By Kathleen Vanesian
By Amy Silverman
By Robrt L. Pela
By Jim Louvau
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Benjamin Leatherman
By New Times
By Becky Bartkowski
Bat Boy: The Musical: Although Nearly Naked Theatre’s production benefits from Damon Dering’s darkly comic, crafty direction and from a pair of performances that help elevate it from high camp to something closer to art, Bat Boy is ultimately a musical in need of a first act. Keythe Farley and Brian Fleming’s book is slow to start, and composer-lyricist Laurence O’Keefe’s many clever tunes include very few memorable melodies, issues that will keep this tuner from reaching the heights of other camp classics like Rocky Horror or Little Shop of Horrors. Still, it’s fun to watch Jimmy Hays Nelson steal the show as a quickly tamed mammal with perfect pitch and punchy comic timing. Athena Hunting, as Bat Boy’s adoptive mother, has a true musical star’s pipes and a smashing stage presence, and Mark 4man’s seven-piece band, which renders O’Keefe’s peppy rock score from somewhere offstage, keep up nicely. If nothing else, Bat Boy sets a precedent as the first musical inspired by a supermarket tabloid story, and Dering’s love for the show shines throughout. Through June 30 at the Little Theatre at Phoenix Theatre, 100 E. McDowell Rd. Call 602-254-2151 for tickets and showtimes.
Hair: Originally subtitled “The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical,” Hair started out subversive and has, almost 40 years after its Broadway debut, become a sort of quaint look back at the hippie culture of the ’60s. Written by James Rado and Gerome Ragni (book and lyrics) and Galt MacDermot (music), the show was the first-ever rock musical and was considered shocking to theater audiences who were more accustomed to polite, cheerful shows about love and the workplace. Hair featured theater’s first-ever racially integrated cast as well as the infamous nude scene just before curtain, in which the players doffed their duds and invited the audience up on stage for a quick jig. Many of the show’s songs were made into hits by artists of the day, most notably “Let the Sunshine In,” “Easy to Be Hard,” and “Good Morning, Starshine.” No word at press time whether the Tempe Little Theater cast plans to wag its hoo-hoos at audiences; call 480-350-8388 to find out. Through July 1 at Tempe Performing Arts Center, 132 E. 6th St. in downtown Tempe.
Grease: As the second Broadway revival of this perennial, featuring Phoenix’s own Max Crumm (who was chosen to play Danny via NBC’s recent reality series Grease: You’re the One that I Want!), gets set to launch, Arizona Broadway Theatre is cashing in with its own production this month. Through July 29 at 7701 W. Paradise Ln. in Peoria. Dinner is served one hour and 45 minutes prior to curtain. Showtimes are Tuesday through Saturday at 8 p.m., Saturday matinee at 2 p.m., Sunday matinee at 1 p.m., and Sunday twilight shows at 7 p.m. Ticket prices are $39-$49, which includes dinner, show and tax. Call the box office at 623-776-8400.
The King and I: In Thailand, it’s illegal to own any memorabilia related to either this Rodgers and Hammerstein musical or its source material, Margaret Landon’s book Anna and the King of Siam. That’s because the Thai government says that both the book and the musical contain such egregious historical inaccuracies about the King of Siam. In America, all we care about is this musical’s relentlessly hummable score, which includes such standards as “Hello Young Lovers,” “Shall We Dance?,” “I Whistle a Happy Tune,” “Something Wonderful,” and “Getting To Know You.” The story, by Anna Leonowens, tells of her job as teacher to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s, and is considered autobiographical but with “objective inaccuracies.” Which, today, is merely a popular trend in all memoirs. This Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre version plays all the way through July 28 at 5247 E. Brown Rd. in Mesa. Call 480-325-6700 for tickets and showtimes.
Pillow Talk: It would help tremendously if audiences could only forget Michael Gordon’s brilliant film comedy based on this ’50 stage story about sexual mores and crossed phone lines. Alas, its book only calls to mind our memories of the characterizations created by Doris Day and Rock Hudson in that genre-launching 1959 movie, even though the stage play came first. But forget Do-Do and La Hudson and give Hale Center Theatre’s production a shake at 50 W. Page Ave. in Gilbert. The comedy plays Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30, with Saturday matinees at 3 p.m. Call 480-497-1181 for tickets and cast information.