The World Awaits | 2016-2017

21 reasons to take in a touring show this season

By Richard Schultz, October 2016 Issue.

The new arts season has something for everyone as local arts centers strive to bring an assortment of entertainment appealing to both very broad tastes and very distinctive niches. Above all, nothing beats the excitement of a live show!

Broadway Across AmericaASU Gammage |

Beautiful – The Carole King Musicalbeautiful_carol_king
Nov. 22-27

Before she was Carole King the superstar, she was Carole King the teenage songwriter. Her music would become the soundtrack to a generation. She fought her way into the record business as a teenager and, by the time she reached her 20s she had the husband of her dreams and a flourishing career writing hits for the biggest acts in rock ‘n’ roll. But it wasn’t until her personal life began to crack that she finally managed to find her true voice. Beautiful tells the inspiring true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom, from being part of a hit songwriting team with her husband, Gerry Goffin, her relationship with fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, to becoming one of the most successful solo acts in popular music history.

Mamma Mia!
Dec. 6-11

More than 60 million people around the world have fallen in love with the characters, the story and the music that make Mamma Mia! the ultimate feel-good show. Writer Catherine Johnson’s sunny, funny tale unfolds on a Greek-island paradise. On the eve of her wedding, a daughter’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings three men from her mother’s past back to the island they last visited 20 years ago. The storytelling magic of ABBA’s timeless songs propels this enchanting tale of love, laughter and friendship – and every night everyone’s having the time of their lives.

finding_neverlandFinding Neverland
March 14-19

This Broadway musical tells the fascinating story of how Peter became Pan. Based on the Academy Award-winning film of the same name. This breathtaking show follows playwright J.M. Barrie as he summons the courage to become the writer – and the man – he yearns to be. Barrie finds the inspiration he’s been missing when he meets the beautiful widow Sylvia and her four young sons, Jack, George, Michael and Peter. Delighted by the boys’ hilarious escapades, Barrie conjures the magical world of Neverland and writes a play unlike any the high-society London theatergoers have ever seen. It’s a tremendous risk, but as Barrie himself has discovered, “when you believe, you can fly.”

An American in Paris
April 8-23

Hoping to start a new life, World War II veteran Jerry Mulligan chooses newly liberated Paris as the place to make a name for himself as a painter. But Jerry’s life becomes complicated when he meets Lise, a young Parisian shop girl with her own secret, and realizes he is not her only suitor. This Tony Award-winning musical was inspired by the 1951 Academy Award-winning film and includes the Gershwin songs “I Got Rhythm,” “‘S Wonderful,” “But Not for Me,” “Stairway to Paradise” as well as orchestral music including “Concerto in F,” “The Cuban Overture” and “An American In Paris.”

Broadway in Tucson |

Dirty Dancingdirty_dancing
Jan. 24-29

It’s the summer of 1963, and 17-year-old Frances “Baby” Houseman is on vacation in New York’s Catskill Mountains with her older sister and parents. Baby discovers her own entertainment when she stumbles upon the staff quarters where an all-night dance party is in full swing. Mesmerized by the raunchy dance moves and the pounding rhythms, Baby can’t wait to be part of the scene, especially when she catches sight of Johnny Castle, the resort dance instructor. Baby’s life is about to change forever as she is thrown into the deep end as Johnny’s leading lady both on-stage and off with breathtaking consequences. Seen by millions across the globe, this worldwide smash hit features the hit songs “Hungry Eyes,” “Hey Baby,” “Do You Love Me?” and the heart-stopping “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life.”

Motown The Musical
Feb. 21-26

This soulful musical gives audiences a glimpse of the true stories behind the beat that changed minds, touched lives and made history. The ’60s explode on stage in this show recreates the journeys of such legendary artists as Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and so many, more as they created the soundtrack that transformed America. The score includes more than 40 classic songs, including “My Girl,” “What’s Going On,” “Dancing in the Street,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”

the_bodyguardThe Bodyguard
April 12-16

The award-winning musical based on the smash hit film comes to Tucson starring Grammy Award-nominee and R&B superstar Deborah Cox. Former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard Frank Farmer is hired to protect superstar Rachel Marron from an unknown stalker. Each expects to be in charge, but what they don’t expect is to fall in love. A breathtakingly romantic thriller, The Bodyguard features a host of irresistible classics, including “So Emotional,” “One Moment in Time,” “Saving All My Love,” “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and one of the biggest selling songs of all time, “I Will Always Love You.”

Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts |

Piaf! The Show
Oct. 22

Starring acclaimed vocalist Anne Carrere, this tribute celebrates the centennial of legendary French actress and singer Edith Piaf (1915-1963), one of the 20th century’s greatest performers. It tells the amazing story of Piaf’s life and career through classic French music and never-before-seen photos. This unique audio-visual experience takes the audience on an unforgettable journey through the streets of Paris during the time of “La Vie en Rose.” Featuring the talents of Carrere and a quartet of musicians, Piaf! The Show has become a worldwide success, packing theaters and earning rave reviews.

The Capitol Steps – What to Expect When You’re Electingcapitol_steps
Nov. 25-26

We will have survived this contentious election (by the time of this event) and now it’s time to laugh. Move over CNN, Fox News and MSNBC – for the best election news and political analysis, The Capitol Steps trump them all! The irreverent DC-based troupe pokes fun at all sides of the issues, from left to right, with fresh, up-to-the-minute material inspired by the latest headlines, scandals and more. Returning for their annual Thanksgiving pilgrimage to Scottsdale, they will serve up an all-you-can-eat bipartisan banquet of well-done Washington turkeys, including songs from their new album, What to Expect When You’re Electing.

Patti LuPone – Don’t Monkey with Broadway
Jan. 28

Two-time Tony Award-winner Patti LuPone explores through indelible interpretations of classic Broadway show tunes by the likes of Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Jule Styne, Stephen Schwartz, Charles Strouse, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. She shares how her life-long love affair with Broadway began and her concern for what the Great White Way is becoming today.

Mesa Arts Center |

bernadette_petersBernadette Peters with the Phoenix Symphony
Oct. 15

Three-time Tony Award-winner Bernadette Peters, who can be seen in the second season of the Golden Globe Award-winning series “Mozart in the Jungle,” will perform signature songs from the multitude of iconic shows in which she has starred, including Gypsy, Into the Woods and Sunday in the Park with George. Throughout her illustrious career, Peters has dazzled audiences and critics with her performances on stage and television, in concert and on recordings. She devotes her time and talents to numerous events that benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, in addition to her “pet project,” Broadway Barks. The evening will feature musical direction by Marvin Laird and the Phoenix Symphony.

John Cleese & Eric Idle – Together Again At Last … For The Very First Time
Nov. 21

Living legends John Cleese and Eric Idle perform unforgettable sit-down comedy that will blend scripted and improvised bits with storytelling, musical numbers, exclusive footage, aquatic juggling and an extended audience Q&A to craft a unique comedic experience with every performance. As founding members of Monty Python, Cleese and Idle are unarguably among the godfathers of modern comedy, having helped to pioneer an irreverent, absurdist sensibility that is emulated by comics around the world to this very day.

The Acting Company: World Premiere of Xworld_premiere_of_x
Feb. 2-3

Award-winning writer Marcus Gardley and director Ian Belknap bring the assassination of Malcolm X – both the story we think we know and illuminating details that have seldom been shared – to vivid, lyrical life in this new play. Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar provides a framework for Gardley to deepen our understanding of one of America’s most complex and compelling historical figures and explore the tumultuous landscape of ideology and activism in the 1960s.

Hal Halbrook in Mark Twain Tonight
Feb. 24

Fifty years ago, a young actor took the stage in a tiny off-Broadway theater and introduced the world to the portrait of a man they would never forget. Hal Halbrook, one of the greatest character actors, presents a living, breathing American masterpiece. It is, quite simply, one of the most acclaimed and enduring performances in the history of theater. Three new numbers have added to its revolving repertoire of material: one on the Christian Bible, one from the feuding clans in Huckleberry Finn killing each other off and another on the fate of the laboring class in America. “Mark Twain never stops surprising me,” Holbrook said. “He keeps firing me up and asking questions.”

american_modern_dancePaul Taylor’s American Modern Dance
April 20

The Paul Taylor Dance Company, established in 1954, is one of the world’s most highly respected and sought-after ensembles. A modest Manhattan performance marked the beginning of nearly 60 years of unrivaled creativity. Taylor became a cultural icon and one of history’s most celebrated artists, hailed as part of the pantheon that created American modern dance. Having traveled the globe many times over, Taylor brings his ever-burgeoning repertoire to theaters and venues of every size and description in cultural capitals, on college campuses and in rural communities — and often to places modern dance had never been before.

