Isabella’s Review of “Pete, Or the Return of Peter Pan”


Pete, or the Return of Peter Pan is an amazing adventure about mystical creatures and life lessons. Friendship, loyalty and teaching the importance of being humble are common themes in this modern day Neverland which is jam packed with Ninjas, Pirates and Dinosaurs! Wendy and Henry travel to Neverland and teach Peter how to be a better boy. “Peter is a lost boy who does not know how to do the right thing because he was never taught to do the right thing. He has no parents to guide him and is a tad bit selfish. He never really has to grow up.” says actor Gavin Austin Brown who’s boyish grin truly captures this spirit of Peter Pan.

Rebecca Duckworth who plays “Just Wendy” a descendant of the original Wendy, describes her character as, “Feisty and gets a little angry at times, but fights for what she believes in.” The actress says she can see some of herself in “Just Wendy”. In some ways so do I. I did Karate a few years back and a lot of people told me it was for boys. Someone told me I could not do cheerleading and karate. I fought back and said I could be both. In the play Wendy is furious when Peter tells her what she can and can’t do as a girl and takes credit for all her accomplishments in Neverland. It may surprise the audience that although she takes a windy path, in many ways Wendy becomes the hero.

Watching the two pirate ladies Anne Bonny and Mary Read in the play was hilarious. I got a real kick out of their slapstick style comedy routine. They were supposedly the antagonist, but were more funny than scary. This play is definitely ok for kids of all ages. Debra K. Stevens describes Anne Bonny as “not really evil, just a little goofy”. She says that she “loved saying those delicious piratey words and that it’s fun to play a bad guy sometimes”. Both Debra and Katie McFadzen (Mary Read) light up the stage even when the fairies were no-where to be found!


Now watch closely because these ladies play not two, but three parts in the production of Pete, or the Return of Peter Pan! It sounds like costume changes were a challenge. Katie McFadzen played my other favorite character, the cool grandmother who remembers Neverland…Or is just senile…it’s hard to tell. Katie describes her as, “A trippy, fun senior citizen lady”. The grandmother is like a care free version of professor Trelawney from Harry Potter!

There are more humorous surprises in this performance. In most versions of Peter Pan, Smee is considered of less than average intelligence, but in this version he outsmarted the pirates,“Just Wendy”, Henry and Peter Pan. Pay close attention to Smee. He comes up with a mischievous plan that you will find out when you watch this intriguing play!

As child reporter I was able to use my backstage pass to tour the amazing Neverland set. I got to slide or “fly” down into the Neverland set and holy shalupas it was crazy fast!  After safely landing on the ground we moved on to back stage and the props. It was awesome to see the tricks they came up with to make this performance over the top wonderful. I got to see the two phones,  one of which was smashed on arrival to Neverland forcing the kids to use their imagination for entertainment. Also, I saw both of Smee’s jackets. One was decked out with fairy lights.

Live theater is better than TV because it’s not perfect. There is no re-do if you make a mistake. For example, something imperfect that happened was that the clock was supposed to break, but it didn’t. They handled it like pros by continuing the show as if nothing went wrong. I did not think it was supposed to break. Live theater Ninja fighting can be dangerous as well. One of the warriors was hurt in a past show. Some of the scenes were changed to work around this, but you never would have known. The show must go on!


I asked the cast why they did Childsplay Theater. They has some very special reasons. Alan Khoutakoun, who plays Henry, is clearly comfortable on stage. During the back-stage interview he says he does Childsplay because he loves seeing the kids faces light up and to bring the characters alive. He also enjoys hearing what the kids say about the show in the question and answer section after each performance. Gavin Austin Brown, who plays Peter, thinks that it is very important for kids to be exposed to live theater.  Growing up he did not get that opportunity until 4th grade. “I saw the Velveteen Rabbit at Childsplay” he shared. He loved it and realized that it is what he wanted to do as a grown up! I am now in 4th grade and have been very lucky to be given the opportunity to see so many plays. Through my old school in Tempe we were able to see Childsplay Productions. I wish all kids in AZ had the chance to be part of something so special. If you get the chance you should definitely bring your kid to this show!

