Hale, Hale, the Gang's All Here

Despite a dramatic shortage of musical theater, Gilbert somehow has managed to thrive -- becoming the nation's fastest-growing city, no less. This weekend, the void at last is filled, as the city's first year-round live theater stages its grand opening -- and puts the Gilbert in Gilbert and Sullivan.

Construction began last November on the Hale Centre Theatre, a 12,000-square-foot theater-in-the-round in downtown Gilbert's Heritage District. The 380-seat venue is being developed by Gilbert resident David Hale Dietlein, who thinks it's high time his town gets into the act.

"Gilbert's a new and growing community," Dietlein says. "As the greater East Valley develops, that part of old town Gilbert is going to be the hub."

The Hale opens its inaugural season with Friday evening's première of Beau Jest, a comedy about a single woman who, desperate to placate her pushy parents, enlists an escort service to provide her with "a nice Jewish boyfriend."

Productions will run every week of the year, and Dietlein emphasizes that auditions are open to performers from throughout the Valley. "In Beau Jest, we have one actor from Phoenix, one from Scottsdale, one from Chandler, one from Gilbert and one from Mesa," he says.

The season continues with The Man With the Pointed Toes, See How They Run, A Christmas Carol, Kiss and Tell, My Fair Lady, Over the River and Through the Woods, The Hasty Heart, Pirates of Penzance and Heaven Can Wait -- every one a comedy or a musical.

"That's our forte," Dietlein explains. "There's enough problems in the world, so we thought it would be nice for people to be able to go into a place and not have to revisit those."