Wednesday, February 26, 2014

theatre review BLUE MAN GROUP, National Tour, Feb 25, ASU/Gammage

Blue Man Group Finale
You can read my complete review of the National Tour of Blue Man Group at Talkin' Broadway by clicking here.

"The best way to describe a performance of Blue Man Group is to call it an "experience." The current national tour of the show, which runs through Sunday March 2nd at ASU Gammage in Tempe, features three men dressed all in black with their faces and hands painted cobalt blue. With no plot and the only words spoken by an offstage electronic voiced narrator, the mute Blue Men, along with a series of pounding musical sequences, pulsating rock concert style lights and large video screens combine to create a hypnotic theatrical event like nothing else you've experienced before.

The show's finale begins with a series of informational instructional videos of rock concert etiquette, including how to do the fist pump, and ends in a party atmosphere with the audience all on their feet and giant beach balls being pushed around the crowd, is one of the most surreal experiences you will ever have. With the glowing giant balls moving all around you while changing colors as they gently glide through the air, it also, in a very strange yet heartfelt way, provides a sense of inclusiveness to the evening, a communal experience of sorts that makes all of us members of the tribe of Blue Men and turns the evening into one of discovery for audience members of any age. Blue Man Group is strange and mysterious but somehow also completely charming and alluring. It is a gleeful shared experience between three Blue Men and the audience."
Blue Man Group runs through March 2nd at ASU Gammage located at 1200 S. Forest Avenue in Tempe. Tickets can be purchased at or by calling 480 965-3434. Additional tour dates can be found at

Photo: ©Paul Kolnik


theatre review THE CAT IN THE HAT, Feb. 23, Childsplay

Rudy Ramirez, Kate Haas and Katie McFadzen
To read my complete review at Talkin' Broadway of The Cat in the Hat at Childsplay, click on this link.

"In 1957, Dr. Seuss' classic children's book "The Cat in the Hat" took something simple that most of us experience in our youth and turned it into a madcap escapade while also creating an unforgettable literary character. That simple experience is what to do when you're young and stuck at home on a rainy day with nothing to do. And that character is, of course, the mischievous cat who wears a red and white striped hat and a big red bow tie around his neck. While there aren't many rainy days in Arizona, I can't think of anything better for children of all ages to ward off boredom than to visit the magically theatrical Childsplay production of The Cat in the Hat playing on weekends through March 16th.

While Childsplay's The Cat in the Hat may be too simple for older children, I think younger children, parents, and anyone who has a fond remembrance of the joys the Cat brought to Sally and her brother on a rainy day will have a swell time. A brief question and answer session with the cast after the show adds a nice element for the children in the audience, allowing the adults to see how the imagination of the play piques their imagination.  With a talented cast, impressive direction and splendid creative elements, this Cat is one that anyone would welcome into their house.
The Cat in the Hat at Childsplay runs through March 16th at the Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway in Tempe, with performances on Saturdays at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m. Tickets start at $12 and are on sale at or at the Tempe Center for the Arts Box Office (480) 350-2822 (ext. 0)

Photo: Tim Trumble


theatre review TOP GUN: LIVE, ABRIDGED AND COMPLETELY UNDERFUNDED, Feb, 21, All Puppet Players/Mesa Encore Theatre

Click here to read my complete review of Top Gun: Live, Abridged and Completely Underfunded at Talkin' Broadway

"The 1986 movie Top Gun was a gigantic hit at the box office and the film that catapulted Tom Cruise to Hollywood megastar status. Shaun Michael McNamara and his All Puppet Players' latest adult puppet spoof spectacle, Top Gun: Live, Abridged and Completely Underfunded, which just concluded a three week run in conjunction with the Mesa Encore Theatre, was another success for McNamara and showed once again his ability to take a well-known piece of entertainment and turn it on its ear with humorous results.

