Tag Archives: Tony Awards

Tony watching

Jim Parsons (L) and Kristin Chenoweth announcing the 2012 Tony Award nominees. Photo courtesy of ASU Gammage.

Watching the Tony Awards ceremony is a longstanding tradition at our house, and our daughter Lizabeth was especially excited about viewing this year’s awards after seeing eight of the shows nominated for one or more 2012 Tony Awards.

I’m fondest of the acceptance speeches, which so often include odes to parents, spouses, partners and kids. Remarks by Audra McDonald topped my list this year. McDonald assured her daughter that although winning the award made it a very special night, the more important day was Feb. 14, 2001 — the day Zoe was born.

Lizabeth once recounted meeting McDonald after attending one of her shows. She was eager to ask her a few questions, but noted that McDonald’s daughter was with her and decided to let the opportunity pass — figuring she’d want to get home at a decent hour on a school night.

When a pair of gentlemen accepted an award for “Newsies,” one offered a simple “Look mom, a Tony!” And Paloma Young, winner for best costume design of a play for her work on “Peter and the Starcatcher,” thanked her father for giving her “way too much adventure for one little girl.”

John Tiffany, winner of a Tony Award for best direction of a musical for his work on “Once,” thanked his family for giving him the gift of music. Another director, Mike Nichols, recalled being at the Beacon Theatre as a child. Nichols won a Tony Award for best direction of a play for his work on “Death of a Salesman.” Seems the site of this year’s ceremony was once his neighborhood movie theater.

Christian Borle, known to many for rocking the Tom Levitt role on the television series “Smash,” earned the Tony Award for best performance of an actor in a featured role in a play for his work on “Peter and the Starcatcher.” His remarks shared thanks for “making my mom so happy.”

James Corden, who won the Tony Award for best performance by an actor in a leading role in a play, thanks his “baby mama” and future wife for teaching him to say “us” instead of “I” and “we” instead of “me.” And Nina Arianda, winner of a Tony Award for best performance of an actress in a leading role in a play for her work in “Venus in Fur,” was ever so cherubic after Christopher Plummer handed her the award. “You sir,” she told him, “were my first crush.”

Most moving were remarks by Steve Kazee of “Once,” winner of a Tony Award for best performance by an actor in a leading role in a musical. Kazee lost his mother to cancer this past Easter, and shared something he recalls her saying — “Stand up and show them whose little boy you are.”

While most folks in Arizona were watching such moments on TV, others were enjoying the Tony Awards ceremony in New York. ASU Gammage organized a June 7-10 trip to NYC, with the option of staying an extra night to see the Tony Awards at the theater or in VIP seating in Times Square.

While in NYC, the ASU Gammage folks spent three evenings seeing shows and had several meals with Broadway professionals. Saturday’s itinerary included time with cast members from “The Book of Mormon,” “Priscilla Queen of the Desert,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and music types from both “Wicked” and “The Book of Mormon.”

They also spent time with both the president and vice president of Disney Theatricals Group — and I’m hoping all involved resisted the urge to break into a rousing chorus from “Newsies” or “Beauty and the Beast.” The latter is a “special engagement” for the 2012-13 season at ASU Gammage.

In addition, they toured several parts of NYC — a “renaissance” portion of 42nd Street, the Art Nouveau-style New Amsterdam Theatre (where presidents Obama and Clinton appeared just last week), parts of the NYC subway system, the 9/11 Memorial and Manhattan’s financial district. I’ve experienced them all, and was happy this time around to be tucked under a quilt sitting on the couch next to Lizabeth.

Now that she’s attending college in NYC, annual traditions like watching the Tony Awards on television are bittersweet reminders of the fact that she’ll soon be creating her own traditions far from the nest that nurtured her love for Broadway.

— Lynn

Note: The 2012 Tony Award winning play, “Clybourne Park,” is part of Arizona Theatre Company’s 2012-13 season — click here for details.

Coming up: Go “Jimmy” Go, “Les Mis” meets movie theater, Reimagining “Stage Mom”

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings.

