Second Half of the 2011/12 Theater Season Nets Fine Shows
This review aired on KBAQ July 16, 2012
IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE 2011/12 LOCAL THEATER SEASON SEVEN PRODUCTIONS SOARED AND SEVERAL OTHERS MERIT MENTION
The last half of the local theater season, the biggest of the live performing arts scene here, brought seven great productions and they were presented by several of our fine local theater companies.
Arizona Theatre Company mounted two of the top productions, an impressive new musical “Daddy Long Legs” and the masterful Broadway play “Red.” The entertaining “Daddy Long Legs” has gone on to a full London production and continues to be popular with repertory theaters throughout America. “Red,” with only two actors, was a tour-de-force of brilliant performances in a play about what defines a distinguished piece of artwork. ATC always brings us some of our finest local theater each season.
Although the quality of touring Broadway shows has suffered recently, there was nothing shabby about “South Pacific” that recreated the rich Broadway revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic musical about the impact of World War II. And ASU Gammage brought back the stellar road company version of “Wicked” that again dazzled local audiences just as it did on Broadway and in an earlier stop here. Since “Wicked” was sold out, the five week engagement was not long enough to meet local demand for Broadway musicals in their original productions.
Phoenix Theatre brought local star Kathy Fitzgerald, who left the Valley several years ago to triumph in several Broadway musicals, to play Mama Rose in “Gypsy.” Not only did Fitzgerald nail the role with superb aplomb capturing all of the complex roles many nuances but the Michael Barnard production surrounding her was sublime perfection. The other outstanding Phoenix Theatre production was mounted with Nearly Naked Theatre and was an impressive local production of “Spring Awakening” that rivaled and, in some ways, topped the distinguished Broadway production.
Finally, the Theater Works is marching quickly toward professionalism and they mounted a fabulously sung, stunningly directed, and superbly acted production of Stephen Sondheim’s most beautiful show, “A Little Night Music.”
These best productions don’t take away from several other distinguished local theater productions. Actors Theatre fine “Hunter Gatherers” and “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” stood out, Phoenix Theatre’s delightful “The Marvelous Wonderettes” entertained mightily, Stray Cat Theatre’s “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot” was a triumph, ATC’s clever “The 39 Steps” was better than the bland tour that stopped at ASU Gammage, Theater Works impressive “The Dixie Swim Club” and “All Through the Night” proved this company can do more than musicals, Childsplay’s “Tomas and the Library Lady” kept young audiences and their chaperones entranced, the often struggling Black Theatre Troupe mounted a wondrous “Blues in the Night,” and Southwest Shakespeare Company staged a great “Art” that delighted theatergoers with another interesting look at what makes a viable art work.
All in all, the Valley had an impressive array of theater offerings along with good opera, fine dance, and great symphony performances. No, the Valley is NOT a cultural wasteland but a rich place to enjoy the live performing arts. I will return in late September to review the 2012/13 performing arts season.