Sunday, April 21, 2019
photo by John Groseclose
Click here for more information on this production that runs through May 4.
"....the beauty in Lindqvist's work is how it uses loneliness and the vacant feelings of lost, emotionally neglected youth to depict the similarities between a young bullied boy and the vampire girl he befriends. While the theatrical adaptation may lack some of the shocks and realistic cinematic special effects from the film that you can't truly duplicate on stage, and includes a few plot holes and undeveloped thoughts, it still has enough eerie moments that resonate and characters you care about. Stray Cat Theatre presents the Arizona premiere of the play in a production full of bleakness, with beautiful performances by Brittney Watson and Nathaniel Smith as the unlikely friends..... " -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)
."...Whether it’s because of the set’s neutral tone that sits somewhere in that gray area between black and white, the snow around the base of the trees and the jungle-gym, or the theatre’s a/c unit turned down a few extra degrees, there’s a definite chill felt throughout both the play’s two acts, which is exactly what the piece requires. Stray Cat has created its own Bleak House...." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)
Saturday, April 20, 2019
|Emily Kamps and Connor Wanless|
photo courtesy Mesa Encore Theatre
The Toxic Avenger has many elements that make the show a perfect black box production: it requires minimal set dressings, a small cast of five, and has loads of room for creativity. Mesa Encore Theatre's real strength lies in the cast, who bring to life dozens of colorful, memorable characters in laugh-out-loud over-the-top fashion. It's a fast-paced, campy romp with a heavy-handed message, but has no shortage of laughs.
Beginning as a film in 1984, The Toxic Avenger was much more openly gruesome and gory than its modern musical counterpart, which came to the scene in 2008. The musical, book written by Joe DiPietro and music by David Bryan, doesn't hold back on flying body parts, but relies less on the grotesque shock factor than the movie did.
The story opens on Tromaville, an unfortunate city filled with filth just off the New Jersey Turnpike, where we meet Melvin Ferd the Third, an aspiring Earth-scientist and his crush, Sarah, a blind librarian. He uncovers proof that Mayor Babs Belgoody is behind the recent influx of toxic waste in town, but the Mayor isn't above playing dirty to protect her secret. Though the plot is relatively predictable, the vibrant characters and quick pace keep The Toxic Avenger from going stale. Global warming and political inaction take the thematic spotlight, and for anyone who's ever felt frustrated with politicians in regards to fighting climate change, The Toxic Avenger, affectionately nicknamed Toxie, is a perfect conduit for that rage.
The characters are all uniquely flawed, but not in ways that leave much room for emotional connection with the audience. Toxie's emotional spiral feels more like a child's tantrum rather than genuine heartbreak, but I fault the writing rather than the cast for this shortcoming. Additionally, the secondary lesson that women should learn to accept all men as freaks is overdone and quite tired, but to the musical's credit, it does playfully allude to another popular play on this same trope. While the show is good for a laugh, it doesn't do much to challenge the audience.
Standouts Michael Thompson (Black Dude), Emily Kamps (Sarah), and Cassie Chilton (Mayor Babs Belgoody, Ma Ferd, & Nun) steal the show any time they're on stage, though there are no weak links in this cast. Thompson's versatility is undeniable as he tackles numerous characters of different races, ages, genders, and personalities, pulling off each switch with comic mastery that earns boisterous laughter. His physicality is admirable. He throws his body and soul into every bit with reckless abandon, and it's hard not to commend him for running and dancing in heels better than most women. Kamps plays only a single character, in contrast, but takes on the bright-eyed blind librarian with aplomb. Kamps' stellar vocals and hilarious physical comedy make Sarah the real star of the show. Chilton stops the show with an unforgettable cat fight midway through the production, though to say more would spoil the fun. Connor Wanless (Melvin Ferd the Third & The Toxic Avenger) takes on a vocally challenging role and perfectly embodies the vengeful nerd. Devon (White Dude) excells in bouncing from character to character along with Thompson.
Louis Farber's direction brings out some moments of hilarity that might otherwise have been missed, and truly compliments the actors involved. Allison Bauer and Jessica Tully's costume design succeeds, especially given the challenges of many quick changes. Tiana Torrilhon-Woods' scenic design is very functional and serves the space well, though it has little personality of its own. Kat Bailes' choreography elevates the production, with each dance number becoming a star in itself. Though no fight choreographer is credited, one is certainly needed. The fight scenes and particularly the clash leading to Melvin's fall into toxic waste could have sparked far more excitement than they did, but ultimately the fight scenes don't take away from the overall entertainment.
