Tag Archives: New York Times

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

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Boeing, Boeing, gone…

I started Wednesday morning like many others — checking on the day’s news. Never mind that Nancy Grace will be dancing with Tristan MacManus on DWTS this season. My eyes went straight to a story about companies that pay less in federal taxes than they do in CEO salaries.

The New York Times reported Wednesday on 25 of them, including Boeing. About that same time, an e-alert from Phoenix Theatre crossed my virtual desk — reminding me that opportunities to see their production of “Boeing, Boeing” will be gone after Sept 11. The Broadway production won a 2008 Tony Award for best revival of a play.

My daughter Lizabeth will be seeing the final performance of “Catch Me If You Can” on Broadway this weekend after flying back East to start college theater studies. It’s the tale of a teenager who dons different identities, including airplane pilot, after running away from home in search of a more glamorous life.

If there’s an airplane aficionado in your family, consider a visit to the Commemorative Air Force Museum at Falcon Field in Mesa — a place I often visited with my son Christopher, now 22, when he was a little boy enamored by anything with wheels. It’s got a cool collection of planes and other military items.

In coming days, we’ll all be tempted to focus again on the planes used to take thousands of lives ten years ago on 9/11. Instead, let’s honor the many heroes of that day, including those aboard United Airlines flight 93 who saved our nation from even greater tragedy.

— Lynn

Note: To learn more about the national 9/11 Memorial, visit www.911memorial.org

Coming up: Remembering 9/11, Bunny tales, More “Dance Moms” musings

The church of Broadway?

When the phone rang just after 7pm Sunday night, I joked with my daughter Lizabeth that people should know better than to call us during church. Neil Patrick Harris, last night’s reverend for the 2011 Tony Awards ceremony, had just delivered his sermon — known to the uninitiated as an “opening number.” Something about “it’s not just for gays anymore.” I suspect half of the pews emptied at that point, but no matter. The truly faithful just grabbed their remote controls and cranked up the volume.

I owe the theater as church analogy to an arts advocate I interviewed last week. After sharing her passion for theater, symphony and ballet, the woman very matter of factly said something I’ll never forget — “Church does that for some people.” More than one church was represented during this year’s Tony Awards. The opening number mingled missionaries from “The Book of Mormon” and nuns from “Sister Act.”

The church of Broadway is a place of gratitude — and this year’s remarks, by both presenters and those accepting awards, were mindful of those who make a life in theater possible. Parents. Partners. Teachers. Mentors. While accepting the Tony Award for best actor in a featured role (play), John Benjamin Hickey of “The Normal Heart” warned his family in Plano, Texas that they better not be watching the Mavericks game. Futile advice, because everyone knows that football is a religion in Texas.

I’ll be watching the headlines Monday to see whether Kathleen Marshall, winner of the Tony Award for best choreography, stuck with her vow to run right home and change the names of her baby twins to “Antoinette” and “Perry.” If you don’t get the reference, by the way, your church attendance is lagging. More time in the performing arts pew is clearly called for.

The Tony Award for best direction of a musical went to Trey Parker and Casey Nicholaw for “The Book of Mormon.” While millions of Mormons may be offended by the work, Nicholaw’s acceptance speech — “I’d like to thank everyone I’ve ever met in my entire life” — offended none. Parker thanked his mom, dad and “South Park” fans — plus a few others I missed while caught up in one of many “The Book of Mormon” moments.

Remarks offered during the acceptance speech for best musical were more controversial, but ticket sales aren’t suffering. Last week you could buy tickets for shows in August, but one day after snagging nine Tony Awards, “The Book of Mormon” is sold out well into September.

When Nikki M. James accepted the award for best actress in a featured role (musical), also for “The Book of Mormon,” she thanked her mother — who was in the house to witness James’ recollection of growing up with the story of a bumblebee who flew because no one ever told the bee it was impossible. “I come from a long line of bumblebees,” shared the actress. Thankfully, she had the good sense to avoid wearing a black and yellow gown.