McNamara's savvy direction included sure-footed guidance of his more than capable puppeteers as well as a few funny touches. These included the inventive use of umbrellas for parachutes, short bits from famous musical scores at key moments along with the famous songs from the movie used effectively but not in an overbearing way. And while not every joke landed and the script did meander a bit in parts, McNamara and his cast's comic talents and improvisational skills added plenty of chuckles to the high testosterone level of the plot.  Top Gun: Live, Abridged and Completely Underfunded was another success for the All Puppet Players, the Mesa Encore Theatre and Shaun Michael McNamara, and I look forward to seeing what their next production will be in the Phoenix area.
Top Gun: Live, Abridged and Completely Underfunded ran from February 7th to February 22nd with performances at the Mesa Encore Theatre's Black Box on Brown theatre. For information on upcoming All Puppet Players productions visit For information on upcoming productions at Mesa Encore Theatre visit

Photo: Shaun Michael McNamara


Sunday, February 23, 2014

theatre review A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, Desert Foothills Theatre, Feb. 16

Doug Edwards and Matthew Harris
To read my complete review at Talkin' Broadway of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at Desert Foothills Theatre, click here.

"The Stephen Sondheim/Burt Shevelove/Larry Gelbart classic musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is currently receiving a comically delicious and sharply directed production from the Desert Foothills Theater. The combination of Sondheim's music and witty lyrics and the hilarious and well integrated book by Shevelove and Gelbart won the show the Best Musical Tony in 1962 and, when done right, Forum is a crowd pleaser. With a capable cast, sure-footed musical direction and an updated setting, there is a lot of funny business and fun times on the way to Desert Foothills' production of Forum.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is a classic musical comedy and the Desert Foothills production manages to impressively deliver the fast and funny humor of the book along with some lovely renditions of the Sondheim score. A notable cast, tight direction and an updated setting add to the joy of seeing this Tony winning show in a new and modern light.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Desert Foothills Theater, runs through March 2nd at the Cactus Shadows Fine Art Center, 33606 N. 60th Street in Scottsdale. Tickets can be purchased at or by calling 480 488-1981

Thursday, February 20, 2014

theatre review OTHER DESERT CITIES, Arizona Theatre Company, February 15

Will Mobley, Robin Moseley, Paige Lindsey White,
Anne Allgood and Lawrence Pressman
To read my entire review at Talkin' Broadway of Other Desert Cities at the Arizona Theatre Company click here.

"Jon Robin Baitz's play Other Desert Cities, which received a Tony nomination for Best Play and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2012, is receiving its Arizona premiere from the Arizona Theatre Company. It was a hit on Broadway, and while that was partly due to its stellar "A list" Hollywood cast that included Stockard Channing, Stacey Keach, Rachel Griffiths and Judith Light, it is also a well written and engaging play about a family on the verge of unraveling. The story of a daughter and son who visit their parents in Palm Springs for Christmas, it is a play with many explosive moments, family secrets revealed and powerhouse acting by the five member cast. This co-production with the Indiana Repertory Theatre has very capable actors, sure-footed direction and a phenomenal set on par with the excellent Broadway production.

Other Desert Cities might come across a little too melodramatic or resembling a TV movie of the week, and Baitz spent some time writing for TV, including "Brothers and Sisters", where Griffiths played a regular. But I think the play is on par with another recent family drama, August: Osage County, which was even more melodramatic and soap opera like. So, I had no problem taking the dysfunctional family journey that Baitz has written, and I actually enjoyed it more seeing it a second time, with this very capable cast and production, even though I knew what twists and surprises were in store. The production at Arizona Theatre Company is on par with what was on Broadway two seasons ago, with a skilled and proficient cast, effective direction, and impressive creative elements."

Other Desert Cities at Arizona Theatre Company runs through March 2nd at the Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe Street. Tickets can be purchased at or by calling (602) 256 – 6995. This production then moves to the Indiana Repertory Theatre with performances March 12- April 5th (

theatre review THE WHALE, Stray Cat Theatre, February 14

Anne Marie Falvey and Damon Dering
Click here to read my full review at Talkin' Broadway of The Whale at Stray Cat Theatre.