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Get the scoop

Best to get the scoop on all things theater from trusted sources

Folks eager to get the scoop on celebrity comings and goings turn too often to unreliable sources. Before you buy that next gossip rag, or grace some tacky tell-all website with another hit, consider the source.

Folks who love theater will soon find plenty of compelling fare on the Actors’ Equity Association website — which recently launched “The Narrative Project” to gather and share accounts of actors’ professional experiences. The project is part of preparations for next year’s AEA “Centennial Celebration.” The organization was founded in 1903.

Actors’ Equity Association is (“AEA” or “Equity”) is a labor union representing more than 49,000 actors and stage managers in the U.S. The union “seeks to advance, promote and foster the art of live theatre as an essential component of our society.” They negotiate wages and working conditions, and provide benefits like health and pension plans to members.

Tonight’s Tony Awards ceremony will include the presentation of a special award to the Actors’ Equity Association, but also something a local AEA member put on my radar. This year’s event will feature not only live performances from several shows (including two shows not nominated who graciously accepted the invitation to perform), but also a beamed-in performance aboard a cruise ship. Not everyone is doing their happy dance.

Whatever your position, be wary of where you get the scoop. I’ve talked this week with folks I respect on both sides of the issue. Best to consult primary sources for such things. In this case, it’s Actors’ Equity Association and the organizations who’ve jointly administered the Tony Awards since 1967 — The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing.

If you’re eager to learn more about Broadway behind-the-scenes, check out this morning’s CBS Sunday Morning story on the “Gypsy Robe” — a longtime tradition for opening nights on Broadway.

When it comes to getting the scoop on individual actors, look for opportunities to hear actors themselves doing the talking. They beat all those other talking heads every time. Frequent interviewers of theater professionals include Charlie Rose and James Lipton.

Click here for more information on tonight’s Tony Awards ceremony.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about the gypsy robe tradition (including where these babies live today). If it’s a real ice cream scoop you seek, check out this blog where I spotted the lovely specimen pictured above. For actor accounts of earning their AEA card, click here.

Coming up: The adventures of Arizona Tony Awards travelers, From big stage to small screen

Update: I’m now blogging as “Stage Mom Musings” at www.stagemommusings.com. Please find and follow me there to continue receiving posts about arts and culture in Arizona and beyond. Thanks for your patience as the tech fairies work to move all 1,250+ posts to the new site. For the latest news follow me on Twitter @stagemommusings. 6/13/12

Another Tony Awards adventure

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack (R) and daughter Kelsey on the ASU Gammage stage. Photo by Dan Friedman.

Arizona’s only Tony Awards voter, Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, flew to NYC this morning to enjoy festivities leading up to Sunday’s Tony Awards ceremony taking place at the Beacon Theatre with host Neil Patrick Harrris.  Jennings-Roggensack is executive director for ASU Gammage in Tempe, which presents touring Broadway productions through “Broadway Across America.”

Tuesday was opening night for “Million Dollar Quartet” at ASU Gammage, which blends historical fiction with the music and larger-than-life personalities of Jerry Lee Lewis (Martin Kaye), Carl Perkins (Lee Ferris), Johnny Cash (Derek Keeling) and Elvis Presley (Cody Slaughter). Also Sam Phillips (Christopher Ryan Grant), whose Dec. 4, 1956 gathering at Sun Records in Memphis inspired the work.

Tuesday’s audience seemed to favor Cash tunes, but it’s Lewis’ bad-boy shenanigans that bring this story to life. I was most taken with the show’s technical elements and actors’ exquisite command of all things movement. Seven of the eight cast members play instruments, so audience members enjoy piano and guitar licks along with riffs on harmonica, bass and drums. Two jumbo speakers on either side of the stage delivered the best sound I’ve experienced in two decades of Gammage-going.

The 2012/2013 ASU Gammage season opens with “Anything Goes.” Folks who watched last year’s Tony Awards ceremony saw Tony-winner Sutton Foster and the “Anything Goes” cast sing and tap the show’s title number, plus performances from two other shows coming to ASU Gammage next season — “Sister Act” and “Memphis.”

