Saturday, March 23, 2019

reviews - MAMMA MIA! - Arizona Broadway Theatre

Jessica Medoff, Kaitlin Lawrence, and Chae Clearwood
photo by Scott Samplin
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through April 20.

"...With an upbeat story, fun characters, and a score including many recognizable pop songs from the '70s, it's no wonder Mamma Mia! has become a hit show seen by millions of people around the world. Arizona Broadway Theatre's production has a winning cast, rich creative elements, and solid direction that make for a fun and infectious musical if you're a fan of Abba or romantic comedies, or if you're just someone looking for a fun night out. " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

."...When Bjorn and Benny of Abba wrote those lyrics... they were to be sung mostly by Agnetha and Frida. As a consequence, the guys had to write in character... They often tell a story from a specific character’s point-of-view, which makes them ideal to be used in a musical...  Music director Mark 4Man and his band hold a solid, tight rein over the music arrangements, while the cast all do fine work with those indestructible pop/rock songs. There’s not a Pierce Brosnan among them...." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"...Arizona Broadway Theatre's zesty reprise of the ABBA-inspired musical, directed by Clayton Phillips, that never flags in its ability to stir up a hearty round of opas. The familiarity of the songs and the characters brings certain comfort to an already appreciative audience. Mark Foreman's orchestra knocks out ABBA's popular melodies with vigor. The ensemble steps lively to their airs. The leads deliver solid performances...." Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

ticket discount - MAN 2 MAN - Nearly Naked Theatre




First, the Arizona Premiere of PIGSKIN by Gabriel Jason Dean. The intimate and unusually told tale of a high school football star and son of a North Carolina preacher who finds himself  at the crossroads of religion and football, with a violent secret he's aching to tell.

Then, the World Premiere of  BODY / PILLOW; with a wry sense of humor, a young man looks back at how he's coped with loss in a world where you sometimes have to be your own hero when your previous saviors leave you.

An eventful evening of theatre that includes a talk-back with cast & crew about the challenging nature of both pieces (and there's even prizes!)


1850 N. CENTRAL AVE (BMO Building on CENTRAL & PALM)

WEEK AT A GLANCE: March 18-March 25

cast announcement - SWEENEY TODD - Musical Theatre of Anthem

CLICK HERE for more information on this production, which runs May 2-5

ANTHONY HOPE* Mychal Leverage
JOHANNA* Renee Kalos
TOBIAS RAGG* Tor Christian Tjorhom
THE BEADLE* Peter Wilson

*Will sing in company numbers, as done in the Barrow Street production.

Julie Baldwin
Sam Baldwin
Grace Davis
Melissa Davis
Gina Maloney
Jack Maplethorpe
Kyleigh Montgomery
Helen Morris
James Wilson

Herberger Theater Center to honor philanthropists Billie Jo and Judd Herberger with induction into the Herberger Hall of Fame

The Herberger Theater Center is pleased to announce the induction of Billie Jo and Judd Herberger into the Herberger Performing and Broadcast Arts Hall of Fame at a special reception on Friday, October 25, 2019.

Billie Jo and Judd Herberger have given immense support over the years to the Herberger Theater and the six resident companies who perform there. Their philanthropic efforts also include support for Phoenix Theatre, Ballet Arizona, Scottsdale Philharmonic, Phoenix Art Museum, Scottsdale Center for the Arts, Release the Fear and Phoenix Heart Ball.

When asked about her support for the arts, Billie Jo said, “Every day gives us a reason to celebrate the arts around us.”

Although Billie Jo and Judd Herberger have been recognized in many ways for their contributions to the arts, Billie Jo Herberger was most honored when named Scottsdale Woman of the Year in 2014. On April 4, Billie Jo and Judd Herberger will be honored for their support of The Gallery @ City Hall by the Phoenix Mayor.

“Billie Jo and Judd are a dynamic force in the arts community and their impact cannot be overstated,” says Herberger Theater Center President & CEO, Mark Mettes. “As part of our yearlong 30th anniversary celebration, this is the perfect time to honor them as the cornerstone of our past, our present and our exciting future.”

The Herberger Performing and Broadcast Arts Hall of Fame was established in 2000. It honors an Arizona native and/or resident that has achieved national or international acclaim in the arts. Past inductees include Hugh Downs, Pat McMahon, Leslie Nielsen, Alice Cooper, Robert and Katherine “Kax” Herberger, Dennis Rowland, John Waddell and Richard Mallery.

For tickets or information, visit our website at or call 602-254-7399 x105.

Friday, March 22, 2019

review - Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester in Concert - Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester

highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

"Spending an evening with Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester is like taking a journey to the past. Last week, Max and the 12-piece orchestra transported the audience at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts back to 1920s Germany, to the period known as the Weimar era. The precise vocal delivery of Raabe and the amazing musical abilities of the Palast Orchester created a refreshing and unique musical experience full of theatrical touches, elegance and a huge amount of joy.
Raabe and the Palast Orchester specialize in recreating the sound and atmosphere of 1920s and '30s Berlin. Dressed in a crisp tuxedo with his hair slicked back, Raabe evokes the style and sophistication of Fred Astaire. His clear, falsetto-like voice is reminiscent of Rudy Vallee, and his sly, biting wit and comic delivery are similar to that of Noël Coward. Add in the charming and succinct musical abilities of Cole Porter and a German accent, and you have Max Raabe.." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

audition notice - SEASON GENERAL'S - Childsplay - April 10 & 11

Childsplay will be holding general season auditions for the 2019/2020 season on Wednesday, April 10th from 4pm – 7pm and Thursday, April 11th from 4pm – 7pm at the Campus for Imagination and Wonder, 900 S Mitchell Drive in Tempe.