Mesa Encore Theatre ultimately delivers a funny, fun, and campy musical. If you have a taste for nerds getting revenge, don't mind making fun of handicapped people, and feel ready to embrace more than a little ridiculousness, The Toxic Avenger is a perfect pick. The Toxic Avenger runs April 5 - 21, 2019 at Mesa Arts Center.
CLICK HERE for more information on this production
by Scott Brown and Anthony King
Sponsored by Techniprint
In this two-cast musical spoof, a pair of aspiring playwrights perform a backers’ audition for their new project - a big, splashy musical about printing press inventor Johann Gutenberg. With an unending supply of enthusiasm, Bud and Doug sing all the songs and play all the parts in their crass historical epic, with the hope that one of the producers in attendance will give them a Broadway contract – fulfilling their ill-advised dreams. Nominated for the 2007 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical and the 2007 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical; and its authors were nominated fro the 2007 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical.
“A smashing success!” –The New York Times
“Brilliantly realized and side-splitting!"—New York Magazine
The Hardes Theatre at The Phoenix Theatre Company
Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm
Alicia Ferrin - Charlie, the pianist
Tim Shawver - Doug Simon
Michael Thompson - Bud Davenport
Cherie Beeck - Spot Op
Rebekah Carriere - Stage Manager
David Chorley - Co-Director
Osiris Cuen - Co-Director
Joanna Emmott - Lighting Design
Alicia Ferrin - Music Director
Ginny Medinilla - Prop Design
Aeryn Moridae - Stage Hand
Kim Richard - Costume Design
Thomas Strawser - Production Manager
Tickets at: https://tickets.phoenixtheatre.com/single/PSDetail.aspx?psn=10888
Friday, April 19, 2019
Auditions are Friday, April 26 from 4:30-9pm.
Callbacks will be held Friday, April 26 (and possibly Sunday April 28, depending on availability and need)
We are also accepting video auditions for those who cannot make it in person.
You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown will be performed at the Studio 3 Artspace Theater June 26 – June 30. (**If double cast, additional shows may be added June 21-22) Rehearsals will begin Thursday, May 9!
CLICK HERE for more information and to register for an audition
CLICK HERE for more information on this production, which runs April 26-May 19
Patti Suarez as Cornelia Cunningham
Jason Isaak as Harvey Abel
Judy Rollings as Agnes Munger
Jamal Peters as Walker “Scott” Williams
Shannon Clark as Jessica Worth
Thursday, April 18, 2019
|Kathi Osborne as The Leading Player and Skyler Washburn as Pippin|
Photo by Stephanie Tippi Hart
Just about everyone wants to be or do something extraordinary at one point in their lives, to be unique or special. In 1972 Stephen Schwartz composed a musical based on a book by Roger O. Hirson called Pippin. A story told by a performance troupe explaining the journey of a young prince who wants a life of meaning and importance. The troupe is directed by a ‘Leading Player’ who guides and mischievously controls aspects of the story.
This beloved musical was chosen by the Fountain Hills Theater's Artistic/Technical Director Peter J. Hill for their current season, and Hill is directing the show as well.
“It is one of my favorite shows,” Hill stated with a laugh of reminiscence. “One of those that I wore out the vinyl (of the original cast recording) when I was just out of high school. It came out in ‘72 originally and after the 2013 revival it got new legs and our audiences are interested to see it. It’s one young man’s journey that sort of reflects how everyone is trying to find what’s going to make their life special and unique.”
When Pippin premiered back in 1972, the performance troupe that the Leading Player conducts was mysterious, you couldn't necessarily attribute them to a specific performing type. But in the 2013 revival, the director had the group resemble a circus-inspired performance troupe and made them into a group of acrobatic performers. And now in 2019, Hill had a new way to interpret the artists.
“I am interested to see how people are going to react,” admitted Hill. “I set it in the 1920s with a silent film crew. I set it there because we have a pretty decent rear projection system here in our theatre. It occurred to me that this could be a group of people lead by a director, the Leading Player, and that there is this kid who wants to be a star and wants to be special.”
On top of this creative interpretation, Hill cast the Leading Player as a woman. In the original cast, the role was played by a male, Ben Vereen, and the revival was played by a female, Patina Miller. Both actors ended up winning Tony Awards for their performances. When conducting the casting process Hill had no preference.
