Tag Archives: Phantom

My fondness for “Fiddler”

Scene from "Fiddler on the Roof" (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Most folks know the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” thanks to songs like “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Tradition.”

It’s a lovely part of one of our own family traditions — enjoying touring Broadway productions, and other performing arts fare, at ASU Gammage in Tempe.

Often I take in shows with just my 17-year-old daughter, Lizabeth, herself a bit of a fiddler after a decade or so of violin study. She’s the family musical theater expert — and eagerly awaiting letters from the colleges where she recently completed B.F.A. auditions.

But seeing “Fiddler” at ASU Gammage — like “Phantom of the Opera” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” — has been a family affair.

The musical has plenty of elements that appeal to children — the rooftop fiddler, the sibling spats, the grandma “dream sequence,” the lively songs and dance sequences.

I first saw the show while parenting three young children, but this time around I’ll have the perspective of a mom with three grown children grappling with many of the issues treated in the show.

The longing to belong. The urge to break away. The pull of duty. The push of desire. The traditions shared by generations. The new paths forged by youth. The interplay of the personal with the political.

I confess to forging my own path with the song “If I Were a Rich Man” several years ago while performing with fellow parents at a talent show.

We were chaparoning a summer camp session of the Phoenix Girls Chorus, and changed up the words as an homage to artistic director Sue Marshall (who now heads the blossoming Arizona Girlchoir).

Thankfully, “If I Were Miss Sue” made its debut before the advent of YouTube and viral videos. Seems to me I did something similar with “Memory” (from the musical “Cats”) one year during a parent talent show at my children’s elementary school.

My favorite audio of the “Fiddler” variety is a recent interview with Harvey Fierstein that Lizabeth and I heard in the car one day — where we often listen to the SIRIUS XM “On Broadway” channel.

Fierstein has performed the lead role of Tevye (the father and milkman in this tale inspired by the stories of Sholom Aleichem), and eloquently shares the impact the show had on him as a young Jewish boy.

My “kids” may roll their eyes when the “Fiddler” song “Sunrise, Sunset” comes through the car radio speakers. But I know that one day, they’ll appreciate the lyrics to this and other “Fiddler” songs that capture the currents of change in family life and the world beyond.

— Lynn

Note: Watch the ASU Gammage website for the early March announcement of their 2011-2012 season — and head to ASU Gammage this week to enjoy the musical “9 to 5.”

Coming up: More musical theater with a family-friendly feel, Valley students present a series of one-act plays


Road trip: Balboa Theatre

Balboa Theatre in San Diego

I confess to feeling like a bit of a traitor. Eager to see the musical “Next to Normal,” I went with Lizabeth to San Diego for the weekend so we could see the show at the Balboa Theatre.

We’re longtime season ticket holders for the “Broadway Across Arizona” series at ASU Gammage, but haven’t any way of knowing whether “Next to Normal” will be part of their 2011-2012 slate.

When a small group of students from Lizabeth’s school went to NYC last year, everyone else saw “The Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway. Lizabeth chose to see “Next to Normal” instead, and took another student along for the show — only to learn that an understudy was replacing Alice Ripley (winner of a 2009 Tony Award for best performance by a leading actress in a musical) for that performance.

Young fans sometimes linger after the show to request autographs

We waited a long time outside the Balboa Theatre stage door after Saturday night’s “Next to Normal” performance — hoping to meet Ripley and tell her just how powerful we found her performance.

Though she didn’t come out after the show (we suspect she was feeling a bit under the weather), we did get to chat with several other cast members — all very gracious about talking with folks, signing programs and posing for pictures.

Considering all the lights and strobe effects in the show, I half expected cast members to wince at the thought of enduring a flurry of flashes. But they seemed happy to linger, with smiles and personalities as bright as those amazing lights on the three-tier set.

Balboa Theatre features beautiful decor

We shared that we’d come from Arizona — and folks asked “Which part of Arizona?” My answer — “the liberal part” — drew a hearty laugh from a cast member who shared that he’d grown up in Utah. We felt among friends.

Also waiting at the stage door that night were two Arizona students — including an ASU journalism major. I gave her my card and invited her to send me a review of “Next to Normal” — which she sent nearly perfectly polished and before “deadline.”

This chocolate joint was open past midnight!

We were among the final folks to abandon the quest to meet Ms. Ripley. When the theater security guards lock up and a police car starts lingering nearby, you get the feeling your level of interest might be misconstrued.

But before we moved on for a late night Ghirardelli run, we chatted with a delightful stage mom. I’m afraid to attempt the spelling of her name — which is quite beautiful and exotic. But I can handle the name of her 8-year-old son, Pierre.

