Tag Archives: Miracle on 34th Street

Theater meets Christmas

Irving Berlin's White Christmas comes to ASU Gammage in Tempe Dec. 6-11

More than a dozen Valley venues are presenting family-friendly theater fare with a Christmas theme. Here’s an early round-up, listed by city, to help families who celebrate Christmas with holiday planning…


Musical Theatre of Anthem presents a “Holiday Show” Dec. 16. www.musicaltheatreofanthem.org.

Fountain Hills

Fountain Hills Theater presents “Christmas Jukebox” Nov. 25-Dec. 18. www.fhtaz.org.


Hale Theatre Arizona presents “It’s a Wonderful Life” through Nov. 26 and  “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 1-23. www.haletheatrearizona.com.


Spotlight Youth Theatre presents “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” Dec. 2-18. www.spotlightyouththeatre.org.


Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre presents “A Christmas Carol” Nov. 17-Dec. 25. www.broadwaypalmwest.com.

East Valley Children’s Theatre presents “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” Dec. 1-11. www.evct.org.

Southwest Shakespeare Company presents “A Christmas Carol” Nov. 26-Dec. 17. www.swshakespeare.org.

Southwest Shakespeare Company performs A Christmas Carol Nov. 26-Dec. 17 in Mesa


Arizona Broadway Theatre presents “Miracle on 34th St.” Nov. 25-Dec. 29 and “A Broadway Christmas Carol” Dec. 9-17. www.arizonabroadwaytheatre.com.

The Homestead Playhouse presents “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 1-4. www.dcranchnet.com.

Theater Works presents “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 2-18. Theater Works/Youth Works Puppet Works presents “Saving Santa” Dec. 3-24 (Sat only). www.theaterworks.com.


Grand Canyon University presents “Amahl and the Night Visitors” Dec. 2-11. www.gcu.edu.

New Carpa Theater Co. presents “American Pastorela” Dec. 9-18 at the Third Street Theater (Phoenix Center for the Arts). www.newcarpa.org. (Mature content)

Phoenix Theatre presents “A Christmas Story” Nov. 23-Dec. 18. www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Space 55 presents “A Bloody Mary Christmas II” Dec. 1-17 and “7 Minutes Under the Mistletoe” Dec. 17. www.space55.org. (Mature content)

The Black Theatre Troupe presents “Black Nativity” Dec. 2-11. www.blacktheatretroupe.org.

Valley Youth Theatre presents “A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail” Dec 2-23. www.vyt.com.


Theatre Artists Studio presents “Holiday Music & Musings: From the Page to the Stage” Dec. 2. www.thestudiophx.org.

Sun City

Sun City Grand Drama and Comedy Club presents “Over the River and Through the Woods” Dec. 1-4. www.granddrama.com.

East Valley Children's Theatre presents The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Dec. 1-11


ASU Gammage presents “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” (touring production) Dec. 6-11. www.asugammage.com.

If your Valley organization is presenting a theater production with a Christmas, or other winter holiday, theme — please comment below to let readers know.

— Lynn

Note: A calendar of family-friendly events is always available online at www.raisingarizonakids.com. This post will be updated as I learn of additional theater offerings with a Christmas theme. Although most of the events noted above are designed for family audiences, please note that some are “mature audience” only productions.

Coming up: Christmas concerts, A cup of cheer

Update: Some of these shows are extending their runs, so check theater company websites for the latest and greatest information. 11/26/11


Anthem tales

I met a 12-year-old named Sarah Miller, and her mother Ruth, during intermission for Tuesday night’s performance of “Mamma Mia!” at ASU Gammage

I was delighted to learn that Sarah has performed in several community theater productions in Anthem, where she lives and plans to attend The Caepe School come fall.

I spoke with Sarah by phone Wednesday evening, after she’d finished a dance class with Dynamic Motion Dance Academy in Anthem — where she studies jazz, musical theater and tap. She’s also trained in ballet and hip hop.

I spotted Sarah in the huge “Mamma Mia!” crowd thanks to her powder blue t-shirt with a large “Mamma Mia!” logo. Although Sarah told me she loves the show, she was most eager to talk about her hometown theaters — Starlight Community Theater and Musical Theatre of Anthem.

Sarah has performed in several Starlight Community Theater productions — including “Beauty and the Beast” and “Cinderella,” plus her very favorite piece of musical theater — “Annie.” Sarah’s last “Starlight” role was “Tweedle Dum” in “Alice in Wonderland.”

Both Starlight and MTA of Anthem feature performances by and for youth

She’s excited about Starlight’s 2011/12 season, which includes “Willy Wonka,” “Miracle of 34th Street – The Musical,” “Fame!,” “Arsenic and Old Lace,” “Rapunzel,” and “Once Upon a Mattress.”

