Tag Archives: The Wiz

Little bits of Broadway

“Punk Dudes Go to see Sound of Music” by Lori Wilson (formerly exhibited by Art Awakenings at the ASU Kerr Cultural Center in Scottsdale)

The 2012 Tony Awards are fast approaching, so it’s the perfect time to enjoy a bit of Broadway close to home. Here’s a sampling of weekend options, plus news of a few shows coming down the road…

  • The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix presents “Sing-a-long-a Sound of Music” Fri, May 18 at 7pm. It’s hosted by Jan D’Atri, and Dee Dee Wood (who choreographed dance scenes for the film) will be in the house. Folks are invited to wear costumes and participate in an on-stage costume contest, so haul out those lederhosen and draperies stitched into playclothes.
  • Arizona Broadway Theatre presents “Tarzan: The Broadway Musical” through Sun, May 20. It’s the work of Disney and Phil Collins, and features several songs not included in the movie soundtrack. (Watch for “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” during their 2012-2013 series.)
  • “La Cage Aux Folles” continues through May 20 at ASU Gammage (mature content/recommended for ages 13 & up).
  • Fathom Events presents two Broadway shows on film at theaters in Glendale, Green Valley, Mesa, Phoenix, Sierra Vista and Tucson — “The Phantom of the Opera” (Mon, May 21 at 7:30pm) and “Love Never Dies” (Wed, May 23 at 7:30pm).
  • Mesa Encore Theatre presents “Hairspray” at Mesa Arts Center May 25-June 3.
  • Valley Youth Theatre opens its 2012-2013 season with “Legally Blonde the Musical” at the Herberger Theater Center on Aug. 10, then presents the Arizona premiere of “How I Became a Pirate” (based on the children’s book by Melinda Long) at VYT in October. They’ll open “The Wiz” this June.
  • Fountain Hills Theater opens its 2012-13 season with “Sunset Boulevard.” Their next season also includes “The Full Monty” and four additional shows. Also watch for “The Soul of Broadway” coming to FHT Aug. 17-26.
  • The Sun City Grand Drama and Comedy Club presents “Little Shop of Horrors,” along with four other shows, as part of its 2012-2013 season.

You’ll find additional Broadway shows, and other performing arts events, in the daily calendar from Raising Arizona Kids magazine. Click here to explore offerings from other Arizona theater companies and learn more about the Arizoni Awards.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about Art Awakenings, which provides art opportunities for youth and adults living with mental illness.

Coming up: Once upon a Broadway binge


Charlotte’s Web

Young Arts Arizona worked with children and teens from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale to create custom artwork you can enjoy when you see the show

Valley Youth Theatre opened its production of the play “Charlotte’s Web,” directed by Lauren Antioco, this weekend. It’s a Joseph Robinette adaptation of E.B. White’s classic book about friendship, loyalty and self-sacrifice. And it’s beautifully done.

Charlotte's Web cast members get ready to meet and greet fans

The set design by Dori Brown in striking, as is lighting design by D.J. Selmeyer. Costume design by Karol Cooper perfectly captures the small farmtown setting from head to toe. Sound design by Clearwing Production is also exceptional. Taken together, they make “Charlotte’s Web” one of the best designed pieces of youth theater I’ve seen to date.

Sam Primack (Wilbur) poses with two young fans after the show

The production was also exceptionally well cast. Lead roles went to Hannah Blaile of Arcadia High School (Charlotte), Sophia Drapeau of Veritas Preparatory Academy (Fern) and Sam Primack of Cherokee Elementary (Wilbur). Primack has plenty of acting experience, and it shows. Together, the show’s 29 cast members create a cohesive, capable ensemble.

Charlotte's Web cast members pose for photos after the show

I especially enjoyed performances by the actors noted above — plus Jamie Grossman of Ironwood High School (Edith Zuckerman), Audrey Nelson of Archway Classical Academy (Little Lamb) and Aaron Zweiback (Templeton) of Arizona School for the Arts. Also Erik Wilson (Avery), a medieval history buff who didn’t note a school in his program bio.

