Radio City revue skips Valley, leaves theatergoers to other shows - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Radio City revue skips Valley, leaves theatergoers to other shows

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Posted: Sunday, November 28, 2004 7:30 am | Updated: 5:26 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

November 28, 2004

Here’s a holiday story of a different Dickensian stripe:

The Valley’s theater producers wake up from a distressing series of ghostly nightmares, rub their eyes, scramble out of bed and dash to the bedroom window to shout, "It’s Christmas, and behold! No Rockettes! Hollo! Whoop! No Rockettes!"

And just like that, the producers knew it would be a fine Christmastime indeed, with audiences aplenty.

One could excuse theater companies from acting giddy as they head into the holidays this season — riding high on the fact that they won’t be competing for holiday entertainment dollars against the high-kicking juggernaut that is the touring "Radio City Christmas Spectacular."

The Rockettes show is skipping ASU’s Gammage Auditorium next month after two years of boffo sales receipts.

"That is a piece of news, absolutely, which is a good thing," says Matthew Wiener, producing artistic director of Actors Theatre.

For more than a decade, his company has staged a musical comedy production of Charles Dickens’ "A Christmas Carol" for audiences at the Herberger Theater Center, and it’s one of 18 theatrical shows being staged across the Valley looking to rake in yuletide cash while getting people into the holiday spirit with plays, musicals, revues and — in greater number this year — alternative comedies.

There are two "A Christmas Carols": Actors Theatre’s song-infused production (co-written by Wiener and Tribune writer Michael Grady) and a nonmusical one at the Hale Centre Theatre in Gilbert. There are "Christmas Carol"-inspired works, too — from the monologue "One Christmas Carol" at ASU West to Theatre Eclectic’s "A Dickens of a Feast," a musical that focuses on Scrooge’s early years.

Meanwhile, musical revue galas like the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre’s "Sounds of Christmas" and the Chandler Center for the Arts’ massive "Spirit of Christmas" gala eschew storylines for melody lines and unabashed, concentrated holiday glee.

"People want to be put into the holiday spirit and get a chance to kick back and share a moment with their families," Fountain Hills Youth Theatre artistic director Ross Collins says. "They want to come in and say, ‘Entertain me. I’ve had enough of entertaining everyone else.’ "

But theater companies aren’t just giving the gift of temporary distraction from houseguests and crowded malls and the more hectic side of ho-ho-ho. They realize December is when people’s spending muscles are at their most active, and the theater companies want a piece of that Christmastime cha-ching.

Getting holiday audiences is easy, the companies say, allowing them to back off their advertising and promotional efforts and ride December’s gravy train into the black.

Most theater companies say they expected their holiday shows to bolster their seasons’ bottom lines — Will Prather at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre says his company’s large Mesa playhouse will do 25 percent of its annual sales, or about $1 million, in November and December, largely during the run of its "Sounds of Christmas" musical revue — while others, like Tempe’s Childsplay, which enters into its 17th year performing "The Velveteen Rabbit" on Saturday at Scottsdale Center for the Arts, see their holiday shows as a way to draw in new audiences to other seasonal fare.

Meanwhile, groups like Artists’ Theatre Project and Alternative Theatre Company want to subvert the cheerier side of Christmas with alternative shows, hoping to grab more jaded theatergoers for whom another holiday of the same-old same-old just won’t do. Artists’ Theatre Project is staging best-selling comic writer David Sedaris’ "The Santaland Diaries" along with other Sedaris stories at Scottsdale’s TinselTown Tavern, while Alternative Theatre Company’s "A Queer Carol" casts Ebenezer Scrooge as an interior decorator whose life partner, Jake Marley, has died of AIDS but returns to teach Scrooge a lesson in compassion so that he will grant medical coverage for employee Bob Cratchit and his ailing boyfriend, Tiny Tim.

"Dickens’ message," says "A Queer Carol" director Joe Marshall, "is still there — love, charity, hope. But it has a little gay twist to it."

(As always, Phoenix’s Arizona Jewish Theatre is offering an alternative at Christmastime: This time it’s a repertory of the comedies "Beau Jest" and "Jest a Second" by James Sherman. A fund-raising event on Christmas Day will offer a production of "Beau Jest," a silent auction and — in keeping with the longtime joke — kosher Chinese hors d’oeuvres.)

It may be a Rockettes-free winter wonderland for the Valley’s theater companies this December, but ASU Public Events executive director Colleen Jennings-Roggensack says she’ll likely bring the "Radio City Christmas Spectacular" back soon. And even Actors Theatre’s Wiener says he’s not so sure the Valley’s theaters won’t feel some Christmas impact from Gammage.

Tickets for Gammage’s January show of "The Lion King" are still on sale — and, Jennings-Roggensack is quick to add, they make great gifts.

"Maybe ‘The Lion King’ in January," Wiener says, "will be as good as the Rockettes in December."

So far, Valley theater companies are reporting healthy presale figures for their shows. But their fingers are crossed.

Says Childsplay’s Steve Martin, "We don’t start jumping up and down until the week after opening. Then we’ll know how we’re doing."


Musicals and revues

"A Broadway Christmas"

Copperstate Dinner Theater

Now playing, through Dec. 31 at Phoenix Greyhound Park, Phoenix

(602) 279-3129

Director/actor Peter Hill culls well-known and obscure yuletide songs for a

living room revue of Broadway favorites. "Turkey Lurkey Time," anyone?