“It was gender neutral,” Hill stated. “I was willing to go back to the original musical keys for man, or in the new revival musical keys for a woman. We just went by who we thought would fit the role the best. I think a woman can’t help but bring a nurturing quality it seems sometimes. I don’t mean that to sound sexist, but men do tend to come off as little bit more evil or manipulative in this role. Casting it was fun! And we had half a dozen people we were looking at seriously for the Leading Player, four women and two men.”
|Lacey Dixon, Skyler Washburn and Kathi Osborne |
Photo by Stephanie Tippi Hart
“You know,” Hill smiled, “it depends on what time of life you are in. When I was a young man I identified with 'Extraordinary’ because I wanted to be extraordinary too. Now I probably identify more with the later songs, the love songs. And I think everybody identifies with ‘Magic To Do’ because that’s what we all want to do, especially if you are in theatre that’s what we want to do. Stephen Schwartz just wrote some terrific music.”
The show has some exciting twists, turns, and quite a big predicament at the end. The audience goes along on Pippin's journey and will hopefully discover something about their own lives.
“The overall theme is that we are all unique and we are all extraordinary,” Hill explained. “And it is not necessarily the great events or the spectacular events that make us special, it is the small things. The unique everyday situations that happen to us that are actually our lives, that’s uniqueness.”
Pippin at the Fountain Hills Theatre opens this Friday, April 19th and will run through May 5th with performances at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sundays. The cast and crew are excited to break the fourth wall and share this marvelous adventure with audiences. When asked what he hopes audiences will take away after seeing the production, Hill smiled.
“The program,” he joked. “But really, I think it has that ‘everyman’ quality to it. The story is relatable at almost any age. I hope they having a good feeling and understanding of what we were trying to say but more importantly that they just had a good time.”
CLICK HERE for more information on this production, which runs April 19-May 5
CLICK HERE for more information on this production, which runs May 3-26
Sarah Brown: Trisha Ditsworth
Sky Masterson: Sam Hartley
Miss Adelaide: Caelan Creaser
Nathan Detroit: John Cardenas
Nicely-Nicely Johnson: Matthew John Mello
Big Jule: Bob Downing
Harry the Horse: Cody Cooley
Benny Southstreet: Tyler Pirrung
Arvide Abernathy: Doug Botnick
General Matilda B. Cartwright: Chae Clearwood
Lt. Brannigan: Olin Davidson
Angie the Ox: Daniel Stanley
Joey Biltmore: Nico DiPrimio
Hot Box Girls: Liz Fallon, Alyssa Ishihara, Anna Novak
Agatha: Kara Ziringer
Mimi: Christie Dabreau
Martha: Renee Kathleen Koher
Rusty Charlie: Taylor Wright
Calvin: Brody Wurr
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
photo by Chuck Wagner
Scottsdale Musical Theater Company prides themselves on presenting classic musicals in large scale productions with big casts and full orchestras. Lately they've also been including familiar names from TV, film and stage into the leads and supporting roles in their shows.
Their upcoming production of the Tony winning Best Musical Thoroughly Modern Millie features Dawnn Lewis, co-star of the hit late 80s TV show A Different World as Muzzy Van Hossmere. The cast also features New York based actor Kelly Methven, who recently appeared in the 50th Anniversary International production of West Side Story, as the show's male lead Jimmy Smith.
Methven just arrived in town for rehearsals for the production, which runs at the Tempe Center for the Arts from April 25-May 5, and he sat down to answer some questions about the show, his character, and his past experiences.
How would you describe Thoroughly Modern Millie?
"It’s a hit musical comedy romp: With fast feet and big a band beat! —- (I’ll never see a dime for this advertising gem) "
|in rehearsal of Thoroughly Modern Millie|
with Karylin Veres (Millie Dillmount).
photo courtesy Scottsdale Musical Theater Company
"Superficially, he is a 1920’s millionaire hustler with a wit that is only really matched in speed by his tongue. But deeper down, he is an orphaned romantic who is profoundly impacted by a woman who chose to stand up to him... even if she had no idea who he was! "
What qualities in Jimmy do you most identify with?
"I feel that there are many shades of Jimmy in myself. To a certain degree, I can empathize with all of it: The smooth talking, the quick wit, the caregiver mentality, and the hopeless romantic wanting to feel something. Something I think that is purposeful about Jimmy is that he never intends for his actions to cause anyone harm (even if they do). "
While Jimmy is a sweet guy he also has some secrets. What are some of the difficulties in playing a character that may not be exactly as he first appears?
