Tag Archives: musical theatre

Dance your pass off

That’s just what plenty of young dancers will be doing at Phoenix Theatre this summer thanks to their “all you can dance” pass — a steal at just $65 a month (or $110 for two months).

Those holding the coveted pass can attend as many “Summer of Dance” classes as their little heart desires just by waving that baby when they show up to strut their stuff.

“Summer of Dance” at Phoenix Theatre runs May 21-July 30, with classes held four nights a week – plus Saturdays. Offerings include zumba, techno ballet, turns and leaps, tap (1 &2), musical theatre, yoga and hip hop.

For those of you eager to dance more than your pass off, there’s even belly dancing and burlesque (although a little more pass can be appealing with these dance styles).

For students seeking a “dance intensive” experience there’s the 5-week “Dance Conservatory” at Scottsdale Community College — an “intensive training program for intermediate to advanced dancers.”

The SCC program features pilates, yoga, ballet, modern, hip hop and jazz. “Dancers must be 16 or older and serious about developing and expanding their talents” (and high school students are screened before acceptance).

The School of Ballet Arizona offers several summer programs — including a “Master Class Series 2011” presented in partnership with the Southwest Classical Dance Institute, open to intermediate and advanced dancers ages 10 and up. They also offer summer intensives for dancers of various age and ability levels.

Other ballet schools, such as the Ballet Etudes School of Dance in Gilbert, offer a variety of summer intensives and classes — so check with dance companies and schools in your area for more details about what’s out there.

We lived for many years in the Arcadia neighborhood of Phoenix, near a dance studio called Dance Theater West where both my daughters enjoyed all sorts of classes during the summer and the school year.

Dance Theater West is the academy of Center Dance Ensemble, resident modern dance company of the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix, as well as Storybook Ballet Theater.

But the moms I met there loved it for another reason — the coupling of strong training with sensitive support that makes for a healthy body image and positive relationships with fellow dancers.

The “Summer of Dance 2011” program at Dance Theater West includes a ballet intensive workshop with a “Peter Pan” theme (ages 11-teens), several musical theater workshops for the 10-to-teen set (“Chorus Line,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” and “Glee”) and “Summerdance for Kids” options for ages 6-9.

Dance Theater West summer classes for the little ones include “Dance With Me Mommy,” “Dance Me a Story,” and “Ballet with Mom.” You’ll find a lovely photo of two budding DTW ballerinas in the June issue of Raising Arizona Kids magazine.

Finally, a little something from the fine folks at Kriti Dance — best known to many for performing during basketball game half-times. Think Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury.

Kriti Dance, which specializes in Bollywood-style dance, offers an adult and teen workshop every Sunday in June — plus summer sessions for kids (ages 5-8) and youth (ages 9-13).

Between techno ballet, Bollywood and burlesque, children and teens (and even you) have plenty of amazing dance options this summer. I’m tempted to try some of them myself, but maybe just around the house. I’d hate to find myself surrounded by people laughing their passes off.

— Lynn

Coming up: Of treadmills and thumb pianos


Spring theater camp alert!

Broadway program at Scottsdale Studios

The little darlings will soon have extra time on their hands as teachers celebrate that age old tradition called “spring break.” So I say, why should parents have all the drama?

Plenty of Valley theater companies offer spring break camps and workshops full of all things acting, song and dance. Here’s a rundown of several options…

Chandler Center for the Performing Arts. Spring Glee Camp. Ages 8 & up. March 21-25. 9am-noon. $150.

Childsplay in Tempe. Spring Break Workshop. Musical Theatre: Jungle Book. Ages 8-14. March 14-18. 9am-4pm. $275.

Creative Stages Youth Theatre. Spring Break Camp. Ages 8-18. March 14-18. 9am-3pm. $150.

Scottsdale Glee. Musical Theatre Glee Camp. Ages 6-15. March 14-18. 9am-noon. $180.

