Tag Archives: Musical Theatre of Anthem

An “Annie” tale

Anthem mom Sherry Henderson sent me this clipping about her performance (with her twin sister) in the original “Annie” on Broadway

When the newest revival of “Annie” on Broadway opens this fall at the Palace Theatre, Sherry Henderson of Anthem will know just how its youngest cast members feel. Henderson and her twin sister were cast in the original “Annie,” which opened in 1977 at the Alvin Theatre (now the Neil Simon Theatre). Henderson recalls being in the show for 17 months of its six year run.

Seems their mom, a dancer, thought that auditioning for “Annie” would be a good experience for her twin daughters. Henderson says about 1,000 girls auditioned, and both she and her sister got a callback. “The director, Martin Charnin, wanted to take us on tour,” recalls Henderson.

Henderson notes that their mom declined, thinking it’d be too tough to manage the logistics with her third child, just four years old at the time. So the director, recalls Henderson, asked their mom whether she’d be willing to take them to  Broadway. Soon they were headed to the Alvin Theatre, where one was cast as Molly and the other cast as Duffy (two of several young orphans in the show).

Two weeks later, says Henderson, they were performing in the show. Henderson and her sister were just eight years old, and in the third grade, at the time. She remembers driving two hours each way between Philadelphia and NYC every day, but says they still managed to miss 52 days of school. On weekends, they’d stay with their grandmother in Brooklyn.

Henderson is choreographing a Musical Theatre of Anthem production of “Annie” opening May 31 at Boulder Creek Performing Arts Center. Three years ago, she choreographed “Annie Jr.” for Anthem’s Starlight Community Theater. It’s clear the orphan tale holds a special place in Henderson’s heart.

“Annie is one of the best written and musically written shows ever done,” says Henderson. “It’s one of the first shows where little girls dreamed of being on Broadway.” The upcoming revival begins previews on Oct. 3, and opening night is Nov. 8. It’s directed by James Lapine, and stars Lilla Crawford (part of the closing cast of “Billy Elliot” on Broadway) as “Annie.”

“Annie” features music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin and book by Thomas Meehan. The original production earned a Tony Award for best musical. The Musical Theatre of Anthem production is co-directed by Jackie Hammond and Henderson. It’s a “no-cut” production — so everyone ages 6 to 19 who tried out will be rocking their “Annie” vibe.

Nowadays Henderson keeps busy acting, dancing, choreographing and teaching at Dynamic Dance Motion Academy in Anthem — but says her greatest joy comes from “being in theater as a parent.” Her 6-year-old daughter Molly and 10-year-old son Jaden recently performed in the Musical Theatre of Anthem production of “Willy Wonka.”

“Everybody should try theater once,” says Henderson. “It’s so much more than song and dance.” Henderson notes that participating in theater boosts children’s confidence and self-motivation, and equips them for future life experiences like speaking in front of crowds. And those performing in “Annie” learn something more — the value of being optimistic during times good and bad.

— Lynn

Note: Click here for details about the MTA production of “Annie” and here for information on the upcoming revival of “Annie” on Broadway.

Coming up: Once upon a blue star, Comicon meets creativity


From Wallace to Willy

Pat McMahon and the cast of "The Wallace & Ladmo Show" (Photo: Centennial Theatre Foundation)

Like many parents born and raised here in Arizona, my husband James grew up watching “The Wallace & Ladmo Show” — the longest running same-cast children’s television show in history. Think 1954 to 1989. Thanks to a collaboration between Centennial Theatre Foundation, Actors Theatre and Desert Foothills Theatre, generations old and new can revisit the show via a production written and directed by Ben Tyler.

It’s being presented this weekend by Desert Foothills Theatre (and during June at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix). Performances take place March 23-25 at Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center in Scottdale. Folks eager to explore this and other historic fare can also visit the House of Broadcasting in Scottsdale.

