Tag Archives: Marvin Hamlisch

Tony Award winners heading to Scottsdale

Sometimes good news is bittersweet. I’m thrilled with the line-up of Broadway talent coming the the Valley during the 2011/12 season, but lamenting the loss of my best theater buddy. My 17-year-old daughter Lizabeth graduated Thursday night from Arizona School for the Arts in Phoenix, and heads to NYC this fall to start B.F.A. in acting studies.

I suppose it heralds a new stage in a relationship forged largely through our shared love of theater. I’ll be attending Valley theater events on my own, and she’ll be enjoying live theater on Broadway and throughout the region. Hopefully she’ll find time to call home now and then so we can swap stories.

Bebe Newerth has Tony Awards for her performances in Chicago and Sweet Charity

I’ll have plenty of Tony Award® winning powerhouses to take my mind off missing Lizabeth — Bebe Neuwirth, Tyne Daly, Patti LuPone, Jane Krakowski. Though it’s unlikely even their performances will never top my memories of watching Lizabeth perform in her final ASA Showcase at the Orpheum — where she and fellow theater students rocked “21 Guns” from “American Idiot” and did a twisted take on “Little Red Riding Hood” proud.

We’ve been enjoying art exhibits and live performances together at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts for as long as I can remember. Dance recitals. Outdoor symphony concerts. And most recently, an evening with Broadway legend Betty Buckley and Seth Rudetsky.

We were thrilled to see Kristin Chenoweth during her ARTrageous performance at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, though disappointed we’d missed her latte run to the local Starbucks. ARTrageous 2011, titled “An Evening on Broadway,” stars Marvin Hamlisch, Linda Eder and J. Mark McVey.

ARTrageous takes place Sat, Dec. 3 — making tickets or an evening of music together the perfect holiday gift. Choose the VIP ticket option if you’d also like to enjoy cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, dinner and an apres-concert desert reception — as well as local entertainment and a silent auction — to benefit the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

Hamlisch has not only a Tony Award®, but also three Oscars, four Emmys, four Grammys and three Golden Globes. When last Lizabeth was asked to write about a composer whose work she admired, Hamlisch was the logical choice. His music for “A Chorus Line” was recognized with a Pulitzer Prize, and we adore it.

Eder is a versatile vocalist who elevates everything she sings, from Broadway and jazz to country and pop. Her newest CD, titled “Now,” couples Eder’s artistry with that of Broadway and pop composer Frank Wildhorn. McVey made his Broadway debut as Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables” after his touring performance earned the Helen Hayes Award for “Outstanding Actor.”

Ben Vereen brings his musical autobiography to Scottsdale in November

Broadway fans should take note of at least two other offerings from the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts 2011/12 season. Tony Award® winner Ben Vereen performs a “musical autobiography” of his life titled “Steppin’ Out” on Sat, Nov 19. And the Tues, Dec 6 “Keyboard Conversations”® with Jeffrey Siegel (think concert plus commentary) features a “Gershwin and Friends” theme. (Check out the “Keyboard in the Sky”™ while Siegel tickles the ivories.)

I’d live on Broadway if they’d let me. I’d love to pop in and out of all sorts of theaters, and sneak occasional peaks at the daughter who’ll be honing her own acting craft just a few blocks away. But something tells me Lizabeth won’t be missing the theater together time nearly as much as me. And that’s as it should be.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to read a companion post featuring news of a new exhibit at the Scottsdale Civic Center Library — and related events that’ll up the exhibit’s fun factor.

Coming up: From Sondheim to South Park


One singular sensation

Mesa and Phoenix welcome a touring production of "A Chorus Line" this week

Actor Michael Douglas reclaimed the headlines recently after sharing that his throat cancer has been successfuly treated. It’s a great relief to Douglas’ many fans, and wife Catherine Zeta-Jones — who won the 2010 Tony Award for best lead actress in a musical for her performance in “A Little Night Music.”

But did you know that Douglas, perhaps best known for roles in “Fatal Attraction” with Glenn Close and the television series “The Streets of San Francisco,” was in the 1985 “A Chorus Line” film?

“A Chorus Line” is the tale of diverse dancers auditioning for a role in a Broadway musical. Douglas played Kurt, the director auditioning these 17 dancers on a bare stage that leaves them feeling various degrees of vulnerability.

It’s a story with true staying power — as evidenced by its current national tour, produced by NETworks Presentations, which stops this week in the Valley. A final Mesa performance takes place Wed, Jan 12. “A Chorus Line” hits the Orpheum Theater in Phoenix Jan 13-16, thanks to the Theater League.

It’s a “mature audiences only” production with a single act that runs about two hours  — but I consider it perfectly fine for teens, and even some children who are experienced in musical theater. Individual parents are always the best at judging such things.

Lizabeth and I are excited about seeing the show while it’s here, especially since she’s readying to travel from coast to coast to audition for musical theater college programs.

A year or so ago we enjoyed the work of documentary film makers Adam Del Deo and James D. Stearn, who shot more than 500 hours of footage as auditions and casting were underway in New York for the 2006 Broadway revival of “A Chorus Line.”

The resulting film — titled “Every Little Step” — presents a singular glimpse into the rigors of musical theater training and performance. We enjoyed seeing it at the Harkins Camelview 5 near our home, which often features films you can’t easily find in mainstream movie theaters.

Karley Willocks plays "Maggie" in "A Chorus Line" in the Valley through Jan 16

“A Chorus Line” originally opened on Broadway in 1975, and was the longest-running musical in Broadway history until eclipsed by “Cats.” Personally, I favor dancers in leotards over cats who sing and dance — but that’s just me.

The book for “A Chorus Line” was written by James Kirkwood, Jr. and Nicholas Dante. Edward Kleban wrote the lyrics and Marvin Hamlisch composed the music. It’s a “must see” musical for musical theater aficionados — and those who love them.

