Tag Archives: NBC

Nick Jonas meets Marilyn Monroe?

I’ve got Marilyn Monroe on the brain after watching last night’s premiere of the new NBC series “Smash,” which follows development of a musical about the woman we all know as Marilyn Monroe. So I was delighted to learn, while exploring the website for Madame Tussauds in New York, that a wax likeness of Monroe is part of their interactive New York exhibit — which features New York icons from the Statue or Liberty to the Brooklyn Bridge. 

Kids' Night on Broadway 2012 runs through Feb. 9, so it's not too late to snag tickets

Also Broadway, of course. But kids participating in the “Kids’ Night on Broadway” program this year can enjoy not only the interactive NY exhibit at Madame Tussauds, but also time with plenty of Broadway stars. Nick Jonas, whose career in the performing arts began on Broadway, is hosting today’s “pre-theater party” for “Kids’ Night on Broadway” ticketholders.

Jonas recently joined the cast of “How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying,” and is serving as the “Kids’ Night on Broadway” 2012 Ambassador. Jonas will be joined later today by hundreds of kids ages 6 to 18 who’ll gather at Madame Tussauds New York for Broadway dance lessons, time at special theatrical make-up stations, an “autograph alley” with Broadway performers and the chance to participate in Broadway Green Alliance’s bottle cap collection.

My daughter Lizabeth had hoped to cover the event for me, interviewing participating Broadway cast members and taking photos to share with Broadway fans in Arizona, but she’s rocking a nasty cold or flu bug of some sort and doesn’t want to share it. She’s a theater major who knows better than most that no one wants to catch something that might zap their voice or movement mojo.

Nick Jonas is serving as the 2012 Ambassador for Kids' Night on Broadway

Lizabeth and James participated in “Kids’ Night on Broadway” last year during the New York leg of their college admission tour travels. She’s now settled in nicely at Pace University, working on a B.F.A. in acting and helping me with arts coverage in the NYC area. She’s seen both Daniel Radcliffe and Daren Criss perform in “How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying,” and she’s eager to see it again now that Jonas is performing the role of J. Pierrepont Finch.

The Broadway League’s “Kids’ Night on Broadway” is “designed to introduce young people to live theater and make Broadway accessible to new generations of theatergoers by offering free tickets to kids ages 6-18 when accompanied by a full-paying adult.” There’s always a cause-related component — and this year it’s Givenik.com.

The Broadway League sent me this lovely list of shows participating in “Kids’ Night on Broadway” this year — Anything Goes, Chicago, The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, Godspell, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Jersey Boys, The Lion King, Mamma Mia!, Mary Poppins, Memphis, The Phantom of the Opera, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Rock of Ages, Seminar, Sister Act, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark,Wicked, Wit.Off-Broadway: Avenue Q, The Gazillion Bubble Show, Freckleface Strawberry, Million Dollar Quartet, RENT, Stomp, Traces.

Cast members from various shows are participating in today’s 3-6pm fanfest for “Kids’ Night on Broadway” ticketholders, which opens at Madame Tussauds New York on 42nd Street at 2:30pm with remarks by Jonas, Charlotte St. Martin (Executive Director of the Broadway League), Jordan Roth (President of Jujamcyn Theatres and Founder of Givenik.com) and Bret Pidgeon (General Manager of Madame Tussauds NY).

This year’s “Kids’ Night on Broadway” program runs through Feb. 9 so it’s not too late to snag tickets. Oh, to be young again…

— Lynn

Coming up: Arts advocates gather at the Arizona Capitol


“Smash” earns a callback

Folks who tune in to the new NBC series Smash will enjoy views of Times Square in NYC

A pair of dueling divas singing “Let me be your star.” A tough-minded producer who looks downright docile compared with her ex-in-the-making. A man concerned that Broadway is beating out baby as he begins the adoption process with his musical-making wife. An assistant credited too readily with generating the concept for a musical he’ll never shepherd to the stage. And a director who seems more creepy than creative.