Auditions are for non-Equity adult actors only.

Actors should prepare 1 monologue and, optionally, 16 bars of an up-tempo song.  

The monologue and song should not exceed 2 minutes in total combined length. 

There will be an accompanist available to play your music. An AUX connection will be available for recorded accompaniment.

Note that neither the song nor monologue need to be “appropriate” for theatre for young audiences.

To schedule an appointment please sign up at

PLEASE NOTE: Childsplay serves families and schools. Rehearsals and performances are held during daytime hours. School tours will include overnight trips outside of the metro Phoenix area.

All of Childsplay's in-house productions will perform at the Herberger Theatre Center.

Childsplay values equity, diversity, and inclusion throughout our organization, programs and audiences. We are committed to giving underrepresented artists a safe space to create art and community.

By welcoming people with differences in religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, class, gender identity, ability, and age we are better able to celebrate that which brings humankind together: imagination and wonder.

The shows and contract dates for the 19/20 season are:

• THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE August 12th – October 13th, 2019

• SUZETTE WHO SET TO SEA (School Tour and In House Run) September 16th - December 20th, 2019; January 20th - March 8th, 2020; March 30th - May 20th, 2020

• CHATO’S KITCHEN (World Premiere; will perform In House and do a short run at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ) October 14th - November 26th, 2019; December 1st - December 6th, 2019

• THE SNOWY DAY AND OTHER STORIES, Musical. (National Tour) November 4th – December 24th, 2019; January 9th - April 12th, 2020

• ELLA ENCHANTED, Musical. November 19th – December 29th, 2019

• ELEPHANT AND PIGGIE’S “WE ARE IN A PLAY!” Musical. December 30th, 2019 – March 1st, 2020

• ROCK THE PRESIDENTS, Musical. (School Tour) January 6th – March 8th, 2020; March 30th - May 20th, 2020

• ERIC AND ELLIOT (School Tour) January 6th – March 2020

• THE LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET, Musical. March 23rd – May 24th, 2020

cast announcement - ROALD DAHL'S JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH, JR - Musical Theatre of Anthem

CLICK HERE for more information on this production, which runs April 25-28

Ladahlord: Davin Kallevig
James: Noelle Hammond
Ladybug: McKenna Carlson
Grasshopper: Jacob Deal
Spider: Kate Mills
Earthworm: +Lennon Hammond
Centipede: Jadyn Momeyer
Spiker: Julia Hughes
Sponge: Mary Davis
Matron Nurse: Hannah Kring
Mr. Trotter: Jacob Deal
Mrs. Trotter: McKenna Carlson
Karl Kreatour: Isaac Ternes

Zoo Crowd: Kellan Fletcher, Noah Adukonis, Addison Purvis, Payton McCarthy, Madelyn Westerlind, Haley Garcia, Marisa Viso, Kaden Kowalski, Jalen Phillips, Quinn McGlaughlin, Gianna Phillips, Claire Garrett, Isaac Ternes

Little Ladybug/Garden Chorus/Shark: Emma Viso
Little Grasshopper/Garden Chorus/Shark: Beckett Stewart
Little Spider/Garden Chorus/Shark: Sienna Stewart
Little Earthworm/Garden Chorus/Shark: Christian Besana
Little Centipede/Garden Chorus/Shark: Annabelle Prior

Dover Crowd (Property of Spiker and Sponge): Kellan Fletcher, Noah Adukonis, Addison Purvis, Payton McCarthy, Madelyn Westerlind, Haley Garcia, Marisa Viso, Kaden Kowalski, Jalen Phillips, Quinn McGlaughlin, Gianna Phillips, Claire Garrett, Isaac Ternes

Dover Dancers (Property of Spiker and Sponge): Sydnee Pelchat, Kate Creed, Rileigh McDonough, Vanessa Hughes, Gianna Martucci, Hannah Kring

Vagrants (Property of Spiker and Sponge):
Doreen Driggles- Joslyn Momeyer
Violet Funkschmeller- Colleen Sasser
Ridgley Rapscallion- Ben Fletcher
Chris Cryermouth- Austin Kring
Billy Bobby Cop- Nick Yarema
Bobby Bobby Cop- Jayden Hawley

Garden Chorus (Shake It Up):
Dancers: Sydnee Pelchat , Kate Creed, Rileigh McDonough, Vanessa Hughes, Gianna Martucci, Hannah Kring
Garden Chorus (Shake It Up):
Bugs : Emma Viso, Beckett Stewart, Sienna Stewart, Christian Besana, Annabelle Prior, McKenna Carlson, Jacob Deal, Davin Kallevig, +Lennon Hammond, Kate Mills