Playwright and director Jim Gradillas, artistic director for Creative Stages Youth Theatre in Peoria, will be heading the “Rapunzel” production. Sarah praises Gradillas for working directly with each actor, for being a master at motivating kids to do their best, and for using games and other strategies to keep theater time fresh and fun.

So far Sarah has performed in just a single Musical Theatre of Anthem production — “The Wizard of Oz.” But she hopes to perform in more MTA shows down the road.

The 2011/12 lineup for Musical Theatre of Anthem includes “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.,” “13,” “Willy Wonka, Jr.,” “Seussical, Jr.,” and “Annie.” Sarah describes it as “a good selection” but already knows at least one show will conflict with other plans for the coming year.

Sarah is especially excited about auditioning for “Annie.” While she’d love to play the lead, Sarah told me that young actors have the best chance of getting major roles when they indicate a genuine willingness to accept any part they’re offered.

When I asked Sarah for additional audition tips for children and teens, she happily shared quite a few of them. Be present. Don’t act nervous. Make eye contact. Be easygoing. And most of all, don’t be fake. “Act like yourself,” suggests Sarah.

The approach seems to be working for Sarah, who shared that she’s already recording her singing and working with a producer at Island Def Jam Recordings.

She’d love to break into the music business or land an acting gig with Disney or Nickelodeon. She even shared this link to her performance of “I Could Have Danced All Night.”

Whatever the future holds for Sarah, it’s clear that her time on Anthem stages is serving her well — and that the memories she’s making right here in the Valley will last a lifetime.

— Lynn

Note: Visit the websites for Musical Theatre of Anthem and Starlight Community Theater to learn about current productions and summer programs. And watch for a photo of Sarah coming soon…

Coming up: Transformers — opera style, New plays — festival style

Update: An open call audition for the roles of Annie and the orphans in a new Broadway production of “Annie” is taking place June 12 for girls ages 6-12. Click here for details.

Starlight shares new season

Starlight Community Theater in Anthem is among just a handful of community theaters who’ve already announced their 2011-2012 season.

When I got the news, I noticed that five of the six pieces have previous film adaptations. Some are based on books, some have Broadway adaptations and one has even been adapted for radio broadcast.

In previous incarnations, they starred folks like Natalie Wood, Gene Wilder, Sarah Jessica Parker, Johnny Depp, Boris Karloff, Carol Burnett and Eddie Albert.

The 2011-2012 Starlight Community Theater season opens with “Willy Wonka” — based on a 1964 Roald Dahl book titled “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” A 1971 film adaptation starred Gene Wilder, while the 2005 version featured Johnny Depp.

I think it would be grand fun to have a “Willy Wonka” weekend. Let your kids invite some friend over to watch the films, enjoy a sleepover and hit a matinee of the Spotlight performance the next day.

The game and craft possibilities are plentiful. Think giant colored “lollypops” that spin atop long sticks. Treasure hunts for small candies. Board games like “Candyland.” An old-fashioned taffy pull. Puzzles with a candy theme. Facepainting peppermints and gumdrops on glowing cheeks.

I love the fact that kids can access these works in other ways before or after seeing the Starlight productions on stage.

They can watch both “Miracle on 34th Street” films (1947, 1994) before seeing Starlight perform “Miracle on 34th Street, the Musical” on stage. And enjoy the 2010 Disney film “Tangled” before attending the Starlight performance of “Rapunzel” (a “Jim Gradillas Kids Production”). And they can read Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Princes and the Pea” before seeing the stage adaptation called “Once Upon a Mattress.”

The content is a bit more mature for two of their 2011-2012 offerings. Tweens and teens familiar with the 1980 and/or 2009 film versions of “Fame” may enjoy revisiting the movies before seeing Starlight perform “Fame!” on stage. There’s also “Arsenic & Old Lace” who those who enjoy mixing their slapstick with a good dose of dark comedy.

Stay tuned to the Starlight Community Theater website for additional details — audition dates, performance dates and more specifics on each show. Then have fun with these shows. Think birthday parties, outings with grandparents, playdates with friends.

And if one of these shows inspires your child to create a fun piece of artwork, write an original poem, perform a delightful puppet show — or craft something else fueled by his or her own creativity, I’d love to hear about it or share some photos with our readers.

— Lynn

Note: You can always send photos of your children’s music, dance and theater-inspired art to me at rakstagemom@gmail.com for possible inclusion in upcoming posts.

Coming up: More new season announcements

The magic of holiday theater

The holiday theater season is upon us, and I am doing my happy dance. While others are decking their halls or dropping while shopping, I’m in song and dance mode. I’m trading in tangled holiday lights for sparkling stage lights. I’m trading in fussy decorations for fabulous sets and costumes. I’m trading in all the worries the holidays can bring for all the wonder and magic of watching children dance and sing.

