Tag Archives: theater for kids

The power of a smile

Finale of "Wonderland" featuring Dance Theater West students (Photo: Harrison Hurwitz)

I remember seeing lots of smiles when my young daughters (now in college) trained at Dance Theater West — on the faces of students, parents and teachers. Even their teen dancers, who always struck me as more collaborative than competitive. It’s something too often taken for granted or undervalued by parents who consider dance a solely individual enterprise in which having perfect technique is all that truly matters.

In reality, very few of the little girls and boys who study dance go on to careers in anything even remotely related. Long after the finer points of leaps and turns once mastered fade away, the person who executed them is still there. As are memories of experiences both in the studio and backstage. So watch for smiles as you’re looking for summer dance programs for your children — considering the intangibles being modeled and taught.

I smiled after learning that the Summer Dance 2012 program at Dance Theater West includes three musical theater workshops, remembering my daughter Jennifer’s final performance for one of their workshops with a “Les Miserables” theme. This year’s themes are “Chicago” (June 11-5), “Mary Poppins” (June 18-22) and “South Pacific” (June 25-29).

Kendall Brauer, Zebrina Tull and Emily Byler making DTW proud during the recent Scottsdale Arts Festival (Photo: Karen Travis)

These musical theater workshops include ballet, character dance, tap, jazz, singing, sign language and acting for ages 10 through teens. Workshops meet Mon-Thurs (10am-2:30pm) and times for Thurs/Fri performances are TBA. Each workshop is $200 (a $25 deposit is required with registration).

A ballet intensive for ages 11 through teens who’ve had at least two years ballet training takes place June 4-8 with an “Aladdin” theme. It features classical, lyrical, character and pointe (optional). The ballet intensive meets Mon-Thurs 10am-2:30pm — and there’ll be a final performance on Friday. The cost is $200 and a $25 deposit is required.

Dance Theater West also offers several summer dance options for children ages six to nine,” including “Kids on Broadway” — which features songs from kid-friendly musicals including “Annie,”  “Oliver,” “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and more. This baby meets June 4-8 from 10am to noon with a final performance at 11am on Fri, June 8. The cost is $125.

“Once Opon a Mattress” for the ages six to nine set includes musical numbers from a Broadway musical based on the tale of “The Princess and the Pea.” Dance inspired by peas sounds a lot more fun than actually eating the darn things. This session takes place June 11-15 from 10am to noon, and the final performance is scheduled for 11am on Fri, June 15. It’s also $125.

“Creating a Musical” for ages six to nine takes place June 18-22 from 10am to noon. After each child picks a favorite musical, they’ll create a collective revue featuring monologues inspired by each musical’s history or fun facts — and participants will get to try their hand at group choreography. This session takes place June 18-22 from 10am to noon, with a final performance at 11am on Fri, June 22. Yup, this puppy is $125 too.

I suppose I should mention a final reason to smile here. While your little darlings are off dancing, you can enjoy a few of your own creative pursuits.

— Lynn

Note: Aftercare from noon-2pm is available for dancers in the 10am-noon sessions for six to nine year olds. It’s $15/day or $50 for all four days. Fans of “Once Upon a Mattress” will be pleased to learn that it’s being performed this month by Starlight Community Theater in North Phoenix.

Coming up: Justice tales, Art meets women’s wellness, Dance classes for grown-ups, Playing in the dirt

Update: This post has been corrected to reflect the fact that Karen Travis does not, in fact, leap about in a pink tutu and funky socks.4/2/12



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

Disney alert!

As I said goodnight to my daughter Lizabeth one evening this week, I thought of how she’d soon be heading off to college. And I remembered one of her favorite sayings, from a Disney movie we saw together nearly a decade ago.

Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind…or forgotten.

It’s a mantra of sorts for the main character, Lilo, who discovers that her family is anything but typical. And that’s okay.

Disney stories are full of themes — like chasing dreams and overcoming adversity — that appeal to folks of all ages. So it’s no surprise that Disney books, movies and toys line the shelves (on a good day) of so many homes.

But there’s a special magic to seeing the “house of mouse” brought to life on stage. If there’s a Disney-lover in your family, mark your calendar now for these live productions of Disney classics, many of which have the added charm of being performed by young actors.