(Money On That Tree)
Ida Walters: Joslyn Momeyer
Reporters: Gianna Phillips, Jalen Phillips, Haley Garcia, Isaac Ternes, Jayden Hawley, Ben Fletcher
Bitsy Botana: Colleen Sasser
Lady Garden Guild: Addison Pervis, Madelyn Westerlind, Marisa Viso, Payton McCarthy
Buzz: Austin Kring
Hollywood agents: Kellan Fletcher, Noah Adukonis, Kaden Kowalski, Quinn McGlaughlin, Claire Garrett, Nick Yarema

Oompaloompas (Our Adventure Begins): Sydnee Pelchat, Kate Creed, Rileigh McDonough, Vanessa Hughes, Gianna Martucci, Hannah Kring

Farm animals (Our Adventure Begins): Emma Viso, Beckett Stewart, Sienna Stewart, Christian Besana, Annabelle Prior

Angry Crowd: (A Getaway For Spiker and Sponge)
Kellan Fletcher, Noah Adukonis, Addison Purvis, Payton McCarthy, Madelyn Westerlind, Haley Garcia, Marisa Viso, Kaden Kowalski, Jalen Phillips, Quinn McGlaughlin, Gianna Phillips, Claire Garrett, Isaac Ternes, Joslyn Momeyer, Colleen Sasser, Ben Fletcher,  Austin Kring, Nick Yerema, Jayden Hawley

Cruise Ensemble (I Got You):
Austin Kring, Ben Fletcher, Jayden Hawley, Madelyn Westerland, Addison Purvis, Colleen Sasser, Joslyn Momeyer, Payton McCarthy, Marisa Viso

(Plump and Juicy)
Seagulls: Sydnee Pelchat, Kate Creed, Rileigh McDonough, Vanessa Hughes, Gianna Martucci, Hannah Kring
Sharks: Emma Viso, Beckett Stewart, Sienna Stewart, Christian Besana, Annabelle Prior

New Yorkers (Empire State/The Attack):
Jake: Nick Yarema
Joe: Kellan Fletcher
Screaming Women: Claire Garrett, Haley Garcia, Gianna Phillips
Lucille Van Kooglestein: Joslyn Momeyer
Bunny Mackenzie the Third: Colleen Sasser
New Yorkers: Emma Viso, Beckett Stewart, Sienna Stewart, Christian Besana, Annabelle Prior, Sydnee Pelchat, Kate Creed, Rileigh McDonough, Vanessa Hughes, Gianna Martucci, Hannah Kring, Noah Adukonis, Addison Purvis, Payton McCarthy, Madelyn Westerlind, Marisa Viso, Kaden Kowalski, Jalen Phillips, Quinn McGlaughlin, Isaac Ternes, Ben Fletcher, Austin Kring, Jayden Hawley

+Appearing courtesy of Actor’s Equity Association

Thursday, March 21, 2019

review - "STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE" IN CONCERT - Phoenix Symphony Orchestra

by Gil Benbrook

In the documentary "Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy," it's mentioned that when director George Lucas screened a rough cut of his now famous first film in the series, 1977's Star Wars, for a few of his close friends, it didn't exactly receive overwhelming praise. It wasn't until later, once the completed special effects and the beloved score by John Williams was added that the movie truly came together and would go on to become the phenomenon that we know today.

Over four performances last weekend, the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra screened Star Wars: A New Hope with the entire score for the movie played live in sync to the film. It proved to be a phenomenal event, not just for fans of the film but also for those who know the Williams score note by note from the best selling soundtrack album. Though, a few cuts on that album are slightly different from the pieces used in the actual film which made hearing the score played live that much more intriguing.

Williams has said that he was told by Lucas that the score should provide "an emotional anchor" to the film so he set about creating specific themes to be used for the various characters in the movie as well as ones that would heighten the many large scale action sequences. Williams composed an old fashioned symphonic score which at a time when disco music was the norm was a bit out of the ordinary. Williams recorded the film score with the London Symphony Orchestra over just 12 days and his sweeping and symphonic masterpiece would go on to win him an Oscar.

In a time when so many people watch films on their mobile devices, it was nice to see this iconic film projected on the large screen and played by the Phoenix Symphony, which never fails to impress with their exceptional musical skills and impressive clarity of the acoustics at their many Symphony Hall concerts. I'm sure there were many young people in the audience who've never had the chance to see this particular film on such a large screen which only added to the enjoyment. I also can't remember the last time I saw this film projected as large and noticed details in the backgrounds, spaceships and droids I don't remember seeing before.

Much of Williams' score is brass heavy and seems to be quite a work out for the entire brass section, though you'd never notice it from the succinct musical notes and precision heard during the concert. There are also many iconic moments in the score, from the haunting melody of "Princess Leia's Theme" to the sense of longing for adventure and the duty of responsibility that underscores Luke Skywalker's predicament in "Binary Sunset," and so many other beloved themes which feature solo moments for the clarinet, oboe, violin, percussion and just about every instrument in the orchestra.

Each of these iconic pieces was met with approval from the Symphony Hall audience. Even the "20th Century Fox Fanfare" that appears before the film starts got a large round of applause when it was the first thing the audience heard.

Using an ear piece and a video screen that indicated the exact beats of each musical composition, many of which have tempo changes in sync to the changing film imagery, conductor Nicholas Hersh proved to be exceptional in his ability to not just ensure the members of the Phoenix Symphony hit all of the well known notes in Williams' score but also that they were in sync to the film projected over their heads.