Perhaps Pierre will sign autographs some day

Apparently Pierre was terribly shy until his parents enrolled him in a theater class, which introduced him to a world where different can be good. Now he’s becoming a regular on the San Diego Junior Theatre stage.

Remembering as we spoke that Theater Works’ Youth Works in Peoria is readying to open “James and the Giant Peach,” I invited Pierre’s mom to have him give me a call. Seems he’s an avid reader of Roald Dahl — the author of the book on which this play is based. I also encouraged her to make an Arizona road trip to explore our family-friendly theater offerings by Childsplay and others.

The beaches of San Diego (portrayed in this mural at the airport) are hard to leave behind

We’ve never spent a night at the theater without being introduced to compelling ideas and creative people — whether here in the Valley, on Broadway, or in another state. I can’t wait to see what Arizona companies and venues are offering during the 2011-2012 season.

Even the folks who sell show merchandise are friendly and fun

Something tells me that a pair of young men we met in San Diego will be heading to Tempe this week to see “Spring Awakening” at ASU Gammage. It sounds like they may follow this musical the way young adults of earlier generations sought out the Grateful Dead or Bruce Springsteen.

But what of “Next to Normal?” I’ll share thoughts on the show in a future post — and am delighted today to share a review by Gabrielle Abrams, whose writing I expect to be reading in all sorts of places for many years to come.

— Lynn

Note: Visit the “On Stage” section of the daily online calendar at www.raisingarizonakids.com to learn about family-friendly theater options here in the Valley.

Coming up: Film competition for high school students, Valley theater company holds playwriting competition, More history meets theater

Photos by Lynn Trimble (with special thanks to Lizabeth for enduring her mother’s fascination with photographing signs and other oddities)

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

Balanchine to butterflies

Normally I’m not much of a name-dropper, but today I can’t resist… 

George Balanchine. Sergei Prokofiev. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Ib Andersen. Never mind that three of the four are dead, because their artistry lives on in performances like “Balanchine Classics,” being presented this weekend by Ballet Arizona

Happily, Andersen is very much alive and celebrating the 10th anniversary of doing his thing with Ballet Arizona. His official title, of course, is artistic director. But that’s only because “visionary” might look silly on a business card. I’ve enjoyed Ballet Arizona performing Balanchine for years and it never disappoints. 

You’ll have four opportunities to see it performed this weekend with the Phoenix Symphony at Symphony Hall—including two matinees and two evening performances. Ballet Arizona describes various elements of the program as”exotic,” “powerful,” “riveting,” “elegant” and “intriguing.” I doubt it’s an oversell. 

The stage at the Virginia G. Piper Theater at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts will also be very much alive this weekend as one of Italy’s most innovative theater companies, Compagnia TPO (Teatro di Piazza d’Occasione), presents an interactive theater experience called “Farfelle” (Butterflies).

Audience members are seated on the stage surrounding TPO’s touch-sensitive “magic carpet” and “wing-like, sculptural set” as two dancers move through a “virtual landscape of sight and sound” to recreate a butterfly’s journey from wiggling caterpillar to flying adult. It sounds like a lot more fun than my usual encounters with farfalle, which involve eating pasta also known for its bow-tie shape. 

I suppose some of you might get butterflies attending a different performance this weekend, as Theater Works in Peoria presents Franc D’Ambrosio at the Peoria Center for the Arts. The Justin Bieber crowd may be unimpressed but the more mature among you may find yourselves swooning as “the world’s longes-running Phantom” performs in concert. 

This is a one-night-only deal, so set aside Saturday night, June 12, if you’re a fan of all things masked and melodic. The evening begins with a cocktail reception and silent auction, and features an artist reception/meet and greet following the concert. Proceeds benefit youth scholarships supported by the Scottsdale Foothills Rotary.

As always, your best resource for comprehensive information on family-friendly events in the Valley is the daily calendar available both online and in print from Raising Arizona Kids magazine—which regularly features everything from art exhibits and puppet shows to youth theater and storytimes. 

And so I leave you with just a few more options for weekend playtime… 

Arizona Designer Craftsmen presents the “50th Annual Juried Exhibition” (featuring the work of more than 50 artists) opening reception at the Mesa Arts Center June 11.

The Academy of the Performing Arts presents “Center Stage” featuring unique dance and music productions by a complete cast of 150 young performers and Academy staff at the Tempe Center for the Arts June 11-12. 

Dance Republic presents “Kings and Queens” June 12 at the Mesa Arts Center Piper Repertory Theater. 

Valley Youth Theatre presents your last opportunity to see their production of “Willy Wonka” through June 12 at VYT in Phoenix. 

