Tag Archives: Karol Cooper

Charlotte’s Web

Young Arts Arizona worked with children and teens from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale to create custom artwork you can enjoy when you see the show

Valley Youth Theatre opened its production of the play “Charlotte’s Web,” directed by Lauren Antioco, this weekend. It’s a Joseph Robinette adaptation of E.B. White’s classic book about friendship, loyalty and self-sacrifice. And it’s beautifully done.

Charlotte's Web cast members get ready to meet and greet fans

The set design by Dori Brown in striking, as is lighting design by D.J. Selmeyer. Costume design by Karol Cooper perfectly captures the small farmtown setting from head to toe. Sound design by Clearwing Production is also exceptional. Taken together, they make “Charlotte’s Web” one of the best designed pieces of youth theater I’ve seen to date.

Sam Primack (Wilbur) poses with two young fans after the show

The production was also exceptionally well cast. Lead roles went to Hannah Blaile of Arcadia High School (Charlotte), Sophia Drapeau of Veritas Preparatory Academy (Fern) and Sam Primack of Cherokee Elementary (Wilbur). Primack has plenty of acting experience, and it shows. Together, the show’s 29 cast members create a cohesive, capable ensemble.

Charlotte's Web cast members pose for photos after the show

I especially enjoyed performances by the actors noted above — plus Jamie Grossman of Ironwood High School (Edith Zuckerman), Audrey Nelson of Archway Classical Academy (Little Lamb) and Aaron Zweiback (Templeton) of Arizona School for the Arts. Also Erik Wilson (Avery), a medieval history buff who didn’t note a school in his program bio.

These young ladies came out to see Sophia perform the role of Fern

A mother I talked to during intermission shared that the production had just the right balance for her two young daughters — holding their interest without being too loud or busy. To producing artistic director Bobb Cooper’s credit, “Charlotte’s Web” is just simple, elegant storytelling that shows real respect for young viewers.

Future teacher Audrey Nelson (Little Lamb) signs autographs after the show

“Charlotte’s Web” is being performed at Valley Youth Theatre through Feb. 19. Next up is Julianne Moore’s “Freckleface Strawberry” and “The Wiz” (which’ll be performed at the Herberger Theater Center). When you go, stay after the show to enjoy meeting cast members, who love signing autographs and talking with young fans.

You'll enjoy both visual and performing arts at Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix

Also take time to enjoy “Charlotte’s Web” inspired artwork created by children and teens from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale through Young Arts Arizona. Valley Youth Theatre is one of several venues that displays Young Arts Arizona works — and pictures currently exhibited at VYT feature pigs, geese, spiders and webs sporting words ala Charlotte herself.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about VYT shows, spring break camps, performing arts classes and more.

Coming up: Don’t mock the presidents!

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Annie tales

More “Annie”–Hooray! Please see update at the bottom of this post… 

Lately I’ve had the musical “Annie” on the brain. My daughter Lizabeth began interning with Childsplay in Tempe on Monday — working with Childsplay professionals during a week-long summer camp with an “Annie” theme.

Friday afternoon Childsplay campers will perform a condensed version of “Annie” for family and friends. “Annie” is the first in a series of shows featured in the 2011 Childsplay Summer Academy “musical theatre marathon.” 

Come Friday evening, Valley Youth Theatre will open their June 10-26 run of “Annie” at the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix. Ten-year-old Jada Jo Warner (pictured above) will perform the role of “Annie.” You can click here to enjoy an interview with Warner from the Herberger’s video blog.

Valley Youth Theatre performs Annie June 10-26 at the Herberger Theater Center

Warner shared, when I spoke with her on Friday, that she’d love to have a career on Broadway. VYT alumni who’ve gone on to enjoy performing arts careers include Emma Stone, Chelsea Kane, Jordin Sparks and others.

But Warner, who has a big sister studying music therapy at NYU, says she might also like to teach special needs children. “My brother is blind,” Warner told me — and he’s an inspiration.

Jessie Pauley, Skye Bowen, Jada Jo Warner and Jahnay Pearson in Annie with VYT

Warner is the middle child of Kurt and Brenda Warner, and told me her six siblings range in age from 5 to 22. The youngest sibs are twins, and must make for a fun audience when Warner works her way singing and dancing through the house.

“Annie” is Warner’s fourth show with Valley Youth Theatre. Warner says she’s also been an Oompa Loompa in “Willy Wonka,” a butterfly in “Pinkalicious” and a racoon in “Winnie the Pooh.”

Megan Mahoney, Joshua McWhortor and Karol Cooper in Annie with VYT

I asked Warner, who studies voice with Kelli James, what she’d sung during “Annie” auditions. “I knew I had to sing a really belty song,” recalls Warner, “because Annie belts.” She chose “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from the musical “Funny Girl.” 

Warner says the audition panel was “surprised” when she hit the highest notes. She cheerfully recounts being invited to subsequent call backs with fewer and fewer people there to read and sing. Warner says the other two “Annie” finalists, both good friends of hers, were cast as orphans.

Bobb Cooper, Jada Jo Warner and other cast members from Annie with VYT

I’m told there’s an open audition next week in New York City for a future production of “Annie” — a show that never seems to go out of style. I sent Warner a link to related information, imagining how fun it would be to see local talent in a new production of the show.

1977 poster for Annie on Broadway

“Annie” earned the 1977 Tony Award for best musical — and plenty of other Tony Awards too — for best actress, book, choreographer, costume designer, scenic designer and score.

The cast of Valley Youth Theatre’s “Annie” will wrap this Sunday’s 2pm performance just in time to race home and catch the 2011 Tony Awards on CBS. Perhaps years from now, they’ll be the ones accepting the awards.

— Lynn

Note: Turns out there’s an online audition process for a future production of “Funny Girl” out there too. “Fanny Brice” wannabees can click here to learn more. NEW: Click here for profiles of girls who auditioned for “Annie” (from The New York Times).

Coming up: “Strange Bedfellows” in Scottsdale, Road trip: Utah Shakespeare Festival, Women’s work

Photo credit: Kristin Rathbun Photography

Update: Thanks to Queen Creek Community Theatre for alerting me to their June 24, 25 & 27 performances of “Annie” at the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center.

Tickets are available online at www.qcpac.com or by calling 480-987-SHOW (7469).

The Queen Creek Performing Arts Center is located at 22149 E. Ocotillo Rd. in Queen Creek.