"A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, a huge tube of sunblock, a bottle of rattlesnake antivenom serum, and thou . . ." Yes, the romantic side of our state was chosen as the subject of the very first episode of Romancing America, a new show on the cable network Romance Classics. The debut edition explores such local face-suckin' hideaways as the Royal Palms and Scottsdale's Spa at Camelback Inn, as well as L'Auberge de Sedona and a jeep tour through that town's Red Rocks. The show airs at 5:30 and 10:30 p.m. Thursday, July 23, on Romance Classics; check your cable guide for channel.
Here's an insufferably wholesome way to spend a Friday night: Check out the Staff & Member Art Show at the Gentle Strength Cooperative "while enjoying healthy appetizers and good music!" It opens with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, July 24, at the facility, 234 West University in Tempe, and continues through Sunday, July 26 (call for regular hours). Admission is free, no less. 968-4831.
For something a little funkier, there's the 10-piece, San Diego-based swing band Big Time Operator--sporting three saxes, two trumpets, a trombone, a bass, a guitar, percussion and a vocalist--performing at a CD-signing party at 4 p.m. Friday, July 24, at Borders Books & Music at Biltmore Fashion Park, 24th Street and Camelback, Suite 200. Admission is free. The band's debut CD High Altitude Swing, which includes versions of Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway tunes, will be available for purchase. 957-6660.
The silliness factor is pretty high when In Mixed Company remounts its successful production of Pageant, an interactive musical by Albert Evans, Bill Russell and Frank Kelly, which might be subtitled Six Guys Wearing the Same Gown. The dudes in question don pumps and sashes in pursuit of the "Miss Glamouresse" title and accompanying tiara. The opening performance is at 8 p.m. Friday, July 24; and there's a benefit performance for the troupe's '98-'99 season, at 8 p.m. Saturday, July 25, in the Rotunda at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe. Regular shows resume at 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, July 26; and 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 29. The run continues through Sunday, August 9. Regular tickets range from $15.50 to $22.50. For the benefit, table seats are $80; floor, balcony and mezzanine seats are $60 and $65. 834-3032.
Purveyors of "funked-out rock 'n' roll," the duo of Sweet Pea Atkinson and Randy Jacobs collectively know as The Boneshakers, who have played together with Was (Not Was) and recorded separately with such diverse talents as Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, and Coolio, take the stage Friday, July 24, and at the same time Saturday, July 25, at the Rhythm Room. Showtime is 9 p.m. Admission is $5. 1019 East Indian School. 265-4842.
In Arizona, how easy is it to tell the difference between Christmas in July and Christmas in December? Maybe it's that the bones of a reindeer dead of heat prostration bleach slightly faster in July than they do in December. Anyway, Ballet Arizona hosts a "Christmas in July Open House" from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 25, at the company's studio space, 3645 East Indian School. The fund-raising event includes open-for-spectators rehearsals; early holiday shopping at the Nutcracker Boutique; goodies from the "Sugar Plum Bake Sale"; raffles with prizes like trips to New York or to spas; kids' activities including face painting, ballerina hairdo secrets and pictures with the Sugar Plum Fairy or The Rat King. The box office will be open for a one-day advance ticket sale of the holiday-season fave The Nutcracker, and also of season tickets. Phoenix fire and police departments are also scheduled to hold demonstrations for the kids--presumably not of ballet techniques. Admission is free. 381-0184.
Designing Dwarfs in the Desert sounds like a how-to guide for Southwestern mad scientists, and maybe it actually is; it's the title of a book by Robert J. Baran, and the "dwarfs" it refers to are little trees--bonsais. Baran's book traces the history of the bonsai movement here in the Valley, and the particular challenges of growing such delicate plants in this climate. Baran talks about and signs his work at noon Saturday, July 25, at Borders Books & Music at 7320 West Bell in Glendale. Admission is free. 487-9110.
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Those of us who heard the instrument with which the American Society of Theatre Organists has equipped the Orpheum Theatre, as it accompanied the Lon Chaney version of The Phantom of the Opera last Halloween, won't soon forget its brooding, venue-shaking sound. The stops get pulled out again, this time by big-time American theater organist Lyn Larsen and his Australian counterpart Tony Fenelon, when they play a Wurlitzer Pops concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, July 26, at the Orpheum Theatre, 203 West Adams. There's no silent movie this time--although a "Silent Film Classics" show is scheduled for August--just pops standards, filtered through the idiom of the Wurlitzer pipes. Tickets are $15 and $18. 979-1100 (ATOS), 262-7272 (Phoenix Civic Plaza), 503-5555 (Dillard's).
Fifty-six of the country's best girls' fast-pitch softball teams, including four host teams from this state, compete for the top spot in the 1998 18 & Under Gold Nationals. The tournament, making its Phoenix debut, kicks off with opening ceremonies--including the final four of a home-run derby--at 7 a.m. Monday, July 27, at Rose Mofford Softball Complex, 9833 North 25th Avenue, followed by a game between host team the Arizona Storm and visitors the Southern California Batbusters. Initial match-ups continue at 8 and 10 a.m. and noon Tuesday, July 28; and the same times Wednesday, July 29, at Rose Mofford and at Desert West Softball Complex, 6602 West Encanto. Tournament play continues daily through Saturday, August 1, at both venues; the championship game will be played at Rose Mofford at noon Sunday, August 2. Tickets are $7 for adults, $4 for seniors and children under 12, free for kids three and younger. Tournament passes are also available. 961-0098.
This actually sounds like a don't-miss: a concert featuring both The B-52's and The Pretenders, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 28, at Desert Sky Pavilion, 2121 North 83rd Avenue. Suffice to say that both "Back on the Chain Gang" and "Rock Lobster" ought to be on the short list for the new national anthem. And as if all this wasn't enough, Royal Crown Revue opens the show. 254-7599 (Sky), 784-4444. (Ticketmaster).
Cat's-eyed Texas impressionist Lisa Loeb shot to stardom when her single "Stay (I Missed You)" was included on the soundtrack of the film Reality Bites--and an Ethan Hawke-directed video of the lovely Loeb poking around an empty apartment broke big on MTV. However much La Loeb's adorableness may have to do with her popularity, it's tough to deny that she sings pleasantly, and her wistful lyrics often have some bite. She performs on Wednesday, July 29, at the Cajun House, 7117 East Third Avenue in Scottsdale. Showtime is 7:30; opening the show are Steve Poltz and Rufus Wainwright--the Peter Allen-ish son of folkie Loudoun Wainwright III, and title character of Wainwright the Elder's tune "Rufus Is a Tit Man," written during his breast-feeding years. Tickets are $15. 945-5150.