Spring Arts: Tucson theatres stage a comeback

click to enlarge “Tootsie” plays at Broadway in Tucson from March 22 to 27. - COURTESY PHOTO
Courtesy photo
“Tootsie” plays at Broadway in Tucson from March 22 to 27.
Arizona Rose Theatre
Arizona Rose Theatre shows take place at the Tucson Mall, 4500 N. Oracle Road, suite 329

Magically Ever-Laughter. For two nights only, enjoy this magic show for the whole family over at the Arizona Rose Theatre. Illusionist Michael Howell is the founder of Rose Ranch Animal Rescue, and often uses these animals in his performances (then puts the proceeds toward their care). He’s been a performer since he was a kid, and loves singing, dancing, acting and juggling in addition to making magic. March 5-6.
Passage. In this show, Mae and Max are crewmembers on the first human-crewed mission to Mars. Their main job: stay alive. (Hard enough on Earth, am I right?) But before they even get to Mars, they run into a wildly unexpected cosmic body between Earth and Mars and realize, as they float in an endless flow of space and energy, that they better come to terms with their mortality immediately.
If this sounds extremely stressful, don’t worry. This show is a rollercoaster, but it’s also humorous and has lots of cool effects. March 19, 20, 26 and 27.

Arizona Theatre Company
ATC shows take place at the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave.

Nina Simone: Four Women. In this beautiful show, playwright Christina Ham looks at the 1963 KKK bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, through the lens of Nina Simone’s “Four Women.” The song is a tribute to the four girls lost in the tragedy, and the show brings to life four Black women (including the character Nina Simone) from various backgrounds and their fights against racism, sexism, classism and more. Feb. 26 to March 19.
Justice. The girl power theme continues at ATC with this musical about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s arrival to the United States Supreme Court, and Sandra Day O’Connor’s readiness to show her the ropes. This three-person musical, which also features a third character named Vera who is rising through the ranks of the law world, is full of sweeping songs, important conversations and real-life heroines. April 9 to April 30.
How to Make an American Son. From Honduran-born Mando’s perspective, it’s inconvenient that the downturn of his cleaning empire is coinciding exactly with the need to rein in his spoiled, American-born son Orlando. From Orlando’s perspective, he’s suddenly being asked to handle way too much at once, including the future of his father’s entire enterprise. This show asks what happens with the promise of the American Dream collides with the realities of immigration. June 4 to 25.

Broadway in Tucson
Broadway in Tucson shows are at Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd.

The Band’s Visit. This new musical is the winner of 10 Tony Awards, placing it among the winningest in history. It’s the offbeat story of a band of musicians who arrive in a town way off the beaten path. They’re lost and have come out of the blue, but they bring music, and it does what music does: It livens up the town, brings the people together and has the audience rejoicing. Feb. 23 to 27.
Jersey Boys. You’ve almost certainly heard of this show by now, about the flawless harmonies and not-so-flawless personal lives of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. And even if you haven’t, you’ve heard songs like “Sherry,” “Walk Like a Man” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” This Grammy Award-winning musical has been called “too good to be true” by the New York Post, but it is truly coming to Tucson, so good for us. March 18 to 20.
Tootsie. This show is about an actor whose primary special skill is being unable to hold down a job. Desperate for work, he does what anyone would do: He disguises himself as a woman with the fake name Dorothy Michaels, and promptly makes a meteoric rise to Broadway stardom. When he starts falling for his costar, Julie, he realizes keeping the lie going isn’t going to be easy. March 22 to 27.
HadesTown. Go to hell! And we’ll come with you! This show weaves together the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice with the story of King Hades and Persephone, taking audience members to the underworld and back. Winner of eight Tony Awards, this show is haunting and hopeful and poetic and unforgettable. Anaïs Mitchell did the music, lyrics and books, and was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020. April 12 to 27.
Come From Away. Set in the week following 9/11, this show is about the 38 planes ordered to land unexpectedly at Gander International Airport. It’s probably gonna make you cry. It’s based on true stories about how residents of the town took in the stranded passengers, reminding us people can be so good and kind and humane even in the worst of circumstances. May 24 to 29.
Pretty Woman. I once had a professor who was a fiercely outspoken feminist, who hated the way women are often portrayed in pop culture as helpless damsels in distress in need of men to save them. And even she liked Pretty Woman for its value as an iconic contemporary fairy tale. The musical version, of course, features Roy Orbison and Bill Dee’s international smash hit “Oh, Pretty Woman.” July 29 to 24.

The Gaslight Theatre
The Gaslight Theatre is located at 7010 E. Broadway Blvd.

