“3 No Trump” – Theater Works

Theater Review – January 16, 2017

WORLD PREMIERE LOCAL PLAY IS AN INNOCUOUS COMEDY ABOUT BRIDGE PLAYERS

“3 NO TRUMP”
Theater Works, Peoria Center for the Performing Arts
Peoria, AZ

Cathy Dresbach’s world premiere comedy at Theater Works, “3 No Trump,” is not about our President-elect.  The show has a few disguised and indirect political remarks but actually relieves audiences of the constantly discussed subject for a few amusing hours.

Set in Phoenix, “3 No Trump” is an innocuous comedy about five women who play bridge every two weeks from 1984 to 2003.  It is based on a group that included the playwright’s mother.  It isn’t … Continue Reading

“Fiddler on the Roof” – Arizona Theatre Company

Theater Review – January 9, 2017

SUPERB “FIDDLER ON THE ROOF ” AT ARIZONA THEATRE COMPANY

“FIDDLER ON THE ROOF”

Arizona Theatre Company, Herberger Theater Center

Phoenix, AZ

As the curtain rises on Arizona Theatre Company’s superb “Fiddler on the Roof,” the residents of Anatevka, a small 1905 Russian community, chant “Tradition,” proclaiming something critical to these people as the Jewish settlement is stripped of familiar things that make this their home.  Displacing religious mainstays, the imposed choices aren’t things the town believes.  So the staid community, never full of adventurers, decides to move around the world hoping to retain the things they cherish.

The 1964 … Continue Reading

“Black Nativity” – Black Theatre Troupe

ENTERTAINING AND EDUCATIONAL “BLACK NATIVITY” OPENS AT BTT

“BLACK NATIVITY”
Black Theatre Troupe, Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center
Phoenix, AZ

A holiday surprise comes from the Black Theatre Troupe’s entertaining but richly enlightening “Black Nativity.”  “Black Nativity” looks at the way American Blacks interpret Christ’s birth.  They developed their unique observations that utilize traditional themes and music but also provide distinctive soulful tunes that tweaks in their story.

“Black Nativity’s” first act looks at the conventional Christmas story interpreted with straightforward earnestness as many traditional carols are presented with different sounds coming from dynamic re-orchestrations.

“Black Nativity’s” second act is a more culturally exclusive telling … Continue Reading

“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