These young ladies came out to see Sophia perform the role of Fern

A mother I talked to during intermission shared that the production had just the right balance for her two young daughters — holding their interest without being too loud or busy. To producing artistic director Bobb Cooper’s credit, “Charlotte’s Web” is just simple, elegant storytelling that shows real respect for young viewers.

Future teacher Audrey Nelson (Little Lamb) signs autographs after the show

“Charlotte’s Web” is being performed at Valley Youth Theatre through Feb. 19. Next up is Julianne Moore’s “Freckleface Strawberry” and “The Wiz” (which’ll be performed at the Herberger Theater Center). When you go, stay after the show to enjoy meeting cast members, who love signing autographs and talking with young fans.

You'll enjoy both visual and performing arts at Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix

Also take time to enjoy “Charlotte’s Web” inspired artwork created by children and teens from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale through Young Arts Arizona. Valley Youth Theatre is one of several venues that displays Young Arts Arizona works — and pictures currently exhibited at VYT feature pigs, geese, spiders and webs sporting words ala Charlotte herself.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about VYT shows, spring break camps, performing arts classes and more.

Coming up: Don’t mock the presidents!

Comedy for a cause

Little did Michael Yichao know, when donning a Munchkin costume as a fourth-grader to perform in a Valley Youth Theatre production of “The Wizard of Oz,” that one day he’d become an MFA acting student hoofing three original works collectively titled “Boys are Dumb, Girls are Mean.”

But that glorious day has arrived, and Yichao is hoping families will come out to support the work. His “Boys are Dumb, Girls are Mean” trio features three short works that total just 90 minutes.

They’ll be performed Sat, Aug 27 at 2pm at Jester’Z Improv Comedy in Scottsdale, which describes the works as “kid-friendly” and “family-oriented.” The show is free but a suggested $7 donation will help Yichao fund future performances of the work.

He’s hoping to take “Boys are Dumb, Girls are Mean” to a variety of venues — including “Fringe” festivals in NYC and Edinburgh, a London playwriting competition, and children’s theaters in Minneapolis and Hawaii.

This weekend’s performance features “four kids from Arizona as well as two actors and a composer from California.” The local actors are Donovan Fiore (age 12) of Gilbert, Rachel Goodman (age 16) of Phoenix, Harrison Redmond (age 12) of Chandler and Jayna Jordan Sweet (age 16) of Ahwatukee.

The trio of tales includes a comedy titled “Dear Diary,” which follows a high school freshman “dealing with dances and diaries, girls and geeks, best friends and betrayals.” Also “Between: A Musical,” about four kids navigating the space between childhood and adulthood while confronting life-changing moments. And “Travis Tries to Talk to Girls,” a dramedy that explores the impact of heritage, mixed traditions and the Internet on finding love.

Playwright Michael Yichao

Yichao is a familiar face on the Valley theater scene, having performed in several VYT shows, directed productions for his own theater company “CloPet” (currently on hiatus) and more. He graduated from ASU with a double major in English and theater, and is currently entering his second year at California Institute of the Arts.

I’m told that space for Saturday’s performance is limited, and that folks who want to attend should make reservations by e-mailing Yichao at myichao@gmail.com.

— Lynn

Note: Waymire Studio for the Performing Arts presents “Wayward Comedy” Sat, Aug 27 at 7pm in Glendale. Details at http://www.waymirestudio.com.

Coming up: Finding audition opportunities for youth


L. Frank Baum is best known writing “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” published in 1900. Baum was born in New York in 1856 and died in California in 1919. In between he lived in South Dakota and Chicago. Fascinating choices.

Baum wrote several novels, short stories and poems — and dabbled in theater. His most popular novel inspired a play that landed on Broadway in 1903. Its run was short. But the movie that turned his story into a musical in 1939 (first telecast in 1956) is still a hit today.