John Larroquette, who won a Tony Award for best actor in a featured role (musical), thanked his three children, his wife and the show’s dance captain — acknowledging the talents of fellow “How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying” actor Daniel Radcliffe as well with something along the lines of “without whom I would be sitting at home watching this in my underwear.”

Sometimes fellow faithful, even in the church of Broadway, need to call each other out. The last thing Kelsey Grammer needed was a spotlight as he uttered the words “Anything Goes.”

Still, the church of Broadway can change the way we see people. After watching Radcliffe perform with the cast during “Brotherhood of Man” we might finally see an end to folks who head to Broadway hoping to see that fellow from the “Harry Potter” films. Instead, they’ll wonder how someone so born to song and dance could have spent half a lifetime waving a magic wand. I’m a “Harry” fan, but there’s just no way to reconcile a cloak of invisibility with a loud plaid jacket.

Transformation on all sorts of levels appears to have taken place for U2’s Bono and The Edge, who wrote the songs for “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” scheduled to open on Broadway next Tuesday. “The last year,” they shared, “has been a real education in just how hard you people work.” A love song from the musical, which will be eligible for 2012 Tony Awards consideration, was performed at this year’s ceremony with beautiful simplicity against the backdrop of a delicate spider web and starlit sky.

Sometimes theater, like temple or church, changes the way we look at life. The first award shown during the Tony Awards broadcast went to Ellen Barkin of “The Normal Heart” for best actress in a featured role (play) — who says the show has taught her that “one person can change the world.” Members of the creative team spoke of the freedom to live, love and marry — and reminded the audience that “theater really matters.” They also praised Larry Kramer for the show they describe as “the ultimate love story.”

“The Normal Heart,” shared Kramer, “is our history.” He urges gay people to “learn from it and carry on the fight.” “We are a very special people, an extraordinary people,” he says. “Our day will come.” I know there are plenty of churches out there that frown on such dogma, but I’m proud to belong to the church of Broadway.

No matter the church, no one wants to listen to the same sermon time and time again. So Tony Awards watchers must have been thrilled by teasers of other shows making their way to Broadway stage. “Ghost,” a musical based on the 1990 film starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg. “The Mountaintop,” a play featuring Samuel L. Jackson in the role of Martin Luther King, Jr. And “Master Class,” another play — featuring Tyne Daly.

For all the splendor of this year’s Tony Awards ceremony (and yes, Mr. Colbert, I do mean watching you mix it up in that fetching red turtleneck), there were moments of sadness as the names and faces of theater folk who’ve died during the past year were shown — including 11-year-old actor Shannon Tavarez (pictured here), who performed the role of “Young Nala” in “The Lion King” on Broadway before being diagnosed with leukemia. Tavarez inspired thousands of people to join the bone marrow registry. One day, perhaps, her Broadway legacy will include saving someone else’s life.

— Lynn

Note: I mean no offense to those for whom time spent in traditional churches and other places with religious significance is a very serious and sacred matter.

Coming up: Two-spirit people, Ode to blue, Signs your child is a theater geek

Update: Click here to enjoy Sutton Foster singing for Sesame Street’s “Elmo” — and to enjoy similar YouTube offerings, including “Grover” appearing in “SpiderMonster, The Musical.”

A conversation with David Hallberg

I spoke with David Hallberg, principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre, the morning after Natalie Portman waltzed away with a best actress Oscar for her performance in “Black Swan.”

Hallberg noted that she’d done some of her dance training for the film at the ABT studios in New York, and was generous in his praise of her work in developing the level of movement needed to perform the role of “Nina.”

Still, he’s quick to dispel the myth that “Black Swan” is a ballet flick. Instead, Hallberg describes it as “a great horror movie.”

Hallberg uses the term “focused pressure” to describe his own experience as a principal dancer — noting that he’ll be performing in March with the Bolshoi Ballet in Russia.

“All the world and Russia will be watching,” reflects Hallberg. One “could buckle under the pressure,” he says. “But — knock on wood — I never do that.”

So is there a strategy Hallberg suggests for developing dancers? “Focus the stresses,” he says. “Know how to use them to your best advantage.”

