Growing up in New York City, I was fortunate to have spent a lot of time at the theater. Whether it was shivering in line for hours, waiting to get tickets for the Rockettes at Rockefeller Center, or hovering near stage doors, hoping to get an autograph from a musical star, I have fond memories of the excitement of live performances. Most Americans only experience the theatre by watching the Tony Awards on television. Here, in Phoenix, there is the opportunity, but few know or take advantage of it.
Phoenix has excellent major venues. The Orpheum, a beautifully restored theater in downtown Phoenix, is not as occupied as it could/should be, but features visiting dance companies (e.g., the Mulan Kung Fu and Dance Experience in February) or occasion revivals (e.g., Man of La Mancha in January).
More recognized for its Broadway productions is the ASU Gammage Theatre in Tempe, Arizona. The theatre—designed by Frank Lloyd Wright—which will be celebrating its 50th anniversary, is a tourist attraction itself. It hosts the big, Tony-winning productions, like Mamma Mia). The stunning Virginia G. Piper Theater at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, renovated several years ago, also features musicals, dance, and pop concerts (e.g., next week, baby boomers can enjoy a Sing-Along with Grease).
There are several reasons residents do not attend. Many people have not been exposed to or think about theatre (most of the accents one hears in theaters here are New York/New Jersey ones). Even for a theatre-lover, it is not always easy to learn about what’s in town. Gammage productions are usually only in town for a week and can sell out well in advance. Also, some may think the theater is too expensive. But there are many affordable ways (e.g., matinees, small theater companies) to enjoy the theatre.
One little-known gem is Lunch Time Theater at the Herberger in Phoenix. For example, people of all ages filled Stage West at noon on Friday, December 20, to see an abbreviated and fun version of the Snow Queen. On select Tuesdays-Thursdays, for only $6, one can enjoy 45-minute performances, and bring your own lunch or purchase one for $8 (take the light rail or purchase parking for only $3).
We are lucky to live in a city with so many entertainment options. Take advantage of them this holiday season and in 2014!