Musical Theatre of Anthem performs "Willy Wonka" March 29-April 1 (Photo: Olga Smirnoff)

Another North Valley theater, Musical Theatre of Anthem, has exciting news to share. Their production of “Willy Wonka,” being performed at the Boulder Creek High School mini-auditorium in Anthem, opens Thurs, March 29 and runs through Sun, April 1. They’re also anticipating the opening of their new theater at 42323 N. Vision Wy. come July, just in time for summer theater classes.

Musical Theatre of Anthem recently revealed its 2012/13 lineup, which includes “Our Town” (Sept), “Thoroughly Modern Millie” (Sept/Oct), “The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley Jr.” (Oct), “A Year With Frog and Toad KIDS” (Oct), “Thumbelina (A Swallow’s Tale)” (Nov), “Something Beautiful” (Nov/Dec), “Winnie the Pooh KIDS” (Feb), “Little Shop of Horrors” (March), “Dear Edwina JR.” (March) and another show that’ll be announced once rights are secured. Their 2012/13 season also includes a holiday show (TBD in Dec) and fundraiser (Feb).

This future home of Musical Theatre of Anthem should be ready in July

The Arts Council of the North Valley presents their “7th Annual Regional Teen Art Competition” at The Caepe School and Fellowship Church in Anthem Sat, April 28 and Sun, April 29. The works of more than 60 students from area high schools will be exhibited. Think paintings, sculpture, photography and drawings. A panel of professional artists and educators will select winners, and folks who attend can cast their vote for “Viewers’ Choice.”

The council also presents “Picnic Under the Stars” next month. The Sat, April 28 benefit includes “a live auction, raffle items, culinary delights, and a cash bar.” Click here to learn more about the council’s many programs, including educational outreach — or to sign up for Arts Council of the North Valley alerts featuring timely news on music, dance, theater and visual arts offerings.

— Lynn

Note: Both Musical Theatre of Anthem and Desert Foothills Theatre offer summer theater camps, so check their websites for details (and find additional camp options here).

Coming up: I’m more than these stripes

Seuss sightings

Copperstar Repertory Co. presents Seussical at Higley Center for the Arts in March

Don the striped felt hats and ready the green eggs and ham — because all things Seuss are headed our way as families ready to celebrate the March 2 birthday of the man who brought us all those “things you can think.”

Fountain Hills Youth Theater opens its production of “Seussical Jr.” this Friday, Feb. 3. It’s family-friendly fare featuring favorite Seuss characters including Horton the Elephant, The Cat in the Hat, Gertrude McFuzz, Lazy Mayzie and Jojo.

Front (L to R): Elysha Nemeth and Skylar Bickley, Back (L to R): Emily Spets, Patrick Moyse and Peyton Jordan in Seussical Jr. at Fountain Hills Theater

Musical Theatre of Anthem opens its production of “Seussical Jr.” Feb. 17 at Boulder Creek High School in Anthem. “Seussical Jr.” features songs like “Horton Hears a Who,” “How to Raise a Child,” “It’s Possible,” “Green Eggs and Ham” and “All Alone in the Universe.”

The musical “Seussical” presented by Copperstar Repertory Co., in partnership with Higley Center for the Arts, opens March 23. “Seussical,” which debuted on Broadway in 2000, is based on more than a dozen Seuss stories. It’s longer than the later “Jr.” version and contains a military thread removed from the musical’s adaptations for youth.

I took daughter Lizabeth to see “Seussical” when the touring production starring Cathy Rigsby came to ASU Gammage as part of its 2002-2003 season. She was about 10 years old at the time, and loved everything about it. She still does.

“Seussical” features book by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, whose names are as famous to musical theater folk as Dr. Suess is to the rest of us. Flaherty wrote the music for “Seussical,” and Ahrens the lyrics. Their first team venture was a 1988 musical called “Lucky Stiff.”