“It’s really a musical about us,” shares dancer and actress Karley Willocks — who performs the role of Maggie in the touring production now on Valley stages. She’s been dancing since her parents enrolled in her tap and ballet classes at the age of three.

Willocks auditioned for her first theater role when she was eight years old, following the lead of her best friend at the time. Her friend wasn’t cast, but Willocks landed the role of orphan “Duffy” in the musical “Annie.”

She spent many years performing with “The Talent Machine” in Annapolis, Maryland — where her favorite shows included “Brigadoon,” “Anything Goes,” and “Pippin.” Willocks also did high school theater before entering the musical theatre program at Shenandoah University in Virginia, where she earned a B.F.A.

Willocks first performed the role of Maggie in a Tennessee production of “A Chorus Line” the summer right after she graduated. “I grew up listening to the soundtrack,” she recalls — and had also seen the movie.

She recommends the musical for anyone whose life is touched by dance or theater — including families with budding performers in their midst. But “A Chorus Line” also appeals to a wider audience.

“It helps to know that these are real stories or real dancers in the ’70s,” reflects Willocks. For her, “A Chrous Line” is about “putting yourself out there — no matter what it takes.”

— Lynn

Note: Watch for a future post offering Willocks’ insights into the college theater program audition process — plus tips from Halley Shefler of The Arts Edge, which offers educational consulting for visual and performing arts students

Coming up: Art-related resources for bullying prevention

Update: Click here to read part two of my interview with Karley Willocks, and to read a “mini-review” of “A Chorus Line” by Mala Blomquist of Raising Arizona Kids magazine.

Orpheum welcomes Broadway ala Theater League

I recently stumbled on a brochure for Theater League while at the Ticketmaster box office in downtown Phoenix picking up tickets for the Arizona School for the Arts 2010 Showcase. 

Chorus Line lapel pin

Theater League is a Kansas City-based “not-for-profit, tax-exempt, community-based performing arts organization dedicated to the development of professional legitimate theater, both as a cultural and an educational resource.” 

The League’s “constituent communities” include Mesa and Phoenix, Santa Barbara and Thousand Oaks (California), South Bend (Indiana), Toledo (Ohio) and Wichita (Kansas). 

Their 2010-2011 Broadway Series at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix will include four productions: 

The Color Purple—described by Theater League as “a moving tribute to the power of hope over adversity.” It’s based on Alice Walker’s novel and the Steven Spielberg film starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. The musical recounts Celie’s struggle to overcome the oppression of the segregated South to find her beloved sister Nettie and reunite with her children. Oct 14-17, 2010. 

Spamalot 'Killer Bunny Puppet'

Cirque Dreams Illumination—described as “a fascinating journey into the depths of a city that ignites with imagination, suspense and theatrical innovation.” The performance features “brilliant costumes, hair-raising feats of skill and side-splitting comedy” (which sounds remarkably similar to a typical day in ‘toddler town’). Nov. 11-14, 2010.

A Chorus Line—described as “the show that introduced the world to those chorus line dancers whose hopes and dreams make the Broadway musical possible.” It features a score by Marvin Hamlisch, and has earned numerous awards (including the Tony Award for Best Musical and the Pulitzer Prize). Jan 13-16, 2011. (It’s a must for anyone seriously considering ‘show biz’ as a lifestyle choice.) 

Chorus Line coffee mug (or shotglass?)

Monty Python’s Spamalot—described as “the outrageous new musical comedy lovingly ripped off from the film classic ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail.’” It follows the adventures of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table as they seek the vessel believed to have been used by Jesus at the “Last Supper” with his followers, and features “flying cows, killer rabbits, taunting Frenchmen” and more. Feb 17-20, 2011

Theater League shares that their presentations include “the top national touring companies of all the major Broadway musicals of the last twenty-five years.”

“In addition,” they note, “the League’s own in-house producing division mounts annual revivals of classic Broadway fare featuring stars of stage, screen and television.”

One of several Spamalot buttons

The Orpheum Theatre Broadway Series is sponsored by Wyndham Phoenix, and both season and individual tickets are available. 

Season ticket holders receive one free parking pass for each show (for the Wells Fargo Parking Garage adjacent to the Orpheum Theatre), first choice of seating (before tickets go on sale to the public), a Theater League membership card (good for select discounts at other Valley theaters as well as special dining deals), and ticket exchange opportunities. 

I’ve long been a season ticket holder for the ASU Gammage Broadway Series, and find season ticket holder benefits—including easy replacement of lost tickets and opportunities to upgrade seats as needed—invaluable. 

Folks who order season tickets and become a Theater League member by June 15 will automatically be entered in their “New York Sweepstakes.” The sweepstakes winner will enjoy round trip airfare for a trip for two to NYC, including two nights hotel accommodations and two “VIP tickets” to a Broadway show. 

One of many Chorus Line posters

You can learn more about all things Theater League—including their education and outreach programs—by visiting them online at www.theaterleague.com

At this point I’m really left with only one burning question… 

Are these the folks who brought “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” to town with my childhood crush (Donny Osmond) all those years ago? 

"Every Little Step" film

If so, please let Donny know how very proud I am of his mirror ball trophy and that I’ll be first in line should he ever decide to reprise his ‘dreamboat in a dreamcoat’ gig. 


Note: Photos depict items available from the online Playbill store at www.playbillstore.com. It’s among our favorite places to shop for our very own Broadway baby, who hopes the birthday fairy comes through next week with a CD of the “American Idiot” cast recording.

Coming up: Diverse summer offerings from Phoenix Theatre–including master classes, theater camps, summer of dance program, workshops with Valley theater professionals and more