I’ve been taking Lizabeth to ASU Gammage for Broadway shows and other offerings for more than a decade, but now that she attends college in NYC, she also gets to enjoy plenty of shows on Broadway. So far she’s seen eight of this year’s Tony Award nominees, and I can tell she has a soft spot for “Once” — a musical we hope to enjoy together during my next trip to NYC. “Peter and the Starcatcher” is another one of her favorites, hailed like “Once” for its breathtaking simplicity and storytelling.

This is the eighth year that “Gammage supporters and advocates” are joining Jennings-Roggensack for a special “Broadway Adventure” and the Tony Awards ceremony. While Arizona viewers watch the Tony Awards Sunday night on CBS (click here for details), team Gammage will have some folks inside the Beacon Theatre and others inside the Tony Awards VIP section in Times Square, where the ceremony is being broadcast on the Sony JumboTron.

Other items on the ASU Gammage itinerary include lunching with folks from “The Book of Mormon,” getting backstage peeks at Tony-nominated shows, mixing historical perspectives with a walk along the “Great White Way” and meeting with stars, directors and set designers of shows from the current and future ASU Gammage season. Also donning gowns and tuxes for the post-Tony Awards gala at The Plaza Hotel.

“In the wee hours of the morning,” says Jennings-Roggensack, “I will slip away to join the casts of the best musical, best play and best revival at their celebratory after-parties.” Still, she says “the best part of all this is that we are already planning on these Tony Award-winning shows making their way to the Gammage stage.”

— Lynn

Note: Watch for an article about Roggensack and daughter Kelsey in the July 2012 issue of Raising Arizona KidsClick here for Tony Awards t-shirts and other offerings for folks eager to rock the Tony Awards vibe. And click here to learn about this month’s “Million Dollar Quartet” auditions in Las Vegas, L.A. and Austin.

Coming up: Fun with outdoor concerts, Art meets solstice

Musings on “Mecca”

I headed out to Theatre Artists Studio near Paradise Valley Mall Saturday night for a play called “The Road to Mecca.” The Roundabout Theatre Company production of “The Road to Mecca” closed just last month, and cast member Jim Dale has been nominated for a Drama Desk award for best featured actor in a play. Before leaving, I leafed through the RTC play guide — a comprehensive treatment of the play’s themes, setting and such.

“The Road to Mecca” was written by Athol Fugard — a South African playwright, director, actor and novelist known for mixing art and politics — whose productions were “the first in the country to feature actors of different races together on stage.” Fugard received a Special Lifetime Achievement Award at last year’s Tony Awards ceremony.

Debra Rich (L) and Judy Lebeau in "The Road to Mecca" at Theatre Artists Studio

The RTC play guide notes that “The Road to Mecca was inspired by the true life story of Helen Elizabeth Martins, the youngest of six children, born and raised in the small South African village of Nieu Bethesda in December 1897.” Seems she left the village for a time to teach, but returned to care for elderly parents — staying on even after they’d passed away.

“In her late 40s,” it notes, “with no overall plan and no artistic training, Martin began decorating the interior of her house.” Think walls covered in colorful crushed glass — plus various works featuring owl and sun face motifs. Later she created a yard full of sculptures — all facing east towards Mecca. Martin took her own life in 1976, but her house was restored and preserved thanks to Friends of the Owl House established in 1991.

L to R: Debra Rich, Don Erickson, Judy Lebeau

There’s a touch of Martin’s artistic impulse in the Theatre Artists Studio set designed, decorated and painted by Patti Suarez. A giant moon face painted on the floor. Brightly colored walls sparkling with glitter. Dolores D’Amore Goldsmith provided additional set decoration, and the end result is stunning — especially with shadows created by lighting designer Dale Nakagawa.

The set is strewn with candles, reflecting the play’s themes of darkness and illumination. But other themes abound — love and duty, adventure and habit, faith and religion, playfulness and maturity, creativity and conformity. Also trust, hypocrisy, friendship and freedom. If there’s a shortcoming in the work, it’s the attempt to pack too much into a single serving.

