Pic Hits for the week

december 28
Circus Flora: Led by Daniel Balding, formerly of France's Cirque Medrano and Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival, this low-tech, high-reward family circus was named after, and built around, an orphaned African elephant (who was herself named after a character in Jean deBrunhoff's Babar books). This year's tour, titled "The Legend of the Phoenix," features old standbys like the Flying Wallendas and the "Passione del Pasato"--a breathtaking aerial ballet--along with new acts like Dancing Gauchos, Gabriella and Mariano Savio's marionettes, and Gerald Balding and Matti Baine's skeleton puppets. It's worth noting that the circus has no caged animal acts. Performances are at noon and 4 p.m. Thursday, 2 and 7 p.m. Friday, noon and 4 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday and noon and 4 p.m. Monday under the red-and-white-striped bigtop at Chaparral Park, Hayden and Jackrabbit roads in Scottsdale. KZON-FM's Harley-ridin' Mary McCann stands in for the troupe's regular ringmistress, Yo-Yo the Clown (real name: Cecile MacKinnon; real job: Shakespearean actress), at Friday's evening show. Tickets range from $10 to $18, available at Scottsdale Center for the Arts, 7380 East Second Street, and Ticketmaster. For more information, call 994-2787 or 784-4444.

The Phantom of the Opera: Andrew Lloyd Webber's phenomenally popular musical, based on the novel by Gaston LeRoux, starsRick Hilsabeck as the title spook, a spiteful composer who haunts the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera House and loves young soprano Christine (Rita Harvey). Broadway vet Harold Prince directed the touring production, which continues with performances at 8 p.m. Thursday andFriday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7:30p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at Gammage Auditorium, Mill and Apache in Tempe. Phantom continues through January 27. Tickets range from $15 to $65, available at Gammage and Dillard's. For more information, call 965-3434 or 678-2222.

Football Fiesta: The street festival, sort of the undergraduate equivalent of the NFL Experience and one of the many warm-ups for Fiesta Bowl XXV (see Tuesday), features interactive games, displays from the College Football Hall of Fame and live remotes by ESPN and other national media outlets. It's scheduled for 4 to 11 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday to 1 a.m. on Stadium Drive, south of Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. The event is free and open to all ages Thursday through Saturday; on New Year's Eve, a $10 entrance fee is charged, and only those 21and older are admitted. For details call 350-0900.

The Convertible Girl: Danny Simon, older brother of Neil, wrote this gefilte-fish-out-of-water farce about a young Hispanic woman who seeks to corral her marriage-shy Jewishboyfriend by converting to Judaism. Arizona Jewish Theatre Company presents performances at 8 p.m. Thursday and Saturday and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday in Stage West at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe. The production continues through January 14. Regular tickets are $19.25 and $21.25, available at Herberger and Dillard's box offices (call 252-8497 or 678-2222); discounts are available for students, seniorsand groups. Tickets to Sunday's evening performance are $45, and include champagne, hors d'oeuvres and dessert; they're available only at AJTC's office, 4800 North Central, Suite 106 (call 264-0402).

Craig Shoemaker: The alchemical comedian has transformed a miserable childhood as ahopeless geek into a he-man mint. He used to be slugged by little girls; now he's hit on by beautiful women. A movie based on Shoemaker's "LoveMaster" persona, reportedly co-starring Farrah Fawcett and AC/DC vocalist Brian Johnson, is in the works, and his MCA CD Craig Shoemaker Meets the LoveMaster is on the shelves. Shows are scheduled at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 and 10 p.m. Friday, 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday and 8 and 10 p.m. Sunday at the Improvisation, Rural and University (at Cornerstone mall) in Tempe. Tickets are $10 on Thursday, $12 on Friday and Saturday; special packages, ranging from $25 to $45, are available on New Year's Eve. For details call 921-9877.

december 29
Little Shop of Horrors: Arizona Theatre Company continues its season with the dark and delicious musical about lovelorn Seymour Krelbourne and the voracious plant named Audrey II. Based onRoger Corman's 1960 film, the play waspenned by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, who also collaborated on the scores for Disney's movies The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. The Valley run opens with a preview at 8 p.m. Friday and continues through January 20 in Center Stage at Herberger Theater Center, 222 East Monroe; the press opening is at 8 p.m. Saturday. The rest of this week's performances are at 1 and 8 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Wednesday. A discussion follows Sunday's matinee. Preview tickets are $27 and $29. Tickets for Sunday's evening show are $45, and include champagne, hors d'oeuvres and dessert. Regular tickets range from $29 to $35. They're available at Herberger and Dillard's. For reservations call 252-8497 or 678-2222.