Scottsdale Studios. Glee Camp. Ages 5-18. March 15-17 9am-4pm and March 18 4-8pm. $400.

Broadway Cabaret performance at Scottsdale Studios

Theatre Works Youth Works in Peoria. Spring Break Workshop. Ages 7-18. March 14-18. 9am-3pm. $199.

Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix. Spring Camp. Musical Theatre. Ages 7-15. March 8-12 and March 15-19. 9am-3pm. $275.

Call or visit the websites for these groups to learn more about specific offerings, and remember that they also offer summer options.

Ask about whether specific items of interest (such as T-shirts, lunches, before/after care, audio/video recordings, audition training, etc.) are available, and whether they are included or offered at extra cost. Also ask about sibling discounts.

Scottsdale Studios offers a Spring Glee Camp

Additional summer programs with a theater twist are offered by Camp Broadway (a program of ASU Gammage), Curtain Call (the youth theater company of Arizona Jewish Theatre Company), Imagine That! (a program of Paradise Valley United Methodist Church), Phoenix Theatre and others.

To learn more about diverse summer camp options for Valley children and teens, attend the free Raising Arizona Kids Magazine Camp Fair this weekend — which features information on camps with themes ranging from sports to science.

Do your research now — and help your child make camp decisions on the sooner rather than the later side.  

Unless, of course, you need more drama in your life…

— Lynn

Note: If your local arts program (dance, music, theater, visual arts) offers a summer camp, feel free to send photos to rakstagemom@gmail.com for possible use in upcoming posts.

Coming up: From music major to English major, Broadway time travel, Diverse dance offerings

Photos courtesy of Scottsdale Studios

“A Chorus Line” meets college auditions

Eric Carsia (Don) holds a B.A. in Drama from Ithaca College

It’s one of those “must see” musical theater classics — and it’s here in Phoenix, at the Orpheum Theatre, through Sun, Jan 16.

My plans to attend Thursday evening with my daughter Lizabeth have been foiled by a lovely cough I know better than to share with others during a live performance.

Of course, I still have “A Chorus Line” on the brain — so I pulled out my notes from a recent interview with Karley Willocks, knowing she offered plenty of pearls I have yet to share.

I’ve also added a mini-review from a fellow RAK blogger, mom and theater-goer following the end of this post — so you can still get a taste for the show itself.

Willocks is performing the role of Maggie in the national touring production of “A Chorus Line” — a musical crafted from the real-life stories of dancers auditioning during the 1970s.

Jessi Trauth (Val) holds a B.F.A. from NYU

Those of you parenting a high school student who aspires to work in theater may find her thoughts of special interest.

Willocks shared with me that preparing for BFA program auditions “is a hard, hard process” — calling it “one of the hardest things I have done.”

The college admissions process is plenty time consuming. Think school research, campus visits, application forms, personal essays and financial aid paperwork.

Gina Duci (Diana) holds a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre from Penn State University

But students who aspire to BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts) programs must also audition with the schools they hope to attend. Some schools hold joint auditions, but many don’t.

So this time of year, plenty of BFA hopefuls fan out across the country ready to act, sing and dance to earn a coveted spot.

Arizona babies who’ve never lived in snow often find East Coast schools appealing, leaving parents to smile at the thought of care packages brimming with wool socks and ice scrapers.

Willocks recalls picking about ten musical theater programs with her parents, then doing eight auditions — which meant lots and lots of driving.

While all of this is taking place, high schools seniors with BFA aspirations still have their usual load of classes, homework and after-school activities.

Karley Willocks (Maggie) holds a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre from Shenandoah University

The very process seems to give a taste of what life with a touring musical theater production must be like — hard work, long hours and lots of trekking to and fro.

If your teen is readying for auditions, you already know that most auditions involve monologues and vocal selections.

What specific audition panels prefer varies from school to school — so check specifics carefully and follow directions.

Willocks urges students to choose something they are “comfortable with” rather than something they think is “the right choice.”