The play’s dialogue is dense, compact — though truly gripping only during the second half of the second act. It’s well acted at Theatre Artists Studio by Judy Lebeau (Miss Helen), Debra Rich (Elsa Barlow) and Don Erickson (Marius Byleveld) — though direction by Judy Rollings seems a tad too safe. Miss Helen feels frenetic rather than passionate, and I’m not sure I got a true picture of her complexity. I’d have enjoyed seeing her in the act of creating which was so essential to her existence and self-identity.

Debra Rich (L) and Judy Lebeau in "The Road to Mecca"

Before the play began, I spent some time enjoying works by studio artists exhibited in the theater lobby. Several mixed media works by Judy Lebeau and seven pieces by Debra Rich Gettleman — all woodburning, color washing and acrylic. Also several Mark Gluckman photographs and works of watercolor and ink by Barb McGuire. Keep them in mind when you’re on the prowl for original art.

Nowadays the studio is working to raise matching funds for a challenge grant and gearing up for a free Mother’s Day event called “Music & Musings for Mothers.” They’re presenting a little something called “Hot” in May and their annual 10-minute play festival, dubbed “New Summer Shorts,” in June. “The Road to Mecca” runs through May 6.

I’ll never make the pilgrimage to Mecca, but my journeys to Theatre Artists Studio feel plenty illuminating. Their work is funny, poignant, relevant and smart. Learn more at www.thestudiophx.org.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to read the RTC play guide, which includes information on Helen Martin, the Owl House and Apartheid in South Africa, as well as pre-show and post-show activities. Click here to explore the Apartheid Museum online.

Coming up: Debra Rich Gettleman talks playwriting, Celebrating Cinco de Mayo with arts and culture

Photos by Mark Gluckman

Update: Peter Kaczorowski is nominated for a 2012 Tony Award for lighting design of a play for “The Road to Mecca” on Broadway — click here for a list of this year’s nominees. 5/1/12

Sondheim — student style

I’d never really considered the difficulty of singing Sondheim until I watched the second act of ASA’s current production of “Into the Woods.” I’d spent the first part of the evening enjoying a Rising Youth Theatre dress rehearsal, so all the fairytale folly of “Into the Woods” was well underway by the time I got there.

My own stellar singing career consisted of back-up vocals in bars with a bent for country western tunes while working to put myself through grad school. I thought everybody read Kant and Sartre steeped in bowls of stale peanuts, but nowadays I suppose we should be grateful to find folks reading just about anything.

Original Broadway cast recording of "Into the Woods"

If you’re fond of reading fairy tales, you might enjoy the twist on all things “happily ever after” that’s at the heart of “Into the Woods” — a musical featuring book by James Lapine plus music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, a writer whose work I’m still exploring in the hot pink “Look, I Made a Hat.”

“Into the Woods” opened at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego in 1986, where George Takei of “Star Trek” fame opens his new musical “Allegiance” later this year. It moved to Broadway in 1987 with Bernadette Peters in the role of “Witch” and Johanna Gleason in the role of “Baker’s Wife” (the role Amy Adams will rock during this year’s Shakespeare in the Park production of “Into the Woods” from Public Theater in NYC).

The Arizona School for the Arts production, directed by Beck (she uses just a single name), was hysterical. Think funny, not frantic. The student cast in the role of Witch did an especially fine job singing Sondheim’s material. I’m hoping they’ll send a program my way so I can share the student’s name and give her proper credit for a truly solid performance.

I was less wowed by the set, built out (perhaps to house student musicians — who also did a stellar job) rather than recessed. I’d have preferred more of a deep, dark forest vibe, but that’s probably just my love affair with trees talking. And I’m about as qualified to design sets as I am to sing in front of even the most intoxicated patrons.