Looking back at this story it reminds me girls can do anything boys can do. I just took my  4th grade history test and learned that a lot of women did the work of men in WW2 when the men were away at war. When the war was over many women wanted to continue working. They learned they were capable of doing anything a man could do. This is a modern day Peter Pan and Wendy actually trained in Karate before she took the magic flight to Neverland and fought better than Peter Pan. Not a spoiler alert, I promise, but she “saved Peter” physically from the bad guy and may have saved him in another way by teaching him how to be a friend. I can relate to Wendy because many people underestimate kids, I am a kid, but I can be a reporter. I am glad that Childsplay gives the chance to report on fun plays like these!

P.S. Dwayne Hartford as incoming artistic director did an awesome job turning Pete, or the Return of Peter Pan into a modern day success.

Kid Reporter

Elena’s Review of “Perô, or Mysteries of the Night”


Perô, or Mysteries of the Night is an unforgettable play with incredible actors and set designs. The play takes place in Italy. Perô, a humble baker, falls in love with a childhood friend named Colombina. Colombina is a lovely washer woman. With the help of the sun and the moon, Perô gets the courage to tell Colombina of his love for her. But when Palatino, a painter with a colorful personality, sweeps Colombina off her feet, Perô is heartbroken. Colombina and Palatino get married and go on a honeymoon. Colombina soon realizes that she doesn’t love Palatino, she loves Perô. Will Colombina go back to Perô? Go to the show to find out!


This show is truly amazing. I took a stage tour and I got to look around the set. The houses that Perô and Colombina reside in come apart! Cool, right? The actors have to work hard to move the puppets because the puppets are heavy. Also, the sun and the moon have to sing, act and play instruments. Triple threats!

I also interviewed the cast members.

Elena: What was your favorite song from the show?

Kristen (The Sun): Oh gosh, I love them all for different reasons but I love “White” because it’s so pretty. It’s when Colombina is deciding she’s going to go back and I get to dance with her.


Elena: Was it fun to learn how to pronounce Italian?

Dwayne (The Moon) Yeah.  I actually sang some songs in Italian in college so it was fun to get used to it again, and to get the rolling R’s going.


Elena: What was your favorite prop to work with?

Jon (Perô and Paletino):  Perô was my favorite prop.  One of my favorite props was the washing machine because it actually spins.  Other than Perô, I like turning the washing machine on and off.


Elena: What was your favorite line from the show?

Katie (Colombina): “I want to go home.”


Elena: Did you know how to play the piano, saxophone, percussion and flute before the show?

Kristen:  I knew how to play the piano a tiny little bit, and I majored in flute for one semester in college so I played it all my life.  I had to learn the sax, and the drums I just banged. The sax and flute have similar fingering so that made it a little easier.


Elena: How long did you have to rehearse?

Dwayne: I started working on the piano part about six months ago, practicing every day.  I studied piano growing up so I had a good foundation. I had to get my fingers back in shape.  I hadn’t played since we did the show the last time fifteen years ago.  The actual rehearsal time for the show was four weeks.


Elena: The show is really awesome and complex so why was it only open for two weekends?

 Jon:  It was the particular slot of the show. Sometimes slots are based on the idea that people are more likely to come to a show they know, like Charlotte’s Web, as opposed to a show they are not familiar with like this one.


Elena:  Was it hard to sing, play an instrument and act at the same time?

Dwayne: Yes.  Especially because the way the score was written, I was playing the piano but it was not the same melody line I was singing.  The piano might be playing up and I’m singing down, or the tempo is different.  It was really challenging for me. But not for Kristen – she’s a pro.

Kristen: No, it was hard for me, too.


Elena: What would your happily ever after be?

