Pic Hits for the week

thursday
december 28
Circus Flora: Led by Daniel Balding, formerly of France's Cirque Medrano and Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival, this low-tech, high-reward family circus was named after, and built around, an orphaned African elephant (who was herself named after a character in Jean deBrunhoff's Babar books). This year's tour, titled "The Legend of the Phoenix," features old standbys like the Flying Wallendas and the "Passione del Pasato"--a breathtaking aerial ballet--along with new acts like Dancing Gauchos, Gabriella and Mariano Savio's marionettes, and Gerald Balding and Matti Baine's skeleton puppets. It's worth noting that the circus has no caged animal acts. Performances are at noon and 4 p.m. Thursday, 2 and 7 p.m. Friday, noon and 4 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday and noon and 4 p.m. Monday under the red-and-white-striped bigtop at Chaparral Park, Hayden and Jackrabbit roads in Scottsdale. KZON-FM's Harley-ridin' Mary McCann stands in for the troupe's regular ringmistress, Yo-Yo the Clown (real name: Cecile MacKinnon; real job: Shakespearean actress), at Friday's evening show. Tickets range from $10 to $18, available at Scottsdale Center for the Arts, 7380 East Second Street, and Ticketmaster. For more information, call 994-2787 or 784-4444.

The Phantom of the Opera: Andrew Lloyd Webber's phenomenally popular musical, based on the novel by Gaston LeRoux, starsRick Hilsabeck as the title spook, a spiteful composer who haunts the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera House and loves young soprano Christine (Rita Harvey). Broadway vet Harold Prince directed the touring production, which continues with performances at 8 p.m. Thursday andFriday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7:30p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at Gammage Auditorium, Mill and Apache in Tempe. Phantom continues through January 27. Tickets range from $15 to $65, available at Gammage and Dillard's. For more information, call 965-3434 or 678-2222.

Football Fiesta: The street festival, sort of the undergraduate equivalent of the NFL Experience and one of the many warm-ups for Fiesta Bowl XXV (see Tuesday), features interactive games, displays from the College Football Hall of Fame and live remotes by ESPN and other national media outlets. It's scheduled for 4 to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday to 1 a.m. on Stadium Drive, south of Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. The event is free and open to all ages Thursday through Saturday; on New Year's Eve, a $10 entrance fee is charged, and only those 21and older are admitted. For details call 350-0900.

The Convertible Girl: Danny Simon, older brother of Neil, wrote this gefilte-fish-out-of-water farce about a young Hispanic woman who seeks to corral her marriage-shy Jewishboyfriend by converting to Judaism. Arizona Jewish Theatre Company presents performances at 8 p.m. Thursday and Saturday and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday in Stage West at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe. The production continues through January 14. Regular tickets are $19.25 and $21.25, available at Herberger and Dillard's box offices (call 252-8497 or 678-2222); discounts are available for students, seniorsand groups. Tickets to Sunday's evening performance are $45, and include champagne, hors d'oeuvres and dessert; they're available only at AJTC's office, 4800 North Central, Suite 106 (call 264-0402).

Craig Shoemaker: The alchemical comedian has transformed a miserable childhood as ahopeless geek into a he-man mint. He used to be slugged by little girls; now he's hit on by beautiful women. A movie based on Shoemaker's "LoveMaster" persona, reportedly co-starring Farrah Fawcett and AC/DC vocalist Brian Johnson, is in the works, and his MCA CD Craig Shoemaker Meets the LoveMaster is on the shelves. Shows are scheduled at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 and 10 p.m. Friday, 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday and 8 and 10 p.m. Sunday at the Improvisation, Rural and University (at Cornerstone mall) in Tempe. Tickets are $10 on Thursday, $12 on Friday and Saturday; special packages, ranging from $25 to $45, are available on New Year's Eve. For details call 921-9877.

friday
december 29
Little Shop of Horrors: Arizona Theatre Company continues its season with the dark and delicious musical about lovelorn Seymour Krelbourne and the voracious plant named Audrey II. Based onRoger Corman's 1960 film, the play waspenned by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, who also collaborated on the scores for Disney's movies The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. The Valley run opens with a preview at 8 p.m. Friday and continues through January 20 in Center Stage at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe; the press opening is at 8 p.m. Saturday. The rest of this week's performances are at 1 and 8 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Wednesday. A discussion follows Sunday's matinee. Preview tickets are $27 and $29. Tickets for Sunday's evening show are $45, and include champagne, hors d'oeuvres and dessert. Regular tickets range from $29 to $35. They're available at Herberger and Dillard's. For reservations call 252-8497 or 678-2222.

Arizona National Livestock Show: The show, scheduled for 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday through January 7 at Arizona State Fairgrounds, 19thAvenue and McDowell, celebrates the state's ranching and agricultural heritage with the Li'l Buckaroo rodeo, a display of Western art, a livestock competition and auction, trade and gear shows and more. A free pancake breakfast, hosted by KNIX-FM's W. Steven Martin, is slated for 6 to 10a.m. Tuesday. Daily admission is free. Tickets to the related PRCA Senior Rodeo, scheduled for 1 p.m. January 6 and 7 at Veterans' Memorial Coliseum, are $7 and $10, at Coliseum and Dillard's (call 258-6711 or 678-2222). Fairgrounds parking is free except for senior-rodeo days, when it costs $2.

Phoenix Suns: Charles Barkley and company host the Denver Nuggets at 7 p.m. Friday, and the Seattle Sonics at the same time Saturday, at America West Arena, First Street and Jefferson. A free party at Symphony Hall Terrace, Second Street and Adams, precedes Friday's match; it starts at 5 and continues 'til 10:30. If tickets are available, they're at the arena and Dillard's. For details call 379-7867 or 678-2222.