It’s just another day in New York City — complete with cabs, subways, liquid power lunches and actors hoofing it as waitstaff. Also auditions full of people who’ve never heard of “audition 101” gems like “don’t dress like the character you want to play” and “beware the director who calls you to his apartment in the wee hours.”

The characters feel complex enough to carry audience interest for the long run, and the seeds of plenty of potential plotlines have already been sewn. Emotional baggage. Intellectual property. Wardrobe misadventures. It’s all there — in one smartly-written package.

Like the best Broadway musicals, the first episode of “Smash” builds slowly towards a big finish, with lots of high points along the way. Also plenty of issues to ponder between episodes. Which ranks higher in the hierarchy of humanity — talent or kindness? When is trusting your gut a sign of fear — and when is it a sign of courage? And who’s the bigger downer — a cynical New Yorker or a defeatist Midwesterner?

“Smash” follows the journey of a small idea to the big stage — plus the lives of those whose best (and sometimes worst) efforts get it there. It’s relatable stuff for those not schooled in musical theater, but intoxicating for those who breathe to banter around words like “mix” and “belt.”

A critical question in the real world of theater gets asked within the first few minutes of the first episode — “Why isn’t anyone doing new musicals anymore?” And our first shot of the Shubert Theatre shows a marquee reading “Heaven on Earth.” The show clearly preaches to the choir, though I suspect it’ll yield plenty of conversion stories over time.

Making theater complicates life, and life complicates making theater. Such is the stuff of “Smash” — and executive producers, including Steven Spielberg, have certainly earned a callback.

— Lynn

 Note: Click here to learn more about NBC’s “Smash”

Coming up: Celebrating “Kids’ Night on Broadway”

Arizona’s got talent

As NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” conducts auditions this weekend in Austin, a freelance casting producer is searching for the best of the best in Phoenix. Although there’s no open call audition in Phoenix for the show’s upcoming season, Sarah Furlong is busy reviewing video submissions — inviting select performers to a producers showcase for America’s Got Talent taking place Sat., Jan. 21 in Phoenix.

Prince Poppycock meets Americana

I chatted with Furlong yesterday about what they’re looking for — mainly variety acts and performers with an unusual or over-the-top vibe. Seems they’d “love to find a killer hip hop dance group” or another “Prince Poppycock type.” Fans of the show know Prince Popppycock as an uber-over the top performer with a Baroque persona and set list.

Furlong shared other examples of acts they’d love to locate during their time in Phoenix — from ropers to ventriloquists, and drag queens too. Folks who think they’re a good match need to create a video Furlong can screen before the middle of next week. Invites to the producers showcase will follow for those she selects.

I’ve encounted plenty of talented groups of young performers here in the Valley — ballet folklorico and Irish step dancers, circus and acrobat performers, twirling and martial arts athletes, and more. Also adults with diverse talents like animated storytelling with hand-crafted masks.

We’ve got lots of talented young singers, as well as bands, though Furlong says these aren’t the types of acts she’s looking for here in the Valley. But don’t feel disappointed if you’re the proud parent of a young actor, dancer or singer — because there’s another competition coming our way.

The Arizona Young Artists’ Competition offers aspiring young artists ages 15-19 the opportunity to compete in the areas of acting, dance and voice. The competition showcases diverse emerging artists, introduces young artists to the audition process and gives young artists a chance to interact with arts-professionals.

Preliminary auditions by category take place April 17-19 at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix, which presents the competition each year in collaboration with Center Dance Ensemble, the venue’s resident modern dance company led by Frances Smith Cohen.

Four finalists from each category are then selected to participate in the final competition on Sat, April 21. Judges select a winner in each category to receive a $1,000 scholarship to help further their education in the arts. Audience members participate as well, selecting a “People’s Choice Winner” in each category to receive a $100 award.