Whip out your calendar and join the fun. Plenty of shows are running now, and plenty more will run past the Christmas holiday—but the bounty of holiday theater peaks between December 4th and 20th, so now is the time to get your favorite show dates in your planner. Don’t let the season slip away without taking in as many of these wonderful performances as possible. (A little friendly competition, anyone?)

Ten or twenty years from now, your child may not remember all those things wrapped in meticulous ribbons and bows. But memories of holiday plays and musicals—because we experience them with family and friends, because they’re magical—endure.  And memories trump materialism every time.

I’ve compiled a list of holiday shows to make it easier for you to find your favorites (be sure and read my last two blogs as well—one featuring holiday dance, the other featuring holiday music). For even more fabulous choices of holiday activities, see this month’s issue of Raising Arizona Kids magazine and/or check their online calendar of family-friendly events and activities.

Don’t want to wait for the shows that open next weekend? Get your holiday happiness on now with Childsplay’s Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! (a world premiere based on three of Barbara Park’s best-selling books). It’s already playing at the Tempe Center for the Arts (it runs through Dec. 27th). We saw our first Childsplay show well over a decade ago and they still continue to amaze, amuse, delight and inspire us.

Also playing now is Desert Stages Theatre’s The Snow Queen (it runs through Dec. 20th at their theater in Scottsdale). Gerry Cullity wrote the book, music and lyrics for this production, which is adapted from a Hans Christian Andersen tale.  We’ve never been to Desert Stages, so I’ll have to mosey over and check this out before too long. I’ve run into plenty of parents who’ve told me their children had great experiences performing there.

Broadway Palm Children’s Theatre in Mesa presents Frosty the Snowman: A Magical Adventure Dec. 4th-29th, complete with a “unique kid-friendly luncheon buffet.”  Fountain Hills Youth Theatre presents The Nutcracker—a play—touted as a “hilarious original re-telling” from Dec. 4th-20th. Laughter. Lunch. More laughter. What’s not to love?

Greasepaint Youtheatre (affiliated with Phoenix Theatre but performing at Stagebrush Theatre in old town Scottsdale) presents Oliver! Dec. 4th-20th. My lovely Lizabeth is performing in this one, so you better buy your tickets now before I snatch up the very last of them! It’s been years since I’ve seen her perform there and I’m just a tad bit excited!

Oliver! is directed by D. Scott Withers, one of the Childsplay artists who first fueled Lizabeth’s love of theater, so we know to expect nothing less than magic with a twist after seeing his productions of Rent and Pippin last season. Come for the 2pm Dec. 5th show and help support Greasepaint’s food drive for St. Mary’s Food Bank (bring a canned or boxed food item to enjoy ticket savings).

Valley Youth Theatre near downtown Phoenix presents A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail Dec. 4th-23rd. They’ve run this show for years because Valley audiences just can’t get enough of it. There’s really nothing like the power of Pooh. Grab your favorite stuffed animal—Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger or Roo—and take them along to enjoy it too!

Another returning classic is A Christmas Carol presented by Actors Theatre of Phoenix Dec. 12th-24th at Herberger Theater Center. It starts a bit later than the others, so you can pace yourself. In the meantime, check out the Actors Theatre website—it’s seriously fun and will leave you feeling smarter than before your visit. The show itself—featuring some of the Valley’s most talented and beloved cast and crew—will leave you inspired.

Arizona Broadway Theatre presents A Christmas Carol: The Musical at their dinner theater in Peoria November 27th-December 27th. Their cast also includes many seasoned actors and talented youth. And who doesn’t love the idea of combining two rare family experiences–a sit down dinner and a night of entertainment out on the town?

The award for biggest holiday “menu” goes to Theater Works, performing at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts—which is offering three holiday shows this year. One, a concert featuring Christmas carols sung by Youth Works, happens Dec. 16th (doors open at 5:30pm). Check their website for info on the accompanying firefighter toy drive and food bank food drive. The others, playing Dec. 4th-20th, are Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Miracle on 34th Street.

ASU Gammage is bringing Annie to Tempe as part of the Broadway Across America series, and their timing couldn’t be more terrific. Annie runs Dec. 29th-Jan. 3rd, so it’s the perfect anecdote for that letdown we sometimes feel when all the packages have been torn open and family members start their journeys back to faraway cities and towns. Annie is a truly timeless Depression-era tale you may find especially poignant this season as so many families are struggling.

Make time for joy. Make time for theater. Make time to be grateful. Make time for theater. Make time for memories. Make time for theater. Make time…


Note: Always call and/or click presenting companies/venues for complete and up-to-date event information. To learn about special ticket prices and promotions, sign up for e-alerts from your favorite music, dance and theater organizations. As always, I welcome your comments if I’ve overlooked something wonderful. I’m especially eager to hear about performing arts experiences celebrating diverse holidays, so thanks for sharing those too!