Camp Rising Star and Starlight Community Theatre in Anthem present “Disney’s 101 Dalmatians Kids” at 1pm and 7pm Sat, July 23.

They’re performing at the Safeway Shopping Center in Anthem (3665 W. Anthem Way, Ste 119-B). Tickets are just $5 at the door — making this a fun, affordable escape from the heat.

I used to shop the Outlets at Anthem for bargains on kids clothes when my children were younger.

Folks who hit the Anthem outlets Sat, June 23, between 2:30 and 4pm can enjoy a Disney “Shake it Up!” dance party presented by Radio Disney AM 1580. Dalmatians and dance — I like it.

Fountain Hills Community Theatre’s Youth Theatre presents “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” Aug 26-Sept 11 — and Desert Foothills Theater’s Gecko Teatro presents “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” in May 2012.

If your children love Disney, I don’t need to tell you that seeing the same show twice isn’t a problem.

You’ll have two chances to enjoy “Disney’s Aladdin, Jr.” come October. It’s being performed Oct 13-15 by Musical Theatre of Anthem and Oct 21-30 by Greasepaint Youtheatre in Scottsdale.

Mesa Arts Center presents “Choo-Choo Soul With Genevieve!” — from Disney Junior — for two Oct 8 performances that feature beatbox artist DC and musician Genevieve Goings. Think trains, hip hop, numbers and letters.

Lizabeth and I wanted to see a touring production of “Tarzan” while we were in Cedar City for last year’s Utah Shakespeare Festival, but we just didn’t have time to take everything in.

So I was excited to learn that Arizona Broadway Theatre is presenting the Arizona premiere of “Tarzan The Stage Musical,” based on the Disney film, April 20-May 27, 2012.

I remember seeing the Disney movie “Tarzan” with my three children when they were all 10 & under — and still get misty-eyed when I hear Phil Collins sing “You’ll Be in My Heart.”

Like most families, we can almost mark time by the stream of Disney stories through our lives. Our children are all grown now, but I’m glad we made time — when they were young — to enjoy all those afternoons of theater together.

— Lynn

Coming up: Going Grimm, Girl power!

Tough choices

I’ve faced some tough choices lately…

What to pack for a theater trip to San Diego. Whether to try the pepperoni pizza or the rosemary chicken during my first trip to the new cafeteria at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

These are choices plenty of folks never have the luxury of facing, and I feel grateful for them. Last weekend’s tough choices involved Valley theater productions.

Lizabeth and I hoped to get to “No Way to Treat a Lady” at Phoenix Theatre (we heard the leads were phenomenal), “Unstoppable Me!” performed by Cookie Company at Scottsdale’s Greasepaint Youtheatre (we love the casting) and “THIS” — being performed by Actors Theatre at the Herberger Theater Center.

Artwork by Anthony Ulinski

A friend we met for coffee at “Urban Beans” in midtown Phoenix no doubt meant to be helpful when reminding us that “Devil Boys from Beyond” is also on tap these days, but the choice there was a bit easier to make.

“Watching naked men or supporting women playwrights?,” I mused. “THIS,” written by Melissa James Gibson, won out — and Lizabeth ended up going the next day while I took Jennifer, my 19-year-old, to lunch at Chili’s near ASU.

Seems each time I’m there I remind my children that Chili’s was a favorite haunt when I was pregnant. “So,” asked Jennifer, “does this mean I will be getting a new baby brother or sister?” Another not so tough choice. I have a cat.

Lizabeth was quite fond of “THIS” and I hope to share some of her thoughts on the show in a future post. But for now I find myself pondering the weekend ahead, which offers another dizzying array of options in the arts and culture department.

There’s a film called “nomadak tx” playing at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix on Sat, Feb 5, at 2:30pm — which profiles musicians who play an instrument built for two, only to discover it’s a meeting point between both two beings and two cultures.

There’s “The Crucible” — directed by Childsplay’s Debra K. Stevens — being performed Feb 3-5 at Mesa Community College’s Theatre Outback. Every student reads “The Crucible” in school, making this a fun and educational choice.

