Opening Nights | September 2015

By Richard Schultz, September 2015 Issue.

Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin

Arizona Theatre Company

THEATRE_HersheyFelderFrom the depths of Czarist Russia to New York’s Lower East Side, and ultimately all of America and the world, Irving Berlin’s story epitomizes the American dream. Hershey Felder, a bravura performer, compelling storyteller and superb concert pianist who delighted audiences in “George Gershwin Alone”, returns to Arizona Theatre Company in another tour de force. This time, Felder, who wrote the book for this production, brings to vibrant life the remarkable story of “America’s Composer.” Featuring Berlin’s most popular and enduring songs – from “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” to “God Bless America” – Felder’s performance makes this production an unforgettable journey.

Hershey Felder as Irving Berlin

Arizona Theatre Company
Tickets: $28-$68; 602-256-6995

Sept. 16-Oct. 4
Temple of Music and Art
330 S. Scott Ave., Tucson

Oct. 8-25
Herberger Theater Center
222 E Monroe St., Phoenix

THEATRE_ShakeThe Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged

Desert Foothills Theater

Believe it or not, this local company takes on all 37 plays in 97 minutes! An irreverent, fast-paced romp through the Bard’s plays, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged was London’s longest-running comedy, having clocked a very palpable nine years in London’s West End. These madcap performers in tights weave their wicked way through all of Shakespeare’s comedies, histories and tragedies in one wild sprint that will leave the audience breathless and helpless with laughter.

This show is a high-speed roller coaster ride that leads to a condensation of the Bard’s beloved characters and plots. This theatrical adventure features fractured speeches, plenty of mad dashes, audience interaction and clever cultural references, both from Elizabethan and modern times.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare Abridged

Sept. 10-20
Desert Foothills Theater
FCF-Holland Cabaret Theater
34250 N. 60th St., Building B, Scottsdale
Tickets: 480-488-1981 (contact the theatre for pricing)

THEATRE_south-pacific-logoSouth Pacific

Fountain Hills Theater

This award-winning musical, based on James Michener’s famous book with a score by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II, bursts with iconic melodies. An American nurse, stationed on a World War II South Pacific island, falls deeply in love with a French widower, but struggles to accept his mixed-race children. And an American lieutenant grapples with fears of social retribution if he marries his Asian sweetheart. Personal happiness and love are pitted against prejudice and the terrors of war in this classic Broadway musical that still resonates today.

Audience favorites include “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Bali Ha’i,” “Younger Than Springtime,” “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair,” “Bloody Mary” and “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy.”

South Pacific

Sept. 4-20
Fountain Hills Theater
11445 N. Saguaro Blvd., Fountain Hills
Tickets: $33; 480-837-9661

THEATRE_The-WizThe Wiz

Mesa Encore Theatre

This beloved Broadway gem infuses L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with a dazzling mix of rock, gospel, and soul music. Winner of the 1975 Tony for Best Musical, this timeless tale of Dorothy’s adventures through the Land of Oz is a family-friendly, modern musical.

Dorothy, a restless Kansas farm girl eager to see more of the world, is transported by a tornado to a magical world of Munchkins, witches, and a yellow brick road. On her way to the Emerald City to meet the Wizard of Oz, who she believes can help her get back home to Kansas, she encounters the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion – friends who help her battle the Wicked Witch of the West and eventually learn that there really is “no place like home.”

The score includes timeless favorites “Home,” “Ease on Down the Road” and “Don’t “Nobody Bring Me No Bad News.” This local production is directed by Damon Bolling with musical direction by Debra Jo Davey. Jacqueline Rushing portrays Dorothy with Savannah Alfred as Evillene and Ivan Thompson as the Wiz.

This musical was adapted into a film version featuring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross in 1978.

The Wiz

Sept. 11-20
Mesa Encore Theatre
Mesa Arts Center
One East Main Street, Mesa
Tickets: $29; 480-644-6500

Wanted: Colorful Characters

Echo is always looking for LGBT theater artists to spotlight as part of Opening Nights. If you know of someone, please send a note with a short bio to Richard Schultz at