Theater League |

Saturday Night Fever – The Musical
Jan. 13-15

Put on your “Boogie Shoes” for one of the most-loved dance stories of all time! It’s 1979 in Brooklyn, N.Y. and Tony Manero, a young man with a dead-end job and an extraordinary ability to dance, has only one ambition in life  and that is to become the disco king. When he meets Stephanie, who also dreams of a world beyond Brooklyn, they decide to train together for a dance competition and their lives begin to change forever. Based on the 1977 film that became a cultural phenomenon, the electrifying score is packed with legendary hits from the Bee Gees, including the classics “Stayin’ Alive,” “Night Fever,” “Jive Talking,” “You Should Be Dancing” and “How Deep is Your Love?”

April 28-29

This explosive, provocative, sophisticated, sexy, utterly unique show appeals to audiences of all ages. The international percussion sensation has garnered an armful of awards and rave reviews, and has appeared on numerous national television shows. The eight-member troupe uses everything but conventional percussion instruments, which includes matchboxes, brooms, garbage cans, Zippo lighters and more fill the stage with energizing beats. This inventive and invigorating stage show is dance, music and theatrical performance blended together in one electrifying rhythm.

Chandler Center for the Arts |

Julie Madly Deeply
Oct. 28-29

Adored by millions, Dame Julie Andrews is a genuine entertainment legend. But do Maria Von Trapp or Mary Poppins long to let their hair down at the end of a hard day? Find out in this cheeky, yet affectionate, cabaret with award-winning singer, West End actress and Fascinating Aida star Sarah-Louise Young, who was recently picked by Time Out as one of London’s top-10 cabaret performers. Julie’s songs from musicals, including Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music and My Fair Lady, blend with stories and anecdotes about Andrews’ life, from her beginnings as a child star to the recent challenges of losing her famous singing voice. What emerges is a delightfully funny and candid love letter to a true show business survivor.

letters_homeLetters Home
Nov. 12

This stirring production puts the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq front and center by bringing to life actual letters written by soldiers serving in the Middle East. The production is inspired by the New York Times Op-Ed Article “The Things They Wrote” and the subsequent HBO documentary “Last Letters Home,” and additionally uses letters and correspondences from Frank Schaeffer’s books, Voices From the Front, Letters Home From America’s Military Family, Faith of Our Sons, and Keeping Faith. The play, without politicizing, gives audiences a powerful portrait of the soldier experience in the ongoing war.

Pump Boys and Dinettes
Feb. 25

Drive a ways outta town, somewhere between Frog Level and Smyrna, N.C., and you’ll come to a filling station run by L. M. and Jim. Across the blacktop is the Double Cupp Diner, operated by Rhetta and Prudie Cupp. To look at it, you wouldn’t know that this little stop on Highway 57 is where all the action is, but once the boys get that guitar and bass fiddle revved up, you won’t want to be anywhere else. Pump Boys and Dinettes is a countrified musical packed with highly entertaining toe-tappers, such as “Drinkin’ Shoes,” “Farmer Tan” and “The Night Dolly Parton Was Almost Mine!”

Frank Ferrante in An Evening with Grouchogroucho
March 12

Award-winning actor, director and playwright Frank Ferrante recreates his PBS, New York and London acclaimed portrayal of legendary comedian Groucho Marx. The two-act comedy consists of the best Groucho one-liners, anecdotes and songs including “Hooray For Captain Spalding” and “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady.” The audience literally becomes part of the show as Ferrante ad-libs his way throughout the performance in grand Groucho style. Accompanied by his onstage pianist, Ferrante portrays the young Groucho of stage and film and reacquaints us with the likes of brothers Harpo, Chico, Zeppo and Gummo, Charlie Chaplin, W.C. Fields, Greta Garbo, Margaret Dumont and MGM’s Louis B. Mayer.

Looking for more on the 2016-2017 arts season?

All The State’s A Stage

10 Shows Not to Miss

Classical Arts

By The Genre

2016-2017 Arts Calendar