"I think the discussions we have been having this far during the rehearsal process have had to do with 'dishonest vs dishonorable' (I kind of touched base on this in the last question!) Is he dishonest with Millie? Yes. Does he love Millie? Yes. The lie, for him, was more of a means to an end. He needed to trust that it wasn’t for the money."
You were in the recent international tour of West Side Story. What countries did the tour play and what was that experience like?
"Oh, wow! I feel like stating all the stops would be a little bit 'gilding the lily'. During my 12 months in the tour I did have the blessings of playing a lot of incredible houses and seeing the better part of the world (Tokyo, Paris, Dubai, Hong Kong, London.. eventually the tour hit 19 cities in 16 countries) . The experience is something that I’m very hard pressed to ever really put into words. I gained more emotional understanding to a worldwide perspective. Different cultures, music, FOOD!.. you can’t beat it! "
|Kelly Methven as Riff in West Side Story|
photo courtesy Maltz Jupiter Theater
"This is a good question! And kind of one of the main strifes of wearing the 'actor hat'. You have to be willing to educate yourself on the period from a base level and use that knowledge to develop specificity with your character. Whether it’s a 13 year old German boy going through puberty, or a 1920’s smooth talker. "
I believe the rehearsal time for this production is relatively short. I have to imagine that's similar to the City Center Encores production of Grand Hotel that you recently appeared in. What is the process like for you with a show with a short two week rehearsal process, and what do you do to make sure you're prepared on the first day of rehearsals?
"Shorter rehearsal processes like this are pretty typical in the 'regional-realm' of work for musical theatre. So, frankly, my majority of bookings will have between a one or two week turn around in rehearsal. This process was cut shorter because of a production of West Side Story I was a part of in Florida. So interestingly enough, last week at this time, I was playing Riff 8 shows a week, and during the day I was rehearsing all of my Millie material. In NYC, we call it 'double duty'!! "
|Kelly Methven, top row, 3rd from right and the cast of Spring Awakening |
photo courtesy Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma
"Well, there is really no surprise here when it comes to Eloise. She is absolutely magnetic to watch on stage. This theater community in Scottsdale is lucky to have a talent like that around. When it comes to what I most apply to my day to day life from college, it comes down to 'failing forward.' I learned that it was always okay to try new things and be AWFUL (like really awful) and allow yourself the opportunities to fail, grow some, fail again, grow some more.... Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react! "
Thoroughly Modern Millie had a long Broadway run, won several Tony Awards and is a show that is constantly produced. Why do you think this show has become so popular?
"Because of the timing of the piece: both comedic and decade. I believe the 1920’s are a more sensationalized decade than almost any other in US history. We are far enough retracted from it to feel comfortable revisiting that time: while also taking liberties with modern technical equipment to enhance the scope of that sensationalization. "
What do you hope audiences will take away in seeing this musical at Scottsdale Musical Theater Company?
"Donation slips to help support this incredible local theatre! (Half kidding) As a NYC based actor, it’s always amazing to see local theatre thrive. In all earnest, I think it’s impossible to walk away from this show not smiling!"
CLICK HERE for more information, and to purchase tickets
from our friends at Valley Youth Theatre:
After auditions and callbacks for Valley Youth Theatre's production of Freaky Friday, our team has decided we would like to consider Adults for the following roles:
1. Katherine Blake - Ellie's Mother 25 - 45 age range
2. Mike, Katherine's Fiance 25 - 45 age range (African American preferred)
3. Grandma Helene / Mrs. Luckenbill / Mrs. Time 30 - 50 age range
4. Grandpa Gordon / Mr. Blumen / Senor O'brien 30 - 50 age range
5. Ms. Meyers / Officer Sitz 25 -45 age range
6. Dr. Ehrin / Pastor Bruno / Officer Kowalski 25 - 45 age range
If interested, please send photo and resume ASAP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Show opens June 14th at the Herberger Theater Center and runs through June 30th.
|Jessica Wastchak, Andy Wissink, Noah Delgado, Lainey Kenly, and Riley Thornton|
Photo by Memories by Candace
Click here for more information on this production that runs through April 21.
