Chicago at Gammage

Jack and I attended a performance of Chicago at ASU’s Gammage Theatre last week.  I have seen the performance a few times and this was Jack’s first.

Jack’s view:

Regardless of the production, I have mixed feelings about Chicago as a narrative.  This is a story bereft of a clear protagonist, or really any arguably positive, likeable, heroic character.  Should I be cheering for Billy Flynn, the sleazy lawyer who defends guilty, murderous women using “Razzle Dazzle?”  There’s a message here that’s intended to be communicated in all sorts of artsy glory by this lack of positive characters — something about how we’re all lying, cheating, self-serving sociopaths. Screw that.  The last thing I want to be reminded by 2 hours of escapist theatre is that I’m a terrible person.  I go to plays to forget that for a short time.

Fortunately, the unsavory lot of characters is redeemed by a wardrobe of skimpy, sexy costumes, hot bodies, and slutty dancing. Message:  it’s okay to be bad if you’re hot.  Damn right.  If there’s one thing that an audience full of miscreants and sociopaths enjoys, it’s some cheesecake T&A.

This production was enjoyable.  The chorus, costumes, and choreography were fantastic, and the orchestra impressive.  Roxie was cast well. Amos stole the show (as he should) with Mr. Cellophane.  The apparently famous person playing Billy Flynn owned the character, and the unique inclusion of the orchestra conductor as a character with comic lines proved a pleasant addition. Continue reading “Chicago at Gammage”

ASU Gammage Theatre

ASU’s Gammage Theatre hosts Broadway Across America productions, Awards ceremonies, Dance Troupes, and Musicians.

Inside ASU Gammage Theater

Gammage has a seating capacity of over 3,000 spread over lower level Orchestra and two balconies, referred to as Grand Tier (lower balcony) and Balcony (bring binoculars, it is nosebleed).

Seating is Continental style, with no center aisle.  Lower seat numbers are closer to center, and the higher the number the more people will climb over you to get to their seats.  There are very few seats that can clearly see the stage and hear the show thanks to poor acoustics.

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the exterior resembles a fancy decorated cake from the side, and toilet bowl from overhead. Next time you fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX) airport, look for the toilet bowl shape near the Giant A near ASU campus.

Continue reading “ASU Gammage Theatre”

The Buddy Holly Story

 – Guest blogger, Jack Benway contributes the following review of Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story presented by the Phoenix Theater League at the Orpheum Theater March 2015.

The Jukebox Musical Theater genre is growing on me, if for no other
reason than its combination of absurdity and audacity.

The genre takes somebody else’s already popular and well-known musical
body of work, weaves an (often contrived or minimal) narrative around
it, adds some choreography, costuming, and stage work, and delivers it
as a theatrical production.

Considering that a good rock-and-roll live show already includes
choreography, costuming, and stagework, it becomes clear that a Jukebox
Musical is really just extremely clever marketing to significantly
increase the ticket price of a cover band or retrospective musical
review.  Bully for them — bring on the clever marketing!

No rock band ever won a Tony Award for their live tour, but repackage
the songs of that same rock band, performed by others, as musical
theatre, and a trophy will be awarded in short order.

Buddy (the Buddy Holly Story) delivered the best that the Jukebox
Musical genre can offer.

Its narrative, describing Buddy Holly’s rocket ride to stardom and
tragic abrupt demise, contributed nicely to the mostly musical production.

The clever mechanism of radio show snippets for timeline advancement
made for rapid progression with minimal need for set changes or chorus
ensemble.

Its biggest miss was the use of chorus girls singing ad jingles during
the first act, which seemed out of place and a bit contrived for the
production as a whole — a good idea that wasn’t executed or implemented
to fruition.

The impersonator (er, actor) playing Buddy Holly was fantastic, as were
those playing the lesser roles of The Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, and the
Crickets.  The music was wonderful.  Costumes were appropriate but not
particularly noteworthy.

Buddy made me wish I could have seen Buddy Holly perform live, or at
least, take in a good Buddy Holly cover band.

Phoenix Symphony Hall

The summer heat in Phoenix is legendary.  Everyone is aware that it is a dry heat, not many realize that we also suffer a cultural drought all summer.  As it cools off, everything starts to bloom.  Symphony season is here to quench our thirst!

Symphony Hall Balcony seating
Symphony Hall Balcony seating

The 2014-2015 Symphony season is going strong at the Phoenix Symphony Hall.  The remodel in 2005 brought us excellent acoustics, upgraded lighting, and extra leg-room seating.  There really are no bad seats.  The first performance that I attended after the remodel, my seats were lower level third row from the back and still sounded amazing.  Previous seasons, I have sat in the balcony for a few shows.  The last couple years, we are now season ticket holders with premium lower level seats.  Every year as a season ticket holder leads to better seats.  Last week we even traded our Saturday night tickets for the same performance on Friday night, and managed to get tickets very close to our usual season ticket seating!

Symphony with soloist and choir
Symphony with soloist and choir

The Phoenix Symphony has a wide range of performances with special guest conductors, featured musicians, and something for every taste.  Some performances feature a full choir, a solo singer, and even “theme” events.

The seats offer great leg room and are extra wide.  However, there is a coat check for large or bulky coats, for the few weeks it is actually “chilly” in Phoenix.

Lobby
Lobby

Drinks are allowed in the Symphony Hall, so no need to rush to finish or go thirsty during a performance.  Intermission drinks can be pre-paid before the show to avoid a long line at “half-time”.  The drinks are prepared and placed on a table near the bar ordered with your name on it.  Hot and cold drinks are available, which is also nice for those chilly evenings or warm nights respectively.

There are many great restaurants downtown for dinner before the show, or drinks after.  Pedicabs (bicycle powered carts) are easily found downtown and cover a good distance to quickly take you to the show, dinner, or back to your car.  Drivers work off of tips, so bring cash.  We usually park near Symphony Hall and walk or take a pedicab to a nearby restaurant, then get another ride back to the show.

Phoenix Symphony has tickets available for a wide range of budgets of preferences.  Find a show, get your tickets, and have an enjoyable evening out supporting the arts!

 

 

Tempe Center for the Arts

A friend of mine won tickets for a Production at Tempe Center for the Arts and was kind enough to invite me.  I watched this beautiful facility built several years ago (2007 was just a few years ago, okay) and this was my first visit.TCA_1

Sunday afternoon offered a ChildsPlay production, with shows ideally suited for young people.  This is a great opportunity to introduce children to the arts and etiquette of live performance.  The show included intermission and a Q&A session with the audience after the show.  Such a great event for children!

The center has ample parking and a nice view of Tempe Town Lake.  The refreshment bar offers snacks, drinks (including adult beverages), and outside patio seating.TCA_3The center has ample parking and a nice view of Tempe Town Lake.  The refreshment bar offers snacks, drinks (including adult beverages), and outside patio seating.TCA_2There are multiple auditoriums for shows, gift shop, and gallery.  I am very glad that I have finally been inside Tempe Center for the Arts and I look forward to future events there.