Fiesta Bowl National Band Championship: The nation's top-ranked high school bands perform their finest halftime routines in this 18th annual competition, which starts at12:30 p.m. Friday at Phoenix College, 1202 West Thomas. Also scheduled to perform: the University of Nebraska band and Kansas City, Missouri's Marching Cobras. Admission is $7 and $10. For details call 350-0900.

ASU Tribune Classic: Bill Frieder's Arizona State University cagers host the annual tournament Friday and Saturday at ASU Activity Center in Tempe. In Friday's preliminaries, Mercy College of Detroit tackles the University of Pennsylvania at 6 p.m., and the SunDevils take on Southern Methodist University at 8. The winners meet in Saturday night's championship.Call 965-3434.

Circus Flora: (Matinee at 2 p.m.; eveningperformance at 7, featuring guestringmistress Mary McCann.) SeeThursday.

Football Fiesta: See Thursday.
The Phantom of the Opera: See Thursday.
Craig Shoemaker: (Performances at 8and 10p.m.) See Thursday.

saturday
december 30
Fiesta Bowl Parade: Arizona Public Service Company CEO Mark DeMichele is grand marshal of the silver-anniversary procession, which starts at 11 a.m. Saturday at the intersection of Central and Montebello avenues and travels south on Central to Thomas. Tickets for reserved seats range from $9 to $20. The parade is televised nationally by CBS; local coverage is provided by Valley independent KTVK, NewsChannel 3. For details call 350-0911 or 350-0900.

Arizona National Livestock Show: See Friday.
ASU Tribune Classic: (Championship.) SeeFriday.
Circus Flora: (Performances at noon and 4p.m.) See Thursday.
The Convertible Girl: See Thursday.
Football Fiesta: See Thursday.
Little Shop of Horrors: (Press opening.) SeeFriday.
The Phantom of the Opera: (Performances at 2 and 8 p.m.) See Thursday.
Phoenix Suns: (Versus the Seattle Sonics.) SeeFriday.
Craig Shoemaker: (Performances at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.) See Thursday.

sunday
december 31
Tempe's Fiesta Bowl Block Party: The annual New Year's Eve bash in Old Town Tempe, at Fifth Street and Mill, features entertainment by Collin Raye, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Stevie B, Wayman Tisdale and the 5th Quarter and 30 other acts, plus carnival rides and two fireworks displays. The fun starts at 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free from 4 to 6, $10 after that. Call 967-4877.

Phoenix Symphony's "An Evening in Vienna": Clotilde Otranto conducts the orchestra in a program of polkas, waltzes and other light works. Ballet Etudes is also scheduled to perform. Showtime is 8 p.m. Sunday at Symphony Hall, 225 East Adams. Tickets are $20 and $40, available at symphony and Dillard's box offices. For details call 264-6363 or 678-2222.

Also on New Year's Eve: See the Music listing for a run-down of additional concerts. For information about comedian Bernie Mac's show, see the Events listing. For details about "First Night" at Arizona Center, see"'Tis the Season" in Kid Pics. Also see the New Year's Eve Guide on page 95.

Arizona National Livestock Show: See Friday.
Circus Flora: (Performance at 2 p.m.) See Thursday.
The Convertible Girl: (Matinee at 2 p.m.; specially priced evening performance at 7.) See Thursday.

Football Fiesta: (4 p.m. to 1 a.m.; admission is$10; 21 and older.) See Thursday.

Little Shop of Horrors: (Matinee at 1 p.m., followed by a discussion; specially priced evening performance at 8.) See Friday.

The Phantom of the Opera: (Performances at2and 7:30 p.m.) See Thursday.
Craig Shoemaker: (Specially priced performances at 8 and 10 p.m.) SeeThursday.

monday
january 1
Sunnyslope Rock Garden: Grover Cleveland Thompson--kook or visionary? The debate rages. In celebration of the105th anniversary of the birth of Thompson, late creator of this stony piece of Fifties Americana, the garden will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday. Located at 10023 North 13th Place, the unusual local landmark features about 100 pieces of sculpture made of concrete and covered with broken china and tumbled rocks. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. Call 997-4627.

Arizona National Livestock Show: See Friday.
Circus Flora: (Performances at noon and4p.m.) See Thursday.

tuesday
january 2
Fiesta Bowl XXV: Nebraska Cornhuskers Versus Florida Gators: This season's not-so-mythical national collegiate football championship will be decided on the field at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. The game starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday, but it's sold out, so those without tickets will need to utilize creative financing. The match is televised nationally by CBS, and airs locally on KPHO, Channel 5. An official tailgate party, featuring entertainment, pep rallies, memorabilia displays and a big-screen simulcast of the game, precedes at noon on Rio Salado Parkway, north of the stadium, and continues until game's end; tickets are $20, available at Dillard's (call 678-2222). For general information, call 350-0900.

Arizona National Livestock Show: (Free pancake breakfast from 6 to 10a.m.) See Friday.

The Phantom of the Opera: See Thursday.

wednesday
january 3
"Trash Disco": Celebrating the '70s and the decade's attendant buzz words--"polyester," "the Bee Gees," "platform shoes," et al.--the "Disco" ball happens Wednesday and every Wednesday at Anderson's Fifth Estate, 6820 East Fifth Avenue in Scottsdale. Those who dress in full "Me Decade" regalia are admitted free. For details call 994-4168.

Arizona National Livestock Show: See Friday.
Little Shop of Horrors: See Friday.
The Phantom of the Opera: See Thursday.

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