Tag Archives: Rat Pack

There’s no place like home

Fun souvenirs from "The Wizard of Oz" spotted during intermission at Mesa Arts Center

There’s no place like home — but sometimes we need to be reminded. Hence the timeless appeal of stories like L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz,” which is being brought to life on Valley stages this week thanks to Oz Theatre Company.

The show, originally adapted for the Royal Shakespeare Company by John Kane, features music and lyrics by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Yarburg. “The Wizard of Oz” is the first of four shows playing in Mesa and Phoenix as part of the 2011/12 Theater League season.

I attended a Dec. 7 matinee at the Mesa Arts Center, where several families — many spanning three generations — also enjoyed the show. A pair of elementary age boys told me the show was really funny, and several girls noted that “Dorothy did a really good job.” For some, it was the black terrier “Toto” who stole the show.

This family from Scottsdale (including a camera shy grandfather) told me they loved the show

Kerri McNeill, who recently earned a B.A. in theatre performance from Wagner College, makes her national touring debut as Dorothy Gale, and does a superb job. Her Dorothy is fresh and vibrant, with strong vocals — which explains the long list of “Past and Present of Wagner on Broadway” on the school’s website.

Patrick Pevehouse (Hank/Scarecrow) attended Oklahoma City University, Brian Maxseen (Hickory/Tinman) holds “a B.A. in make-believe from NYU/Tisch” and Brent Walker (Zeke/Lion) graduated with a BFA in musical theatre from the University of Central Florida. I notice these things more now that my own daughter is pursuing a BFA in acting at Pace University in NYC.

The trio’s collective performance is enchanting, bringing real warmth and humor to the stage. Audience members of all ages rewarded them often with laughter and applause, and also seemed especially smitten with Laurie Pascal in the roles of Miss Gulch and Wicked Witch of the West.

Kelly Karcher (Auntie Em/Glinda), Bryan Miner (Uncle Henry/Emerald City Guard), and Bob Pritchard (Professor Marvel/The Wizard of Oz) round out the very capable cast. The ensemble, which often breaks into old-school song and dance ala television variety shows of bygone days, adds real charm throughout.

Greasepaint Youtheatre actors ages 8 to 12 perform the role of Munchkin

Our own local actors, ten “Munchkins” from Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale, spend more time on stage than I’d expected — and fit right in with the rest of the cast. They’re perky, polished and professional, and I fully expect to be reviewing many of them in future touring productions. Enjoy them on Valley stages while you still can.

This production of “The Wizard of Oz” is a beautiful blend of storytelling and stagecraft for the young and young at heart. Never mind that cables are faintly visible as witches float through the air. It’s plenty magical for young audiences, as are projections that bring tornado debris, poppies and snow to life. The show features projections created by Second Home Productions, Aerographics by Flying by Foy and Special Effects by I & M Special Effects.

But I took more delight in the show’s colorful, creative costumes — plus imaginative wigs and hair props. The original set and costumes were designed by Tim McQuillen-Wright, and Bernie Ardia served as the original wig designer. Costume coordination and additional costume designs are the work of Jimm Halliday.

Head props, including tree branches that seem to grow like gravity-defiant pigtails dotted with shiny red apples, are the work of Liz Spray. Head wardrobe — no small feat in a show full of wonderfully whimsical hats, is by Jennifer Mohrman. Wigs are by Anthony Lauro. All enhance the show’s kid-friendly feel.

This Chandler family had lots of praise for the Wednesday matinee performance

After three performances at Mesa Arts Center, “The Wizard of Oz” now moves to the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Phoenix for a Dec. 8-11 run. It’s another intimate venue perfect for introducing young audiences to musical theater. Take your children now, before they’re grown and moved away. Memories created at the theater together remind us for a lifetime that there’s no place like home.

— Lynn

Note: Future shows in the 2011/12 Theater League season for Mesa and Phoenix include “My Fair Lady,” “The Rat Pack is Back!” and “Rock of Ages.” Learn more at www.theaterleague.com. Folks with a special interest in projections in theater design will enjoy David Barbour’s “The Prevalence of Projections” in the Dec. 2011 issue of American Theatre magazine.

Coming up: Strolling meets sculpture, Quilting for a cause


Big MAC attack!

Sunday is your last chance to see Mesa Encore Theatre perform The Music Man, which beat out West Side Story to win the 1958 Tony Award for best musical

Knowing the 2011 Tony Awards are right around the corner, I decided to go in search of local productions of Tony Award-winning musicals. I started with shows coming to the Mesa Arts Center after getting an e-mail alert that tickets for their 2011-2012 Broadway series, which includes four shows, start at just $95.

Watch the Tony Awards on CBS this Sunday night to see who wins best musical for 2011

The series includes “Rock of Ages,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “The Rat Pack is Back” — plus “My Fair Lady,” winner of the 1957 Tony Award for best musical. The 1958 Tony Award for best musical went to “The Music Man,” which is being performed at MAC by Mesa Encore Theatre through June 12.

