Best Place to See a Broadway Show 2023 | ASU Gammage | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix

It's the little touches that make a theatergoing experience particularly enjoyable. When we go to a show at ASU Gammage on the university's Tempe campus, we appreciate that the concession prices are reasonable — even the themed cocktails created for each production. An upgrade to the outdated restrooms several years ago means that we're in and out much faster. But mostly, we've been going to Gammage for decades because it's the best place in town to see the plays and musicals coming out of the Great White Way. There's hardly a bad seat in the house, and each season Gammage offers some of the hottest touring productions, including shows like "Beetlejuice," "Six" and "Hamilton," the latter of which is coming back in 2024, FYI. And we're always happy to visit the building itself, a Frank Lloyd Wright design that's become a iconic Tempe landmark.

On the calendar of annual events in Phoenix, there are a few we particularly look forward to. And when spring takes a curtsy and gives way to summer, we begin to anticipate Ballet Arizona's collaboration with Desert Botanical Garden on one of its outdoor performances. This year's program, held on the grounds of the garden, was titled "The Rite of Spring," a world premiere by Ib Andersen, Ballet Arizona's artistic director. Modern choreography was set to Stravinsky's music, all backdropped by the mountains of Papago Park. Like all of Ballet Arizona's outdoor shows, the program was short but powerful, with the beauty of the landscape accenting the movement on stage. We can't wait to see what next year's iteration is.

The great burlesque revival of the late 1990s and early 2000s spawned local troupes worldwide, and this is the name to look for when you want to see top-notch talent in Phoenix. The performers reel in the audience with more than a ruffle of a feather boa or toss of the pastie tassel — they're all about making eye contact and creating a feeling of connection. Even better, Spellbound is not simply a "hot chick parade" but instead showcases people who have a variety of looks, ages and sizes. All exude the kind of body-positive confidence that makes spectators allies rather than simply onlookers. For an intimate show, catch the local leading ladies at the Grey Hen Rx in Century Grand every second Wednesday, where they put on a 20-minute cabaret-style show three times a night. For a bigger spectacle that includes national and international dancers and lasts two-and-a-half hours, check the schedule for almost monthly shows at The Grand in Central Phoenix.

Every two weeks or so at The Rebel Lounge, a hodgepodge group of poets file, one by one, onto the shabby, bright stage. This is the Ghost Poetry Show, a local poetry slam where slam poets, new and old, compete before a friendly audience. The group was started by a few local poets as venues began to reopen their doors after the pandemic. Their hope was to help revive Phoenix's literary scene, and revive it they did. In addition to the consistent, well-attended shows at The Rebel Lounge in midtown and sometimes elsewhere in the Valley, Ghost Poetry has created a thriving community of slam poets in Phoenix. The stage at a Ghost show is open to both newbies and seasoned poets, making the slam both engaging and decidedly welcome. Poets spill secrets, crack jokes, stumble a little. The passion and melodrama that's characteristic of slam poetry resounds in the small venue. And at the end of it all, the crowd chooses a winner — whose title will hold at least until the next slam comes around.

What do we love about Civic Center Library, the main branch of the Scottsdale public library system? The airy building is majestic without being intimidating. The selection of books, DVDs and CDs is excellent. There's programming for all ages and a wide range of interests, from storytime for toddlers to computer classes, film series and book clubs for adults. The children's room, designed to look like a fairytale forest complete with a castle with reading nooks, is one of the most charming places in the Valley. Rotating art exhibitions produced by Scottsdale Public Art mean that there's always something to look at besides the shelves. We love to make our selections and then find a seat near the enormous windows that overlook the Civic Center Lawn, where the book in our lap and the view in front of us compete for attention.

Weebs and otaku of Phoenix, rejoice. It's a great time to be a fan of anime and manga. Interest in the Japanese-born art forms is at an all-time high nationally and locally, and the number of cons in Arizona has tripled in the last three years. At the forefront of the anime boom in the Valley is Saboten Con, which serves up four days of vendors, artists, voice actors and cosplay over Labor Day weekend at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel. Since launching in 2008, it's become Arizona's largest and longest-running anime event and has been synonymous with both local anime fandom and inclusivity. Organizers Greg and Stacy Fennell eschew gatekeeping at their event, welcoming casuals and newbies eager to embrace, explore and experience their newfound anime obsession. It helped Saboten Con's turnout swell, particularly this year when a record-setting 29,000 people swarmed the Sheraton and the nearby Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel. There was also a new gaming and esports side event called SaboSlam, which Greg says is aimed at making the convention even more all-encompassing. "If you're into any part of [anime] culture at all, you're going to find something to do over the weekend," he says.

Not even Pollack Tempe Cinemas is immune to the evils of inflation. You'll be shocked to know that in the last half-decade, ticket prices have risen from $3 to a whopping $3.50 per show, which of course means that the Tempe theater is still the best deal in town. Pollack Tempe Cinemas shows second-run movies (meaning the ones that have already been in theaters for several weeks or longer), plus a selection of popular modern classics such as the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and the original animated version of "The Little Mermaid." And the movies aren't the only great thing about the theater. Concession prices are similarly affordable, and owner Michael Pollack has tricked out the lobby with a fun assortment of cinematic memorabilia, including a number of life-size statues of beloved film characters. Let's all go to the movies.

It's been a tough few years for movie theaters. So, Harkins — the largest independently owned theater company in the U.S. — did what you might expect from a plucky Arizona-based favorite: Wrap their future around a Sonoran hot dog. It takes Best Supporting Actor on the menu of Ciné Grill, the company's first foray into dine-in movie theaters that debuted at Lake Pleasant Towne Center in July. Besides the tasty menu — yes, there's booze, mocktails and seltzers, too — there are plush recliners, personal tabletops and call-to-order push buttons in case you forget to add a side of crispy roasted Brussels sprouts to your movie-going meal. Ciné Grill delivers the luxe that movie nights have needed. If Peoria is too far of a drive, Harkins plans to open a second Ciné Grill in 2024 at the former Paradise Valley Mall site near Cactus Road and Tatum Boulevard.

When we're in the mood to catch classic films on the big screen, it's hard to beat the diverse selection being screened at the Valley's three Majestic Neighborhood Cinema Grills. Sure, your neighborhood theater might have multiple showings of "Barbie," but how about showing more than one or two older movies a week? The folks at the Majestic mix the old and the new, programming a curated lineup of cult classics, arthouse fare, grindhouse flicks, anime imports, all-time favorites and even celluloid oddities ("Reefer Madness" anyone?) to complement their slate of the first-run releases. There are also weekly series like the horror-focused Cinematery Tuesdays and monthly 35 mm screenings of repertory films. And you won't want to miss lively events like movie parties featuring singalongs, interactive props and special food and drink pairings. Each Majestic location also has a full bar, in case you'd like some suds or spirits to enhance your cinematic experience.

Correct us if we're wrong, but the point of a staycation is to get away from regular life and pretend that we're on vacation and not just a few miles from our dentist's office. It's hard to do that if we're out and about in the city, so when it's time to take a staycation, we opt for Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows, where there's plenty to keep us busy. Besides the understatedly luxe rooms, Andaz offers guests three pools, one of which is adults only, plus complimentary activities like a nightly happy hour, yoga and meditation classes and more. And those are just the things that are included in your stay; paid experiences include spa treatments, mixology classes and of course dinner at Weft + Warp, Andaz's award-winning restaurant. We recommend taking the pasta class, a fun and interactive hands-on experience. A staycation at Andaz is enough to make you forget you're still in town.

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