"Samuel Hunter's play The Whale is the tale of a whale of a man, the morbidly obese Charlie, who is literally eating himself to death, and it seems only has a few days left to live. But Charlie and the other four characters we meet in this play aren't at all what they first appear to be. By the end of the play we realize that there is a true sense of beauty and strength inside the sadness of Charlie's oversized and weak exterior. Hunter's play is receiving its Arizona premiere in a thought-provoking production at Stray Cat Theatre with a heartfelt, courageous and emotionally beautiful performance by Damon Dering as Charlie.

There are many things woven throughout The Whale, including references to the aforementioned novel "Moby Dick" and the Bible story of "Jonah and the Whale" as well as a keen sense of urgency to get answers to questions and sew up estranged relationships. It covers issues between children and parents, the high price of over eating, and the high cost of health care, how religion is sometimes detrimental to a person's existence and can result in self-hatred as well as how gay couples are still frowned upon by certain people. But in many ways it is ultimately a play about honesty and the need to get people to think and state the truth as a way to truly connect to others. When Elder Thomas tells Liz that Charlie has asked him to tell him about the Mormon Church, Liz says that Charlie is a round peg in a square hole, he just doesn't fit in the Mormon Church. Every character in this play is a round peg unable to fit in the square hole of the world they should belong to. In many ways, these five dysfunctional individuals are all somewhat beached whales in how they are disconnected, cut-off and removed from the worlds they came from and how Charlie attempts to help them find a way to get back to a better place before his life is over. The Whale is a stunning, hypnotic play and the Stray Cat Theatre production is superb with perfect direction, an excellent cast and a mesmerizing performance by Damon Dering. It is a performance, a character and a play you won't soon forget." 

The Whale at the Stray Cat Theatre runs through March 1st with performances at the Tempe Performing Arts Center, 132 E. 6th Street in Tempe. Tickets can be ordered by calling 480 227-1766 or at

Monday, February 17, 2014

theatre review THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, Grand Canyon University, Feb. 7

Dylan Kim and Holly Nordquist
Click here to read my complete review of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that ran at Grand Canyon University through February 16th

"C.S. Lewis' classic children's book series "The Chronicles of Narnia" has been adapted into a major motion picture series, TV shows, radio broadcasts, and both musicals and straight plays for the stage. Joseph Robinette's 1989 stage dramatization of the first book in the series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, is being presented by the students at Grand Canyon University in a concise production with a talented cast and clean and simple, yet effective, creative elements. And, while this adaption is a condensed version of the book, the themes of the series of courage, faith and the triumph of good over evil are still very front and center in the play.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a wonderful, inspiring and imaginative tale with a slew of colorful characters, and GCU's production, though simple and short, is moving and also just as imaginative as the original novel.  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at Grand Canyon University's Ethington Theatre runs through February 16th. The theatre is located at 3300 W. Cambelback Road in Phoenix and ticket and performance information can be found at or by calling (602) 639-8880

theatre review RESPECT-A MUSICAL CELEBRATION OF WOMEN, Herberger Center, Feb 6

Carlita Victoria, Heather Paton, Rachel Richards
and Sarah Shahinian
To read my full review of Respect - A Musical Celebration of Women, at Talkin' Broadway, just click on this link.