The film (available in a special 70th anniversary edition) starred Judy Garland as Dorothy and Billie Burke as Glinda. Its “Over the Rainbow” earned an Academy Award for “best music song.” “Follow the Yellow Brick Road,” “The Lollipop Guild,” and “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” did not.

Check out the amazing color in this Warner Brothers wallpaper used during the digital release of the restored 1939 The Wizard of Oz film

In 1975, a new version of Baum’s tale hit Broadway. It was titled “The Wiz” and it earned seven Tony Awards, including “best musical.” Its best known song is “Ease on Down the Road.”

“The Wiz” is an R & B twist on the classic tale. It transforms Dorothy into a shy Harlem school teacher, a role played in the 1978 film version by Diana Ross. Lena Horne played Glinda, Michael Jackson played the Scarecrow and Richard Pryor played the Wizard.

Valley Youth Theatre performs “The Wiz” June 8-24, 2012 at the Herberger Theater Center. Like VYT’s “13” and “Annie” before it, “The Wiz” will bring impressive production elements to this spacious venue so audiences of all ages can enjoy talented youth performing on a grand stage.

A new Theater League production of “The Wizard of Oz,” featuring E.Y Harburg and Harold Arlen songs written for the 1939 film, comes to Mesa Arts Center and the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix this December. I’m told it includes an art deco Oz, munchkins and flying monkeys — making for a fun and unique way to enjoy some family together time during the holiday season.

Those seeking a more immediate Oz fix can head to Desert Stages Theatre in Scottsdale Aug 19-Sept 18 for their production of “The Wizard of Oz,” one of many works in their 2011-12 children’s theatre series.

Original company of Wicked on Broadway (Photo by Joan Marcus)

Novelist Gregory Maguire explores life in Baum’s pre-Dorothy Oz with his 1995 book titled “Wicked.” It’s the basis for the musical “Wicked,” which features book by Winnie Holzman and music/lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.

“Wicked” opened on Broadway in 2003 starring Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda the Good and Idina Menzel as the Wicked Witch of the West. Glinda has a bad case of the sparkles and the other a bad case of green. Joel Grey originated the role of the Wizard in “Wicked” on Broadway.

“Wicked” earned three Tony Awards and one Grammy Award. Best-loved songs from the musical include “Popular” (funny), “Defying Gravity” (inspiring) and “For Good” (heart-warming). “Wicked” is still open on Broadway and there are also London, Australia and touring productions.

The U.S. national tour comes to ASU Gammage (for a third time) Feb 15-March 11, 2012 — making tickets a lovely Valentine’s Day option. It’s a charming show for couples, sisters and mother/daughter outings. During previous ASU Gammage runs the show has sold out quickly, even warranting ticket lotteries and such.

A new Andrew Lloyd Webber production of The Wizard of Oz is currently being performed in London (Photo by Alastair Muir)

There’s a final option for those of you planning travel to London, where a new musical adaptation of the 1939 film opened this spring. This “The Wizard of Oz” features a few new songs, including “Red Shoes Blues,” by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice — known to many for their collaborations on “Evita,” “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

Texting O-M-G is so last year. Thanks to L. Frank Baum and those inspired by his work, the truly trendy will instead be texting “O-M-O” this theater season.

— Lynn

Note: If you need more Oz in your life, consider reading other Maguire works (including “Son of a Witch”) and stay tuned for a film titled “Oz: The Great and Powerful” due out in 2013.

Coming up: More stories meet stages

All the world’s a circus?

"The Magic Circus" by Mark Ryden

I chatted recently with one of the cast members of Greasepaint’s “The Wiz,” who reminded me he’s part of a local circus troupe called the Taylor Family Circus — recently featured in the June 2010 issue of Raising Arizona Kids magazine.

I seem to find the circus arts here, there and everywhere these days. Just last month “Cirque Shanghai Bai Xi” performed at Chandler Center for the Performing Arts.

Your next opportunity to enjoy a large-scale circus production here in the Valley is just around the, well, ring. I’ve never heard of a three-corner circus — though nowadays I suppose anything is possible.

