“Americano!” – The Phoenix Theatre Company

Theater Review – February 23, 2020


The Phoenix Theatre Company, Mainstage Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

The Phoenix Theatre Company is branching out to present world premiere musicals and plays.  It just closed the new musical “Americano!” that told the true story of Tony Valdovinos, a Phoenix immigrant who had lived in this country since he was two but had never been told by his parents that he was not an American citizen.  This fact stifled his longtime hope to enlist in the Marine Corp when he turned 18.

Before I go further in this commentary about this fascinating new show, I must make a confession.  I was asked by the theater to be involved in this show seeing it from early rehearsals through its opening night.  I was asked to give my advice on the show and how it might be improved as the company worked with the show’s creators as it approached its debut.

So please understand that my comments might be seen as biased although I have waited until the show closed before posting any thoughts on “Americano!.”  I was impressed that my humble comments were taken to heart by The Phoenix Theatre Company’s artistic director Michael Barnard who staged the show and wrote the book with Jonathan Rosenberg.  Barnard also contributed song lyrics to the impressive Carrie Rodriquez score.  This collection of talented writers crafted a winning new show with justifiable Broadway aspirations that may well come to fruition.

The uniquely local story about Valdovinos is fascinating and he turns his inability to join the military into a huge positive as he helps Hispanics get elected and he helps show hypocrisy  in how we treat illegal immigrants.  The cast was superlative, the staging impeccable, the dances full of rich ethnicity and the progress made on improving a already strong show was encouraging.  And the theater had a recording of the wonderful score available that I was proud to add to my over 6,000 cast recording collection.

One can only hope that “Americano!” will be brought back and perhaps the show’s return will be after a successful Broadway or off-Broadway launch.  “Americano!” is quite a show.  Unfortunately, it closed February 23.

Grade: A

The Phoenix Theatre Company has announced its 2020/21 season that includes ten shows including favorite musicals and plays plus another world premiere.  Opening the season will be “The King’s Speech” (July 8-August 9), a true story about Queen Elizabeth’s father, Bertie, a man who never wanted to be King and who battled a terrible stammer while England was at war.  “Ride the Cyclone” (August 5-30) is a story of a lost youth infused with a great score.  The Gloria and Emilio Estefan musical “On Your Feet” (September 2-October 11) weaves the story of the musical couple from Little Havana.  The plot of “The Color Purple” (October 7-December 6) is reimaged as a musical as it tells about the terrible existence of slaves.  The Rodgers and Hammerstein television musical “Cinderella” (November 11-January 3) is reconceived as a stage show in what will be a festive holiday production.  The masterpiece “Singin’ in the Rain” (January 27-March 28) will be on stage in what has been hailed as a rich adaptation of the popular movie.  “Lunch at Audrey’s” (February 17-March 7) is a world premiere that lets audiences glimpse into a day in the life of Audrey Hepburn.  One of The Phoenix Theatre Company’s most popular productions, the musical “In the Heights” (March 31-May 30) returns.  The mystery “Murder on the Orient Express” (April 21-May 9) tells Poirot’s popular story.  The season closes with the great American musical classic, “Ragtime” (June 2-27) that tells about many changes coming to this country during the late 19th century.  Season tickets go on sale April 30.  For ticket information call The Phoenix Theatre Company box office at 602-254-2151 or check online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.