By Seth Reines, October 2017 Issue.
Whether you prefer the type of performances that require you to use your imagination or the variety that document the most literal of human experiences, the odds are that you’ll find a show that sparks your interest in the season ahead.
From a fabulous drag queen to a demonic sock puppet, Phoenix theatergoers have many of choices this season. Here are our top 10 must-see professional shows for 2017-2018:
1. Mamma Mia!
Through Oct. 15 at Phoenix Theatre
When Phoenix’s Film Bar sold out its Mamma Mia Big Gay Sing-a-Long event last year, Phoenix Theatre took that as a fabulous sign! PT opens its 2017-1018 season with the Broadway blockbuster. On the eve of her wedding, a daughter’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings back three men from her mother’s past. Loaded with unforgettable ABBA hits, Mamma Mia! boasts a historic 14-year run on Broadway and has became an international phenomenon.
2. Hedwig And The Angry Inch
Through Oct. 15 at Phoenix Theatre
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a brilliantly innovative, heartbreaking and wickedly funny musical about a fictional rock and roll band fronted by Hedwig, a transgender East German singer. With an electrifying glam-rock score, Hedwig is a co-produced by Phoenix Theatre and the Valley newcomer A/C Theatre Company. The show opened on Broadway in 2014 and has gone on to win four Tony Awards, including Best Musical Revival and Best Leading Male (Neil Patrick Harris).
3. Something Rotten!
Oct. 31-Nov. 5 at ASU Gammage
Direct from Broadway, Something Rotten! is a hilarious hit musical set in the 1590s. Two brothers, Nick and Nigel Bottom, are desperate to write their own hit play, while the “rock star” Shakespeare (played on tour by Tony Award-nominee Adam Pascal) keeps getting all the hits. When a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theatre involves singing, dancing and acting at the same time, the brothers set out to write the world’s very first musical. New York Magazine dubbed Something’s Rotten! “The Producers + Spamalot +The Book of Mormon squared!”
4. Scottsdale Arts Presents David Sedaris
Nov. 18 at Orpheum Theatre
David Sedaris, one of America’s pre-eminent out satirists, slices through cultural euphemisms and political correctness, addressing the contemporary human condition. Besides being a prolific writer, Sedaris was featured in the documentary Do I Sound Gay? and appeared as a guest judge on “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Sedaris will read some of his most recent works, including comic tales of his live-in lover, and answer questions from the audience.
5. Broadway with Seth Rudetsky
Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Kelli O’Hara, Jan. 27
Megan Hilty, Feb. 24
Mark Cortale Presents Broadway showcases some of Broadway’s brightest musical theatre stars. These cabaret-style concerts, which mix popular song and candid showbiz stories, are hosted by multitalented out comedian and Broadway pianist Seth Rudetsky of Sirius Radio’s “On Broadway” and “Seth Speaks.” Kelli O’Hara won a Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in the critically acclaimed revival of The King and I. Megan Hilty earned rave reviews for performances ranging from Broadway to TV, including the NBC musical series “Smash.”
6. Hand To God
Feb. 2-25 at Phoenix Theatre
In a church basement in a small Texas town, the teens of the Christian Puppet Ministry gather to bring the “word of God” to their flock. But one puppet takes on a foul-mouthed, demonic life of its own, unleashing the community’s barely repressed lust and rage. A co-production by Phoenix and Stray Cat theatres, Hand to God is a ruthless comedy about sex, sinners and sock puppets. The New Yorker described the show as “‘Sesame Street’ meets The Exorcist.”
7. Kinky Boots
Feb. 16-18 at Orpheum Theatre
Based on a true story and indie film of the same name, Kinky Boots follows young Brit Charlie Price, who abandons his family’s shoe factory to live in London with his demanding girlfriend. After the unexpected death of his father, Charlie must find a way to keep the struggling factory alive. Enter Lola, a fabulous drag queen who gives Charlie the idea of creating ladies shoes for men. Soon, the factory is turning out “kinky boots.” With a score by Cindi Lauper and book by Harvey Fierstein, Kinky Boots is about finding your passion, overcoming prejudice and transcending stereotypes.
8. A Chorus Line
March 16-18 at Orpheum Theatre
A Chorus Line, winner of the 1976 Pulitzer Prize and nine Tony Awards, is more than a Broadway musical about auditioning for a Broadway musical. Revealing the achingly poignant ambitions of professional Broadway dancers, the show is a powerful metaphor for all human aspiration. A Chorus Line will feature the iconic Tony Award-winning direction and choreography of Michael Bennett, who died of AIDS in Arizona in 1987.
9. Parsons Dance
March 9 at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts
Founded in 1985 by choreographer David Parsons and Tony Award-winning lighting designer Howell Binkley, Parsons Dance is known for its energized, athletic, ensemble work. Seen on PBS, Bravo, A&E and the Discovery Channel, Parsons Dance has enraptured audiences in nearly 450 cities, 30 countries, and 5 continents, performing contemporary American dance of extraordinary artistry.
10. The Color Purple
April 17-22 at ASU Gammage
First, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker; then a Stephen Spielberg film starring Whoopi Goldberg; and finally, in 2016 The Color Purple became the Tony Award winner for Best Musical Revival. This stirring family chronicle follows the life of a young black girl named Celie as she journeys from childhood through joy and despair, anguish and hope to discover the power of love and life in the American South in the 1930s. With a fresh, joyous score of jazz, ragtime, gospel and blues, this revival is based on the award-winning London production.
11. The Humans
May 29-June 3 at ASU Gammage
Stephen Karam’s The Humans is an uproarious, hopeful and heart-breaking play that takes place over the course of one family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Breaking with tradition, Erik Blake has brought his Pennsylvania family to celebrate and give thanks at his daughter’s apartment in lower Manhattan. As darkness falls outside, the Blake clan’s deepest fears and greatest follies are laid bare. Our modern age of anxiety is keenly observed with humor and compassion in this 2016 Tony Award winner for Best Play.