David Hallberg performs in “Other Dances” (Photo by Rosalie O’Connor)

It sounds like he got plenty of experience doing just that during his five years as a student at Arizona School for the Arts — which recently honored Hallberg with its inaugural “Distinguished Young Alumnus Award.”

Arizona School for the Arts, a charter school in downtown Phoenix that serves grades 5-12, is currently celebrating its 15th anniversary.

ASA students spend their mornings in academic classes and their afternoons in arts classes. The school enjoys partnerships with several professional arts organizations, including Ballet Arizona.

Hallberg credits much if his success to Kee-Juan Han, with whom he studied both at ASA and at what’s now known as the School of Ballet Arizona.

Despite his devotion to ballet, a talent Hallberg first honed during his early teens (which is late by ballet standards), he was always expected to study hard and get good grades.

“My parents were never okay with me having a secondary academic career,” shares Hallberg. After a full school day at ASA, he’d take more dance classes at the Ballet Arizona studios.

Hallberg recalls doing homework during brief breaks between classes — then heading home around 9pm for a protein shake, more homework and that scarce resource known as sleep.

While studying at ASA, Hallberg’s mornings began at 5:15am. First there was the drive to school. Then more homework. Then classes and dance for the rest of the day.

David Hallberg performs in “Cinderella” (Photo by Marty Sohl)

But what about the students studying dance who haven’t the same passion for pursuing a ballet career? Hallberg says they enjoy the same benefits — developing discipline, a strong work ethic and the focus that’s helpful in all walks of life.

Hallberg recalls that French was among his favorite academic classes at ASA, where all students are required to complete several years of study in either Spanish or French. It came in handy during his time with the Paris Opera Ballet.

Hallberg describes developing greater appreciation for history and language arts as his “school career went along.”

He’s especially intrigued by European history and the “molding influence of arts” on movements like the Renaissance and the Reformation. He also sees the influence of arts in contemporary movements and events.

David Hallberg performs in “Giselle” (Photo by Rosalie O’Connor)

So was there something specific in his ASA education that gave Hallberg this appreciation for the interplay of arts and culture? “I had an education,” reflects Hallberg, “that was out of the box.”

“It wasn’t a conventional A-B-C type academic education,” says Hallberg. “It taught me to see all shadings of a certain situation.”

Hallberg feels the experience sets him apart from his peers. “I realize my responsibility as an artist to influence my contemporaries and the next generation.”

Too often public education in our country doesn’t value or respect students as individuals, according to Hallberg. “At ASA,” he says, “being an individual is encouraged.”

“Being a unique individual,” muses Hallberg, “is what sets you apart from the status quo.” Hallberg says his years at ASA were “very positive and formative” — helping him “spread his wings” to become the person he is today.

Experiences at ASA taught Hallberg to keep reaching and growing — and to share the wealth of his experiences with others.

“When you have a talent or a calling,” says Hallberg, “it’s one thing to rest on your laurels.” The higher calling is “owning up to the responsibility that brings.”

When he’s not dancing or traveling, Hallberg enjoys experiencing “other art forms.”

Hallberg rattles off a long list that includes visual arts, museums, other performance art and classical music. Also something he calls “techno” — a fact shares with a bit of a giggle.

But how did Hallberg even realize he had an interest in dance? What made him take that first class? What started the journey to so many places far and wide?

“I saw Fred Astaire on television at the age of eight,” recalls Hallberg. “I just knew I wanted to move like him.”

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about ASA’s affiliation with another Valley arts organization, Phoenix Theatre.

Coming up: Burning questions (inspired by Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony), Real drama in Wisconsin, Scottsdale Conservatory Theatre

Update: Mr. Hallberg has accepted the position of premier (principal dancer) with the Bolshoi Ballet in Russia, the first American dancer to do so. Learn more at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/21/arts/dance/american-to-join-the-bolshoi-ballet.html?_r=2&hp. Updated: 9/20/11.

Update: The Opera & Ballet in Cinema Series presents a live simulcast of the Bolshoi Ballet production of “The Sleeping Beauty” featuring Svetlana Zakharova and David Hallberg in three Arizona theaters at 8am on Sun, Nov. 20. Click here for details. Updated: 11/3/11.