AZ Local: 10 Reasons Why VYT Wizard of Oz Is Must See

Photo Credit: Cliff Cesar

Looking for a family friendly and entertaining activity to get out of the heat?  Look no further than downtown Phoenix and visit the beautiful Herberger Theater Center to see the toe tapping, high energy, moving and infectious production of Valley Youth Theatre’s Wizard of Oz!  This show will have you exclaiming, “oh my” in no time! The theatre critics also agree with two rave reviews that you can see here!  Here are the top 10 reasons why this show is not to be missed!

#10 – High flying fun!  With a flying witch on a broomstick (that happens to be my daughter playing the Wicked Witch…great fun), high flying monkeys, dancers gracing the stage sky and more! Watch the impressive results of the hard-working behind-the-scenes tech crew that hoist the actors up to fly in the famous tornado scene.  See dancing in the sky with the jitterbugs.  Witness Dorothy being swept away by the evil flying monkey character.  And much more flying fun that is hugely entertaining!

Photo Credit: Cliff Cesar

Singing Over The Rainbow….just beautiful!                      Photo Credit: Cliff Cesar

#9 – The live music!  The beautiful singing!  The glorious dance numbers!  Especially enjoyable is the live orchestra and the singing and the dancing that accompany Dorothy and everyone’s favorite characters.  They belt out those Wizard of Oz melodies that we all love.  Some result in a toe tapping audience that claps together at times, too.  One group of singers even made me tear up. More than once.  Brilliant dancing scenes from Choreographer Nathalie Velasquez are extremely entertaining to witness.  The big high energy dance numbers.  So colorful and so well executed.  From the eye catching Jitterbug dance to the Ozians moves to the Munchkins performance and the cool in-step Winkies, the dancing is fun and include some stunts and gymnastics, too.  You will want to get up and dance with the performers.

Photo credit: Cliff Cesar

Photo Credit: Cliff Cesar

#8 – Toto!  Toto played by the adorable Rickie Marie is the perfect Toto.  She seems to be enjoying her trips to Oz and the many fans who fall in love with Toto right away!

#7 – The set!  Gorgeous!  Stunning!  Magical!  All of the above!

Photo Credit: Cliff Cesar

It is no wonder that this is the same exact set that Mickey Rooney and Eartha Kitt performed the Broadway version of Wizard of Oz on years ago.  This incredible set has a personality of its own and does magical tricks throughout the entire play.  The beautiful elements arrived via two semi truckloads straight from New York City’s Madison Square Garden to Phoenix for us locals to enjoy!

#6 – Family friendly fun and kids get to meet the actors in costume for pictures afterwards!  Professional theatre critic, Gil Benbrook wrote that it is done just right so that it isn’t too scary for small children.  This is truly a production that the entire family will enjoy together from start to finish.  

#5 – The beautiful Herberger experience!  An afternoon out with family or a night out on the town, the downtown Herberger Theater Center does not disappoint with attractive and comfortable balcony seating options, a refreshments bar complete with beer, wine and catchy show themed cocktails like the Flying Monkey martini, food and more.  And as mentioned, the young actors come to the lobby in full costume and makeup afterwards to meet fans and pose for pictures.  Children love this part!

#4- The costumes!  VYT’s award-winning resident costume designer, Karol Cooper worked endless hours along with many parent volunteers bringing brilliant costume creations to life.  Every stunning piece is eye candy to audience members of all ages. Vibrant, functional, imaginative, sparkly, uniquely uniformed to the characters…Karol’s costumes wow audiences and take them even deeper into the theatrical journey.  Every detail, every outfit, every piece does not grace the stage until Karol says go…just look at Dorothy’s incredible ruby red slippers! Karol spent countless hours personally securing approximately 5000 stunning Swarovski crystals!

Photo by Cliff Cesar

#3 – The Munchkins!  Bright, fun, highly infectious dancing and singing.  It is that good and your arrival to Oz is spectacular with the warm embracing welcome of the colorful and uber talented Munchkin group!

Photo Credit: Cliff Cesar

#2 – The Director…the same one Emma Stone thanked live at the Academy Awards a few months ago when she won her Oscar!  Producing Artistic Director for VYT and director of this show, Bobb Cooper casts and directs a group of youth that are super talented and also happen to be nice kids and teens after the show as well.  As film and theatre critic, Dave Appleford recently wrote in his Wizard of Oz Valley Screen & Stage review, “…director Cooper’s eye for good casting…”, Bobb Cooper expertly selects his cast and then, as they are instructed, helps them to “dig deep” to dive into all aspects of the character they strive to play.  This is done so well that the actors truly take the audience on a magical journey to Oz.