$32.95, includes meal.

"A Christmas Carol"

Actors Theatre

Dec. 11-24 at the Herberger Theater Center, Phoenix

(602) 252-8497

Musical version plays up the sillier side of Dickens' tale in a show that's

heavy on special effects, lighting and laughs. $39.50-$43.50

"A Dickens of a Feast"

Theatre Eclectic

Opens Saturday, through Dec. 19 at the Kelton Performing Arts Center,


(602) 978-2211

Original interactive musical spends time with a young Ebenezer Scrooge and a

cast of 40 at the holiday party of Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig. Call for ticket


A-MUZ Holiday Spectacular

JoriLee Productions

Dec. 9 at Monti's La Casa Vieja, Tempe

(480) 446-0476

Musical revue of songs from '30s and '40s and Christmas favorites is set in

a radio station with one depressed deejay, Mick, who needs cheering during

the holidays. $35, includes meal.

"A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail"

Valley Youth Theatre

Opens Friday, through Dec. 23 at Valley Youth Theatre, Phoenix

(602) 253-8188

Adorable holiday-themed musical puts VYT children in animal costumes for

silly, family-friendly musical based on popular characters. $15.

"Babes in Toyland"

Greasepaint Scottsdale Youtheatre

Opens Friday, through Dec. 19 at Stagebrush Theatre, Scottsdale

(480) 990-7405

Classic holiday adventure operetta in Toyland gets a youth theater staging.

$15, $12 for children and students.

"The Elves and the Shoemaker"

Great Arizona Puppet Theater

Opens Wednesday, through Dec. 24 at Great Arizona Puppet Theater, Phoenix

(602) 262-2050

An overworked shoemaker gets a holiday gift in the form of helper elves in

this fairy tale classic. $8, $6 for children.

iTheatre's Christmas Cabaret

iTheatre Collaborative

Dec. 10-19 at Herberger Theater Center, Phoenix

(602) 347-1071

Cabaret directed by Jeff Kennedy brings several of the Valley's top talents

to the stage to celebrate the season with old and new holiday songs. $15.

"Pau$e for the Clau$e"

Fountain Hills Youth Theater

Opens Friday, through Dec. 19 at Fountain Hills Community Theater

(480) 837-9661

Ross Collins directs his own futuristic comedy tale in which Christmas has

been overtaken by consumerism and holiday advertising starts in July. $10,

$8 for children.

"The Santaland Diaries"/"Season's Greetings"

Artists' Theatre Project

Opens Friday, through Dec. 12 at TinselTown Tavern, Scottsdale

(602) 435-9915

Bestselling comedy writer David Sedaris' beloved holiday stories - including

"Santaland Diaries," made popular on National Public Radio - get a localized

staging with upstart theater group. Call for ticket price.

"Sounds of Christmas"

Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

Now playing, through Dec. 25 at Broadway Palm, Mesa

(480) 325-6700

Song-and-dance-packed revue shimmies across time for all-encompassing, funny

collection of scenes and tunes. $39-$50, most tickets include buffet.

"Spirit of Christmas"

Christian Dance Company

Dec. 11-18 at Chandler Center for the Arts

(480) 820-0795

Tempe Dance Academy brings 100 dancers, singers and guest performers for

lavish revue of song and dance, plus classic Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.



"A Queer Carol"

Alternative Theatre Company

Opens Thursday, through Dec. 19 at The Space Theatre, Phoenix

(602) 279-1409

Scrooge is an interior designer, Jacob Marley has died of AIDS and Bob

Cratchit needs medical insurance for his lover, Tiny Tim, in Joe Godfrey's

comic adaptation of "A Christmas Carol." $15.

"A Christmas Carol"

Hale Centre Theatre

Opens Thursday, through Dec. 23 at Hale Centre Theatre, Gilbert

(480) 497-1181

Scrooge learns his lesson in a traditional, critically applauded (called

"Best Christmas Production " last year by the Tribune) community production

in the round. $17-$21.

"Beau Jest"/"Jest a Second"

Arizona Jewish Theatre Company

Opens Dec. 18, through Jan. 9 at Playhouse on the Park, Phoenix

(602) 264-0402

Repertory of comedies by James Sherman offers kosher alternative for

Christmas productions. Call for ticket prices.

"The Humbugs"

Creative Youth Theatre

Opens Thursday, through Dec. 18 at North Pointe Preparatory, Phoenix

(602) 266-0212

New theater company presents original play about a modern family that's a

little bit "Grinch"-y and a little bit "The Simpsons." $10.

"One Christmas Carol"

ASU West

Dec. 10-12 at ASU West's Second Stage West, Phoenix

(602) 543-2787

Douglas H. Baker handles every character in Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" in

riveting solo performance. $15, $10 for seniors, $6 for students.

"The Quiltmaker's Gift"

Cookie Company

Dec. 10-19 at Phoenix Theatre

(602) 254-2151

Family musical based on best-selling book finds a greedy king who is

transformed by a wise quiltmaker. $15-$17.

"The Velveteen Rabbit"


Opens Sat., through Dec. 19 at Scottsdale Center for the Arts

(480) 994-2787

Childsplay's beloved production of a young boy and his stuffed rabbit toy

comes to life with puppets and consistently reliable performances. $20, $16

for students and seniors.

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