“Choose something you can actually connect with,” says Willocks — and be sure the material is age appropriate.

Netarrel Bellaishe (Larry) graduated from AMDA NY

“Be confident,” she adds. “Know that you will do your very best and have fun.” Willocks says that in general she found panel members to be “warm and understanding.”

There are, of course, auditions best described in other terms — which brings me back to “A Chorus Line” and the self-doubt that plagues so many of the dancers. 

All come to the stage with their own special brand of baggage.

Remember the dreams of the aspiring acting and musical theater students in our midst as you’re enjoying “A Chorus Line” during its Phoenix run.

Before long, it’s their faces we’ll be seeing on stage.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about “A Chorus Line” at the Orpheum Theatre. And please feel free to comment below if you have audition experiences or advice to share with our readers.

Coming up: More audition tips for BFA candidates, Art meets MLK Day, Symphony in the schools

Photos: Phil Martin

Thanks to Mala Blomquist, RAK blogger of “Blomquist Family Adventures” and RAK Directories and Calendar Editor, for sharing this comment on Thursday’s “A Chorus Line” at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix: I took a girlfriend and neither of us had ever seen the show before. It was spectacular! There was no intermission and when it ended we both turned to each other and said “That went by so fast!” It was both funny at times and very moving to see the raw emotion of what those kids go through. In the elevator back to the parking garage an elderly gentleman was whistling “One singular sensation…” and I commented that that song will be in our heads for weeks and he smiled at me and said “Yeah – but it’s one of the best!” Click here to read Mala’s blog, which describes a recent adventure involving astronaut William Gregory.

Gifts of art

James told me a proper "Stage Mom" needs a Broadway Cares tote bag

The arts were front and center as we celebrated Christmas this year. Everyone got books — and mine included Stephen Sondheim’s “Finishing the Hat.” There were Broadway Cares T-shirts, totes and such — all in support of Equity Fights AIDS.

My son Christopher gave me a nifty camera that’ll fit in my pocket or purse for those times I find myself unexpectedly at the scene of an arts adventure — whether a street fair, a gallery collection, a museum exhibit or a student performance.

Jennifer made me a lovely piece of original art — an homage of sorts to my “Stage Mom” blog. It’s a twist on an IOU for a notebook she’s putting together with copies of each of my nearly 500 posts.

Since so many of my art musings double as miniature memoirs, I want to be sure my children have them to read once I’m farther along in the circle of life.

The Sondheim, of course, was a gift from Lizabeth — who is enjoying her last Christmas living at home before heading off to college in the fall.

This gift spent plenty of time in others' hands before I got to really enjoy it

I called that one before I even unwrapped the box, since the book has a rather distinctive size and shape — and since I’d just seen a Sondheim appearance on “The Colbert Report.”

I held the wrapped book up to my forehead a la Johnny Carson’s “Carnac the Magnificent” from “The Tonight Show” of so many years ago — predicting that it contained Stephen Sondheim.

The Carnac bit went over the heads of everyone in the room except my hubby and his parents as Lizabeth assured me that she had not, in fact, stuffed Sondheim into the package. Alas.

My in-laws gave me a lovely piece of garden art and other treasures — including a tote bag from the National Audubon Society, which I dearly love because it pictures two owls. My mother collected owls for many years and they remind me of her still. (Figurines, not live birds.)

Apparently friends and family prefer that I write about art rather than making it myself. No fingerpaints. No canvas. No clay. It would be enough for them, I suppose, if I could master the art of taking a really good photo.

A very special friend thought to hunt down a book I adore but haven’t been able to locate in town — “The Day Our World Changed: Children’s Art of 9/11.” That darling child caught on video snubbing a book he got from Santa has much to learn.

Several of the gifts we exchanged, like this 2010 Tony T-shirt, support Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS

I have much to be grateful for this holiday season — including the opportunity to experience the riches of art, music, theater and dance in a world where so many people don’t even have a roof over their heads or food to feed their families.