The divine director, Bobb Cooper with Glinda, the Good Witch, played by Tiana Marks.

 

Photo Credit: Cliff Cesar

#1 – The actors and special effects! It is great fun to watch the many awe inspiring special effects and surprises, too….I won’t give it all away!  The actors!  All good!  All dedicated!  Many playing multiple parts!  The leads are right on task and each character took me back to the original movie more than once.  I could picture Judy Garland, could hear the original Lion’s funny deep laugh, imagine the Tin Man with his oil can and the way the Scarecrow moves on stage…it is like he doesn’t have bones.  Beautiful Glinda, the good witch is spot on.  And yes, I am a little bias about the Wicked Witch…so come see it for yourself and tell me how you think she does.  So far, the critics have given her great praise and some constructive feedback as well.  And the Wizard rocks it as well.  All great.  Every single actor in this extraordinary 56 member cast scores a homerun that leaves the audience entertained humming Wizard of Oz tunes all the way home. My lucky daughter gets to play with fire in this wickedly fun stunt pictured above that the fire Marshall had to approve.  Now that is cool!

Photo Credit: Cliff Cesar

So get out of the heat!  Join the fun!  Bring the family!  Don’t miss this classic that is brought to life for all ages.  The high energy, bright, vibrant fun will entertain you, get your feet tapping and touch your soul. Plus supporting the arts and youth theatre is a bonus!  And this hard working cast and crew also do several charitable shows for the Phoenix Hope Kids and at risk youth, too.  A wildly entertaining, uber talented bunch that also give back.

Yeah, you don’t want to miss this one!  Get your tickets here and enjoy the show!

 

 

AZ Local: Valley Youth Theatre’s Alice in Wonderland Fun For All Ages!

With my daughter playing the Queen of Hearts, I knew I would enjoy Valley Youth Theatre’s (VYT) Alice in Wonderland production and I did…but I also thoroughly enjoyed every actor on that stage.  The entire cast shines and provides the house with laughs and wonderment as Alice’s journey progresses through that special place of imagination called Wonderland.  Fun for kids and a reminder for adults to cherish childhood and to embrace the wide-eyed imagination that the children in our life possess, that sadly, disappears as one grows up.

Proud parents of our queen, who is certainly the queen of our hearts.

The high energy, expressive and very talented cast is comprised of kids and teens of all ages.  Each actor has an absolute blast taking the audience along with Alice through Wonderland.  A bright set, fun props and plenty of twists and turns with clever lines that get laughs, VYT doesn’t mess around.  This theatre is very professional and respected with famed and successful alumni like Emma Stone and Jordin Sparks.

With close to 20 shows still left to perform, the seats are going fast.  So much so, that VYT extended the show through the first weekend of March.  Below is a 30 second promo clip….

This super talented, hard-working cast has been rehearsing for three months and opened last weekend to sold out audiences.  Such a thrill!  Director Sandi Carll has a cast that has worked hard for her, loves her and celebrates her directing talent and the classic story of Alice in Wonderland with their spot on performances.

On Thursdays, the team comes together to perform for schoolchildren, who have studied the Alice in Wonderland classic story and then come to VYT on an educational field trip to see the characters come to life on stage.  How refreshing to get kids off electronic devices and out of the classroom to a live theatre experience.  Great idea, VYT!

After each show, the cast comes out in costume to meet and greet the audience.  Children especially love posing for pictures and having the cast members sign their program. And those incredible costumes, designed by the uber talented Karol Cooper, are spectacular to see up close!  VYT longtime producing artistic director, Bobb Cooper runs a children’s theatre with a team that is a well oiled machine and behave and work together like a close knit family.

My Queen with Bobb and Karol Cooper, VYT extraordinaires!

I got to experience this first-hand after I volunteered all weekend.  Kids that are cast pay nothing to be in the production as parents and family are simply asked to volunteer instead. A brilliant formula that saves families money and creates a cohesive cast with all involved. I helped to sew costumes along with my son’s sweet girlfriend, who volunteered with me, and my hubs participated in building sets.  This experience has been a special one for us and our teen daughter to bond, which isn’t always easy with busy teenagers.  And that has been yet another wonderful perk of this production and overall experience. 

VYT’s downtown Phoenix location makes for a nice afternoon out with family and friends with many delicious restaurants nearby, too.  Shows run every weekend through March 5th at noon and 3pm on Saturdays and Sundays.  For tickets, click here. 

Yes, I am a bit biased since my daughter is having the time of her life yelling “off with their heads”….but all who have come so far tell me (both strangers and friends) that the entire show is so well done and very entertaining from start to finish.  So join us in Wonderland.  Get your tickets and don’t be late or off with your heads it will be!