“Twist Your Dickens” – Phoenix Theatre

PHOENIX THEATRE’S “TWIST YOUR DICKENS” SLAMS “CHRISTMAS CAROL”

“TWIST YOUR DICKENS”
Hormel Theatre, Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

For years, I reviewed Actors Theatre’s annual staging of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”  While always well acted, beautifully designed, and creatively staged by the company’s producing artistic director Matthew Wiener, seeing the same show year-after-year became a bit of a bore.  Now that Actors Theatre has sadly closed, their holiday show has disappeared until Phoenix Theatre decided to turn a sly eye to the immortal tale and produce Chicago’s Second City developed humorous slam, “Twist Your Dickens.”

The hysterical jab at the story includes the familiar characters … Continue Reading

“Beautiful” – ASU Gammage

Theater Review – November 25, 2016

“BEAUTIFUL” PAYS HOMAGE TO CAROLE KING BUT TOURING STAR DOESN’T SHINE AS KING

“BEAUTIFUL”
Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

On a recent Broadway trip, one of the best and most exciting musicals was Jessie Mueller’s stunning transformation to become songwriter Carole King in “Beautiful” that featured over two dozen of the composer’s songs that were used to describe her challenging life including her marriage to Gerry Goffin and how she created her hit tunes.

When the show headed out on tour, Mueller’s sister, Theresa, played the role.  Many said Theresa was as good or better than … Continue Reading

“Billy Elliot” – Phoenix Theatre and “An Act of God” – Arizona Theatre Company

“BILLY ELLIOT” AND “AN ACT OF GOD” BOTH SUPERB

“BILLY ELLIOT”
Phoenix Theatre, Mainstage Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

and

“AN ACT OF GOD”
Arizona Theatre Company, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

Two very different but superb productions present an embarrassment of riches for local theatergoers and their holiday guests with Phoenix Theatre’s emotionally moving musical “Billy Elliot” and Arizona Theatre Company’s riotously funny “An Act of God.”

Phoenix Theatre has achieved a stellar reputation for fine musical theater productions under Michael Barnard’s leadership.  Now with a flawless presentation of “Billy Elliot” staged by Barnard, PT scores its greatest triumph in a remarkably engaging production that successfully duplicates the colossal original … Continue Reading

“Rusalka” – Arizona Opera

This review aired on KBAQ November 14, 2016

FAMOUS DVORAK OPERA “RUSALKA” WELL SUNG BUT WEAKLY STAGED

“RUSALKA”
Arizona Opera, Symphony Hall
Phoenix, AZ

It’s significant that Arizona Opera has reached the point in its 45-year history where they can program other than warhorse opera hits.  Those tired and true works like “Madama Butterfly” and “Cinderella” that are both part of the remaining current season, still make up the majority of their annual seasons but local opera lovers now get unusual works that are rarely performed by major American opera companies and, later this season, the company presents its first world premiere opera, “Riders of … Continue Reading

“Love Is Here to Stay: A Gershwin Cabaret” – Theater Works

This review aired on KBAQ November 7, 2016

GERSHWIN BROTHERS SONG HITS FORM SMASHING NEW THEATER WORKS REVUE

“LOVE IS HERE TO STAY: A GERSHWIN CABARET”
Theater Works, Peoria Center for the Performing Arts
Peoria, AZ

In the early part of the 20th century, George and Ira Gershwin penned a rich collection of wonderful songs for their Broadway musicals and Hollywood films.  It’s easy to forget these songs but the pair’s lush collection form the basis of Theater Works smashing world premiere tribute, “”Love Is Here To Stay: A Gershwin Cabaret.”

Using over 50 of the team’s songs supplemented by a couple of tunes written by … Continue Reading

“Rock the Presidents” – Childsplay

This review aired on KBAQ October 24, 2016

“ROCK THE PRESIDENTS”
Childsplay, Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe, AZ

This is the third time Childsplay has presented its original creative musical “Rock the Presidents” that cleverly teaches while engagingly entertaining young audiences about the 43 men who have led this country in good and bad times.

The first lesson hinges on the number of people who have served as our 44 presidents.  It is often forgotten that Grover Cleveland served twice as the 22nd and the 24th leader because he lost his initial reelection bid but he ran and won again four years later.

The sprightly … Continue Reading

“The Sound of Music” – ASU Gammage

This review aired on KBAQ October 20, 2016

STAGE “SOUND OF MUSIC” HACKNEYNED – WATCH THE FAR BETTER FILM INSTEAD

“THE SOUND OF MUSIC”
Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

In 1959 when “The Sound of Music’s” stage version premiered on Broadway, critics slammed the sentimental show that starred a too-old Mary Martin as Maria, the young postulant turned governess to Captain Von Trapp’s motherless brood of seven children.  Family audiences loved the cloying story and, as younger replacement stars took over from Martin, the show accumulated a respectable 1,443 performance run.

When the show’s lyricist, Oscar Hammerstein II, died in 1960, commentators … Continue Reading

“Rasheeda Speaking” – Black Theatre Troupe and “45th Anniversary Sapphire Celebration” – Arizona Opera

This review aired on KBAQ October 17, 2016

BLACK THEATRE TROUPE DELIVERS SMASHING “RASHEEDA SPEAKING” AND ARIZONA OPERA PRESENTS DYNAMIC “45TH ANNIVERSARY SAPPHIRE CELEBRATION “ WITH RENOWNED OPERA STAR FREDERICA VON STADE

“RASHEEDA SPEAKING”
Black Theatre Troupe, Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center
Phoenix, AZ

Two exciting performing arts events – the Black Theatre Troupe’s rich staging of “Rasheeda Speaking” and an incandescent Arizona Opera concert celebrating the company’s 45th season – made quite an exciting performing arts weekend.

After a long period of mediocrity and a rocky transition to their new playhouse, the Black Theatre Troupe presents a smashing local premiere, “Rasheeda Speaking,” a 2015 … Continue Reading

“King Charles III” – Arizona Theatre Company

This review aired on KBAQ October 10, 2016

ARIZONA THEATRE COMPANY’S “KING CHARLES III” IS AMAZINGLY BLAND

“KING CHARLES III”
Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

Historic speculation can make an interesting script but playwright Mike Bartlett doesn’t achieve that in “King Charles III.”  Arizona Theatre Company’s production won’t entice audiences into what might happen when Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II passes her throne to her eldest son, Prince Charles because of amazingly bland treatment of royal eccentricities.

When the Prince becomes King, he brings his modern life style to the staid and formalistic monarchy.  Since the two lifestyles don’t mix, the … Continue Reading

“Liberace” – Phoenix Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ September 26, 2016

“LIBERACE” DRAGS WITH BLAND TELLING OF ENTERTAINER’S LEGEND

“LIBERACE”

Hormel Theatre, Phoenix Theatre

Phoenix, AZ

The “Liberace” world premiere finds playwright Brent Hazelton explaining the details about Mr. Showmanship’s convoluted life with an emphasis on his upbringing and the complexities of producing his famous nightclub entertainment.

The show is only noteworthy for those of us who saw Liberace live and on television multiple times during his heydays during the 1950s to the 1970s.  Liberace was indeed a unique entertainer.

But for those with limited exposure to Liberace, the show drags with its exhaustive detail but bland retelling of his … Continue Reading