Theater Scene

Previews and reviews of what's running now

 Footloose: Kick off your Sunday shoes. No, seriously. Because the stage musical adaptation of Herbert Ross’ 1984 teen scene flick is back, this time for more than a month at Hale Center Theatre (not to be confused with the Desert Stages production, reviewed on page 46), where teenage rebellion and dance floor angst never die. This drama(!) set to music fell flat on Broadway, but its road companies did big business all over the country, followed by innumerable community and semi-professional productions just like this one. Footloose’s rebel yell is channeled into pop ditties — “Let’s Hear it for the Boy,” “Almost Paradise,” and that hyper-groovy title anthem — we all can sing along with, whether we want to or not. Authors Dean Pitchford, Walter Bobbie, and Tom Snow have mostly hung on to Pitchford’s original film story about a small town where rock music and dancing are forbidden. Our hero moves there, tries to fit in, and, meanwhile, falls for a pretty blonde who likes to tango. Footloose runs through August 18, with Saturday matinees at 3 p.m. and evening performances at 7:30 Thursdays through Saturdays. Good seats cost $22; all others are $20. Hale Center is located at 50 West Page Avenue in Gilbert. Call 480-497-1181 for more information.

The Nerd: It’s possible to spend an evening with a nerd and enjoy it, and Larry Shue’s far-too-frequently produced comic script proves it. Mr. Shue’s geek is an ostensible Vietnam War hero who wedges himself into the life of his old Army buddy, whose life he claims to have saved in battle. There’s quite a lot of social commentary, much of which gets missed because the yuks come so fast and furious here. The story’s deep implausibility can, at least in better productions, be offset by tongue-in-cheek humor and a sense of fun about all those horrible people we knew (or were!) in high school. The brave among us will give Theater Works’ summer stock production, which plays through July 22, a whirl to see if Peoria thespians will get Shue’s subtler points across. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets can be purchased online at Theater Works can be found at 8355 West Peoria Avenue. If you get lost, call 623-815-7930.

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. Originally staged in 1971 in Chicago as a play with incidental music, this musical by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey is now the godfather of its teen tuner subgenre. It’s unlikely there’s a single American living who doesn’t know the plot of Grease, but who among us can name the original Danny and Sandy? (That’s Barry Bostwick and Carole Demas.) Among the many stars and has-beens who’ve done the hand jive are Jeff Conaway, Marilu Henner, Patrick Swayze, John Travolta, Treat Williams, Megan Mullally, Rosie O’Donnell, Debby Boone, and Jo Anne Worley. Phew! Compare some of them with the guys at ABT, who’ll be hopelessly devoted to you through August 4 at 7701 W. Paradise Lane 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 to $49, which includes dinner, show and tax. Call the box office at 623-776-8400.

Death Trap: Ira Levin’s popular and very creepy tale about the lengths to which theater people will go to get a good review is back, this time in Scottsdale and directed by KatiBelle Collins. Levin’s better work includes Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives, but Death Trap remains his biggest hit, as well as one of Broadway’s all-time most successful productions. It asks us to care about down-on-his-luck playwright Sidney Bruhl, who’s maybe willing to kill to get another stage hit. Let’s hope that Collins is as good a director as she is an actor (her unforgettably dreadful turn in Menopause: The Musical notwithstanding). The show runs through August 25 at the Actor’s Café, 4720 North Scottsdale Road. The curtain goes up at 7:30 on Fridays and Saturdays; tickets cost $20 to $25. Call 480-483-1664 for reservations.

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