Lizabeth performed in the Arizona School for the Arts production of “Lucky Stiff” at Greasepaint Youtheatre before heading off to NYC for college theater studies. It was directed by Toby Yatso, who’ll be narrating “Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham” for the Phoenix Symphony on March 17.

Cast members from the Musical Theatre of Anthem production of Seussical, Jr. (Photo: Olga Smirnoff)

“Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham” is being conducted by Joseph Young and performed at the Orpheum in Phoenix. It features Allison Stanford (soprano) and Aaron Zweiback (boy soprano) and Bill Wanser (percussion) as well as Yatso and actors from Valley Youth Theatre

I first saw the talented Zweiback perform during a Childsplay Academy performance featuring selections from the musical “Grease,” but he’s since performed with Phoenix Theatre and VYT.

The Phoenix Symphony production allows families to “follow and interact with Sam-I-Am as he rhymes his way through Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham.” It’ll feature “a rendition of Gerald McBoing Boing, an animated short film by Dr. Seuss and selections from Seussical the Musical.”

Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax,” from the creators of “Despicable Me,” opens in movie theaters nationwide March 2. It follows the adventures of a 12-year-old boy seeking to win the girl of his dreams, and features lots of big names from Zac Efron and Taylor Swift to Betty White and Danny DeVito.

One Seuss, Two Seuss. Theater Seuss, Musical Suess. It’s all good. But I’m still not sporting the big hat.

— Lynn

Note: Check your local libraries and bookstores as Dr. Seuss’ birthday draws near for special Seuss-inspired activities for children and families. Click here to explore a PBS Independent Lens presentation called “The Political Dr. Seuss,” and here to enjoy PBS’ “The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That.”

Coming up: Here piggy, piggy…

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

Ode to ensembles

This Ballet Arizona photo of their 2009 production of The Nutcracker shows just how beautiful a work can be when it features a rich ensemble cast

Looking back on Lizabeth’s School of Ballet Arizona days, I recall that many of the young students she trained alongside of aspired to perform the role of “Clara” in “The Nutcracker.” For some, being cast in anything short of a lead part was tremendously disappointing. For a few, it felt like abject failure.

I was always amazed by the dance students who decided to turn down roles other than those they’d been hoping to perform. I was a “dance mom” at the School of Ballet Arizona for nearly a dedade, and spent many a holiday season volunteering with young dancers at Symphony Hall — so I speak from experience on this one.

Dancers who performed the roles like angel, toy soldier or Mother Ginger’s child had every bit as much fun backstage as those who performed the role of “Clara” or the “Prince.” They had lots of time with friends, the experience of waiting in the wings for their turn to dance and the thrill of performing for a packed house.

Lizabeth never expressed disappointment that she wasn’t cast as “Clara” — I think because I’ve long sent the message that every role counts. Parents who taught their children that “Clara” was the singular role to aspire to ended up with teary-eyed ballerinas who sometimes turned down other roles for which they were wonderfully suited.

The ensemble of Peter Pan at Musical Theatre of Anthem -- which is one of ten shows nominated this year for a best youth musical AriZoni Award

I’m not against setting high goals and expectations, but I’m not sure stage parents do justice to their children when they set them up for failure by insisting that only lead roles really matter. Or by spending lots of time trying to drive or second guess casting decisions.

I always taught Lizabeth that directors cast based on the best fit. I love lots of shoes at the mall, but I can’t wear them all. A shoe can be perfectly beautiful and special, but still not come home with me. If I need a high heel, a kitten heel simply won’t do — though frankly, I’m a bigger fan of flip flops and flats.

Not being chosen for a particular role does not mean you aren’t good enough. It does not mean that a director does not like you. It just means you’re not the best fit for the part — sometimes literally, when pre-existing costumes have to be factored into the decision making process.

I spoke recently with three young actors from Fountain Hills Community Theater, and asked their thoughts on the benefit of playing ensemble roles. Andrey Lull noted that there are some shows in which the ensemble is quite significant, singing or dancing for most of the production.