Arizona Smith and the Relic of Doom. Everyone’s favorite archeologist is, as usual, racing against time through exotic landscapes while the fate of the entire world hangs in the balance. Talk about good theater! In this show, Arizona makes his way through dangerous deserts and faraway temples to try to secure the very mysterious and very important Relic of Doom. The only way to find out if he makes it, and if world ends, is to see this show. Through March 27.
The Three Musketeers. So, are you the whipped mousse center, the milk chocolate coating, or whatever the third musketeer is? Just kidding—obviously this show is based on the Alexandre Dumas book about the trio of inseparable, chivalrous swordsmen on a crusade of justice. Get ready to do some serious swashbuckling over at the Gaslight. March 31 to June 5.

Invisible Theatre
The Invisible Theatre is located at 1400 N. First Ave.

Emergency. There are still a few days left to see this show by Daniel Beaty, in which a slave ship suddenly emerges out of the Hudson River in front of the statue of liberty. It’s an exploration of shared humanity, the meaning of freedom and the nature of remembrance. Through Feb. 20.
Secrets of a Soccer Mom. It’s no secret that the world of motherhood can be competitive about their kids. This show starts out with three soccer moms cheering on their soccer player sons. When they’re reluctantly dragged into participating in a mothers vs. son soccer game, they intend to let the kids win. But instead, they find themselves feeling young and alive and good humored again—and become dead-set on scoring. April 20 to May 5.
A Conversation With Edith Head. Who wouldn’t want to have a conversation with the most awarded woman in the Academy of Motion Picture’s history? The legendary costume designer worked on more than 110 films, and her story is full of humor, frustration and lots of glamour. Edith Head, also, of course, was the aesthetic inspiration for the character Edna Mode in The Incredibles. March 9 to 13.

Live Theatre Workshop
Live Theatre Workshop Shows are at 3322 E. Fort Lowell Road.

The Kreutzer Sonata. What’s more dramatic than moody classical music? How about Leo Tolstoy? How about MURDER? Thank goodness for Live Theatre Workshop, which brings us this play with all three. Playwright Nany Harris has brought this story by Leo Tolstoy to life, honoring his wish that it someday be set to music. It’s about a man who finds out his wife is having an affair with her music partner and is murderously angry. Feb. 17 to March 19.
Sylvia. Like most media about dogs, this is a show that you’ll probably expect to be cute and funny, but has surprising emotional impact. This modern comedy by A.R. Gurney follows Greg and Kate, who have just moved to Manhattan from the suburbs after becoming empty nesters. When Greg finds a Lab-poodle mix in the park named Sylvia, he’s delighted, Kate is a little annoyed and Sylvia is adorable. And they figure it out, because dogs are usually the answer to problems. March 24 to April 30.
Take a Hike. Part of LTW’s children’s theater series, this show is for all the Sonoran Desert lovers out there. When Jamie comes home from college, she can’t wait to take a desert hike with her little brother Dylan, so they set off on a fantastical journey, making friends with a packrat, a rattlesnake and a roadrunner. As they try to find their way back to their house, they grow closer as siblings and reflect on the true meaning of home. March 13 and 20.
Fremont Junior High Is Not Doing Oklahoma. Yeah, that’s the title of this play, which is hilarious—and a total relief, if you’ve ever seen or—worse (as I have, sorry Mom)—been in a high school production of Oklahoma. Part of the LTW Etcetera series, this show is about 14-year-old Chrysanthemum, the queer, know-it-all president of the drama club, and his BFF Phylicia, a coloratura soprano. When the school’s spring musical is announced, it threatens to ruin their friendship.
April 8 to 23.

Oro Valley Theatre Company
Oro Valley Theatre Company performances take place at the Gaslight Music Hall, 13005 N. Oracle Road, #165.

Same Time, Next Year. There’s something romantic about being able to sustain a long-term connection with someone that you don’t see very often, right? Not seeing them too much means you don’t have the time to learn about their flaws. That’s the basis of this show, which follows a love affair between Doris and George, two people—who are both married to others and have children—who meet one day a year for more than two decades. Feb. 20 to 23.
Barefoot in the Park. This Neil Simon show is one of the longest running non-musical plays in Broadway history, and you may have seen the 1967 feature film starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. It also had a pre-Broadway production under the name Nobody Loves Me. The show follows the story of a newlywed couple, Paul and Corie. While Paul worries about everything, Corie tries to convince him to chill out, stop stressing, and, well, go barefoot in the park. April 24 to May 1.

Pima Community College
PCC shows take place at the PCC West Campus – Center for the Arts, 2202 W. Anklam Road.

