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“Cabaret” – Arizona Theatre Company

Theater Review – January 12, 2020

“CABARET” IS A HARSH INDICTMENT OF CONTROL BY A BIGOTED ANARCHIST

“CABARET”
Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

The 1966 musical “Cabaret” is a harsh indictment of 1930s pre-Nazi Germany.  The historic period brought major societal changes to the “anything goes” freedom that disappeared as rigid and highly discriminatory political control by a bigoted anarchist took hold.

The show brought new depth to the American musical theater as its rough theme had always been avoided by glitzy Broadway fare.  The story, still a reminder of what can happen when a biased ruler dominates a country, deals … Continue Reading

“Summer: The Donna Summer Musical” – ASU Gammage

Theater Review – January 8, 2020

“SUMMER” DOESN’T DO JUSTICE TO AN ICONIC SINGER

“SUMMER: THE DONNA SUMMER MUSICAL”
Broadway Across America, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

Donna Summer was an iconic pop/rock singer but you would never know it from the terrible jukebox musical “tribute” “Summer: The Donna Summer Musical.”  The show presents a confusing and unclear picture even though two dozen OF Summer’s hits are sung.  Some of these pop tunes are well sung but they are surrounded by a plethora of lame jokes and too many of the songs have been badly rearranged.

Three performers play Summer at various points in her career but … Continue Reading

“Million Dollar Quartet” – The Phoenix Theatre Company

Theater Review – December 21, 2019

“MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET” ROCKS PHOENIX THEATRE IN A JIVIN’ TUNEFEST OF POP ROCK HITS

“MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET”
The Phoenix Theatre Company, Hormel Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

If you aren’t into Broadway musicals but you love the rock ‘n’ roll tunes penned by Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis, you will love “Million Dollar Quartet” where these artists tunes are featured.  The Phoenix Theatre Company’s stellar production allows maximum enjoyment of the hit songs.  If these hit pop tunes aren’t your thing, you will marvel at the production’s faithful re-creation of that December 7, 1956 day when … Continue Reading

“Silent Sky” – Arizona Theatre Company

Theater Review – November 17, 2019

“SILENT SKY” RECEIVES RICH STAGING AS IT EXPLORES ASTRONOMER

“SILENT SKY”
Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

Lauren Gunderson has quietly crafted a major theatrical career and for two years has been the most produced American playwright but even without one play on Broadway.  The Arizona Theatre Company has convinced Gunderson to premiere two new plays and a musical here.  To start off her local connection, the company is mounting a rich staging of Gunderson’s 2013 play “Silent Sky” which takes a touching look at late 19th century astronomer Henrietta Leavitt.  She discovered the “period–luminosity … Continue Reading

“The Sound of Music” – The Phoenix Theatre Company

Theater Review – November 17, 2019

SWEET “SOUND OF MUSIC” GETS STELLAR TPTC PRODUCTION

“THE SOUND OF MUSIC”
The Phoenix Theatre Company, Mainstage Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

“The Sound of Music” debuted in 1959 on Broadway where it became an audience success as the final Rodgers and Hammerstein musical triumph.  But the popular show never satisfied theater critics because of its sentimental treatment of the now famous story of nun-in-training Maria who morphs into a governess and finally becomes the wife and mother of widowed naval war hero Captain Georg von Trapp and his seven children.

The Captain disciplines his children like soldiers and never allows them … Continue Reading

“American Psycho The Musical” – Stray Cat Theatre

Theater Review – November 10, 2019

STRAY CAT’S UNCONVENTIONAL “AMERICAN PSYCHO” SLAMS RICH IN SUPERB STAGING

“AMERICAN PSYCHO THE MUSICAL”
Stray Cat Theatre, Studio Theatre, Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe, AZ

If you are looking for a conventional musical, wait until The Phoenix Theatre Company opens “The Sound of Music” next week.  But if you want to see an unconventional musical that slams the rich and the fake things that impress these phony people, check out the superb Stray Cat Theatre’s Arizona premiere production of “American Psycho” based on the novel that inspired the dark film.

You couldn’t find a bleaker tale to turn into … Continue Reading

“Anastasia” – Broadway Across America – Arizona ASU Gammage

Theater Review – November 1, 2019

“ANASTASIA” TELLS RICH HISTORIC STORY WITH DULLNESS AND CLICHES

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

“Anastasia” musicalizes the well known life of the last Russian Czar’s fourth daughter.  It is a grand story not only about the young woman’s maturation but also about the crumbling reign of the aristocracy that sought personal wealth while everyday Russians suffered.  The historical tale demands a big production to represent the conspicuous consumption of the ruling class but it must also display the common man’s plight.

Unfortunately, Terrence McNally’s book inspired by the film tells the story with dry, plodding … Continue Reading

“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” – The Phoenix Theatre Company

Theater Review – October 11, 2019

MARVELOUS LOCAL PRODUCTION OF “THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME” DEBUTS AT THE PHOENIX THEATRE COMPANY

“THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME”
The Phoenix Theatre Company, Hormel Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

Over the past several seasons, The Phoenix Theatre Company consistently presents the best local productions of Broadway musicals.  And now, with an engaging local premiere production of the 2015 Tony Award winning play “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” they bring the same perfection to a psychologically complex drama that explores the brilliant mind of  the 15-year-old central character, Christopher, … Continue Reading

“The Royale” – Arizona Theatre Company

Theater Review – October 6, 2019

BOXING A CONTEXT FOR VIVID RACIAL DISCUSSION IN ATC’S “THE ROYALE”

“THE ROYALE”
Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

“The Royale” is about African-American heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson but the game is just the context for an important discussion of race relations in 1910.  Johnson was the first Black heavyweight champion in that biased and bigoted post Civil War time when there was a terrific price to pay for this distinction.  A powerful and moving Arizona Theatre Company production of playwright Marco Ramirez’s telling tale makes a gripping performance as the racial situation suggests … Continue Reading

“Miss Saigon” – ASU Gammage

Theater Review – September 25, 2019

TOURING “MISS SAIGON” IS DECENT BUT THE MUSICAL IS NO LONGER VIABLE

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

The touring production of the recent Broadway revival of “Miss Saigon” at ASU Gammage is decent but the 1989 musical based on Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” has not stood the test of time.  The now clichéd story of Kim, a Vietnamese woman who gets wooed by the corrupt Engineer into a shoddy life of pleasing U.S. soldiers is overly melodramatic.  Her first conquest, Chris, leaves her with child.  She struggles to keep herself and her son, Tam, … Continue Reading