Picture “West Side Story” with only Tony and Maria, but no “Sharks” or “Jets.” Or productions of “South Pacific” and “Mamma Mia!” devoid of dancing and singing sailors. Even Joseph in his technicolor dreamcoat isn’t all that compelling without all those folks who back him up.

Tyler Maxson stars in the Mesa Encore Theatre production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat opening at MAC on Aug 5 (Photo by Sarah Rodgers)

Ryan Smith shared that being an ensemble member is a great way to get your bearing on stage, and to improve skills — like staying focused — that are essential for playing the lead. And Natalie Kilker said something I’ve heard Lizabeth say on other occasions. That ensemble members sometimes have the most fun because they have varied dance and musical numbers, and often get to portray more than one character in a single show.

Lizabeth and I are big believers in standing for all cast members if we feel a show has earned a standing ovation. Why would I wait for “Annie” before standing to applaud if the whole show was magic? It’s rare, I think, that a lead performer is singularly grand separate and apart from the other actors sharing the stage. Never mind that I could watch Andrew Rannells of “The Book of Mormon” sing “I Believe” over and over again on an otherwise empty stage and leave feeling perfectly satisfied.

Acting companies are teams. They’re families. Everyone in your family matters, and so does everyone who makes a show happen — including every single cast, creative and technical team member. To teach your child anything less is to set her up for disappointment — and to deprive her of the many joys ensemble work often brings.

— Lynn

Note: Click here for audition details for Ib Andersen’s “The Nutcracker” being performed by Ballet Arizona at Symphony Hall Dec. 9-24, 2011

Coming up: Celebrating the 50th annual Utah Shakespeare Festival

Disney alert!

As I said goodnight to my daughter Lizabeth one evening this week, I thought of how she’d soon be heading off to college. And I remembered one of her favorite sayings, from a Disney movie we saw together nearly a decade ago.

Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind…or forgotten.

It’s a mantra of sorts for the main character, Lilo, who discovers that her family is anything but typical. And that’s okay.

Disney stories are full of themes — like chasing dreams and overcoming adversity — that appeal to folks of all ages. So it’s no surprise that Disney books, movies and toys line the shelves (on a good day) of so many homes.

But there’s a special magic to seeing the “house of mouse” brought to life on stage. If there’s a Disney-lover in your family, mark your calendar now for these live productions of Disney classics, many of which have the added charm of being performed by young actors.

Camp Rising Star and Starlight Community Theatre in Anthem present “Disney’s 101 Dalmatians Kids” at 1pm and 7pm Sat, July 23.

They’re performing at the Safeway Shopping Center in Anthem (3665 W. Anthem Way, Ste 119-B). Tickets are just $5 at the door — making this a fun, affordable escape from the heat.

I used to shop the Outlets at Anthem for bargains on kids clothes when my children were younger.

Folks who hit the Anthem outlets Sat, June 23, between 2:30 and 4pm can enjoy a Disney “Shake it Up!” dance party presented by Radio Disney AM 1580. Dalmatians and dance — I like it.

Fountain Hills Community Theatre’s Youth Theatre presents “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” Aug 26-Sept 11 — and Desert Foothills Theater’s Gecko Teatro presents “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” in May 2012.

If your children love Disney, I don’t need to tell you that seeing the same show twice isn’t a problem.

You’ll have two chances to enjoy “Disney’s Aladdin, Jr.” come October. It’s being performed Oct 13-15 by Musical Theatre of Anthem and Oct 21-30 by Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale.

Mesa Arts Center presents “Choo-Choo Soul With Genevieve!” — from Disney Junior — for two Oct 8 performances that feature beatbox artist DC and musician Genevieve Goings. Think trains, hip hop, numbers and letters.

Lizabeth and I wanted to see a touring production of “Tarzan” while we were in Cedar City for last year’s Utah Shakespeare Festival, but we just didn’t have time to take everything in.

