Orpheum Theater Phoenix | Arizona History and Architecture

Orpheum Theater
Orpheum Theater

My favorite, and the most luxurious theater in Phoenix is the Orpheum Theater in downtown Phoenix.

Home to performances from the Phoenix Theater League, comedians, and high quality shows. Capacity is less than 1400 seats, which means there really are no bad seats.  Even mediocre views are easily avoided by skipping the last 10 rows lower level or last 5 rows on the balcony.Orpheum stage

Originally opened in 1929 in the Spanish Baroque architecture style, the 1997 restoration gave the theater amazing acoustics and modern lighting while keeping the Roaring 20’s class.  The theater itself is beautiful, with new details inside and out to be discovered during every visit.

Orpheum balcony seating from lower level
Orpheum lower level seating looking up to the balcony

The seat rows are a smidge close (not as much leg room as Phoenix Symphony Hall).  Seats on the interior aisle are a great option for taller people or anyone needing a little more room.

Orpheum lobbyBeverage bars serving wine, coffee, and light snacks are open before and during intermission for performances. The bathroom lines tend to be short and fast moving.  Every comfort is provided in the Orpheum.  The ground level lobby is small, venture downstairs to the lower level bar (not always open), large area for mingling, and restrooms.

Orpheum seating

Performances at the Orpheum are a great excuse for date night, family afternoon matinees, girls’ night out, and more.  Incorporate one of the nearby restaurants for the perfect dinner and a show event.

orpheum

The Book of Mormon Musical

The Book of Mormon musical is on tour and finally in Phoenix!

A comedy musical written by the South Park (Trey Parker and Matt Stone) guys in collaboration with the song-writer (Robert Lopez) responsible for Frozen’s “Let It Go”, the Book of Mormon musical is irreverent, campy, cheeky, and wildly entertaining with songs that are catchy as Hell!  Since opening in 2011, this show has won many awards and sat at the top of my Wish List for performances, it surpassed my expectations!Gammage_BOM

The story begins in the Missionary Training Center with the opening song “Hello” that was also the 2012 Tony Awards opening act.  After completing training, the missionaries receive their location and companion assignments for the next 2 years.  Our leading missionaries, (Elder Price and Elder Cunningham) are assigned to Africa, which prompts a heavy sprinkling of Lion King jokes and references throughout the performance. Continue reading “The Book of Mormon Musical”

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.