Spring Stages

By Richard Schultz, April 9, 2015.

Spring is a time of momentum. For the LGBT community, Pride celebrations renew our spirit each year, and in the arts, theatres dazzle some of their largest audiences with memorable productions – sneak previews of the forthcoming season.

From classic musicals and sidesplitting comedies to timeless love stories and thought-provoking dramas, spring is a celebration of the most vibrant of sensations. Here are three productions, with an LGBT twist, to keep the momentum rolling through April:


Left to right: Christine Andreas (courtesy photo), Randy Graff (photo by Chia Messina), Andrea McArdle (photo by Grace Rainer Long) and Faith Prince (photo by Annamarie Rewal).

4 Girls 4 Brings Broadway’s Best to Arizona

Several of Broadway’s most luminous female performers will join forces to share stories and songs in an exuberant single-evening celebration of women.

4 Girls 4 unites Christine Andreas, Randy Graff, Andrea McArdle and Faith Prince, four award-winning musical stars from Broadway, film, TV and recordings for an evening of song, dance, laughter and memories. Together, these veteran performers perform some of the biggest hits from their extraordinary careers, with musical direction by Grammy and Emmy Award-winner John McDaniel.

Christine Andreas rose to fame starring as Eliza Doolittle in the 20th-anniversary production of My Fair Lady, for which she earned a Theatre World Award. She later received Tony Award nominations in the revivals of Oklahoma! and On Your Toes.

Randy Graff received the Tony and Drama Desk awards for her role in City of Angels, as well as Outer Critics, Drama Desk and Tony award nominations for her work in A Class Act. She has the distinction of creating the role of Fantine in the original Broadway production of Les Miserables, for which she received a Helen Hayes Award nomination.

Andrea McArdle first captured the hearts of theatergoers when she originated the title role in the mega-musical Annie, becoming the youngest performer ever to be nominated for a Tony Award as “Best Lead Actress in a Musical.” Since then, she has starred in several Broadway musicals and appeared in theaters in New York, nationally and internationally.

One of Broadway’s best-loved leading ladies, Faith Prince has been dazzling audiences since winning the Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for her performance as Ms. Adelaide in the revival of Guys and Dolls. She was also nominated for Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards for A Catered Affair. Prince recently starred as the scheming, irascible Miss Hannigan in the Broadway revival of Annie.

Prince effortlessly moves between theatre, concerts, television and movies. She is well known for her quirky trademark humor as well as touching moments filled with pathos. Her Broadway credits include such shows as The Little Mermaid, Bells Are Ringing, Nick & Nora, Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, Little Me and Noises Off. She also starred in the national tour of the Broadway hit Billy Elliott.

As a guest artist, Prince frequently works with the Boston Pops, Utah Symphony, Cincinnati Pops and Philly Pops, and starred in the Orlando Philharmonic’s concert version of Sweeney Todd.

On television, she had a recurring role on Lifetime’s “Drop Dead Diva” as Brooke Elliott’s mother, Elaine. She also appeared on the recent season finale double episode of ABC Family’s “Melissa & Joey,” which has now been canceled after four seasons.

Prince, who is also currently working on a stage musical based on the film First Wives Club, spoke with Echo Magazine about the concert, her career and her affinity for the LGBT community.

“I enjoy the quality of work and sense of community on stage. It’s great being with the other women; we are one tribe who have been through much together,” she said. “[4 Girl 4] is a night by women for women. It’s a very positive experience. We support each other.”

Prince acknowledges the audience’s curiosity about each performer’s experiences.

“I want the audience to know more about each of us,” she said. “Audiences want to know our stories … [and] like it when they attend and leave knowing more about the performers.”

Prince added she’s thrilled to share the stage with the other three women.

“Our chemistry is strong. We all get to reveal things about ourselves – I am a storyteller and a comedian. That’s what I do is share those life stories,” she said. “What that says is that there is a lineage of women. Our stories are part of that legacy.”

Prince is adamant in her support of the LGBT community and has worked with such LGBT organizations as the Boston Men’s Chorus and New York City Gay Men’s Chorus.