And there you have it. Candy-themed theater. Masked men. Pairings of geniuses dead and alive. Butterflies that don’t startle. And more.

Don’t even think about staying home all weekend… 


Correction: Thanks to the keen-eyed reader who noted the incorrect day originally listed for the Theater Works performance featured above. This post has been updated to indicate that the concert is on Saurday (rather than Sunday). Alas–the “Phantom” has that effect on me…

Note: The week ahead also includes some special performances—including the Broadway hit “In the Heights” at ASU Gammage (June 15-20, with “talk-back” following the Saturday matinee), the “Israeli Scouts-Tzofim Friendship Caravan” in a free performance of song and dance (June 16), the start of The Metropolitan Opera summer “Live in HD” series (June 16 at select AMC and Cinemark Theaters in our area) and the opening of two community college theater productions (see future post for details).

Photos (top to bottom): “The Four Temperaments,” choreography by George Balanchine. Copyright the George Balanchine Trust. Photography by Rosalie O’Connor from balletaz.org; Butterfly Tree from dryicon.com; Frank D’Ambrosio as the Phantom of the Opera from theatre-musical.com; “Willy Wonka” from Valley Youth Theatre at vyt.com; “In the Heights” from asugammage.com.

Puttin’ on the…chips?

When Christopher and I jumped in the car yesterday to begin the day’s long list of activities, a song came blaring through the not-too-shabby radio speakers in my car. It was “The Impossible Dream” from the 1965 musical “Man of La Mancha.”

Save the trout! Eat more corn chips!

The song always reminds me of one of my few, maybe even my only, theater experience with my father. Perpetually proud of his jock status in high school, my dad was never one for song and dance.

Back then, you couldn’t flip on the television on Tuesday nights to see high school boys dance between football field and show choir ala Fox’s hit series “Glee.”

So I suspect it was the steak that actually lured him to the Colorado dinner theater we attended together many decades ago.

I don’t recall whether theater was an early childhood love, or simply one of many somethings I savored more than nailing wiggly worms with fishing hooks during father-daughter adventures with salmon and trout.

Maybe the evening stood out for me because it was such a radical departure from the things I usually did with my dad. Maybe they had desserts to die for. Maybe it was the tug of my own impossible dreams.

While I may never know, I’m glad Valley families have the opportunity to create similar “dinner and a dream” memories (with no snow chains required).

Movie theater fare--not dinner theater fare

Did you know that Broadway Palm Theatre in Mesa, one of several Prather family theaters around the country, presents dinner theater for both adults and children?

So far this season they’ve performed “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera”—both of special interest to audience members who can’t get enough of all things Andrew Lloyd Webber. (Note to self: It’s Weber of barbeque fame that has just one “b” in the name.)

Current offerings include Irving Berlin’s “I Love a Piano” featuring classics like “Puttin’ on the Ritz’” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business” (through July 3) and “Charlotte’s Web,” based on E.B. White’s tale of a spider named Charlotte and her friend Wilbur the pig (through July 2).

You can have a little fun with the whole “Puttin’ on the Ritz” piece by seeing it performed both ala Berlin and ala Brooks.

ASU Gammage brings “Young Frankenstein” (book by Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan, music and lyrics by Mel Brooks) to the Valley Sept. 27-Oct. 3—and Igor’s “Ritz” rendition has been getting rave reviews.

You never know where those ASA theater kids might strike!

Fans of classic Broadway works also can enjoy Arizona Broadway Theatre performances of “I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change” (Aug. 6-Sept. 19) and “Lend Me a Tenor” (Aug. 13-Sept. 26). They’ll open “Footloose” on June 11–but no dinner dealies are available, just snacks and drinks.

Check out the Broadway Palm West website for delicious details about their menu offerings and more.

Also keep an eye on those theater arts kids from Arizona School for the Arts

After last night’s “Showcase 2010” at Symphony Hall, during which they presented “A Pigeon Home Companion” ala old-time radio hour, I’m half-expecting them to present something along the lines of “Men from La Muncha”–complete with corn chips, chicken wings and pork rinds—for “Showcase 2011” at the beautiful Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix.


Note: This  post corrects an earlier version. Luckily for me, it’s unlikely that a whole bunch of people read it in the wee hours (which is when I wrote it)–given that the word “sexy” doesn’t appear in the title! Beware of “Stage Moms” who write in the afterglow of watching their children perform on stage…

Coming up: Review of Arizona School for the Arts’ “Showcase 2010” at Symphony Hall in Phoenix, which featured music, dance and theater–some of which rivaled the work of professionals we’ve seen perform at that very venue through the years