Jon: Sleeping at this moment in my life. I’m always tired at the end of the weekend.

Dwayne: Being with my dog and him living as long as I do and being able to eat ice cream every night and being with people that I love.

Kristen: I have two kids and I’m hoping I’m telling them the right things to make them wise and wonderful.  Making the right parenting choices and adulting choices.

Katie: World peace. 🙂


Perô, or the Mysteries of the Night is a must see show. The director, Onny Huisink, has created a masterpiece. I will leave you with one final thought. When you love someone, tell them. 🙂

Kid Reporter

Andrew’s Review Of “A Year With Frog And Toad”

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Hi. My name is Andrew and I went to see “A Year With Frog And Toad” with my Momma and Grandma.  I am writing to tell you about the play and all the things we liked about it.  All three of us liked many things about the play and we are very different ages.  My Momma liked the costumes and the music. My grandma liked the set and the cool effects they did. My favorite things about the play were that it was funny and it taught you about friendship. There is something in this play that everyone will like!

Our fun time started as soon as we got to the Tempe Center for the Arts. We got to do a coloring craft to help make a mural in the lobby. I love to do art! Then, the Christmas music started and we got to sing and dance with the people putting it on. It was really fun! I got to buy a cool Toad puppet before it started to remember my time at the play. Also, it helps Childsplay bring plays to kids in the community when you buy the things on their table out front.


When the play started, we got to meet Frog and Toad at their houses.  They were just waking up from their winter hibernation.  Frog got up right away but Toad did not want to wake up. It is a very funny scene with Frog waking up Toad! I laughed a lot and it was one of my favorite parts of the whole play!

We get to watch Frog and Toad go through the year doing lots of things together every day.  They are very good friends to each other.  The play teaches you many ways to be a good friend by watching how Frog and Toad treat each other.  They are always thinking of ways to make each other happy.


The play is based on the Frog and Toad series of books written by Arnold Lobel.  I love these stories. It was fun to see how the play showed parts of many of the stories in the series.

Writing a letter to each other is one way they talked about how to be a good friend.  Toad said that he had never received a letter, so Frog wrote him a letter and gave it to the mailman, who is a snail! You get to see snail trying to get that letter to Toad in different scenes in the whole show.  Snail’s songs are super funny and are another favorite part of the show for me.  Snails are very slow and probably not the best choice for a mailman, but it sure was funny!  Snail’s costume was also my favorite!

My other favorite scene was when they went sledding. Frog convinced Toad to go, but Toad was scared.  Toad falls off and gets very mad at Frog for making him go. Then Frog makes him laugh and it is all better. It may not sound like it, but it is actually a very funny scene!

I got to go on and behind the stage after the show with the Stage Manager and her crew. It was so cool to see the set up close. I got to meet the people who make the things on the sets work and they showed me how they do everything. I really liked figuring out how Toad made his cookies so fast (Hint: He did not actually bake them) and how the sled moved all around with the actors who played Frog and Toad on it. I also got to see how they moved the leaves up and down on the trees and how they make it snow. SO COOL!


My very favorite part of the whole thing backstage was going in the green room to meet the actors and ask them questions to share with all of YOU! Here are my questions and some of their answers:

  • When did you start acting? Most of them started in elementary school or junior high in some way, but got serious about it in high school.
  • How long does it take you to learn your lines? They have 3 weeks of rehearsals from 10a to 5p and some of them learn their lines quicker than others.
  • What is your favorite thing about this play? Their answers were that it is a “celebration of friendship”, teaches what a good friend is, costumes and music
  • Who is your favorite character in Frog and Toad and Why? Most said the characters they are playing because they get to know them so well. Jon Gentry the actor who plays Toad, said that even if he was not Toad, Toad would still be his favorite because Toad is “Loyal, finicky, picky and not perfect”.
  • What is your advice for kids who want to be in plays? Most said “Take classes!” and “Study!” and Christiann said “Pay attention to your school work because the best actors are smart actors!”  
  • How is the set built? It is designed by Jeff Thompson and built by John Emery. They said they have to draw pictures and use a lot of math and physics to figure out how to make it work. It looks like everybody who works on the play has to be smart and should take Christiann’s advice!
  • Are there musicians back here playing music? It sounds like it. The music was done in a recording studio with musicians many years ago when they first put this play on and now they use a CD of that recording. Alan Ruch was the Music Director.
  • Will you ever do a Pokemon play? I was told that if a good Pokemon play was written, it would be considered. I was told that I should write one! Now I can add “playwright” to the list of things I want to be when I grow up! I really would love to see a Pokemon play!

You should all come out and see this play! Kids, parents and grandparents will all love it!

Here is important information on the people who make this awesome show happen from Childsplay’s official press release:

A Year with Frog and Toad features an all-star cast of Valley favorites:  Dwayne Hartford (Frog), Jon Gentry (Toad), David Jones (Snail/Bird/Lizard/Father Frog/Mole), Yolanda London (Bird/Turtle/Squirrel/Mother Frog/Mole), and Christiann Thijm (Bird/Mouse/Squirrel/Young Frog/Mole).

Musical Director:  Alan Ruch

Choreographer:  Molly Lajoie, Based on original choreography by Michael Barnard

Scenic Design:  Jeff Thomson

Costume Design: Karen Ann Ledger

Hair & Makeup Design:  D. Daniel Hollingshead

Lighting Design:  Rick Paulsen

Sound Design:  Christopher Neumeyer

Projection Design: Anthony Runfola

Stage Manager:  Sarah G. Chanis

Kid Reporter

Isabella’s Thoughts on “The Smartest Girl in the World”


I think The Smartest Girl in the World is an awesome play because I got lost in the real life experience of a brother and sister, Leo and Lizzy, who go through a roller coaster of good and bad feelings.  Something that may come as a surprise is the seriousness of the subjects that surface between the two latch-key kids that stay home after school, dreaming of being the smartest kids in the world.  They want a good life, to go to college and have loads of money, to live in a nice house with their parents and make all the family dreams come true! Rudy Ramirez, who plays Leo, describes the performance as, “Emotionally direct…It is more than a nice cute show about brothers and sisters…it explores rifts in their relationship.”

I had a fantastic opportunity to ask the cast how they could relate to the characters and if they were ever a latch-key kid. Latch-key is a fancy word for kids who come home without supervision and take care of themselves until their parents get back. I found out the actors had some similar real life experiences to draw from that helped them dig deep and prepare for their roles. They did an outstanding job! This may be just one more reason why the characters were so believable and came to life – like in the pages of a book!


Listen to what they said:

Osiris Cuen, who plays Lizzie wondered if the character was, “Too real! My mom, a single mother, was working all the time to provide for us…..We had to take care of ourselves.” She shares a memory of time she tried to help mom load the dishwasher that resulted in flooding the house with a mountain of suds after using the wrong soap.

Rudy Ramirez, who plays Leo, can also relate. He says, “I have a younger sister…my parents were 1st generation ……I went to a title one school in a not great neighborhood. All we had was each other and we loved each other fiercely and fought like nobody’s business!”

In the show Leo and Lizzy also argue big, but their love for each other and their family drives them to mend bad feelings.  Like Rudy and his sister, Leo and Lizzie fought like nobody’s business, but over grown up stuff. This performance made me really think. As a kid sometimes people underestimate us, but not this play. It challenged me to think about school and family differently.


I learned that this is a new play, not just to me, but to the world. This is actually the World Premiere of Miriam Gonzales’ The Smartest Girl in the World!

The cast was hilarious! Did you know they actually have a school anthem they sing before every show? This must be where they get that fiery energy that lights up the stage.