"When most people hear a Top 40 pop song from their past they are immediately taken back to a specific moment in their life when that song was in essence the soundtrack to a feeling, expression or experience they had. In 1999 when Vanderbilt professor Dr. Dorothy Marcic was doing research of the more than 2,400 Top 40 songs sung by women in the 20th century she noticed something else, that there was a pattern in the way women were depicted in the song lyrics. Social change over the century was embedded in the lyrics of the songs. The songs told the story of a women's journey from being girls waiting for men to love and rescue them in the early part of the century to learning to love themselves, taking responsibility for their own actions, and becoming powerful individuals toward the latter part of the century. Her research became a book and then a musical. Neither a true jukebox musical nor a simple "revue" of songs, but a show with familiar pop songs that also has an important message at its core, Respect - A Musical Celebration of Women is a fun, well written musical revue and an interesting history lesson as well. Respect has already been performed in over thirty cities and the four women heading up the cast at the Herberger Theater Center are powerful, funny and uplifting, just like the show.

Respect - A Musical Celebration of Women is a musical celebration of women but also a musical revue that both sexes can enjoy. With insightful narrative woven among the songs, and a talented group of ladies singing the songs and telling stories of women throughout the century, the show is uplifting and at times even emotional, but also fun. While it is in parts motivational and inspiring, it is never preachy. You will hear the lyrics of these many well-known songs in a completely different way.

Respect - A Musical Celebration of Women runs through March 2nd at the Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe Street in Phoenix. Tickets can be purchased by calling 602-252-8497 or at Additional shows are planned in other cities and show dates for all cities can be found at


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

theatre review THE WIZARD OF OZ, National Tour, ASU/Gammage, February 4

Danielle Wade
For my complete Talkin' Broadway review of the National Tour of The Wizard of Oz that stopped at ASU/Gammage last week click on this link.

"The Wizard of Oz, probably the best loved family movie ever made, received a slightly updated stage production from none other than Andrew Lloyd Webber in London in 2011 and is now on a national tour across the US, playing in Tempe at ASU/Gammage through this Sunday. The show is a perfect musical for families and those who love the film, and the touring production has a very capable cast and excellent creative elements and is a nice way to hear the lovely songs from the film and experience the emotional connection the story of Dorothy and her trip to Oz once again.

The Wizard of Oz is a classic story and while there have been many recent adaptions of Baum's classic tale, none will ever top the achievements of the original 1939 film. The current national tour has a more than capable cast and phenomenal creative elements; even with somewhat uninspired choreography and a few added forgettable songs, the story of Dorothy and her journey to Oz is still thrilling, touching and extremely heartfelt.  The Wizard of Oz runs through February 9th at ASU Gammage located at 1200 S. Forest Avenue in Tempe. Tickets can be purchased at or by calling 480 965-3434. For more information on the tour, visit

Photo: Cylla Von Tiedemann  

theatre review DIAL M FOR MURDER, Desert Stages Theatre, Feb. 2

Matt Newhard
Click here for my Talkin' Broadway review of Dial M For Murder at Desert Stages Theatre.

"Frederick Knott wrote two of the most famous thrillers for the theatre, the 1952 Dial M for Murder and 1966 Wait Until Dark. Both plays are receiving productions in the Phoenix area this season and first up is a perfectly thrilling production of Dial M at Desert Stages Theatre.

A flawlessly conceived suspense thriller is very hard to realize. Most likely, that's why there are so few that have achieved any form of success. Realistic situations and characters, a conceivable set-up for the murder and a sufficient number of plot twists to keep the audience on the edge of their seats are required. Knott was able to come up with the characters, set-up and plenty of twists for his first successful thriller, and it was so well received that Knott was also hired to adapt the play and write the screenplay for the Alfred Hitchcock directed 1954 film version.

If you're a fan of well-crafted murder thrillers, or just looking for a fun theatrical experience, I highly recommend the well-directed and acted Dial M for Murder at Desert Stages. If you've seen the film and are already familiar with the many plot twists, the joy of seeing the show live with all of the intrigue and excitement of the murder playing out in front of you, with actors who know how to embody these characters, adds a level of excitement. Virginia Olivieri and her cast have done an excellent job in bringing this classic suspense thriller to life."