So I was excited to learn that Arizona Broadway Theatre is presenting the Arizona premiere of “Tarzan The Stage Musical,” based on the Disney film, April 20-May 27, 2012.

I remember seeing the Disney movie “Tarzan” with my three children when they were all 10 & under — and still get misty-eyed when I hear Phil Collins sing “You’ll Be in My Heart.”

Like most families, we can almost mark time by the stream of Disney stories through our lives. Our children are all grown now, but I’m glad we made time — when they were young — to enjoy all those afternoons of theater together.

— Lynn

Coming up: Going Grimm, Girl power!

Last call for theater camps!

Comedy mask in stained glass window at the Scottsdale theater where Greasepaint Youtheatre camps are held

When I spoke recently with ASU dance major Echo Laney, I asked her to share a bit about the benefits of participating in theater camps. Laney participated in Camp Broadway at ASU Gammage several years ago, and describes it as a life-changing experience.

“Theater camp opens you to new experiences,” reflects Laney. It makes for “nice networking” and helps campers “discover who they are and what they can do.” Reflecting on her own time with Camp Broadway, Laney shares that theater camp “opens the mind” and fuels powerful dreams.

Tragedy mask in stained glass at the old Stagebrush Theater in Scottsdale

I learned the hard way many years ago that many Valley summer day camps start filling up as early as February, but I know plenty of parents have yet to sit down with their children or teens to firm up summer plans — despite the fact that some camps begin next week.

For those still exploring summer camp options, here’s a nifty list of Valley organizations offering theater camps — complete with links so you can easily learn more about your many options. Don’t delay, because in many cases this really is your last chance…

Actor’s Youth Theatre at www.actorsyouththeatre.org

Ahwatukee Children’s Theatre at www.azact.org

Arizona Broadway Theatre at www.azbroadway.org

Arizona Jewish Theatre Company at www.azjewishtheatre.org

Art and Sol Performing Arts Program at www.artandsolprogram.com

ASU Gammage at www.asugammage.com

Chandler Center for the Performing Arts at www.chandlercenter.org

Childsplay Theatre Company at www.childsplayaz.org

Christian Youth Theater at www.cytphoenix.org

Creative Stage Youth Theatre at www.csyt.org

Dearing Acting Studio at www.dearingstudio.com

Desert Stages Theatre at www.desertstages.org

Do Re Mi School for the Arts at www.doremischool.com

East Valley Children’s Theatre at www.evct.org

Fountain Hills Community Theater at www.fhct.org

Greasepaint Youtheatre at www.greasepaint.org

Kirk’s Studio for the Performing Arts at www.kirksstudio.com

Life’s a Stage Productions at www.lasacting.com

Mesa Arts Center at www.mesaartscenter.com

Musical Theatre of Anthem at www.musicaltheatreofanthem.org

Phoenix Center for the Arts at www.phoenixcenterforthearts.org

Phoenix Theatre at www.phoenixtheatre.com

Scottsdale Conservatory of the Performing Arts at www.scottsdaleconservatory.com

Scottsdale Glee at www.scottsdaleglee.org

Scottsdale Studios at www.gleecamps.com

Spotlight Youth Theatre at www.spotlightyouththeatre.org

Starlight Community Theater at www.starlightcommunitytheater.org

Studio 3 Performing Arts Academy at www.studio3arts.com

Theater Works at www.theaterworks.org

Theatre Artists Studio at www.thestudiophx.org

Valley Youth Theatre at www.vyt.com

Voices: A Music & Arts Studio at www.voicesstudio.com

To learn more about theater and other camps, check out the “Summer Solutions” 2011 camp directory compiled by Mala Blomquist of Raising Arizona Kids.

If you know of another Valley organization offering summer theater camps, please comment below to let our readers know.


Note: Click here for links to camps that participated in the RAK Camp Fair 2011.

Coming up: Celebrating Father’s Day — arts and culture style!