Cirque Dreams Illumination performs soon in the Valley

Cirque Dreams Illumination” takes to two Valley stages this month — Nov 9 & 10 at Mesa Arts Center and Nov 11-14 at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix. The show, presented by Theater League, combines three elements many parents will find strangely familiar.

There’s “urban acrobatics” — which reminds me of darting between clothing racks with a double stroller and a triple shot of espresso. There’s “dazzling choreography” — not unlike maneuvering your way into the shortest line at the grocery store. And there’s “brilliant illusions” — akin perhaps to believing we still fit into our prom and wedding dresses.

Expect leaping, balancing, flying and plenty of special effects — all set to an “original score of jazz, salsa, ballroom, pop and trendy beats from the streets.” This last one has me worried since most Arizonans think of street music as beeping their car horn.

The Zoppa family brings circus arts to Chandler

If you’re looking for a unique way to enjoy the winter holidays with family and friends, a trip to the circus might be just the thing. “Zoppe An Italian Family Circus Since 1842” performs at the Chandler Center for the Arts Dec 26- 31 and Jan 1-2 (2011).

AP Photo/KEYSTONE/Eddy Risch from Discovery Channel

Circus arts in the 21st century involve much more than many of us remember from our own childhood trips to the big top — when cotton candy and clown cars were enough to leave us bright-eyed and up way beyond bedtime with dreams of riding in the elephant parade.

Explore the wonders of circus arts behind the scenes on a new section of the PBS website — PBS Arts. It features information and entertainment of the dance, theater, visual art, film and music variety. There’s even a “Contribute Your Art” feature that lets folks contribute their own work.

Big Apple Circus of New York City

Tune to PBS tonight (Wed, Nov 3) for the start of a new series of six one hour episodes titled “Circus” — which features the Big Apple Circus of New York City, a nonprofit performing arts circus formed by two clowns “inspired by the intimacy of a one-ring show.”

It might feel a bit like a circus with all of today’s post-election reporting and rallying cries, but I’ll take the performance arts over political illusions any day of the week.

— Lynn

Note: Learn more about circus history at www.circopedia.org.

Coming up: Hard love, big love and puppy love; Science and Shakespeare?; Herberger highlights; Playwrights from my past

Halloween happenings

Greasepaint party-goers take a break from face painting

My kids are all old enough now that there are no pumpkins to carve, no costumes to sew, no face painting to finesse, no treat bags to decorate.

Still, I never met a costume I didn’t like.

Thankfully, there’s community theater — where I can always find people more talented than myself playing dress up.

Some show names are easier to carve than others

Saturday I headed to Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale for a Halloween party before their evening performance of “The Wiz,” which ends its run after Sunday’s (Oct 31) 2pm matinee.

I won’t be donning a costume, but I know plenty of folks who will. They’re all performing in community theater productions like those noted below.

There’s nothing scarier in theater than empty seats, so why not spend part of your Halloween supporting the folks who do costuming best.

Pirates, skeletons and avatars, oh my!

In addition to “The Wiz,” today’s community theater options include…

“Pinkalicious” performed by Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix. 12:30pm and 4pm shows. www.vyt.com. Sold out!

“Killer Halloween” performed by Theater Works in Peoria. 1:30pm show. www.theaterworks.org.

“Bye Bye Birdie” performed by Mesa Encore Theatre at the Mesa Arts Center. 2:30pm show. www.mesaencoretheatre.com.

“The Haunting of House Hill” performed by Fountain Hills Community Theater. 2pm show. www.fhct.org.

“Once on this Island Jr.” performed by Musical Theatre of Anthem. 3pm show. www.musicaltheatreofanthem.org.

“Hard Love” (by Israeli playwright Motti Lerner) performed by Arizona Jewish Theatre Company at Phoenix College. 2pm show. www.azjewishtheatre.org.

When in doubt, throw on a funky hat

“Guys and Dolls” performed by Spotlight Youth Theatre in Glendale. 2pm show. www.spotlightyouththeatre.org.