Lizabeth worked on “The Crucible” during a weeklong Childsplay workshop with Stevens and playwright Dwayne Hartford, which truly enriched her perspective on the Arthur Miller play she was already very familiar with and fond of. 

And yes — it is time already to begin making tough choices about spring break and summer camps. Hence the RAK Camp Fair coming up later this month. If you wait too long to choose, the choice will be made for you as the best camps fill up early on.

I should mention that we faced another tough choice last weekend during our first exploration of “Bards Books” — located next to our latest coffee grind find. Whether to buy all the treasures we found on the spot or wait until we could bring in some no longer needed titles for trade. We chose immediate gratification.

Our latest tough choice was simply whether to get flu shots in the left or right arm. Thank goodness we got that over with, because we’ve got bigger and better choices to make this weekend. And we’re grateful for each and every one.

— Lynn

Note: It’s an especially busy time for theater companies presenting shows for youth, all of whom need your support to continue their good works. Please visit the RAK calendar online to see your many choices of family-friendly performance art in the Valley this month.

Coming up: SCC theatre students hit the road, Pondering 5oo posts

Weekend whimsy

There’s a little something for everyone when it comes to family arts and entertainment this weekend. Here’s a roundup by category–featuring everything from concerts and musicals to nature walks and museum exhibits–with a bit of whimsy thrown in just for fun…

From sweeping beauties to singing mermaids

Theater performances include “Cinderella: A Ragtime Musical” at Desert Stages in Scottsdale, “Grease” at Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix, “The Little Mermaid” at Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Mesa, “Two Bad Mice” by Great Arizona Puppet Theater in Phoenix, “Into the Woods” at Theater Works in Peoria (featuring a fabulous raffle)

From choral auditions to singing with Elmo

Music events include “Phoenix Boys Choir auditions” at the Phoenix Boys Choir in Phoenix, “Andreas Klein” (piano) and “Rahim Alhaj” (Iraqi oud) at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, “Breakfast with Elmo” (including song and dance) at Family Time in Gilbert

From movies in the park to movies at the museum

Community movie events include “Movie Night at the Park” (“Hoot” plus lessons on burrowing owls) at Estrella Mountain Regional Park in Goodyear, “Dinner and a Movie” (“G-Force”) at Eddie’s House in Scottsdale, “Movies in the Ballpark” (“Cars”) at Goodyear Ballpark, “Kid’s Night Out Movie Night” (“Spirited Away”) at the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa

From art walks to hands-on art projects

Art activities include “Downtown Chandler Art Walk” (art/entertainment), “Free Art Friday” (art projects/games) in Tempe, “Great Expectations and Dreams: Arizona Teens Speak Up” at ASU Downtown (to benefit PCH cancer/blood disorder patients)

From baseballs to carved dolls

Museum exhibits include “Goose Bumps! The Science of Fear” and “Solarville” at the Arizona Science Center in Phoenix, “Play Ball: The Cactus League Experience” and “Jump to Japan: Discovering Culture Through Popular Art” at the Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa, “Therizinosaur: Mystery of the Sickle-Claw Dinosaur” at the Arizona Museum of Natural History in Mesa (adjacent to the Arizona Museum for Youth), “What Moves Us: Art of Transportation from the Permanent Collection” at the ASU Art Museum in Tempe, “Visions: Text Messages” at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, “Hopi Katsina Dolls: 100 Years of Carving” and “More Than Child’s Play: American Indian Dolls” at the Heard Museum in Phoenix

From flashlight tour to wildflower walk

Nature activities include “Wildflower Walk” at The Arboretum at Flagstaff, “Hummingbird Banding” (professionals band, onlookers watch) at Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, “Summer Saturday Evenings” at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, “Silent Sunday” at South Mountain Park in Phoenix, “Flashlight Tours” at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix

For additional details–including dates/times, fees/reservations, recommended ages and such–check with hosting venues. Additional information on many of these events/activities is also available through the online calendar for Raising Arizona Kids magazine.


Note: If you’re on the prowl for art-related books, music or movies, try your luck at the free “Bargain Book Sale” from 9am-4pm today at the North Valley Regional Library in Anthem.

