"It's intimidating when you play anybody who's lived a life," says actress Joan Pringle (best known for playing Sybil Buchanan in the 1980s TV series The White Shadow) about playing Billie Holiday. The role is also daunting, she says, because she has to sing Billie Holiday. "I've been trying to find her essence," says Pringle, who spent three years as a jazz singer in Antigua. "There is no way I can do her, so I use some of her styling." The most important thing, Pringle explains, is bringing truth to the portrayal. "Whenever you do something like this, you have someone's life in your hands and you have to respect that," she says. "I hope she'll visit me, and tap me on the shoulder and say, Baby, you're doing fine.'"
Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grille is presented by Black Theatre Troupe Friday, December 26, through January 11, at Herberger Theater Center's Stage West, 222 East Monroe. Curtain time is 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, and at 3 p.m. Sundays. Ticket prices are $24 to $30. Call 602-252-8497, extension 3, for details. - Quetta Carpenter
Comedian and sitcom star visits the Valley
George Lopez seems omnipresent these days. Besides writing, producing and starring in his eponymous sitcom on ABC -- the most successful Chicano sitcom on the networks -- in which he plays a sympathetic underdog family guy with an overbearing mother, G.Lo has been nominated for a Grammy for his comedy album Team Leader. He's even hosting the TV Guide Awards on December 28, just one day after he performs two live standup acts here in the Valley. Catch the comedy dynamo when he appears at the Dodge Theatre on Saturday, December 27, at 8 and 10 p.m. Tickets are $30 to $75, and can be purchased by contacting Ticketmaster at 480-784-4444 or www.ticketmaster.com. - Brendan Joel Kelley
Ballet and symphony get cracking
Whether The Nutcracker's Mouse King had weapons of mice destruction, he was a bad, bad mouse and needed to be removed. In the timely classic performed by Ballet Arizona and the Phoenix Symphony, toy coalition soldiers slay the evil king, and characters rejoice by dancing the dances of many nations (presumably without overtly campaigning for reconstruction contracts). The Nutcracker continues through Sunday, December 28, at Phoenix Civic Plaza, 225 West Adams. At each performance, one audience member aged 7 to 12 gets to perform onstage as a guest soldier in full costume and makeup. In addition, patrons can get their pictures taken with the Sugar Plum Fairy during intermission.
Theater puckers up for Kiss and Tell
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When we're suspected of something we didn't do, we recite the Animals' prayer: "Oh, Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood." Corliss Archer, the leading young lady in Hale Center Theatre's Kiss and Tell, is the 16-year-old soul whose intentions are good when she accompanies her brother's secret bride to the doctor's office. But as 1940s romps such as this one would have it, the farce begins when a nosy neighbor assumes it's Corliss who's expecting. Playing Wednesday, December 31, through January 31, Kiss and Tell carries on the Hale tradition of intimate family theater at 50 West Page in historic downtown Gilbert, behind the water tower. Tickets for the Friday and Saturday evening performances are $14 for adults and $11 for children, $2 less for the 3 p.m. Saturday matinee. For more information or to buy tickets, call the box office at 480-497-1181. - Kim Toms
Woo's a Crowd
Hearts dance in Shmulnik's Waltz
In the latest offering from Arizona Jewish Theatre, Shmulnik's Waltz, a man follows his love to another continent, only to find her mad about some pretty boy (Christopher Mascarelli) who asks him to lend his writing skills to woo her. "Shmulnik's a great writer -- he's learned so many skills moving from village to village looking for his love," says actor Christopher Williams, who plays the title role. "And that is how he finally finds her -- he ends up on her doorstep selling pots and pans." But while writing letters for the illiterate hunk who has his love's affections, Shmulnik meets her bookish yet intriguing sister (Katherine Stewart), and things begin to get really interesting. Shmulnik's Waltz plays at the Playhouse on the Park, inside the Viad Corporate Center on Central at Palm Lane. The show opens Saturday, December 27, and continues through January 11. Tickets are $27 to $29, with discounts available. Call 602-264-0402 for details. - Quetta Carpenter