Theater Scene

Reviews and previews of what's running now

 The Life: Cy Coleman and Ira Gasman wrote the music and lyrics for this seldom-seen Tony Award winner, with a book by Coleman, Gasman, and playwright David Newman, and we have Black Theater Troupe’s David Hemphill to thank for bringing it to town. This Drama Desk favorite tells the story of Queen, a New York prostitute whose plans to escape “the life” of hooking are thwarted by her lover, a Vietnam vet with a monkey on his back. This is no lighthearted musical. Newman’s dark commentary about homeless junkies, pimps, and other on-the-street lowlifes is full of wonderful music but can’t exactly be called uplifting. The original production opened in the spring of 1997 at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, ran for 450 performances and bagged a ton of awards besides its “Best Musical” Tony. The Black Theater production runs through June 3 at the Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe Street. Call 602-258-8128 for showtimes, ticket reservations, and cast information.

Dream a Little Dream: The Nearly True Story of the Mamas and Papas: Before his death in January, Mamas and Papas co-founder Denny Doherty cowrote this musical bio of one of folk rock’s most influential bands. Why Doherty and coauthor Paul Ledoux felt compelled to tell the “nearly true” story of this seminal pop band is anyone’s guess; as Doherty wrote, the tale told in this tuner (which is scored with the group’s biggest hits, natch) has been “stacked up, melded and muddled together.” In any case, this is the show’s world première as a musical, although Doherty occasionally performed it in a concert version before he died. The cast includes Alisa Schiff as Mama Cass Elliot, Michael Sample as John Phillips, John Ashley Brown as Denny Doherty, and Mishaela Faucher as Michelle Phillips. Here’s hoping Faucher is a better vocalist than Michelle, the only surviving member of the band, was. Tickets are $38 for adults and $33 for seniors and students; PT is hoping this one will sell out well past its scheduled closing date of June 3. Call 602-254-2151 or visit www.phoenixtheatre.com.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Phew. It looked for a second there as if theater audiences were actually going to make it through an entire season without one troupe or another dusting off this mammoth musical warhorse. But, thanks to the efforts of Arizona Broadway Theatre, Phoenicians hungry for chestnuts can gnaw on this favored rerun while also dining on lamb strudel (seriously, it’s one of Chef Allen Dowe’s entree choices) at this popular Peoria dinner theater. Sondheim’s early hit combines Roman theater with classic vaudeville shtick and a bunch of songs that most of us can hum in our sleep. Forum plays through June 10 at 7701 West Paradise Lane in Peoria. Dinner is served at 6:15; curtain time is at 8. Call 623-776-8400 to reserve a seat or maybe just to plead with these guys to do more original work from time to time.

The Full Monty: Okay. A stage musical about a group of unemployed blue-collar workers who become strippers is a relatively tasty premise, but maybe not so yummy served up alongside actual entrees. Will audiences want to watch a band of pasty, out-of-shape blokes whipping off their togs while sampling the steak Diane? Will they find funny the scene where Michael Walker sits on a toilet, singing about dieting while scarfing down potato chips and a candy bar? Time and tastes will tell, as Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre’s production of the popular musical adaptation of the 1997 British film continues to go starkers during mealtime. The Full Monty performs at 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 11:45 a.m. on Sundays through June 2 at 5247 East Brown Road in Mesa. Tickets are $43-$52 including the dinner buffet, or $25 for the show only. Call 480-325-6700 for more information.

Bad Seed: It’s almost too good to be true: Neil Cohen in dirndl and pigtails as Rhoda Penmark, the stage’s brattiest prepubescent, playing opposite Rosemary Close as Rhoda’s long-suffering mom, a lady with a shady past and an impossibly cool secret name. But wait! Both these lucky gals are supported in iTheatre’s sure-to-be-snarky production of Maxwell Anderson’s The Bad Seed by murder mystery perennial Greg Lutz (as excelsior fiend/handyman LeRoy) and the inimitable Paul Braun as landlady extraordinaire Monica Breedlove. Each of these thrilling thespians is directed by local punk rock legend Robert X. Planet at the Herberger Theater Center’s Performance OutReach Theater, 222 East Monroe. The show runs through June 2; for reservations, ticket prices, and showtimes, call 602-347-1071.

 
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