With almost every moment of the 125 minute film scored, it seemed like it could be very tiring for an orchestra since there is little time to rest. However, you'd never guess from the exceptional and assured playing throughout. Only during the cantina scene, when the actual original music soundtrack for the "Cantina Band" cue is heard, did the Phoenix Symphony get a brief break before they were right back at it again.

It proved to be a special treat and experience hearing this beloved score and these well known themes played live while seeing a film that I, and I'm assuming many others in attendance, have seen dozens of times. Since I was familiar with the movie, I occasionally watched Hersh and the orchestra and noted many of them watching the film on the screen above their heads when they had a brief break and also the intensity they exhibited as they played so many themes, motifs and well known musical compositions.

The childlike excitement was apparent and not just from the audience but also from members of the orchestra who appeared just as thrilled to play this iconic score as the audience was to hear it. The joy the crowd felt was witnessed by the immediate standing ovation and steady applause the Phoenix Symphony received after the end credits rolled and the last note of Williams' score was heard. Seeing this classic film while hearing the Oscar winning John Williams music played live resulted in a nostalgic and immersive shared experience for fans of this iconic film and score.

The Phoenix Symphony has performed live accompaniment to well known films in the past, including the first four films in the Harry Potter franchise. They've already announced that the second film in the original Star Wars trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back, will play with live orchestral accompaniment this coming season along with the next two films in the Harry Potter series, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Home Alone.

These concerts clearly are a treat for fans of these films and their scores. If drawing film lovers in to see their favorite movie while a live orchestra plays its score will entice them to come back to hear other pops or classical concerts played by the Phoenix Symphony that is an added bonus.

reviews - THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG - National Tour: ASU Gammage

the cast
Photo by Jeremy Daniel
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through March 24.

"For over 30 years, Michael Frayn's comical farce Noises Off has been the epitome of the play within a play that goes horribly, and hilariously, off the tracks. Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields upped the ante of onstage and backstage shenanigans with their The Play That Goes Wrong, which opened in London in 2014, had a healthy Broadway run before transferring to its current Off-Broadway run, and is now out on a national tour. While I believe there are some moments in the piece that could be tightened up and a few repetitive scenes that could be trimmed to increase the hilarity, it still makes for a very funny comedy that will have you laughing out loud, chuckling and smiling for most of its two-hour duration. The tour features a game cast who throw themselves, literally, into their parts... " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

".....The Play That Goes Wrong could make you hyperventilate. Really. It could also wear you down. It’s not only the cast who get a thorough work out. Long before the somewhat lengthy, chaotic conclusion arrives where just about everything is lost and both you and the cast have no idea where things are heading, you might feel equally exhausted..." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)

"...The precise and gymnastic staging by Matt DeCarlo and Mark Bell is a marathon sprint. Increasingly outrageous set and prop failures, injurious door openings and closings abound. Particular credit should be given to the show's stage manager....calling the cues for THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG, production stage manager Jeff Norman, who has no less comic timing than anyone on stage...." - Timothy Shawver, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

Last Call for Sign Ups for THE LION KING KIDS at Baker Performing Arts


LION KING KIDS!! (Cast 5-12 year old only) This is a no-cut production, and we take EVERYONE on a first come, first serve basis until we fill up! Casting in done on the first day of rehearsal. Limited Availability! We will have 4-different casts!


beginning week of March 25th at Baker Performing Arts Showroom, 2035 S. Alma School Rd. at Baseline Rd, Mesa.

Centrally located by Loop 101 & US 60


during the week of May 7th at Baker Performing Arts Showroom, Mesa. For more information or to sign-up, please click

Conjuring Up a Comedy Classic - talking with the director and star of BLITHE SPIRIT at Don Bluth Front Row Theatre

Tom Koelbel and Joy Bingham Strimple
photo courtesy Don Bluth Front Row Theatre

by Julia Bashaw

Noël Coward's classic comedy Blithe Spirit opens tonight at the Don Bluth Front Row Theatre in a production being directed by Janis Webb and starring Joy Bingham Strimple as the somewhat crazy medium next door, Madame Arcati.

The plot of the production revolves around Charles Condomine, a novelist who needs inspiration and material for his next book. At the time this play was written, people were curious about the afterlife and where their loved ones went after they died in the war. This is when séances became quite popular. In the play, Charles Condomine decides to invite over a medium, Madame Arcati, to perform a séance in order for him to observe.

“Back in the 20s and 30s, people had this thing about seances,” explained Janis Webb. “People would have them and they would hire mystics, people that were wealthy that is. It was a big thing after World War I, they were very interested in life after death and what happened to people. They were very serious about it and the author of Blithe Spirit, Noël Coward, wanted to make a comedy out of it.”

Blithe Spirit is considered a comedy classic. Coward includes some unexpected twists in his play, which we won't reveal. But they almost all revolve around the medium that Charles invites over to his dinner party, Madame Arcati.

“My character comes from a line of mystic women,” explained Strimple. “Her mother before her was a medium and so she grew up in a household full of that attitude. She’s not a gypsy, and she’s not a fortune teller absolutely not! We are trying not to play her that way. We are trying to portray her as a townswoman who is in touch with the spirit world. If you saw her on the street you wouldn’t really know she was a madam. These séance meetings have what's called a control on the other side that works with the medium to reach out to see if there was anyone on the other side that would like to speak to someone at the table. In this case, at the dinner party.”