Registration for the Arizona Young Artists’ Competition is open through March 25, and the registration fee is $25 per discipline. Visit www.herbergertheater.org for event details and registration information.

— Lynn

Note: America’s Got Talent is accepting video auditions online through Feb. 15. Click here to learn more. Parents of youth who’d like to be considered for the show’s producers showcase in Phoenix can contact Sarah Furlong at 310-857-8575.

Coming up: A vision of loveliness, Art meets angst

Update: Click here for a comprehensive audition notice from Durant Communications about talent of all ages being sought for “America’s Got Talent.”

Small world, big parade

After meeting Tim Burton at the Central Park Zoo, Liz is especially excited about seeing his art come to life in floating form on Thursday

My daughter Lizabeth, who studies acting at Pace University, decided to stay in NYC during the Thanksgiving break. She called home Monday to share her plans for the week, which include visiting several museums and attending the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Lizabeth called home twice on Tuesday — each time sharing exciting news of people she’d encountered during day one of doing NYC in tourist mode. Her first stop that morning was the Central Park Zoo, where she was headed for a lemur exhibit just as director Tim Burton and actress Helena Bonham Carter crossed her path.

Both were gracious about taking pictures with Lizabeth, who genuinely appreciated their warm and generous spirits. Soon e-mails with pictures of the pair — plus other zoo sightings from sea lions and owls to polar bears and big cats — started flying. Maybe Thursday she’ll send me photos of Burton’s “B.” float, one of six works of contemporary art floated as part of the parade’s “Blue Sky Gallery Series.”

Lizabeth called home again while exploring FAO Schwarz in NYC, excited to tell me about a friend from Arizona who’d startled her with a tap on the shoulder. It was Alexandra Papazian and her mom, who I’d run into just the week before while indulging my son Christopher’s craving for Target popcorn.

Liz was surpised to run into a friend from Phoenix recently while visiting the FAO Schwarz store in New York City

Alexandra and Lizabeth spent many years studying and performing together at the School of Ballet Arizona in Phoenix, and Alexandra attended Arcadia High School with my older daughter Jennifer. Lizabeth was excited about reconnecting, and thrilled to learn that one of Alexandra’s younger brothers is performing in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

I got in touch with proud papa William Papazian, whose many volunteer gigs include heading Ballet Arizona’s Corporate Advisory Council, and shared my enthusiasm about reconnecting with their family after so many years. Soon I was chatting by phone with the younger William Papazian, a 17-year-old senior at Arcadia High School who goes by “B.J.”

Papazian was invited to join the 2010 Macy’s Great American Marching Band after attending the George N. Parks Drum Major Academy, and got the call this year to participate as an alumni — though it will have to be his last. Musicians are no longer eligible for the Macy’s Great American Marching Band once they graduate.

It’ll be easy to spot Papazian during Thursday’s parade, because Macy’s Great American Marching Band leads the pack. Papazian by the way, is one of six Arizona students playing in bands marching with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this year. Several Arizona youth are also participating in the parade’s Camp Broadway float, and will be sharing parade tales once they return.

William 'B.J.' Papazian marching in the 2010 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC

Macy’s Great American Marching Band starts off playing their own music, according to Papazian, but switches to showtunes once they reach Herald Square — home to Macy’s NYC. They’ll also perform a piece commissioned by Macy’s for this year’s parade — “Imagine Fanfare” by teen composer Tyler S. Grant.

Young performers put in plenty of hours preparing for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Papazian arrived at JFK Airport in NYC at 5pm on Saturday, and will stay with fellow musicians at a hotel in New Jersey. Though parents are welcome to watch on parade day, says Papazian, they’re not allowed to hover as musicians make their way through days leading up to the big event.

