The Local Performing Arts Scene in Review

This review aired on KBAQ July 9, 2012


I’ve been observing the local theater scene since 1979 and I’m glad that I’ve been able to watch the scene expand from a series of limited and often tacky community theater efforts to diverse offerings by several fine professional theaters.  We may not be New York, Washington, or even Los Angeles or San Francisco but we’ve come a long way.

Back when I arrived, the Valley didn’t even get touring productions of Broadway hits and there were no local professional theaters.  Now, through the determination of ASU Gammage’s Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, Arizona’s only Tony Award voter, we get major tours of big New York hits, often only for a week but occasionally for a longer run.

We have the country’s only two-city professional repertory theater in the Arizona Theatre Company that mounts impressive Phoenix and Tucson seasons.  And we have other major theater companies like Actors Theatre that do professional productions of the latest Broadway comedies and dramas and Phoenix Theatre that mounts several top flight musicals each season.  We have two outstanding alternative theater companies in Stray Cat Theatre and Nearly Naked Theatre.  Both Stray Cat Theatre and Nearly Naked Theatre mount solid productions of interesting shows never selected by our conventional theaters.  And we have one of the nation’s most acclaimed children’s theater troupes in Childsplay that does creatively staged and many world premiere productions of new classic offerings.  But theater isn’t the only fine Valley performing arts activity.

We are blessed the Phoenix Symphony, a major orchestra that presents a diverse symphonic repertory often brilliantly played.  We have a superb dance company in Ib Andersen’s Ballet Arizona that mounts diverse professional programs highlighted by its richly produced “The Nutcracker,” one of the country’s finest holiday stagings.  In its five annual productions, Arizona Opera does wonderful work while bringing the finest of new operatic talent to play major roles.

Next week I will look at the local theater season in detail and name the finest productions that graced the second half of the just concluded theater season.  Using my star ratings and limiting the best shows to those earning five stars out of five, seven shows were distinguished.  This impressive selection of diverse productions could have played almost any American city with distinction.