If you’ve been especially moved by an arts experience in your community, consider giving something of yourself to assure that Arizona arts and culture remain vibrant for future generations.

A financial gift before the end of the year. A regular committment of volunteer service during the New Year. A resolution to spend more time enjoying the arts with friends and family.

With all the arts have given us, now is the perfect time of year to give back…

— Lynn

Note: To learn more about the arts scene in Arizona and ways you can get involved, visit the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts and the Arizona Humanities Council.

Coming up: Stage Mom’s “Best of Broadway” quotes, Music & memories, Outdoor concert fun

Musings on “Spider-Man”

Plenty of musical theater fans are sending good vibes to the cast, crew and creative team of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” — which recently started previews on Broadway only to be plagued by a series of mishaps and misfortunes.

As a longtime fan of musical theater and other performance art, I’m pausing today to remember the artists and families facing some particularly dark days.

And to share an audience member perspective, so those of you who work musical theater magic on-stage and behind-the-scenes will know what folks like me do and don’t expect when we buy tickets to your shows.

It’s all about the storytelling. If your storyline is compelling and your characters are engaging, we’re happy campers. No circus arts, acrobatics or flying needed. No smoke, mirrors or bungee cords required.

Talented actors, singers and dancers will do the trick. No need for television or movie stars, unless they also happen to be skilled in theater craft. No need for big-name musicians or vocalists, or those with heavy humanitarian street cred.

No need for film or comic book tie-ins. No robots. No clever placement of cell phones or netbooks required. No flashing lights, disarming noises or other features I can power at home if I just acquire enough batteries or voltage.

America was once the imagination nation. But nowadays we’re all about the bells and whistles. And so, to those of you in musical theater, I offer this: Don’t encourage them.

Bigger is not always better. Bolder doesn’t have to mean brighter. Brilliant needn’t be boisterous. Make it shine, but keep it simple.

Consider the case of the Tassimo Brewbot. It’s enough for me that it makes a fab assortment of coffee drinks. I can live without a caffeine robot.

Only those who’ve forgotten the simple pleasures of sipping a strong brew are disappointed to learn that the darn thing can’t do their laundry.

Musical theater, when all is said and done, is a supremely human enterprise.

So no worries if recent events mean we all need to scale it back a bit in terms of superhuman expectations for our performance art.

I still love a good circus, but when I take my seats for a Broadway show — I merely wish to be transported to another place and time. I needn’t get there by space craft or other far-fetched means.

And I surely don’t want artists risking their own lives to take me there.

— Lynn

Winter awakening


Snow Flower by Kitty Rogers

While feeling the sun’s rays soak in through my kitchen window Monday afternoon, I picked up the phone and dialed Paris Bradstreet, an actor, singer and dancer currently touring with the musical “Spring Awakening.”

Turns out she was sitting at her own kitchen table, in Massachusetts, watching a slow and steady stream of snowflakes fall to the ground.

Bradstreet has plenty of experience with both sunshine and snowstorms. Though born and raised in Massachusetts, she earned her B.F.A. in musical theatre at Ithaca College in New York and her M.F.A. in acting at California State University, Fullerton. And she’s had acting gigs in all sorts of places — including Nebraska, Utah and Arizona.

At her very first audition, she landed the lead role — playing “Peter Pan” in a school production. “I was the only one they trusted to learn the 100 lines,” quips Bradstreet. She was in third grade at the time, and recalls this as the moment she “first caught the acting bug.”

But times have changed, as evidenced by the casting protocol for her “Spring Awakening” gig. Like most actors looking for work, she’s aways on the hunt for casting calls — searching audition notices on websites like www.backstage.com and www.playbill.com.

She learned of “Spring Awakening” opportunities online and got her adult woman understudy gig after sending in a video with readings from various sides she’d been sent for the show. “Sides” are pages or scenes from a script used during the audition process.