2006 Broadway cast recording of "Sweeney Todd"

Over in Glendale, Spotlight Youth Theatre is performing “Sweeney Todd: School Edition” featuring book by Hugh Wheeler plus music and lyrics by Sondheim. Music Theatre International notes that “Sweeney Todd” was adapted for youth performance by “working directly with Mr Sondheim to retain the dark wit and grand scope of the original work, with a few lyric and key changes to facilitate high school productions.”

“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is based on Christopher Bond’s take on “The String of Pearls,” believed by some to be rooted at least partially in historical events. It opened on Broadway in 1979 with a cast that included Len Carious (Sweeney Todd) and Angela Lansbury (Mrs. Lovett).

Some consider “Sweeney Todd” a tale of ruin and revenge — but I’ve always been more partial to its tender, rather than tenderized, side. A family torn apart. A young man pining for a girl who’s out of reach. A motherless boy seeking to protect a childless woman from harm.

Nowadays, a click of the mouse will get you Johnny Depp when you’d really rather find Sondheim. Fond as I am of Depp’s portrayal of Todd in the 2007 film, I’d be sad to see a generation familiar only with Sweeney on the big screen. Best to enjoy “Sweeney Todd” on stage but get your tickets as well for “Dark Shadows,” where we’ll all be treated to a bit of dracula meets disco as only Depp can deliver it.

Before the musical, there was this book

A final word before you head out to support all those students charged with singing Sondheim — best to leave kids younger than middle school age at home for these shows. “Into the Woods” is best appreciated by adults, though teens also love the fractured fairy tale vibe. And “Sweeney Todd” has mature themes, including murder, that your little one don’t need swimming around in their heads.

I took Lizabeth to see the Arizona Opera production of “Sweeney Todd” when she was barely in the double digits. To this day, she’s fed up any talk about the worst pies in London.

— Lynn

Note: Folks who follow theater can click here for a list of recent Drama Desk nominations, and here for news of this year’s Tony Awards ceremony (nominations will be announced May 1).

Coming up: How groovy is that?

Update: “Sweeney Todd School Edition” is also part of Greasepaint Youtheatre’s 2012-2013 season — which also includes “13,” “Disney’s the Little Mermaid Jr.,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and “Dear Edwina.”  Click here for details. 5/1/12

Feeling next to normal

Alice Ripley (L), Aaron Tveit (center) and J. Robert Spencer in "Next to Normal" at the Booth Theatre (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Some musicals mirror our lives. Others manage to change them. For our family, “Next to Normal” did both. So news that it’ll open Arizona Theatre Company’s 2012/13 season hits home. Our son was diagnosed with bipolar disorder during middle school, and the road from first symptoms to stability was a rocky one.

For many years, the everyday experiences of living with mental illness took a toll on every member of our family, including Christopher’s two younger sisters. For Lizabeth, who’s long been interested in stage and screen, the musical “Next to Normal” felt an anthem of sorts in ways that only she can fully explain.

“Next to Normal” imagines the life of a suburban family fraught with depression and denial. Parents Diana and Tom battle their own demons, and each other, long after the death of son Gabe. Other characters include daughter Natalie, a friend of hers named Henry and Doctor Madden.

It features music by Tom Kitt, and book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey — and is being directed for ATC by the company’s artistic director, David Ira Goldstein. The Broadway production won a 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama and three Tony Awards, including one for best musical score.

"Next to Normal" on Broadway (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Lizabeth saw the musical during its Broadway run at the Booth Theatre, and we traveled together last January to see the touring production featuring Alice Ripley (who originated the role of Diana on Broadway) at the Balboa Theatre in San Diego. I’m hoping she’ll be on fall break during Arizona Theatre Company’s Oct. 11-28 run in Phoenix.

If not, we’ll continue our tradition of exchanging show stories. I’ve enjoyed hearing her accounts of everything from “Seminar” to “Porgy and Bess.” Some shows, like “Godspell” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” she’s seen more than once. Others, like “The Book of Mormon,” are tough to take in on a college student’s budget.