“Our first big rehearsal was Monday,” recalls Papazian. Seems they practiced from 7am until about 4:30pm, then headed out for a bit of fun NYC sightseeing. Tuesday rehearsals ran from about 7:30am to 12:30pm, says Papazian, who told me Tuesday afternoon of his plans to explore Times Square with fellow band members before Wednesday rehearsals that start at 7:30am and don’t wrap up “until the director feels we’re ready.”

There’s no full dress rehearsal, says Papazian, so Thurday’s parade is the first time they don those fancy uniforms complete with hats, gloves and assorted regalia befitting a marching band of this stature. Papazian describes the week’s adventure calmly, as if he performs every day before thousands of onlookers and millions of international television viewers. “I feel very honored to be here,” he says.

For all the magic of marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, it’s the friendships formed through two years of playing with the Macy’s All American Marching Band that Papazian finds most meaningful. His fellow musicians, he says, share similar values — hard work, academic integrity and kindness towards others. “Everybody here,” he says, “is really nice.”

“My favorite part is making friends with so many people,” reflects Papazian. “I’ll never forget the friendships or the memories that I’ve made here.”

— Lynn

Note: The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade airs at 9am on NBC. If you’re looking for unique gifts, check out the parade’s online gift shop — which sells goodies like ornaments, toys, stuffed animals and a new children’s book titled “Balloons Over Broadway.”

Coming up: Christmas ornaments — museum style

The man behind Mannheim Steamroller

When the “Pandora Unforgettable Holiday Moments on Ice” show rolls into town this weekend, it’ll feature musical performance by both David Archuleta and Mannheim Steamroller. Folk who want a little taste of the event can hit Scottsdale Fashion Square on Thursday.

The Pandora store is holding a show-related event from noon to 4pm on Nov. 10. Fans are invited to come out and enter for free ticket drawings, and to meet skaters from the show between 3pm and 4pm. 

I got my own sneak peek into Saturday’s show while chatting just a few days ago with Chip Davis, founder of Mannheim Steamroller — an innovative group of musicians with fans of all ages, including both my in-laws and my 18-year-old daughter Lizabeth.

Proof that Davis has always been a snappy dresser

Davis hails from a musical family in Ohio. Both grandmothers play piano — and one was the first to teach Davis to play when he was just five years old. Both of his parents are musicians and music teachers. “I grew up thinking this is what everybody does.”

Davis recalls singing and touring as a vocal soloist when he was just 1o years old. He took up the drums at age 11 but decided when he was 12 that he’d like to be an electrical engineer. Turns out he’s “not so great at math” and projects like building Heathkit radios led to “analyzing sounds” instead of engineering prowess.

While in 9th grade, Davis was recruited to play bassoon for the school band, something he later parlayed into making reeds and starting his own reed company. He’s also been a music teacher and a jingle writer.

Chip Davis during early Mannheim Steamroller days

“Each jingle is like my child,” says Davis. There are about 2,000 of them. For many years, he recalls, he wrote something new about every other day or so. Along the way he learned to write county western, and rhythym and blues, music. “I got my chops busted,” he says, “on a regular basis.”

Davis says he used to trade his jingle-writing skills for time in the recording studio — something that led to his first album, titled “Fresh Aire.” It’d be hard to sell, RCA told him, without a band and a name. So “Mannheim Steamroller” was born.

The name references a mid-18th century orchestra in Germany that discovered they could give listeners “gooseflesh” by gradually increasing the volume of their music and creating layers with the gradual addition of new instruments. Davis says he was about 25 years old when he made “Mannheim Steamroller” his moniker.

Today Mannheim Steamroller is best known for their Christmas music, which is what they’ll be performing at Pandora Unforgettable Holiday Moments on Ice. Davis noticed early on that Christmas events “bring three generations together.” 

A couple of  years ago, Davis did new arrangements for the live “Grinchmas” holiday show at the Universal Orlando Resort. The newly-released “Christmasville” CD, which includes the song “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch,” is the result. 