Janis Webb has previously acted in Blithe Spirit twice, and always thought that she might like to direct it someday. She was asked to direct this production by Don Bluth and she said yes. Even though this play is around 80 years old, she still finds it so appealing.

“It is such a well-written funny play, with strong female roles,” stated Webb. “And I think people are still very interested in ghost stories. I think it strikes a note with people and there is a lot of comedy in that. It continues to be popular because of the theme and Noel Coward, he is one of the most brilliant playwrights ever. His comedy stands the test of time because of his writing.”

It’s true that Noël Coward was a brilliant playwright, who also wrote brilliant female roles. According to Strimple and Webb, Madam Arcati is an iconic popular role that women want to perform. Over 20 women auditioned for Webb, just for the role of Madame Arcati.

“This is a bucket list role!” Joy laughed.  “For audiences who don’t know what I mean, there are roles or parts out there that women of a certain age yearn to play before they pass on to the other theatre in the sky. And this is one of them! She’s really off the charts and it’s a lot of fun to play her.”

Madam Arcati has been a desired role for a long time. A certain trend that developed, however, was in some past production of Blithe Spirit, Madam Arcati was played by a man. However Noël Coward did not write Madam Arcati to be performed by a man, and Webb took that into account when she was casting.

“I think the part is written for a woman,” explained Webb. “And it is a travesty to allow a man to have one of these fabulous female parts that women wait forever to get to play. The 21 women I had lined up for auditions would have been very sad (if I'd cast a man). And it’s not staying true to the playwright! Strong woman parts belong to strong women, period.”

Madam Arcarti is a medium but not exactly a gypsy as Strimple has previously explained. She is unique and eccentric, using a bicycle as her mode of transportation. She wears flowy outfits and wears jewelry when she conducts a séance.

“She is deadly serious, but the things that she does are amusing to the dinner guests,” Strimple explained. “That’s what makes it fun. You always play comedy dead serious and if the writer is good, then the audience will laugh at their predicament at their challenges and at their attitude. That’s what you hope for.”

Strimple added, “I think the message in the play is to never doubt yourself, and never give up on your ideas. Our past tells us what errors we’ve made, what mistakes we’ve done. Essentially what Noël Coward is trying to tell us is just keep going. Don’t give up, keep going, everything will be okay, trust yourself.”

Webb also wished audiences will come and be thoroughly entertained with laughter filling up the room. Blithe Spirit is sure to be a hit production with a talented cast and huge twists that audiences will love.

CLICK HERE for more information on Blithe Spirit, which runs March 21st-May 4th at the Don Bluth Front Row Theatre.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

All Puppet Players' 2019 / 2020 Season!

All shows except for Shrek will have performances at Playhouse On The Park at The Central Arts Plaza, 1850 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85004  - For Tickets: 602-254-2151

Shrek will perform at the Mesa Arts Center, One East Main St, Mesa, AZ 85201

CLICK HERE for more information and to purchase tickets, when available

audition notice - THE MIRACLE WORKER - Spotlight Youth Theatre - March 19 & 20

review - WIESENTHAL - Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

Tom Dugan
Photo by Carol Rosegg
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

"In a period that lasted over fifty years, Simon Wiesenthal brought over 1,000 Nazis to justice. For close to ten years and almost 500 performances, actor and playwright Tom Dugan has been presenting his one man show Wiesenthal, an engaging drama that centers on the Austrian-born man who not only was a Holocaust survivor but who also became known around the world and called "the Jewish James Bond" for his relentless pursuit of Nazi war criminals. Last week, Dugan brought his play to Scottsdale for a one-night performance of this riveting and insightful work...a powerful, poignant and heartbreaking play that provides an insightful look into this famous man and also serves as a warning for current and future generations that what happened seventy years ago could easily happen again. It also has a powerful message about tolerance and the need to continue telling the stories of the past to ensure they and the people who were victims of intolerance aren't forgotten. It is a painful play but is also uplifting and full of hope." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

cast announcement - IN THE HEIGHTS - Mesa Encore Theatre

CLICK HERE for more information on this production, which runs May 17-June 2

Usnavi: Israel Jimenez
Nina Rosario: Frenki Hykollari
Kevin Rosario: Damon J. Bolling*
Camila Rosario: Monica Hernandez Bollt
Benny: Avery Jones
Vanessa: Alek Rahman
Sonny: Adrian de Guzman
Abuela Claudia: Greta Skelly
Daniela: Luz Navarro
Carla: Cné Serrano
Graffiti Pete: Cosme Gomez
Piragua Guy: Chris Chavez
Male Ensemble: Christian Aytch, Jesus Diaz, Quincy Jackson, others TBD
Female Ensemble: Alejandra Castro Luna, Brooklyn Merchant, Chelsea Chorley, Cristianna Crognale, Estrella Parra, Jamie Villarreal, Jordyn Bland, Lily Espinoza, Natalie Payan, Rebeca Ronstadt-Contreras, Wai Abang

* appears courtesy Actors' Equity Association

Producer: Pam Pershing
Director: Marcos D. Voss
Music Director: Lorenzo Slavin
Choreographer: Nick Flores
Stage Manager: Travis Bovard

Mesa Encore Theatre seeks male singers/dancers (20-45) for IN THE HEIGHTS

Mesa Encore Theatre seeks male singers/dancers (20-45 years old) to join the cast of In The Heights.  Spots available in the male ensemble.

