By Richard Schultz, Aug. 28, 2014.
In the age of social media, where technology defines much of our lives, the role of the theater may somehow seem less immediate. Yet, the opposite is actually true, especially within the LGBT community.
The live component of the theatrical experience remains distinctively vital. The energy and bond between performer and audience is ephemeral and always changing, which is why no two performances are ever exactly alike.
Here are 10 LGBT shows worthy of your undivided attention in the coming season.
1. Kinky Boots
Sept. 16-21, ASU Gammage
This exhilarating Broadway musical will lift your spirits to new high-heeled heights. Winner of six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, this inspirational story follows a struggling shoe factory owner who works to turn his business around with help from Lola, a fabulous entertainer in need of some sturdy stilettos. Together, this unlikely pair finds that they have more in common than they ever dreamed possible and proving that when you change your mind about someone, you can change your whole world. Inspired by a true story, Kinky Boots features a joyous, Tony-winning score by Cyndi Lauper, direction and Tony-winning choreography by Jerry Mitchell and a hilarious, uplifting book by four-time Tony winner Harvey Fierstein. In other words, this show is fierce!
2. A Kid Like Jake
Sept. 2-14, Invisible Theatre, Tucson
This southwest premiere of Daniel Pearle’s play details Alex and her husband Greg who want only the best for their precocious 4-year-old Jake. When they apply to New York City private schools, part of what makes Jake special — his passion for Cinderella and dress-up — starts to cause concern. Straight from New York’s Lincoln Center, this 2013 award-winning play is a keenly perceptive look at the hot-button issue of gender identity in children.
3. The Producers
Oct. 10-Nov. 9, Arizona Broadway Theatre
Dec. 31-Jan. 3, Scottsdale Musical Theater Company
This take-no-prisoners stage adaptation of the 1968 film tells the story of scheming Bialystock and Bloom — two names that should strike terror and hysteria in anyone familiar with the show — and their plot to produce the most notorious Broadway flop in history. The only thing they don’t bargain for? Success! The lively score includes “The King of Old Broadway,” “When You’ve Got It, Flaunt It” and “Heil Myself.” The humor of the show draws on over the top accents, caricatures of homosexuals and Nazis, and many show business in-jokes.
4. The Hungry Woman: A Mexican Medea
Oct. 17-26, ASU MainStage
Cherrìe Moraga’s blistering play reimagines the Medea story in a post-revolutionary Phoenix. The Hungry Woman deftly weaves together themes of Chicana/o, Native American, and lesbian cultural identities with the myths of the Mexican La Lorona, the Aztec Coatlicue, and the Greek tragic hero.
5. Shear Madness
Oct. 29-Nov. 23, Phoenix Theatre
It’s no wonder that Shear Madness holds the Guinness record for longest-running play in the history of American theater. This unique murder mystery, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, is a true crowd pleaser packed with up-to-the minute spontaneous humor and exciting intrigue. You don’t want to miss your chance to spot the clues, question the suspects and solve the funniest mystery in the history of crime. With an outcome that is never the same, Phoenix Theatre’s comic geniuses will have you rolling in the aisles!
6. An Evening of Classic Lily Tomlin
Feb. 21, Chandler Center for the Arts
Lily Tomlin is one of America’s foremost comediennes with an extraordinarily broad entertainment career spanning television, movies, theater, animation and stand-up comedy. She has earned seven Emmys, a Grammy for a comedy album, and a pair of Tony’s, one for best actress for her one-woman Broadway show, “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.” Her humor and observations are penetrating, funny and endearing — and that’s the truth!
7. Avenue Q
April 10-26, Mesa Encore Theatre
Uproariously funny and more than a little racy, the badly behaved puppets of Avenue Q are back! The winner of three Tony awards including Best Musical is the hilarious and heartfelt story of a bright-eyed college grad who comes to New York with big dreams and little money. It’s a humorous and frank look at the time in life between college and the onset of adulthood as the real world awaits and navigating a path toward finding a purpose becomes challenging. In the vein of Sesame Street, Avenue Q lays out the A, B, C’s and 1, 2, 3’s of adulthood.
8. Our Kiki: A Gay Farce
April 17-26, ASU MainStage – Lyceum Theatre
On the eve of Matt and Phil’s six-year anniversary, an immigration officer unexpectedly arrives to investigate the marriage. The trouble is Matt is married to Phil’s best friend Molly. Identities, relationships, and languages get confused in this riotous physical comedy by ASU alum Seth Tucker.
9. Buyer & Cellar
April 15-May 3, Phoenix Theatre
This hysterical new comedy fresh off its chart-topping run Off-Broadway has audiences raving about the story of Alex Moore, a struggling gay actor who finds himself taking an unusual gig in the basement of a true Hollywood A-lister. This diva, known to you as the best-selling artist of all-time, makes an appearance one day and what follows is an outrageous look at fame and the price paid to achieve it.
10. End of the Rainbow
Phoenix Theatre, April 29-May 17
Renowned the world over for her unique and distinct presence and lauded by Fred Astaire as the “the greatest entertainer who ever lived,” Judy Garland was a true gem of the stage. In this dramatic and often poignant production, she is brought back to life to share her savage wit, legendary tenacity and once-in-a-generation voice. Set against her infamous 1968 London comeback, End of the Rainbow, written by Peter Quilter, takes a dive into the relationships that molded the once-glittering starlet’s last days and the personal demons she couldn’t escape. It’s time for Judy to take us back “over the rainbow.”