The SpongeBob Musical. Spongebob is such a great candidate for a show to be made into a musical: An ensemble cast, a lovable protagonist, fun sets, and the ability to get really fantastical and silly with the storytelling. It features Spongebob trying to save Bikini Bottom from a volcanic eruption, a jetpack and even good ol’ Patchy the Pirate. It received 12 Tony nominations in 2018. Feb. 24 to March 6.
The Piano Lesson. This August Wilson play received the 1990 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and the fourth play in Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle. When Boy Willie arrives in town, he asks his sister if they can finally sell the old family piano in her living room. She refuses, because it’s covered in carvings from their ancestors which tell a story of the family’s rise from slavery. Ultimately, it’s a show about the legacies you honor, and the legacy you choose to leave. March 24 to April 3.
Romeo & Juliet. We all know this one, so I’m not going to tell you about the plot. But here are some fun facts! The famous balcony scene didn’t originally have a balcony in it—Shakespeare only specified that Juliet appeared at a window. Romeo and Juliet get married within 24 hours of meeting. And two of Uranus’ moons are named for the play: Juliet and Mab. April 23 to 24.

The Rogue Theatre
Shows are at the Rogue Theatre at The Historic Y, 300 E. University Blvd., unless otherwise stated.

Passage. Inspired by E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India, this is a play of letters: It’s set in Country X, a colonial client of country Y. And all of the characters have only letters for names as well. The story follows a local doctor and an expat teacher, and examines how power imbalances can seep into interpersonal relationships. Interestingly, the original gives the director freedom in casting with regards to aspects like race and gender. So each production of the play has the chance to highlight different social structures and injustices. Feb. 24 to March 13.
Mrs. Dalloway. Director Cynthia Meier herself adapted this Virginia Woolf story (which entered the public domain just last year) for the stage. The story is simple enough: It’s about a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway as she prepares for a party, and Septimus Smith as he, um, has a rough time. It’s known for examining the mundane and making it meaningful—something all of us, as we invent new pasta recipes and wait excitedly for new sweatpants to arrive in the mail, all had to try at one point or another during the pandemic. April 28 to May 15, with video available May 19 to June 5.

Scoundrel & Scamp
Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre is in the Historic Y, 738 N. Fifth Ave., Ste. 131.

Ada and the Engine. This historical play is about Ada Byron Lovelace, the first programmer, brilliant mathematician, and daughter of poet Lord Byron. The plot is based on her partnership with polymath and inventor Charles Babbage, and their creation of an early version of a computer. The production features an original sound design, new lighting techniques and a set built with the help of University of Arizona students. Runs Feb. 17 to Feb. 27.
You and Me and the Space Between. Finegan Kruckemeyer is Australia’s most accomplished children’s playwright, and he doesn’t disappoint with this tale of wonder and invention. When the island of Proud Circle springs a link, its citizens must band together to prevent their home from disappearing all together. To do it, they need the creativity and imagination of a child. This show blends
storytelling, choreographed projections and live-drawn animation to explore the plight of refugees fleeing environmental change. March 31 to April 17.
Citizen: An American Lyric. Scoundrel and Scamp brings its season to a close with this stage adaptation of the award-winning book of poetry and prose by Claudia Rankine. Adapted by Stephen Sachs, the show uses theater, music, movement and video imagery to build a meditation on acts of everyday racism. From microaggressions and slips of the tongue to nationally spotlighted firestorms, the powerful and fast-moving show depicts it all. May 12 to May 29.

University of Arizona School of Theatre, Film & Television

Living Dead in Denmark. Sometimes you don’t know how much you need something to exist until you hear about it for the first time. For example, this show by Qui Nguyen is an action-adventure/horror sequel to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in which the undead are trying to take over the world. We’re talking Lady Macbeth, Juliet and Ophelia, but ZOMBIES. Obviously this show, complete with martial arts, pop songs, puppetry and comic books, is not to be missed. Feb. 27 to March 20 at the Tornabene Theatre, 1025 N. Olive Road.
High Fidelity. If you love musicals, indie record stores and sad guys, you’ll love this show, based on the popular novel by Nick Hornby. Its rock and roll score tells the story of Rob, a Brooklyn record store owner who’s trying to figure out where his relationship went wrong and how to win back the lovely Laura. It’s a must-see for music geeks everywhere. April 10 to 24. Tornabene Theatre, 1025 N. Olive Road.
New Directions Festival. An evening of new voices! This is a presentation of six short pieces devised, directed designed and performed entirely by students which is seriously way cool. It’s the first in an annual festival of student-created content. And in five or 10 years, when all of these students are famous, you’ll be able to say you saw them before they made it big. April 29 to May 1. Harold Dixon Directing Studio, 1025 N. Olive Road.

Southern Arizona Performing Arts Company
Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre at the Historic Y, 738 N. Fifth Ave., Ste. 131.

A Minister’s Wife. Like many pieces of theater, this play is about a seemingly happy couple whose lives turn out to be not what they seem. But, unlike most pieces of theater, this one has been called “the most important new musical to come to New York since The Light in the Piazza” by the Wall Street Journal. A pretty raving endorsement! Based on a 1898 version of George Bernard Shaw’s Candida, this one is a hidden gem. March 5 to 13. https://www.sapactucson.org/
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