I’ll have to share other Tony Award winners coming to Valley stages in a later post, because I’m experiencing a bit of a”big MAC attack” at the moment. Turns out there’s a ton of good stuff happening at the Mesa Arts Center, so I’ve got MAC on the brain instead.

The Mesa Arts Center has offerings in four main areas — shows, classes, events and museum exhibits. Upcoming shows sound plenty intriguing. There’s “Retro,” “Live Love Dance!,” and even Steve Martin and his banjo buddies. Events to watch for include fall and spring “out to lunch” concert series, the Mesa Arts Festival and celebrations of Dia de los Muertos.

This girl should have signed up for music classes through Mesa Arts Center

Mesa Arts Center offers classes in visual and performing arts. Think blacksmithing for the grown-ups and ceramic “mud pups” for children. Also American tribal dance and belly dance classes. Plus “scenes for teens” acting classes and a “dance sampler” for kids who want to explore various dance options.

Exhibits opening today at MAC’s “Mesa Contemporary Arts” space — a collection of five galleries — include “Picturing Maricopa” and “Women’s Work.” Other current exhibits include “Chicanitas,” “Vermilion Remains,” and “Wood & Substance, Substance & Spirit.”

Another snappy dresser from the Mesa Encore Theatre production of The Music Man

That’s a lot of art for an admission fee of just $3.50. Kids age 7 & under are always free — and admission is free for all on Thursdays (the museum is closed on Mondays). I’m going to have to move this to the top of my “me time” to do list. My grown children would enjoy the works, but they’re already off and running in a million directions this summer. Bummer.

— Lynn

Note: The Theater League 2011-2012 Broadway series also performs at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix

Coming up: Art meets science — with a twist of creative genius

Photo credit: Sarah Rodgers and Wade Moran

Symphony meets Seuss

My daughter Lizabeth, now nearly 18 and heading off to college this fall, found these pictures of her early violin days while sifting through old photo boxes recently

All three of our children grew up attending Phoenix Symphony concerts several times a year. They appreciated them more, I think, because they all played instruments at the time. Violin for Lizabeth. Flute for Jennifer. And saxophone for Christoper. Plus piano for all three.

Often our favorites were concerts from the “Family Series” — works selected by the Phoenix Symphony because of their appeal to children and families. When their 2011/12 season brochure landed in my mailbox recently, I turned first to the “Family Series” portion — which may well be their best family offering yet.

The series runs December 2011 through May 2012. All “Family Series” concerts take place at 2:30pm on Saturdays — making them easy for busy parents to remember. And late enough in the day that most children have finished morning dance lessons, soccer practice and such.

Mark you calendars now, just to be on the safe side. And consider getting a “Family Series” subscription. Especially for younger children, it’s nice to have the familiarity of sitting in the same seats for each performance.

There are plenty of benefits for the grown-ups, too. Special event concert pre-sales. A discount dining card. Prepaid parking privileges. And ticket exchange flexibility. And my personal favorite, the ability to get duplicate tickets when mine get mysteriously misplaced.

So here’s the rundown on this season’s “Family Series” events: “Holiday Celebration” (Dec 3), “Beethoven Lives Upstairs” (Jan 7), “Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs & Ham” (March 17), “Musical Fables” (April 28) and “High Flying! Cirque de la Symphonie” (May 26). I love that so many have links to literature.

The “APS Pop Series” sounds just as fun. Think Gershwin. Motown. Rat Pack. Rodgers and Hammerstein. More Cirque de la Symphonie. Even “Broadway Rocks” — featuring “three Broadway soloists” performing hits from shows like “Wicked,” “Jersey Boys,” “Hairspray,” “Rent,” “Dreamgirls,” and “Mamma Mia!”

My baby, who’ll soon be turning 18, starts college this fall just a few blocks from Broadway. I’m going to miss her something fierce — especially when I hear the Phoenix Symphony performing showtunes, or partnering with Phoenix Theatre on numbers from “Carousel,” “Cinderella,” “The King and I,” “South Pacific,” and “The Sound of Music.”

The Phoenix Symphony offers additional 2011/12 series — including “Classics,” “Coffee Classics” and “Scottsdale” as well as special concerts. There’s an annual event to benefit their education and community outreach programs. Performances of “Handel’s Messiah” throughout the Valley. And a “New Year’s Eve Celebration.”

Remember, as you’re planning trips to hear the Phoenix Symphony perform at Symphony Hall in Phoenix, that the downtown area is also home to all sorts of kid-friendly fare. The Children’s Museum of Phoenix. Valley Youth Theatre. The Arizona Science Center. Burton Barr Central Library. The Heard Museum. And more.

If vacations to other parts feel too cumbersome or costly, consider enjoying a bit of arts tourism right here at home. Symphony Hall is near several hotels, and places like the Arizona Center have food options for even finicky young eaters. Why not make a whole weekend of it?

— Lynn

Coming up: More musings on arts tourism, Valley choirs for children and teens