Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: These adapted adventures feature music and lyrics by Roger Miller and a book by William Hauptman, but retain Mark Twain's deeply moral depictions of the 19th-century social tapestry. Twain scholars probably don't head for dinner theaters often, but those who do in this case might kvetch that Hauptman's book is more of a guidebook to life on the Mississippi than an accurate invocation of Twain. While they may not have sung or been surrounded by synchronized kick lines, the rowdy young boys, religious devotees, con men, and slave traders in this exuberant show all existed in Twain's America. Through July 23 at Arizona Broadway Theatre, 7701 W. Paradise Lane in Peoria. Ticket prices are $39-$45 and include dinner; performances are Tuesday through Sunday, with dinner served two hours before the curtain. Call 623-776-8400 for times and availability.
Beauty and the Beast: Everyone's favorite cartoon-to-stage-musical adaptation -- with a score by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim "Aida" Rice and a book by Linda Woolverton -- has reached that point in its life where it's being optioned by dinner theaters, which makes a perfect kind of sense: Its storybook sets are attractive and old-fashioned, its score busy, its characters instantly recognizable. You gotta eat, and because both kids and grown-up children apparently need their semi-annual fix of Belle and the big monster who wants to have his way with her, this is perfect dinner-and-light-entertainment fare. The musical runs through August 5 at Broadway Palm West Dinner Theatre, 5247 E. Brown Rd. in Mesa. Tickets are $41-$50 and include dinner. Dinner buffet is at 6 p.m.; curtain is at 8 p.m. Matinee performances and Sunday twilight shows are also scheduled. Call 480-325-6700 for times and dates.
Forever Plaid: Possibly the most popular bit of theatrical trifle in the universe, "the Heavenly Musical Hit" written by Stuart Ross that had a healthy off-Broadway run in the early 1990s has barely left us since. The wee plot involves a '60s pop quartet who died in a crash on their way to a gig, but, thanks to "the expanding holes in the ozone layer in conjunction with the position of the planets and all that astro-technical stuff," are back on Earth in the present time to perform their final show. Much of the humor is cheesy, but the real point here is the presentation of more than a dozen classic '50s and '60s songs. This Tempe Little Theatre production plays in rep with The Taffetas, a similar all-girl program, through July 1 at Tempe Performing Arts Center, 132 E. Sixth St. in downtown Tempe. Tickets are $14 for adults; $12 for students and seniors. Call 480-350-8388.
Previews and reviews
The Taffetas: They're a fictional four-girl group of singers meant to epitomize all those doo-wop sister acts of the '40s and '50s, groups like The Andrews Sisters and the McGuire Sisters and the Chordettes, but The Taffetas have such a loyal following you'd think they were real. What they often are is really charming, as they belt out a string of 42 ultra-familiar and very popular old tunes in a pleasant if not especially distinctive stroll down Memory Lane. High points include harmony versions of "Mr. Sandman" and "Sincerely," and a whole bucketload of Patti Page tunes including "Tennessee Waltz," "Allegheny Moon," and "Old Cape Cod." Still, anyone opposed to acute cuteness or those who don't love old girl-group music will want to skip this one. This Tempe Little Theatre production plays in rep with Forever Plaid through July 2 at Tempe Performing Arts Center, 132 E. Sixth St. in downtown Tempe. Tickets are $14 for adults; $12 for students and seniors. Call 480-350-8388.
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