Something to keep an eye out for in the performance was some cast members play more than one role. I interviewed 4 people, but there were more characters in the play. I did not notice it was the same person! Jamie Sandomire plays both Lizzie’s friend and Aunt. I asked this crazy cast who was the funniest in real life. Sounds like they all have their moments. It’s how they work together that makes this play a success!


A cool thing about having a backstage pass is I learned the secret to all the set changes. Most things can be flipped around for double use. Watch close – the headboard of the bed is also the game show board! This is important because everything needs to fit into a small space as Childsplay travels all over the United States and Canada. Another fun part of being backstage with the actors is knowing what really goes on and where they goofed up during the performance. They make funny mistakes, but you never know. For example, Lizzy, is upset about things not going her way and in that scene the poster on her wall falls down and it gives her a moment to get angry. The poster was not really supposed to fall down, but the audience never knew because Osiris used the poster falling to show she was angry. Leo dropped a book, but carried on and the audience did not know a thing!


The actors have been studying for a long time and that is one of the things that makes the show amazing! For Jamie Sandomire, acting on a Childsplay stage was always a dream! I think it is awesome that she fulfilled her dream.

The cast had some advice for aspiring young actors. They said to be in as many plays as possible and to go see as many plays as possible, because you can learn from watching. This is great advice. I learned a lot! Parents, kids, and aspiring actors will enjoy The Smartest Girl in the World!

Kid Reporter

Elena Interviews the Cast of “Sideways Stories from Wayside School”

SSWS Cast Pic

This wacky Wayside School of wild and whimsical things will surely put a smile on your face. The show was an original take on the book series Sideways Stories from Wayside School. The show changed the way I thought about giving an apple to a teacher!

SSWS Elena StudentSSWS Elena Window










The story is about the different things that happen in Wayside School. Wonder why its called that? When the school was being built, the architect read the plans wrong. Instead of thirty classrooms in a row, he built thirty classrooms on top of each other. While you’re watching the show, look for the classroom clock, the cow, the world’s longest pigtails, and Mrs. Zarves.


I interviewed the cast about the show and their acting careers. Let’s meet them! The cast: Jon Gentry (Mrs. Gorf, Mr. Gorf, Mr. Pickle, Sammy), Tommy Strawser (Myron), Katie McFadzen (Leslie, Miss Valooosh), Yolanda London (Rondi), Michael Thompson (Dameon), Angelica Howland (Bebe), Eric Boudreau (Louis),  Debra K. Stevens (Mrs. Jewls). Here are some of my questions and the cast’s answers.

SSWS Interview

If you had to play a different role, who would you play?

Yolanda:  If I had to play a different role, it would be Mrs. Gorf. Villains are great fun to play!

Can any of you relate to your characters in any way?

Jon: I can relate to the crazy.  The character I personally relate to the most is Mr. Pickle.  He doesn’t have a problem with taking advantage of a person if he can get away with it.  [Another cast member said “that’s pretty revealing about you, Jon!”]

When did you start acting? 

Eric: In my freshman year of college, so 12 years ago.

Do you work for any other theater companies? 

Michael: Whenever I get cast, I show up!  I do a lot of work at Stray Cat Theater, also Phoenix Theater, Arizona Broadway and Space 55.  But I do love Childsplay!

What’s your favorite costume? 

Angelica: Miss Valooosh.  All that curly blonde hair!

What is your favorite prop or costume piece to work with?

Debbie: My purple GoGo boots! When I was in elementary school, GoGo boots were really hot and my mother wouldn’t let me have them because she thought they were tacky.  So I’m going to go home tonight and call my mom and tell her I’m wearing GoGo boots! : )

SSWS Silly Cast

Whether it’s the crafty students making mischief, or the teachers going mad, this show will have twists and turns you won’t expect!