Today’s young actors contend with more than video technology, muses Bradstreet. Thanks to Twitter, Facebook and other online offerings, actors experienced and aspiring can really make a mess of things — with lasting results. “People now have the opportunity to respond instantly without thinking,” reflects Bradstreet. “Consider the consequences,” she warns, “because they can be permanent.”

Having recently turned 40, Bradstreet says that for the first time she’s actually old enough to be a parent to many of her fellow cast members. She’s amazed at their collective knowledge of all things pop culture — and marvels at the way “they are all so connected to the whole world” and “live in a universe populated with information.”

As we spoke, I found myself wishing we were sitting at the same kitchen table. Bradstreet has much wisdom to share with actors of all generations, but offers it with a lovely humility rather than an inflated sense of self-importance. I suspect those snowy afternoons, so condusive to contemplation and conversation, have left their mark.

I asked Bradstreet about what it means to be a “character” actress — a topic she started to tackle by sharing that she’s “not what most of the media or people in our society call conventionally attractive.” Bradstreet says she knew from a young age that she would most often play someone’s mother or grandmother. “I was never the pretty ingenue,” she quips.

Every actor has a look, a type, a build and “an essence of who they are,” reflects Bradstreet. Finding a career path, and actually getting ongoing work as an actor, requires a delicate balance of “knowing who you are and knowing how others will perceive you.”

In some ways, shares Bradstreet, not having to worry about the “pretty angle” is refreshing. There’s tremendous competition, she says, for roles for attractive women. “I get work,” she says, “not because of how I look, but because of the way I do my job.”

“I’ve always been happy to play the roles I do,” says Bradstreet, “because they’re very satisfying.” Think Cathness in “Macbeth” at the Utah Shakespeare Festival and Louise in “Always…Patsy Cline” at the Allenberry Playhouse.

Turns out Bradstreet earned a 2005-2006 AriZoni award nomination for actress in a supporting role in a contracted musical for performing the role of Aunt Eller in a Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre production of “Oklahoma!” in Mesa.

We chatted a bit about her path from “Peter Pan” to “Spring Awakening.” Bradstreet recalls doing drama in high school, but working hard at academics too. “I tried to excel at academics so I could pick the school I wanted to go to.” Better grades, more options. Sometimes it’s that simple.

Bradstreet describes the younger “Spring Awakening” cast members as a mix of those with B.A. degrees and those with B.F.A. degrees. Students like Bradstreet typically choose a B.F.A. because they want to spend more time studying the arts and less time on other academic classes.

“If I was going to spend all that money,” recalls Bradstreet, “I wanted to get the most training for my dollar.” Still, she sees benefits of both options. B.F.A. students may enjoy a more intense, focused study of the craft of acting. Yet, the intensity and focus that works in building a career isn’t always the best vehicle for driving a life.

“Acting is a difficult career to succeed at,” admits Bradstreet. Actors are constantly looking for work. They’re lucky if a job lasts even two months. And your acting skill set can only get you so far — since so many other factors influence director choices.

Still, Bradstreet offers this perspective to those considering an on-stage career: “If this is the thing that makes your life worth living, then you have to do it.”

— Lynn

Note:Spring Awakening” comes to ASU Gammage Jan 27-28, 2011 — and tickets are now on sale. Watch for a future post with Paris Bradstreet’s reflections on why this show, often dubbed controversial, makes for such great conversations between parents and children (ages 12 & up) who see it together.

Coming up: News from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Real high school musicals take the stage, Free outdoor concerts, Peace and Community Day in Scottsdale, Sculptures in the park

Update: ASU Gammage has just announced special pricing for certain tickets to “Spring Awakening.” Use the code “SPRING” when ordering tickets in price levels 1-3 (excludes balcony seating; additional fees apply). Offer not valid on previously purchased tickets or in conjunction with any other offers. Tickets available from ASU Gammage and Ticketmaster. (Updated 1/24/11)

Peace, love and HAIR

Those of us who are fortunate enough to have books in our lives know that family favorites are often handed down for generations.