Rehearsals begin March 31, performances May 17 - June 2.

For more information, contact director Marcos D. Voss at

Unleashing His Inner Merman - talking to Hector Coris about Scottsdale Musical Theater Company's upcoming Ethel Merman Cabaret Concert

by Gil Benbrook

Ethel Merman had one of the biggest and most recognizable voices on Broadway. On Thursday, March 28th at the Tempe Center for the Arts, Hector Coris and a trio of singers who have been in past Scottsdale Musical Theater Company productions will present a cabaret concert entitled "Together (For No Good Reason) Except for a Tribute to Ethel Merman" that promises to highlight many hits from Merman's career as well as songs from other musicals.

This is the third cabaret that Coris and SMTC have presented. In 2011, Coris moved to Phoenix from New York City where he previously performed cabaret shows and he's actively trying to bring that style of entertainment to the Valley.

Coris just starred in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at TheaterWorks and was also in Mary Poppins at Mesa Encore Theatre last Fall. He's been in many productions with SMTC, including appearing in A Christmas Carol the Musical, 42nd Street and Annie in 2018. He'll also be reprising his role as Mrs. Meers in their Thoroughly Modern Millie this April.

Even though Coris and his cabaret co-stars Melissa Kamel, Patrick Lose and Elizabeth Blair are in final rehearsals for the show, he took a few moments to answer some questions about the concert and the shows he's done with SMTC.

How did the idea for this cabaret come about?

"This is the 3rd edition of the Together (For No Good Reason) cabaret concerts that SMTC has produced. They are just evenings where I gather some of our Scottsdale Musical Theater alums, kick off our heels and have fun. It's a chance to showcase some wonderful performers, give them a chance to do stuff they may not normally get to do and for our audiences to see us in a different light. Liz, Melissa, Patrick and I just did A Christmas Carol together and as I listened  to them in rehearsal and off-stage, I marveled at how strong their voices were - good belting is always so nice to hear. So I got to thinking about the four of us doing an evening of powerhouse songs and you can't think of belting without conjuring up the mother of them all: Ethel Merman. Why not focus some of the evening on her? I wanted to pepper in history and stories about her life and career which is a fascinating as her voice."

Tell us a little about your costars for this concert?

"Performers cross my path all the time and sometimes I think: "I want to do something fun with them." Melissa Kamel has done a few of SMTC's shows. She was my Lily St. Regis in Annie and she's just adorable. And she sings and it's effortless and her sound is so unique and strong. Both Elizabeth Blair and Patrick Lose are recent additions to the SMTC family. When Liz left the room after auditioning for one of our shows, my mind started racing for shows we could do that she'd be perfect for. It's rare when someone hits me right between the eyes in the audition room. And Patrick is kind of a secret weapon. He's pretty quiet and mellow and then he sings and this rich baritone sails out of him. He played Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol and I just loved listening to him sing his song every night."

Hector Coris
photo courtesy Scottsdale Musical Theater Company
What can Valley audiences expect to hear?

"You'll definitely get songs from Ethel Merman's career - from Gypsy, Hello, Dolly!, Girl Crazy, Annie Get Your Gun and others. Then, staying true to the theme of the concert series, we're all doing songs from other shows that we've always wanted to do. There's a little Pajama Game preview (which is our next full show at TCA), songs from Fun Home, Parade, Passion, Big Fish and more. Strangely, some of the non-Ethel songs match up thematically with her life and story so we have these unexpected connections."

I know you were actively involved in the cabaret world in New York City before moving to Phoenix several years ago. The cabaret scene is virtually non existent here in the Valley. In addition to presenting concerts such as this Merman show, what do you think needs to be done in order to make cabaret more viable here in Phoenix?

"I don't know if a NYC-cabaret culture is attainable here because it's not, well, New York City. Nightclubs are not a quick subway ride away. That type of performer is also hard to find right out-of-the-box. It's not just about a bunch of songs thrown together for an hour and showing off. I think the best we can achieve here is something like these one-night concerts or - as an extension - like the Phoenix Symphony Broadway concerts, on a grander scale. The intimacy of a great cabaret performance is lost here because there are no intimate venues - little nightclubs with candles on tables and a small stage where a performer can interpret and present songs in their own unique way. We come a little closer with jazz performers, but where jazz is about the interpretation of a song, (as I see it) cabaret is an expression of a thought, idea or theme supported by material that amplifies that idea. Sometimes, there's a vulnerability to it that many people are not quite comfortable to share. When it's done well, it can really knock your socks off as much as a powerful performance in a musical. You'll get glimpses of that in some of the songs on March 28. That's what I'm trying to introduce my singers to cabaret performance who may not have had to stand on a stage by themselves, as themselves, and share a moment with an audience."

Elizabeth Blair, Melissa Kamel, 
and Patrick Lose
photo courtesy Scottsdale Musical Theater Company
You’re also appearing in the upcoming production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. I believe you’re reprising a role you’ve played before. Tell us a little bit about that experience and how rehearsals are going. 