“We are all part of one family,” she said. “We all want to love and be loved. I’m always willing to help the community. The LGBT events are always so tasteful and well done.”

4 Girls 4

8 p.m. April 17

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts

7380 E. Second St., Scottsdale

Tickets: $39-$69; 480-499-8587




Toby Yatso portrays six roles in new one-man show.

Buyer & Cellar Stars Streisand Super Fan in Six Roles 

Local audiences will be treated to a tour-de-force performance by popular Valley leading actor Toby Yatso in a one-man show that explores an obsession with Barbra Streisand.

Buyer & Cellar, a chart-topping off-Broadway fictional tale written by Jonathan Tolis, asks the question: “What’s a diva of stage and screen to do with decades of paraphernalia from her illustrious career?”

Alex More is an underemployed actor toiling in the oddest of odd jobs in the basement “mall” of a tough customer, Hollywood A-lister Barbra Streisand. As Alex sorts through Babs’ cave, all of the items are “displayed with totalitarian precision” in a series of rooms designed to look like shops.

“Barbra’s basement is just like any other mall, except for the total lack of customers or employees,” he said.

Directed by Ron May, this hysterical new comedy details an unlikely friendship where Alex begins to wonder if the relationship will ever make it up the stairs.

Echo chatted with Toby Yatso, who portrays six characters, in the midst of rehearsals.

Echo: Are you a Barbra Streisand fan? If so, when did you become one?

Yatso: Yes, I truly am. I went through a discovery obsessive phase in high school, fueled to a great deal by the movie version of Hello, Dolly! I have never been to one of her concerts, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t have her 1994 live concert recording memorized, plus some other recordings too. She seemed to find a way to get away with things in a brilliantly engaging way that most performers could only dream getting away with, and I respect and admire that.

Echo: Have you ever taken on the challenge of a one-person show?

Yatso: Besides performing for my cats in my living room, I have not. Small casts, yes, but never all by my lonesome. Honestly, I do not have any concerns on this one that I don’t have with any other show. I’m in very good hands with my director, Ron May. I have had the privilege of doing several shows recently that involved throwing my whole body, mind, and soul into the role and portrayals and performances. So, I’m just going to keep doing that.

Echo: What was the audition process like?

Yatso: I auditioned back in August with three different sections of the script: the opening, a scene between Alex and Barbra, and a scene between Alex and his boyfriend, Barry. I did a lot of homework and rehearsing and preparation for the audition. It actually was one of the most fun audition experiences. It was in that audition that I felt what the script could do and I fell in love. I thought if those three sections were that much fun, then to experience the entire story would be awesome. A week or two later, I received the phone call from the Phoenix Theatre company manager that I booked it!

Echo: What is your favorite part the show?

Yatso: There are several gems of thoughtful and philosophical text that give me chills each time I say them. I thank Jonathan Tolins for giving those to the world. I don’t want to give them all away here, but here’s one example: “Sometimes I think that’s what we’re all doing, all day long. Even if we’re not involved in politics or city planning, we’re all just struggling to make a perfect little world to fit our life into. To design it and cast it with the right people.” That makes my brain and heart and gut all simultaneously shout “YES” in agreement.

Echo: How do you think this play will appeal to LGBT audiences?

Yatso: The play offers a nice, honest portrayal of a modern gay man’s relationship with his boyfriend. It does so in a way that – for lack of a better explanation and since I’m not a political sociologist – treats the relationship as normal, or as normal as a dating relationship would be between any modern-day two people in their 30s.

Echo: In this celebrity-driven era, how does this speak to our obsession with those who are famous?

Yatso: I think our celebrity obsession is two-fold; half is dying to know what a celebrity has or does that the rest of us don’t or can’t (yet) and the other half is dying to confirm that a celebrity is actually no different from the rest of us. This play does a beautiful job of exploring both sides.

Echo: If you were to meet Barbra Streisand, what would you ask her?

Yatso: Hmmmm, if I was feeling dangerously opportunistic, maybe, “Can I read for a role in your movie version of Gypsy?”