If Lizabeth gets to “Freud’s Last Session” at New World Stages in NYC, we’ll be able to compare notes on imagined conversations between Sigmund Freud and C.S Lewis — because Arizona Theatre Company is co-producing the Southwest premiere of this work with San Jose Rep as well. A Feb. 14-March 3 Phoenix run means those of you with a warped sense of humor have Valentine’s Day planning in the bag.

The 2012/13 season for Arizona Theatre Company also includes “Lombardi” (a play about Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi), “Emma” (a musical based on Jane Austen’s novel), “The Sunshine Boys” (a Neil Simon play about comedians reuniting to rehash their old schtick) and “Clybourne Park” (a play exploring race and real estate in America, which received the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in drama).

Theater has long been a normalizing force amidst circumstances sometimes isolating and unpredictable. Works like “Next to Normal” remind families living with mental illness, or grief following the loss of a child, that they’re not alone. I’m not sure whether seeing “Next to Normal” again will feel more like applying a bandage or ripping one off. Both are necessary for healing.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about Arizona Theatre Company’s current season and here to explore their 2012/13 offerings (show are performed at both Tucson and Phoenix venues)

Coming up: Dust in the wind

Update: “Clybourne Park,” which my hubby James saw during his last trip to NYC, has been nominted for several 2012 Tony Awards — including best play. Click here for a full list of this year’s Tony Award nominees. 5/1/12

New York state of mind

So what, exactly, is the New York state of mind? I’m afraid I’m close to clueless, having lived in Colorado and states to its west all my life. But a woman rumored to exude all that is New York is headed our way, and she’s not shy about sharing. It’s Fran Lebowitz, who hits the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts Thurs, March 1, for an evening sure to up your NYC quotient.

Lebowitz, a writer, recently starred in an HBO Films documentary titled “Public Speaking,” which is directed by Martin Scorsese. I’m still toying with the chicken or egg dilemma of whether to watch the film first or head straight to her writings.

Today I was happy to simply read pieces about Lebowitz published by “The New York Times” and “The Paris Review.” And explore the Facebook page managed by her publisher, Alfred A. Knopf/Vintage Books.

It offers this description of the woman and her work: Fran Lebowitz first hit the New York literary scene in the early 70’s when Andy Warhol hired her to write a column for Interview. Almost immediately, she became a mainstay in the magazine world. As a regular contributor to both Interview and Mademoiselle, she soon became a name associated with irreverent humor and urban wit.

Julie Sperber posted this lovely comment on the Fran Lebowitz wall after learning of her upcoming Arizona gig: “Where’s Scottsdale.. can you take the subway?” Goodness no. But we’ve got Ollie the Trolley, bike lanes and light rail within driving distance. Those of you desperately seeking subways can check with ASU Gammage to see whether the last few slots in their “Broadway Adventure” 2012 trip have filled up yet.

The June 7-10 trip includes a three nights stay in the Millennium Hotel “in the heart of the Broadway district,” three Broadway shows “of your choice,” expert-led walking and coach tours, seating in the red carpet section of Times Square so you can watch the simulcast and live Times Square activities of the Tony Awards celebration, and more. Call Mollie Trivers at 602-373-3377 if you might be game.

Ballet Arizona’s artistic director Ib Andersen and the cast of “Play” will be traveling later this month for their New York City debut at The Joyce Theater. “Play” is a collection of seven ballets, directed by Andersen, set to music by Mozart, Schubert, Britten and Stravinsky.

Folks who can’t travel to NYC for one of six Feb. 22-26 performances of “Play” can enjoy excerpts of the work Fri, Feb. 17 at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

Okay, so we don’t have subways or pizza joints that build pies topped with rigatoni. But every now and then, we get a glimpse into that rarity called the New York state of mind.

— Lynn

Note: Images depict detail of “The Many Faces of New York” by artist Hope Gangloff, which is painted on the wall of a Starbucks located at Beekman St. & Park Row in Lower Manhattan. The mural was produced by CITYarts and created in collaboration with youth from Murry Bergtraum High School.

Coming up: Actor Ed Asner — arts, animal and autism advocate

Photos: Lynn Trimble