Kid Reporter

Sophie “Sees” Girls Who Wear Glasses


Have you ever felt that you can’t see the world very well?  Just put on your glasses!  Things will come into focus as you watch this amazingly funny play.  You won’t be able to see the world the same way ever again.  Your eyes will play tricks on you as you look upon the backdrop.  Not all the glasses shown are real, but the blurry letters on the stage sure are. The issues the characters face are real, too. Ever since I watched the play, my vision is stronger than it used to be.


Girls Who Wear Glasses is about a girl named Mira who is starting sixth grade with her two best friends, Tiffany and Lindsay.  She discovers that she needs glasses on the first day.  Her friend Tiffany is disgusted by the glasses but Lindsay doesn’t seem to mind too much.  Mira meets two other girls who also wear glasses.  They are named Iris and Claire. They soon become friends with Mira.

Iris and Tiffany say that Mira had to choose between one group of friends or the other.  Glasses or no glasses. Old friends or true friends.  Until SNAP!  Mira’s glasses break!  Tiffany thinks it is perfect, but Mira isn’t so sure…


A unique thing about the production is that there are only four actors.  The actors each have double roles except Mira.  Mira is played by Kaleena Newman.  Iris and Lindsay are played by Osiris Cuen. They are never in contact with each other, because they are played by the same person!  Claire and Tiffany are played by Jamie Sandomire.  Katie Haas is Mira’s mom and teacher. You would think it would be confusing for the audience watching the same actor play separate characters but the actors are so good, and the characters so different, they keep the story moving and the play enjoyable.

The play made me laugh and also helped me see how we can like each other for our similarities and our differences.

Go see the play if you want to “see” more, too!!!


Kid Reporter

“The Boy Who Loved Monsters & The Girl Who Loved Peas” – Reviewed by Nate

Do you like monsters? Do you like peas? Do you like a crazy play full of imagination and color and fun? Well then, I have the perfect play for you! Come and see the The Boy Who Loved Monsters & The Girl Who Loved Peas! It’s an exciting play! This is why I think that.

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First, when you walk into the theater, you see a house of colors and imagination. The wallpaper has fun and exciting monsters and the doors and windows are crooked and bended, and that makes it fun and really cool. Also another detail is everything is full of bright colors and the lights keep changing colors, too. Many things in your imagination may be weird and crazy, but not as crazy as Evan’s imagination!

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Speaking of Evan, I might as well get into the characters. The characters were Tyler Eglen as Evan, Michelle Cunneen as his sister Sue, Debra K. Stevens as Mommy, Mel Reid Glotfelty as Daddy and Katie McFadzen as the Monster. But not a scary monster. A really cool monster!


In the beginning, the family is eating dinner. Little sister Sue loves peas. EVAN DOES NOT! But he needs to eat his dinner and that last pea. Mom and Dad are too busy playing with their smart phones and iPad. And Evan wishes that he can have a monster to come play with him, and eat his peas for him, and eat his parents because they never play with him!

As Evan’s imagination grows bigger, the pea grows bigger and bigger and bigger on his plate…and then turns into the monster he’s always wished for.

When I went backstage, I even got to pretend my head was the pea on Evan’s plate!

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The monster (named Pea!) becomes Evan’s friend and helps Sue and Evan use their imaginations to have fun and play games. One cool part of the play is when Pea uses the tablecloth to show them different games like using it as Dracula’s costume, or wearing it like a ghost, or making it into a fort, or using it for a bull fighter’s cape!

Also, there is a giant trunk of toys and Evan and Sue arrange them in a circle to go back to Pea’s home in monster land. But they come back!

In the end, Pea and the kids show their parents that it’s more important to have fun and play with the family than to be addicted to technology and always watching YouTube videos, playing Mario or sending emails all the time.

Come a little early, there are fun activities to do before the show. My favorite activity was using your own hand to make a monster hand out of foam and colorful shapes. It was very fun!


I loved this play and I hope you do too. It is everything you need to step into the world of monsters and let your imagination go crazy.

Drawing by Nate Fox

Kid Reporter

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