Buyer & Cellar

April 15-May 3

Phoenix Theatre

100 E. McDowell Rd., Phoenix

Tickets: $30-$80; 602-254-2151



Motown. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Motown the Musical Brings a Legendary Tale to Stage

When Motown the Musical rolls into Gammage, musical history will comes to life in this real story of the one-of-a-kind sound that hit the airwaves in 1959 and changed our culture forever.

This high-energy musical show charts the incredible journey of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, from featherweight boxer to the heavyweight music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and so many more.

Motown the Musical showcases more than 40 beloved hits from the label’s legendary catalogue, including “My Girl,” “What’s Going On,” “Dancing in the Street,” “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and tells the story behind the hits as the whole Motown family fights against the odds to create the soundtrack that changed America. Motown shattered barriers, shaped our lives and made all of America move to the same beat.

The show’s principal character, Gordy, wrote the book for the musical, which was adapted from his 1994 autobiography. The story starts in 1983 when preparations for a television special celebrating the Motown legacy leave a disgruntled Berry brooding in his Los Angeles home as he is undecided if he wants to participate. His fuming is fueled by the company’s decline, accelerated by the departure of many acts he discovered and made into stars.

Jarran Muse portrays music icon Marvin Gaye in Motown.

The musical then flashes back to the beginnings, when a young Gordy is searching for a career. A brief stab at boxing fizzles and soon he’s calling on his family for money to back his dream of creating a record company. He’s already written and sold a couple of songs to Jackie Wilson, but knows that real money is found in owning the publishing rights and producing the records.


Cast member Jarran Muse (pictured) portrays music icon Marvin Gaye. A native of New Jersey, Muse has been with the Broadway show since 2011. His other New York credits include Irving Berlin’s White Christmas and Dreamgirls. He has toured internationally in American Idiot, Hairspray, and 42nd Street.

As a child, he performed in school choirs and attended a performing arts high school and went on to attend the University of The Arts as a dance major. From there, his career took off and he continues to work as a triple threat – actor, dancer and singer.

Echo caught up with Muse while out on tour with the show.

Echo: How did you research your role?

Muse: I am a huge fan of Marvin Gaye and Motown. I grew up with the music. I certainly researched Marvin and the period. I went through books and articles with interviews that he gave during his life. The best research was the time spent with Berry Gordy.

Jarran Muse as Marvin Gaye. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Echo: What was it like to spend time with the man that created Motown?

Muse: Berry Gordy was available to the cast. I had a one-on-one session with him. I wanted to know Marvin as a person and Berry was a direct resource. Marvin was Gordy’s brother-in-law; Berry’s sister, Anna, brought Marvin home when he met Berry. Later, they married. It was amazing to have access to such a direct connection of someone who knew my character so well.

Echo: What are your insights on Marvin Gaye?

Muse: Marvin was Motown’s truest artist. He expressed himself in his music. One of my favorite moments is “Mercy Mercy Me.” Marvin and Berry are in conflict. Berry did not like the concept of a protest album. Yet, Marvin wanted to use his voice to change things. He didn’t like what was happening with Vietnam, pollution and racism. To me, it showed that Marvin was truly ahead of his time.


Echo: What have been some of the highlights on the tour for you?

Muse: The audiences have been terrific. At the stage door, they tell you how they [love] remembering all those moments presented in the show. They are often in tears. For me, it was memorable when we opened in Detroit, which is where Motown began. Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight and Martha Reeves came on stage with us. Then, Stevie Wonder gave a speech and performed. It was truly amazing.

Echo: How’s life on the road?

Muse: It’s busy and certainly fills your time. There are always press events and interviews. We do outreach events as well. I look forward to returning to Phoenix. It’s my fifth tour there. I also travel with my dog. He’s a terrier poodle mix. I got him through Broadway Barks, which is an annual animal charity event held in New York City to promote the adoption of shelter animals.

Echo: What’s his name?

Muse: It’s Gordy.

Echo: How appropriate!

Motown the Musical

April 21-26

ASU Gammage

1200 S. Forest Ave., Tempe

Tickets: $20-$150; 480-965-3434


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