Nowadays Davis is working with the Mayo Clinic on a music playback device to support cardiac rehabilitation patients. “Music,” he shares, “is a strong pain diversion.” His music has also been heard on the international space staton and in nuclear submarines.

Still, Davis sounds very down to earth. He brags about daughter Kelly, age 20, and son Evan, age 15 — plus the two white timberwolves, Seti and Seth, who share their expansive property.

Davis and his family use three golf carts to get around, and love spending time with family pets that include a Corgi named “Bailey” and five horses. He loves his John Deere tractor, but it’s the baby horse named “Ghost” that seems to tug most at Davis’ heart.

— Lynn

Note: Grand Canyon University is offering a 33% discount on tickets for this event through Friday at 5pm. Folks can use promotional code VETSDAY to get the discount online at www.gcuarena.com, by phone at 602-639-8999, or at the GCU box office at 3300 W. Camelback Rd. in Phoenix. Watch for a taped national broadcast of the show Nov. 27 at 4pm EST on NBC.

Coming up: Prescott for families

Kids’ Night on Broadway

Nick Jonas was just named national ambassador for Kids' Night on Broadway 2012

The Broadway League announced today that actor and musician Nick Jonas will serve as national ambassador for the 2012 Kids’ Night on Broadway® — which takes place next February at participating theaters in New York City and across the country.

Families who’ve long wanted to experience live Broadway theater together can start planning now. Kids’ Night on Broadway tickets are available for participating shows Feb. 5-9, 2012.

Tickets go on sale Tues., Nov 1 at noon EST at www.kidsnightonbroadway.com.

Participating shows (to date) include two Off-Broadway productions — “Million Dollar Quartet” and “Stomp” — plus eighteen Broadway productions, including a new show at the top of my list called “Seminar.” Especially kid-friendly selections include “The Lion King” and “Mary Poppins.”

All Kids’ Night on Broadway ticket holders can join Jonas at a pre-theatre party Tues, Feb. 7 at Madame Tussauds New York. I’ve enjoyed several Jonas Brothers concerts with my daughter Lizabeth and friends, and know what an absolute thrill this type of opportunity presents for the fans.

Nick Jonas returns to Broadway on Jan. 24

Nick Jonas was all of eight years old when he launched a successful stage career, and will be returning to perform the role of J. Pierrepont Finch in the musical “How to Succed in Business Without Really Trying” starting Tues., Jan. 24. Jonas fans will want to make haste in securing tickets for this baby.

Thanks to our local public television station — Eight, Arizona PBS — I’ve watched Jonas’ performance in the “Les Misérables 25th Anniversary Concert at the O2” not once, but many times. And I’ll be watching those television listings next year for Jonas’ guest appearance on the new NBC musical drama “Smash.”

Jonas has previously been seen on Broadway in “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Les Misérables” — plus productions of “A Christmas Carol” and “The Sound of Music.” “As someone who got their start as a kid on Broadway,” says Jonas, “it’s truly an honor to be involved in such a fantastic event.”

“Broadway played an enormous role in inspiring me to be the performer I am today, and as this year’s ambassador I hope I’ll be able to encourage kids across the country to get involved in the theater,” adds Jonas, “whether on stage, behind the scenes or in the audience.”

Folks fortunate enough to be in NYC beginning Mon, Oct. 31, can get their Kids’ Night on Broadway tickets at the Broadway Concierge & Ticket Center located inside the Times Square Visitor Center. Both NYC and out-of-town theater lovers can now enjoy the center’s new online chat component.

The presenting sponsor for this year’s event is The New York Times, the paper I faithfully carry with me and read each day. Other people have smart phones. I have smart journalism. Madame Tussauds New York is also a presenting sponsor, though the Arizona heat would make it hard for me to haul around a lovely bit of wax work as a show of support.

— Lynn

Note: There’s even a cause-related component to Kids’ Night on Broadway. This year it’s Givenik.com — “the only place on the web to get Broadway tickets and have 5% donated to the charity of your choice.”