"As a sort-of joke, when we did Millie back in 2013 or 2014, I told (director) David Hock that I would play Mrs. Meers. Without batting an eye, he said "OK." And we did and it was a blast. It was definitely a tremendous challenge for me, but I make a point to only take roles that push me, challenge me, or scare me. Otherwise, why bother? I'd be bored as hell if I didn't. There is precedent, though, to a man playing the role. Edward Hibbert played Mrs. Meers in early readings for Millie in Los Angeles before Harriet Harris was cast. I'm just grateful for directors who think outside-the-box and trust what I can do enough to throw these delicious curveballs at me.

We just started rehearsals and right out of the gate, it's going pretty well. Our building blocks are really strong so the foundation for a wonderful show has already been laid. And wait til the Valley gets a load of our guest star Dawnn Lewis (playing Muzzy Van Hossmere). Look her up on YouTube for a sample. I will definitely be watching her from off-stage during her numbers."

Melissa Kamel
photo courtesy Scottsdale Musical Theater Company
You’ve worked at numerous theatres in town but have a strong connection to Scottsdale Musical Theater Company. What was the first show you did with them, and what has drawn you to appear in so many shows with SMTC?

"My first SMTC show was Guys & Dolls (the first time) back in 2011. I had just moved here and auditioned. All actors find their home base for whatever reason - location, personnel. The company that David has created just fed into my NY sensibility: work fast, smart and fun. Our rehearsal schedules are ridiculously (and thankfully) short. We don't rehearse every single day and run stuff every single time. We don't run ourselves into the ground two weeks before opening. This is definitely not the norm for most theaters in town, but we're incredibly organized, incredibly respectful of actors' time and we work with actors, musicians and crew who can keep up. Show after show, we collect these wonderful people who "get it". We love actors who can think for themselves, come up with stuff, try different things. A lot of actors wait for the director to tell them exactly what to do and when to come in and how. Not SMTC. You get to be part of the creative process. It's shocking for a lot of new people who think we're crazy. Then, they see the show and it all makes sense."

If you could go back in time and see Merman in one of her iconic performances which one would you want to see and why?

"Oh, man...the 'go-to would be seeing her as Mama Rose in Gypsy. To hear her attack that role and those songs - without a microphone! - and still hear every word in the last row of the balcony...that would be tremendous. Though I also would have loved to be there when she made her Broadway debut in Girl Crazy and got to do several encores of 'I Got Rhythm because the crowd was going bonkers over this 18-year-old phenomenon."

Any ideas or themes for future cabarets you’d like to present in town?

"Oh, I have a folder of cabaret show ideas. Everything from intimate solo shows based around a single idea to more historically-based shows featuring a legend from theater past, be it a performer or a composer or lyricist. These type of shows are near to my heart because I hate the idea of losing history. Everything you see on a stage today, on Broadway, or movies/TV, has a strong theatrical  precedent. Everyone's wrapped up in singing songs from Hamilton and Mean Girls, but no one is singing the songs of DeSylva/Brown/Henderson or Comden and Green. Its so rare when a young actors comes in to audition for us and whips out a classic theater song or standard. There wouldn't be the culture of Broadway "divas" without Ethel Merman. These sometimes hundred-year-old songs are still as great and fresh and surprising as they were when they debuted.

So I definitely have more of those types of shows to unleash at some point."

Arizona Regional Theatre's 2019 / 2020 Season!

CLICK HERE for more information, and to purchase tickets when available

cast announcement - ALADDIN, JR & ALADDIN KIDS - Pinnacle Creative Arts Studio

Genie: Justin Moore
Aladdin: Blake Sullivan
Babkak: Andrew Del Toro
Omar: Maddie Jones
Kassim: Katerina Anderson
Jasmine: Morgan Vasillauskas
Sultan: Parker Morrison
Jafar: Abbi Norton
Iago: Wyatt Dybvig-Pawelko
Shop Owner: Marlee Williams
Razoul: Sloan Giffin
Guard 1: Peyton Jones
Guard 2: Makayla Voeller
Beggar 1 (with vocal solo): Jamie Greaves
Beggar 2: Sophia Khan
Beggar 3: Maddy Puthuff
Apple Vendor: Ellie Hegarty
Fortune Teller: Shyla Gowda
Attendant 1: Josephine Raia
Attendant 2: Mia Dybvig-Pawelko
Prince Abdullah: Elliott Dresser
Isir: Lexie Shaw
Manal: Nicole Greaves
Rajah: Nia Richardson
Spooky Voice: TBD
Cave of Wonder: TBD
Agrabahns with vocal solos: Brynn VanNewkirk; Josephine Raia; Brooke
Aston; Noelle Krugman; Isabella Del Rosso; Carsyn Kettner
Featured Dancers: Julia Kelly, Katerina Anderson, Maddie Jones, Nicole
Greaves, Jamie Greaves, Josephine Raia, Mia Dybvig-Pawelko, Sophia
Khan, Amy Aston, Ellie Hegarty, Taylor Wright, Peyton Jones, Marlee Williams
Dance Ensemble: Gwyneth Chiara, Brooke Aston, Elliott Dresser, Shyla
Gowda, Noelle Krugman, Makayla Voeller, Sloan Giffin, Maddy Puthuff,
Carsyn Kettner, Isabella Del Rosso