Coming up: From lemons to lemonade, Multicultural performance art, Season openers from Valley theaters, ASU Libraries’ Child Drama Collection, All about art walks, More movie reviews

Graphics from Cafe Press. Click here to see their extensive selection of gift items in black, white and beyond.

Update: Thanks to Carley Conder for sharing the news that renowned choreographer Charlotte Boye-Christensen, freelance choreographer/teacher/dancer originally from Denmark, is in Arizona for a six day residency. To enjoy a free showing of Boye-Christensen’s new work set for CONDER/dance, attend a Sat, Aug 21, performance at ASU FAC122 (11:45am-noon).

Think pink

Think pink. What comes to mind?

Cotton candy? A Cinderella-style ball gown? Naked mole rats? Bubble gum? Flamingos? Rainbow sherbet? Maybe even Barbie’s vast collection of houses, cars and fashions?

At our house, it’s a smoky gray long-haired cat named “Pink” and a couple of talking bears–along with oodles of bygone toys from Polly Pocket to Strawberry Shortcake.

But pink isn’t just a color these days. It’s a pop star. It’s a women’s health movement. It’s a musical.

Yup, you can now enjoy all things pink with “Pinkalicious, the Musical,” which “celebrates all things pink while showing that being yourself is best of all.”

It’s part of an exciting new season just announced by Valley Youth Theatre in Phoenix. Here’s the rest of the scoop…

“Grease” is the word when VYT opens its 2010-2011 season August 12-29. Never mind that the song “Summer Nights” only serves to remind me of Arizona’s blistering heat. There’s also “Hopelessly Devoted,” “Beauty School Dropout” and “We Go Together”–which remind me of a fabulous roll through the 50s, a decade I just missed experiencing firsthand.

“Pinkalicious, the Musical” hits the VYT stage October 1-17. It’s based on the book “Pinkalicious” by Elizabeth and Victoria Kann—which is refreshing in a day and age when our kids too often watch rather than read. Parents of pink-lovers take note: Pink outfits donned for the show can double as nifty 50s Halloween costumes. That’s more pink for less plastic. Priceless.

“Alice in Wonderland” devoid of Johnny Depp (some consider that a good thing) runs February 4-20 at VYT, which leads me to conjure images of tea party play dates and charming Valentine’s Day celebrations ala a trip to the theater. It’s another serious dress-up opportunity and chance to engage your child in both literature and live performance. Not everything happens on a movie screen, you know.

“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day” comes to VYT April 1-17. What’s not to love about seeing someone else have an absolutely wretched day for a change? Of course, I wouldn’t pitch it to my kids that way. For children, its a great opportunity to realize that bad days happen to everyone—and that sharing feelings is a good thing when no flying objects are involved. Treat yourself to a good read of Judith Viorst’s tale of the same name before and after you enjoy the show.

“Annie” closes out the VYT 2010-2011 season at the Herberger Theater Center June 10-26. At this point, our country will either continue to be plagued by economic challenges or experience improvements that leave more Americans feeling secure and optimistic. Either way, Annie’s tale is a good investment. It’s a classic musical that serves to remind us that we’ve faced tough times before—as a nation and as individuals—and that the sun will indeed come out tomorrow.

“A Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tail” also returns to VYT this season for a December 3-23 run. I find this one especially fascinating given that our family seems an odd pairing of Eeyores and Tiggers. I think everyone finds a bit of themselves in the charming characters of A.A. Milne’s “Hundred Acre Woods.” And what better anecdote to the stress of winter holidays than sharing the adventures of a bear and his honey—along with ‘sure to cheer’ characters like Piglet and Roo.

With that we’ve come full circle. So grab your pink pen and mark the above shows and dates in your calendar. If you’re not a fan of pink now, I suspect you will be after a simply “Pinkalicious” season with all things Valley Youth Theatre.


Note: Auditions for “Pinkalicious” will take place at VYT on Aug 2 & 3 at 3:30pm. For information on upcoming auditions, and ways to save money with VYT “season memberships,” visit Valley Youth Theatre online at www.vyt.com. Show tickets and memberships are also available through the VYT box office at 602-253-8188.

Coming up: “Twilight” tales, Summer of Shakespeare, Art and…babies?