As the child of a before her time hippie who stayed ever young at heart, I was raised on the likes of a book called “Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs.”

I hadn’t given it much thought until opening the program for “HAIR” while attending the show at ASU Gammage Wednesday night.

I discovered cast bios proudly listing astrological signs like Gemini and Aries, Virgo and Leo. And yes — even Aquarius.

I suspect one cast member takes her astrology especially seriously. Caren Lyn Tackett (Sheila) notes that she was “Born Sun in Leo Moon in Aries Aquarius Rising” — which leads me to believe I wasn’t the only person to experience the wonders of astrological charting as a child.

I’ve been told that I’m Scorpio “sun, moon and rising” but I’m guessing it only felt that way to my oft-times exasperated, though ever-supportive, mother.

Also of note in cast member bios are final words consisting of “love,” “peace,” “namaste” and such.

It’s hard to know where the hippie ends and the actor begins — which is part of the charm and appeal of this show.

I was especially moved by one particular monologue, which encourages parents to run right home and have a talk with their teenagers.

And to say something like this — be yourself, embrace your freedom and love your life.

Of course, you could just take them to see the show. I think they’d get the message.

Be forewarned, however, that the musical “HAIR” is “mature audiences” fare.

I’m completely supportive of my high school age daughter seeing the show, but other parents might make a different choice knowing there is nudity (albeit brief and tasteful), swearing and simulated sexual/drug activity.

If you’re uneasy with exposing your child to the questioning of authority — whether God, country, the military or parents — you may not be comfortable having your child or teenager see the show.

But having said that, I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced a better multi-sensory snapshot of this particular period in American culture.

And since issues related to war, drugs and sexuality are still with us today — I don’t know that there’s a better way to expose youth to these issues.

It’s your call, of course, and you should know what you are getting into.

Certainly it would be a shame for anyone even remotely close to being “mature” to miss this show. It’s among the best Broadway productions I’ve ever seen.

Sorry, Phantom. The cape and mask have been replaced in my heart by fur and fringe. Believe me, my daughter Lizabeth has been waiting for this moment. That whole “music of the night” vibe just never spoke to her, I suppose.

I’ve never had more fun at the theater, and never heard those around me enjoying such profound conversations. One doesn’t always find this mix in a single show.

Everyone left dancing — that’s true. But I think they also left wondering about the modern-day American tribe, and whether we’re really living up to all that “peace” and “love” hype of the hippies who came before us — or who were us.

Especially strong performances were delivered by Phyre Hawkins (Dionne), Matt DeAngelis (Woof) and Paris Remillard (Claude). Josh Lamon makes a marvelous Margaret Mead.

Steel Burkhardt was clearly born to play Berger, and delivered one of the finest performances I’ve seen on the ASU Gammage stage.

Of course, some of his best performance art happens off stage — something it’s best to experience for yourself (rows one through five are especially lively).

Forget about that whole “fourth wall” thing when you see this show. 

Be ready to let your hair down, flash those peace signs and embrace whatever the goddess of musical theatre throws your way.

If you need a little something more concrete to go on, I offer this brief review…

Brilliant lighting. Incredible live band (on stage, no less). Strong acting. Moving vocals. Fever-pitch dancing. Oh yeah, and way cool costumes. (They give those Tony Awards for a reason.)

I suspect “HAIR” is unlike anything you’ve ever seen on stage before, and I don’t happen to think that anyone should miss this opportunity to see it.

Go. Dance. Hug. Sing. Love. Laugh. Shake your big hair. And be grateful for every last minute of this supremely unique and extravagant production.

— Lynn

Note: “HAIR” — described as “The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical” — runs through Sun, Dec 12 at ASU Gammage. Click here to learn more about the show, read reviews by “Gammage Goers” and find ticket information. Also visit ASU Gammage on Facebook to learn about Thursday night’s talkback and apres-show dance party/costume contest. I’m holding out for the biggest hair contest — I think I might have that one covered.

Coming up: Stage Mom reviews new movies