"..While the musical adaptation of Natalie Babbitt's 1975 book of the same name isn't completely successful, this warm, spirited show deserves a second life in regional theatre. Valley Youth Theatre's production has an impressive cast and rich creative aspects which results in a heartwarming presentation of this charming, family-friendly musical.....Director Bobb Cooper has found a talented cast of youth actors... also does quite well in staging the action to derive both emotion and humor. Nathalie Velasquez's choreography is infused with charm and elegance...Lainey Kenly is spunky and charming as Winnie. As Jesse, Riley Thornton is full of fire and an adventurous sense that also includes moments of recklessness. Andy Wissink is Jesse's responsible brother Miles, while Noah Delgado and Jessica Wastchak are both thoughtful, tender and caring as the Tuck parents. All five have beautiful singing voices that shine...full of charm, heart and beauty, with a talented cast and rich creative aspects that effectively show the complexity of the world and the importance of making the right choices in the neverending circle of life." -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)
."...There are no hits, the score is pleasant, sung with outstanding voices from a cast 23 strong, and energetic choreography from Nathalie Velasquez; the climactic ballet sequence is especially delightful. Without the need for spending the majority of its budget on clever special effects, a quality production based mostly on a young cast’s talent is what gives VYT the chance to present such an ambitious musical and to deliver it as well as the company does here...." -David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage (click here to read the complete review)
Sisters In Law: The Notorious RBG and Sandra Day O'Connor arrive on the Phoenix Theatre Company Stage
|Eileen T’Kaye and Laura Wernette|
photo by Reg Madison Photography
It is very rare that you meet actresses who truly embody their characters, body and soul, but Eileen T’Kaye and Laura Wernette are the spitting images of the iconic supreme court justices they portray in Sisters in Law.
This world premiere play by Jonathan Shapiro is based on Linda Hirshman's biography "Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World" and runs at the Phoenix Theatre Company through April 28.
Both T’Kaye and Wernette have been acting or directing or otherwise involved with theatre their entire lives, from T’Kaye producing new works in L.A, to Wernette acting on screen and on stage.
“Theatre and that live engagement, it’s what I live for. You feel a huge responsibility whenever you’re doing, you know a real-life person...you want to honor them, and you don’t want to impersonate them,” T’Kaye said of Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and her polar opposite, Sandra Day O’Connor, portrayed by Wernette.
“You also have a responsibility to make it theatrical. This is kind of (a look) inside behind closed doors, so it's not something that we see. You also have to have a little bit of license, in turn, to show what you imagined them to be behind closed doors”
Both women described the women they portray as brilliant and wickedly funny, and I could say the same of both T’Kaye and Wernette. Looking at them, even out of their costumes, I really got the sense that they knew RBG and Sandra Day.
They both researched heavily, between consuming any available material on them, to Wernette attending the Sandra Day O’Connor institute luncheon and grabbing an advanced copy of Evan Thomas’s biography, "First: Sandra Day O’Connor."
“I'm just in awe of how she was able to manage family and be this amazing trailblazer,” Wernette said of O’Connor, “what I found really interesting as well is she cooked for her clerk. She knew their personal lives, she knew how to touch the human and she truly cared about those around her.”
“She was really very, very, wickedly funny,” Wernette laughed.
“Much more outwardly than Ruth,” T’Kaye added.
“Ruth has so many different sides to her,” T’Kaye said, “I mean, she's really rather quiet and shy and she learned from her mother to always be a lady and to never yell, and really just to sway by her intellect.”
Of the show itself, Wernette said, “it is taking two very intelligent, very strong women, throwing them into a room together and seeing what comes out. The way they were the idealist and the pragmatist, coming together in finding common ground.”
“They never stop trying to persuade, to open up to each other's ways of thinking. Often you know they were at opposite ends on many issues. But, they also, in many ways, wanted a lot of the same things in terms of women's rights,” T’Kaye went on to add. She said that there are lessons in civility to learn from these women’s dynamic styles.
“What was great is that in today's world a lot of times we are not open to each other's opinions. And this is a great reminder that you must listen and keep trying to talk and at least understand, even if you don't agree, and give respect to the other person.”
Now halfway through the run of this show, Wernette says the play “keeps the audience on their toes.”
“It’s extremely entertaining and really brings out the humanity in these women, as well as their intellect and their legal arguments.”
“And it’s funny,” T’Kaye agreed, “(it) keeps your sense of humor.”
“Come and bring people that you wanna have a really good conversation with afterward,” T’Kaye said, “This is the kind of theatre that makes you think, and hopefully makes you want to open yourself up to more conversation, and I think that is what theatre at it’s best can do.”
Sisters In Law runs until April 28th at The Phoenix Theatre Company.
CLICK HERE for more information on this production, which runs April 25-28
photos by Michele Celentano
|James - Noelle Hammond; Spiker - Julia Hughes; Sponge - Mary Davis|
photos by Michele Celentano