“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “On Golden Pond” performed by Desert Stages Theatre in Scottsdale. 2pm shows. www.desertstages.org.

“In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)” performed by Actors Theatre in Phoenix. 2pm show. www.atphx.org.

In case you’re wondering, costumes for this last little number are from the Victorian era. Your guess about the props is at least as good as mine…

— Lynn

Note: As you can surely tell, some of these are intended for mature audiences. Always check details before attending to confirm content, age appropriateness, date/time, location and ticket pricing/availability. Information on “The Wiz” is available at www.greasepaint.org.

Coming up: How your vote on Tuesday may impact the arts in Arizona

“The Wiz” launches Greasepaint season

I did things a bit differently this weekend — I went to see shows I’ve never been terribly fond of. “The Wiz” (being performed by Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale) and another I’ll reveal in a later post.

I had to do it. I’d never seen either show before — but was convinced that I hated them. It’s a lousy approach to take, whether you’re dealing with unfamiliar people or unfamiliar art.

Greasepaint Youtheatre’s opening night of “The Wiz” was a classy affair –complete with a small, elegant silent auction and fancy finger food from candy corn cookies to chocolate-dipped strawberries.

It’s hard to sit on your hands during “The Wiz.” Once the synthesizer hits a steady beat, patrons start clapping and tapping away. But I poised my pen and prepared for the worst.

I was disappointed. My “shows I love to hate” list just got shorter, and I have the cast, crew and creative team of Greasepaint Youtheatre’s “The Wiz” to blame.

I still can’t get those “Ease on down the road” lyrics out of my head — but now they are blissfully accompanied by images of whimsical sets, creative costumes and vibrant vocals.

What color were Dorothy’s slippers in the 1900 book “The Wonderful World of Oz” by Frank L. Baum? You’ll find out when you see “The Wiz.”

A few of the hightlights: Any time Asijah Adolph (Dorothy) opened her mouth to sing (she’s a triple threat and she’ll sing to packed arenas one day). Katie Cook’s (Glinda) singing and genuine sparkle (you also can see her in Mesa High School’s “Joseph”). And several spectacular dance numbers choreographed by Laurie Trygg– featuring everything from soft shoe to tumbling.

In the serious acting chops category, Orly Schlesinger (Evillene) was the stand out. Bransen Gates (Tin Man) and Rhetta Mykeal (Addaperle) also delivered especially strong performances. I’ll have to give Paul Thompson (The Wiz) higher marks for his monologue work than his musical stylings, due in part to a persnickety mic.

“The Wiz” — as performed by Greasepaint Youtheatre with direction by D. Scott Withers — seems a perfect blend of Cookie Company and Childsplay. I trust all three will consider this high praise.

Most of the audience members were between early elementary school and “it’s none of your bleeping business” age — and all laughed heartily throughout. Don’t go if your little darlings can’t handle a mild swear word every now and then (which means, of course, that you will also need to burn your many remote controls).

Those who know me well won’t be at all surprised with my disgust for words like “schizophrenaphobia” — used in this show to disparage one of the characters in a manner that no advocate for those with cancer or autism would (or should) ever tolerate. It does garner laughs, as does the show’s one “fat” joke.

So does the bit of Lady Gaga banter used to summon the flying monkeys. And Scarecrow’s sloppy stabs at standing.  And Lion’s passion for those peculiar poppies.

Greasepaint Youtheatre’s “The Wiz” is a playful show that resonates with a powerful message. Ease on down the road. Believe in yourself. Embrace even your hang-ups. But never let go of your sparkly shoes.

— Lynn 

Note: This Halloween emerald green is the new orange. Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale, an affiliate of Phoenix Theatre, performs “The Wiz” through Oct 31. Click here for show and ticketing information. When you go, be sure to welcome Maureen Dias-Watson, Greasepaint’s new producing director.

Coming up: Women playwrights and Arizona stages, The fine art of graduation gifts, Once upon a piano recital, Stop the “Glee” bashing!