Swinging on a Star: The Johnny Burke Musical: The late Burke wrote the words to some of our most memorable popular songs--including the title tune, "Pennies From Heaven" and "Misty"--and most of his career high notes are hit in this Tony-nominated homage by writer/director Michael Leeds. Arizona Theatre Company continues its 30th-anniversary season with the Southwestern premiere of the work. It opens at 8 p.m. Thursday, January 2, in Center Stage at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe, with a benefit preview for St. Mary's Food Bank. Those who donate four nonperishable food items can buy tickets at half the usual price; the transaction can only be conducted at ATC's box office, 808 North First Street. A second preview is planned at 8 p.m. Friday, January 3. The press opening is at 8 p.m. Saturday, January 4. The rest of this week's performances are at 1 and 7 p.m. Sunday, January 5; and 8 p.m. Wednesday, January 8. A discussion follows Sunday's matinee. The production continues through Sunday, January 19. Regular tickets range from $24 to $37, available at Herberger and Dillard's; call 252-8497 or 678-2222.
"Rick Hards: Former Lives": Wisconsin artist Hards was struck with the inspiration for the small-scale works in "Former Lives" at an antique store, where he first encountered those stark, sometimes chilling, photographic portraits called tintypes (a.k.a. ferrotypes) that were so popular during the Civil War era. Mostly, the painter deals in artistic reincarnation; he breathes a sort of surrealistic life into these old, dead souls by recasting their images in new, often ironic forms suggested by the subjects' original poses (a reanimation process not dissimilar to the one practiced by the Mexican woodcarvers of Oaxaca). "Former Lives" opens with a reception for the artist from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, January 2, and continues through Saturday, February 1, in the "through the arch" space at Scottsdale's Lisa Sette Gallery, 4142 North Marshall Way. Viewing is free; hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Call 990-7342.
Disney's Beauty and the Beast: The musical-theater version of the fairy tale is billed as a "silhouette" of the movie company's blockbuster "rather than a replica of it." Alan Menken and Howard Ashman wrote the score, which is augmented by seven new songs, six of them by Menken and Tim Rice. This week's performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday, January 2; 8 p.m. Friday, January 3; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, January 4; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, January 5; 8 p.m. Tuesday, January 7; and 8 p.m. Wednesday, January 8, at Gammage Auditorium, Mill and Apache in Tempe. The touring production continues through Saturday, February 1. Tickets range from $20 to $60, available at Gammage and Dillard's; call 965-3434 or 678-2222.
Circus Flora: Daniel Balding, formerly of France's Cirque Medrano and Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival, founded this traditional, European-style circus named after, and built around, an orphaned African elephant. The fourth annual visit by the "circus with a soul" features old standbys like the Flying Wallendas and ringmistress Yo-Yo the Clown (real name: Cecile MacKinnon; real job: Shakespearean actress) and a new attraction titled the St. Louis Arches, featuring eight students from the Circus Flora School. Final performances are at 2 p.m. Thursday, January 2; 2 and 7 p.m. Friday, January 3; noon and 4 p.m. Saturday, January 4; and noon Sunday, January 5, under the big top at Chaparral Park, Hayden and Jackrabbit roads in Scottsdale. Tickets range from $10 to $18, available at Scottsdale Center for the Arts and Ticketmaster; call 994-2787 or 784-4444.
Shear Madness: Hair-brained schemes abound in Marilyn Abrams and Bruce Jordan's broadly comic whodunit about beastly doings at a beauty parlor--an over-the-top adaptation of Swiss playwright Paul Portner's overearnest mystery Scherenschnitt. The Theatre League presentation continues with final previews at 8 p.m. Thursday, January 2; 8 p.m. Friday, January 3; 8 p.m. Saturday, January 4; 2 p.m. Sunday, January 5; and 8 p.m. Wednesday, January 8, at the New Scottsdale Playhouse, 7219 East Main. The official opening is on Thursday, January 9. Tickets range from $15 to $21, available at the scene and Dillard's; call 675-8811 or 678-2222.
The Descendents: This relic of punk's original wave doesn't show up on too many of today's radarscopes, but the group had an inordinate impact on today's punk-pop scene. Basically the band All (the Descendents' descendant) augmented by original vocalist Milo Aukerman, the revivified act is back to doing what it does best--and did first--on its new Epitaph release, Everything Sucks: speed-saw guitars, terrific hooks and a left-field philosophy based, says drummer/lyricist Bill Stevenson, on "rejection, food, coffee, girls [and] fishing." (Semi-timely factoid: The Descendents created one of the great nontraditional holiday songs of all time in "Christmas Vacation.") Jughead's Revenge, Armchair Martian, and Pollen share the all-ages bill. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Friday, January 3, at Electric Ballroom, 1216 East Apache in Tempe. Tickets are $10, available at Ticketmaster. For details call 894-0707 or 784-4444.
"Totally Cole!": While songsmith Johnny Burke is toasted at the Herberger (see Thursday), his peerless peer Cole Porter is feted across the Phoenix Civic Plaza mall at Symphony Hall, 225 East Adams. Vocalists Mary Testa and Rodney Hudson join Phoenix Symphony, led by guest conductor David Bishop, for this pops program of Porter works, including "Night and Day," "I've Got You Under My Skin" and "You're the Top." Shows are scheduled at 8 p.m. Friday, January 3; and the same time Saturday, January 4. Tickets range from $13 to $37, available at the symphony box office and Dillard's; call 495-1999 or 678-2222.