Coming up: Arizona Jewish Theatre Company opens its 2011/12 season

A pair of pandoras

David Archuleta performs in a holiday show coming to Grand Canyon University Arena

When my daughter Lizabeth studied ballet as a child, I spent far too much time worrying that something outside the dance studio might cause some sort of injury.

High heels and ice skating were taboo in the months preceding “The Nutcracker” (she danced several children’s roles in the Ballet Arizona production). Too much potential for spraining an ankle, I thought.

Though Lizabeth rarely took to the rink, a schoolmate named Maddie invited her every year, for several years, to see ice skaters perform in elaborate arena shows. Lizabeth loved watching the ice skaters, having a holiday tradition to look forward to and spending time with Maddie.

I thought of Lizabeth and Maddie when I learned that the “Pandora Unforgettable Holiday Moments on Ice” show, part of the “Pandora NBC Skating Series,” is coming to the new Grand Canyon University Arena in Phoenix on Sat, Nov 12. It’ll be taped for national broadcast by NBC on Sun, Nov 27 at 4pm EST.

Kristi Yamaguchi inspires ice skating dreams

The event features Olympic champion Brian Boitano skating to a live holiday music performance split between American Idol alum David Archuleta and Mannheim Steamroller, a group well loved by Lizabeth’s grandparents. Olympic ice skaters Ekaterina Gordeeva, Kimmie Meisner and Michael Weiss are also skating in the show. It’s being hosted by Kristi Yamaguchi, inspiration for many a little girl’s ice skating dreams.

Recently I spoke with Archuleta, who shared that his mother “drug him out on the dance floor” just a few days before. Archuleta grew up in a house full of music and dance — with mom dancing salsa and dad playing jazz.

He’s known to many for achieving top two status on “American Idol” during the show’s seventh season, where he broke young hearts and captured several older ones by singing John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

So how did Archuleta’s own musical journey begin? “It was musicals that got me into music,” he recalls. Archuleta recalls singing along at home with a recording of the 10th anniversary performance of “Les Miserables.” After his mom printed out some sheet music from the show, says Archuleta, he learned his very first song. It was “Castle on a Cloud.”

Archuleta will be performing holiday music during the “Pandora Unforgettable Holiday Moments on Ice” show. He recalls his own early attempts at ice skating at an outdoor rink in Utah, where he grew up. It’s tough to find those outdoor rinks in Florida, where Archuleta was born.

“The first time I was afraid I might fall and slip,” recalls Archuleta. But on a recent ice skating adventure just a few months ago in California, he managed to stay on his feet the whole time — probably because he spent a fair amount of time roller blading in his teens.

Archuleta says he’s excited about performing with so many national and Olympic skating champions because his family always watched the Olympics on television when he was growing up. Ice skating was one of their favorite Olympic events to enjoy together. “The Olympics,” reflects Archuleta, “brings everyone together.”

I don’t expect much ice skating from the Arizona Women’s Theatre Company, which presents its second annual “Pandora Showcase” at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts Nov 11, 12, 18 and 19. Their thing is presenting original works by women playwrights. It’s a whole other type of balancing act.

The “Pandora Showcase” features fully-staged favorites from previous “Pandora Festival” offerings. Fans of new theater works will also want to mark their calendars for the 2012 festival, taking place May 18-21 at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

My daughter, by the way, no longer takes classical ballet classes five or more days a week. She’s off in New York City, doing her B.F.A. in acting — where ankles still matter, but not so much that she can’t enjoy a bit of rink time down at Rockefeller Plaza.

— Lynn

Note: Visit the GCU Arena at www.gcuarena.com and the Arizona Women’s Theatre Company at www.azwtc.org. Visit www.davidarchuleta.com for details on Archuleta’s “Pandora” performance and his “Constitution Week” concert in Gilbert this weekend.

Coming up: The fine art of bugs?, A trio of tenors, Honk if you love Hans!