuring the upright Steinway Lennon used to compose “Imagine” — and something called the “Peace Piano” nearby.

Displayed on the wall were guitars from various artists including Eric Clapton and Paul Simon. The MIM is a vast treasure trove of instruments from around the world — but you feel after seeing just this one space, dubbed the “Artist Gallery,” that you’ve died and gone to music nutopia.

The Tetra String Quartet performed for MIM patrons

Just next door on the first of two floors there’s a room where you can try your hand at all kinds of instruments from around the globe — drums, stringed-instruments, a giant gong and more. Kids find the “Experience Gallery” in a heartbeat and know instinctively what they need to do: Play!

At the other end of the first floor, there’s an open performance space for “museum encounters” featuring diverse musical styles, plus a gift shop full of things you just won’t find elsewhere — exquisite jewelry (much of it with tasteful musical themes), CDs and books featuring the music and people of dozens of countries and nations, and percussion pieces as essential as books to developing young imaginations.

I came home with black “MIM” guitar picks, bookmarks and postcards (including one depicting “Strawberry Fields” in NYC’s Central Park). I’m also the proud new owner of a children’s book titled “M is for Music” (written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Stacy Innerst).

The book opens with music-related quotes from Friedrich Nietzsche, Charlie Parker, Helen Keller and Frank Zappa. “B” is for Beatles. “K” is for Klezmer. “M” is for music, music teachers, mistakes and Mozart. And “W” is for whistling. What’s not to love?

My other favorite finds of the day included the books “Do Re Mi: If You Can Read Music, Thank Guido d’Arezzo” and “Opera Cat” — plus a long list of CDs featuring everything from Persian classical music and traditional Navajo songs to Sufi music for whirling meditation and live performance by “Playing for Change.”

Jennifer and I first heard “Playing for Change” perform at the Mesa Arts Center, and hope to see them again when they perform at the MIM on Oct 26. While at the MIM on Saturday, I picked up the brochure for their 2010-2011 Concert & Film Season.

Upcoming performers include Lakota Sioux Indian Dance Theatre, Harlem Gospel Choir, ASU African Drum Ensemble, Young Sounds of Arizona and many more. I’ll profile the MIM’s film line-up in a future post.

One of many snappy dressers who embraced the spirit of the day (Photo: The MIM)

Before leaving the museum on Saturday, I headed to the MIM Music Theater — where a self-playing piano sat center stage, bathed in multic-color lights, playing Lennon’s music for those who’d made the musical pilgrimage that day.

One floor above sat a baby grand piano with an empty bench, available for anyone to play. A nearby sign beckoned folks to play their own variations of “Imagine.” No one heeded the invitation while I was there, but I suspect they were simply mindful of not getting all that cupcake icing on those glistening ivories.

Somehow I don’t think Lennon would mind.

–Lynn

Note: Click here to learn about an upcoming ASU event featuring Bill DeWalt, director and president of the MIM (which I learned about from my husband James).

Coming up: “Fences” and family foibles, Mesa meets Denmark?

Looking back on Lennon

I was a college student studying in Germany the year John Lennon was killed — and remember seeing the news unfold on a tiny television mounted on the wall of a restaurant I frequented for German fare like “wiener schnitzel mit pommes frites.”

Lennon was twenty years my senior, and it was his death that first raised my consciousness of his music and other art. “Before he was a Beatle,” reports the New York Daily News, “John Lennon was an art student.” Many consider him artist, poet and philosopher.

Today (Sat, Oct 9) I’m heading to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix to join others in celebrating Lennon’s life and work. This would have been Lennon’s 70th birthday, and I’m eager to reflect alongside the Lennon piano on exhibit at the MIM. 

It’s an upright Steinway piano — a humble brown instrument that looks remarkably similar to the upright Steinway I bought for my children after my mother’s death more than a decade ago. I hadn’t considered the similarities until today.

Lennon piano currently on exhibit at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix (Photo: Lynn Trimble)

The Lennon piano displayed at the MIM is part of a larger collection of Steinway instruments and other keyboards, but this piano has special significance for Lennon fans and peace advocates the world over.

Sitting at this piano, Lennon composed the song “Imagine.”

I first heard the music of Lennon, and McCartney, at some point along that nebulous transition from toddler to preschooler. The first record album I ever owned was The Beatles’ “Please Please Me.”

I remember dancing to the simple, upbeat tunes atop a stage of sorts in a hip-at-the-time sunken living room. I don’t recall whether the house was our own or one of many I toured with my father, who did both residential and commercial real estate in Denver.

At some point an electric guitar, since passed down from my father to my oldest daughter, came into the picture. I used to sit and play it atop the muddy blue hard shell case that doubled as an amp and speaker. I don’t think I was much bigger than that case at the time.

I recall writing the words to several of the love songs from that first record down on school notebook paper so I could try to share them with Eric, an elementary school crush who had more interest in running around a baseball diamond than pretending to walk down the aisle.

We were all too young at the time to appreciate the power of Lennon’s music — but I have to wonder if he’s out there somewhere remembering the little girl with long braids who recognized the romantic qualities of The Beatles’ music early on.

More recently, I’ve grown to admire Lennon’s activism — though I suppose one could argue that art and activism are one and the same.

Visit the MIM to learn more about this "Peace Piano" (Photo: Lynn Trimble)

I went with my son Christopher to see the movie “The U.S. vs. John Lennon” at Harkins Camelview 5 in Scottsdale soon after its 2006 release. It was a fine film, and a timely tool for talking with Christopher about issues of war and peace.

Movie-related materials refer to “exploring Vietnam-era struggles that remain relevent today.” Maybe that’s what keeps so many of us feeling connected to John Lennon even today.

Imagine. Act. Repeat. This, perhaps, is Lennon’s most enduring legacy.

–Lynn