The Desert Stages production of Dial M for Murder runs through March 9, 2014, with performances at 4720 N. Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale. Tickets are available at or by phone at (480) 483-1664

Photo: Heather Butcher/Desert Stages Theatre

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

theatre review TRIBES, Phoenix Theatre, January 31

Marshall Glass, Dion Johnson, Cathy Dresbach,
Caroline Wagner, Willem Long and Gabrielle Van Buren
Click here to read my entire review of Tribes, an excellent new play, in a great production from Phoenix Theatre with performances through February 16th.

"Nina Raine's Tribes was so impressive when it premiered Off Broadway in the Spring of 2012 that it got extended twice, ran for ten months, and won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play. The play is receiving its Arizona premiere in an equally impressive production at Phoenix Theatre.

Ultimately about someone finding their voice and realizing how to use it, Tribes is a thought-provoking play that will make you think about the way we speak to each other, the dynamics of family, and how we treat people that have disabilities. The Phoenix Theatre production is exceptional, with an excellent cast, concise direction and impressive creative elements. Tribes runs through February 16th at the Phoenix Theatre at 100 E. McDowell Road in Phoenix. Tickets can be purchased at or by calling (602) 254-2151

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

theatre review AUGUST:OSAGE COUNTY, Mesa Encore Theatre, January 30

Christi Sweeney,Shari Watts and Brenda Jean Foley
"In 2008 August: Osage County won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play. It is the story of one of the most highly dysfunctional families you'll ever meet as well as a terrific black comedy with scenes of intense drama. The show is currently receiving an impressive production, with a very capable cast, from the Mesa Encore Theatre that runs through February 9th.

August: Osage County is a riveting black comedy and the Mesa Encore Theatre production has a perfect cast with great direction and is recommended for anyone who prefers an intense drama that is both funny and sad. While I don't think anyone would actually want to be a member of the Weston household, visiting them for a few hours is highly recommended."

August: Osage County runs at Mesa Encore Theatre through February 9th with performances at the Mesa Arts Center at 1 East Main Street in Mesa. Tickets can be ordered by calling (480) 644-6500 or at

To read my complete review of August:Osage County at the Mesa Encore Theatre, click on this link

theatre review AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' January 24, Phoenix Theatre

Brittney Mack, Andre Jordan, Katherine Todd
 and Fredena J. Williams
Click here to read my complete review at Talkin' Broadway of the musical revue Ain't Misbehavin' now playing at Phoenix Theatre through February 16th.

"The name of 1920s jazz pianist and composer Fats Waller may not be that well known today but I believe that if it wasn't for the 1978 Broadway revue of his work Ain't Misbehavin', which has had an impressive life in regional theatres beyond its initial Broadway run, he might actually be almost forgotten. That's unfortunate, as Weller was a keen musician and expert showman whose songs are just as fresh and memorable today as they were when he first performed them. Ain't Misbehavin', the first musical revue to ever win the Tony Award for Best Musical and billed as "the Fats Waller Musical," features many songs written by Waller or performed by him, including his four biggest hits: "Honeysuckle Rose," "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter," "I Can't Give You Anything but Love" and "'Tain't Nobody's Biz-ness If I Do." The revue touches upon the joy of life, and is ultimately a tribute to Waller and all of the black musicians and singers who rose to fame in 1920s Harlem. The Phoenix Theatre production, which runs through February 16th, is one of the best directed productions of the show I've seen, with a talented cast, high caliber design elements and led by a smoking hot band.

Essentially a celebration of the music of the period and a touching tribute to Fats Waller and the Black singers and musicians of 1930s Harlem, Ain't Misbehavin' is a smooth, sweet and sassy affair that also touches upon some very serious moments, including that excellent version of "Black and Blue." The Phoenix Theatre production is exceptionally well directed, with a very good cast and superb creative designs, and led by a smoking band that all culminate in a show that sizzles."
Ain't Misbehavin' runs through February 16th at the Phoenix Theatre at 100 E. McDowell Road in Phoenix. Tickets can be purchased at or by calling (602) 254-2151