Dorry B: Lamp Vendor
Vance B: Agrabahn, Skeleton, Cave Guardian, Prince Ali Entourage
Gabriella B: Fruit Vendor, Skeleton, Prince Ali Entourage
Makenzie B: Agrabahn w/ solo and/or line, Djinn, Guard
Alexis B: Djinn Elite
David C: Agrabahn, Skeleton w/ solo, Prince Ali Entourage
Ellie F: Agrabahn w/ solo and/or line, Beggar, Persian Monkey
Kaylie G: Agrabahn, Skeleton w/ solo, Prince Ali Entourage
Alyssa J: Jasmine
Keira J: Agrabahn w/ solo and/or line, Djinn, Guard
Tori J: Iago
Marley J: Agrabahn, Skeleton w/ solo, Prince Ali Entourage
Alexis J: Bread Vendor, Djinn, Prince Ali Entourage
Madeline J: Djinn Elite
Sophia K: Djinn Elite
Ever L: Agrabahn w/ solo and/or line, Beggar, Persian Monkey
Luca L: Sultan
Elliot L: Jafar
Joanna M: Agrabahn, Skeleton w/ solo, Prince Ali Entourage
Elliesia N: Agrabahn w/ solo and/or line, Beggar, Persian Monkey
Valorie N: Agrabahn w/ solo and/or line, Beggar, Persian Monkey
Camille N: Djinn Elite
Charlie P: Djinn Elite (Assistant Dance Captain)
Charlie P: Prince Abdullah, Skeleton, Prince Ali Entourage
Sophia P: Djinn Elite
Maddy P: Genie
Natalie R: Agrabahn w/ solo and/or line, Djinn, Guard
Victoria R: Agrabahn w/ solo and/or line, Skeleton, Avis (Magic Carpet)
Annaliese S: Agrabahn, Beggar, Persian Monkey
Jordana S: Agrabahn, Beggar, Persian Monkey
Matthew S: Aladdin
Dylan S: Agrabahn, Skeleton w/ solo, Prince Ali Entourage
Sydney S: Prince Hassim, Skeleton, Prince Ali Entourage
Sadie T: Agrabahn w/ solo and/or line, Djinn, Guard
Tessa T: Agrabahn w/ solo and/or line, Djinn, Guard
Caprice W: Prince Malik, Skeleton, Prince Ali Entourage
Scarlett W: Agrabahn w/ solo and/or line, Beggar, Persian Monkey
Emerie W: Agrabahn, Skeleton w/ solo, Prince Ali Entourage

CLICK HERE for more information on these productions, which run May 24-June 2

Monday, March 18, 2019

cast announcement - THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG - National Tour: ASU Gammage

CLICK HERE for more information on this production, which runs March 19-24

Dennis: Scott Cote
Robert: Peyton Crim
Trevor: Brandon J. Ellis
Annie: Angela Grovey
Max: Ned Noyes
Sandra: Jamie Ann Romero
Chris: Evan Alexander Smith
Jonathan: Yaegel T. Welch
with Blair Baker, Jacqueline Jarrold, Sid Solomon, and Michael Thatcher

cast announcement - THE MUSICAL OF MUSICALS, THE MUSICAL! - ASU Music Theatre and Opera

CLICK HERE for more information, and to purchase tickets for this production, which runs March 22-24

Leading Man: Kade Bailey
Landlord: Cade Trotter
Matron: Mary Ott
Ingénue: Kaitlyn Russell
Ensemble: Ellie Barrett, Wesley Bradstreet, Frenki Hykollari, Teddy Ladley, Griffin LeBlanc, Greta Perlmutter

WEEK AT A GLANCE: March 18-March 25

Click on any show title to get more information on that production


reviews - DEATH OF A SALESMAN - Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre

Walt Pedano, Matt Fields Winter, Mo Simpson, and Donna Kaufman
photo by Wade Moran

highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through April 14th.

"The pursuit of the American Dream is something that just about everyone aspires to achieve. In Arthur Miller's 1949 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning Death of a Salesman, we see how the fallacy of this dream impacts a family and how a parent's unachievable expectations can completely screw up their children's lives. With excellent work by Walt Pedano and Donna Kaufman as the parents, and themes that are universal, Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre's production proves Miller's play is just as relevant today as when it first premiered seventy years ago....Director Virginia Olivieri and her cast deliver on the many thought-provoking themes and ideas Miller has packed into this classic play. The intimacy of Desert Stages' Actor's Cafe provides the audience with an up close and personal view into Willy's downfall, and Olivieri and the excellent cast ensure the numerous scenes of heartbreak and heartache pack a punch. ...Walt Pedano is delivering a well-crafted and beautifully thought-out portrayal...a realistic, nuanced and layered performance infused with pathos and pain. Donna Kaufman is equally as effective as Willy's long-suffering, dutiful wife Linda..delivering a solid and moving performance of this patient and loyal yet submissive woman. Matthew Fields Winter and Mo Simpson are very good as the two sons, Biff and Happy. ...Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman is considered one of the greatest American plays every written. Desert Stages' production features a gifted cast and precise direction that result in a moving, beautiful and solid presentation of this classic drama." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

“...Considering what director Virginia Olivieri and her cast are up against in such a restrictive setting, they do a remarkable job. Given the limitations of its forum, with good support from the cast...  Death of a Salesman is clearly the most accomplished production Desert Stages has presented in its new Actor’s Café location since the company moved there... -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)