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Summer Stages: Cool Theatre for Hot Times in the Valley of the Sun

Theater lovers have a sizzling menu of choices for their viewing pleasure this Summer in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area ~ from delightful old chestnuts to spirited and timeless musicals. Here are the picks of the crop:

Theater Works

Disney's Aladdin Jr., on stage from Friday, June 5th to the 7th, 2015 is based on the 1992 popular Disney film. With music adapted by Bryan Louiselle, the play tells the fantastic tale of a homeless boy who becomes a prince!

iTheatre Collaborative

Consistent with its defined goal of producing distinctive, visceral works that provoke and challenge its audiences, iTheatre Collaborative is staging An Almost Holy Picture. Heather McDonald's Pulitzer Prize-nominated play based on Pamela Ward's "The Hairy Little Girl." In a grand team effort, the work, directed by the company's co-founder and Managing Director, Rosemary Close, features Christopher Haines, iTheatre's other co-founder and Artistic Director, in the role of Samuel Gentle, a former minister, now groundskeeper at the Church of the Holy Comforter, who has heard God's call three times in his life. A tragic bus accident and the birth of his daughter, marred by a rare medical condition, lead Samuel on a spiritual journey wherein he wrestles to comprehend God's mystery and his own rage and bewilderment at loss.

The play runs from June 12th thru 27th on the Kax Stage at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix.

Mesa Encore Theatre

Doubt, John Patrick Shanley's riveting drama about a nun's rush to judgment is MET's feature offering on stage at the Black Box on Brown. Sister Aloysius, a Bronx school principal, takes matters into her own hands when she suspects the young Father Flynn of improper relations with one of the male students. The show runs from June 5th through the 21st.

The Bridge Initiative

Mesa Encore Theatre's black box space will also be the venue for the inaugural mounting of the Bridge Initiative's world premiere of Kat Ramsburg's Anatomy of a Hug, directed by Amanda Noel Trombley. (Note: Since its launch in January of this year, the mission of The Bridge Initiative is to promote the work of female theatre artists.)

The play, featuring Allison Sell, explores what happens when a convict receives Compassionate Release from her prison sentence and placed into her daughter Amelia's care. A lifetime of living vicariously through her beloved TV characters doesn't prepare Amelia for the actual drama of her mother's return or the advances of a charming co-worker. The ticking clock of her mother's illness means Amelia must decide if her fictional life is safer than the possibility of her own story.

Performances are scheduled from June 19th through June 2:30PM. Tickets can be purchased at

The remainder of the Bridge Initiative's schedule includes the following productions:

Snippets, on the evening of June 8th, selections from the plays and musicals of five local writers.

Heidi Armbruster's Dairyland, directed by Stefanie Sertich, follows a young woman from Wisconsin who loses herself in the big city and only rediscovers her identity when she returns home to the farm. The play will be presented on June 13th.

On June 21st, a staged reading of Carolyn Nur Wistrand's Magdalena's Crossing will be presented. Described as a "modern sorrow song of identity and immigration," the play will be directed by Joya Scott.

Hale Centre Theatre

Summer at the Hale features two popular hits.

The Wizard of Oz. Albeit the Valley has been saturated with presentations of this classic in the wake of its 75th Anniversary, a production by Hale Centre Theatre is guaranteed not only to please but to excel. Showcasing the memorable music and lyrics of Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg and the journey of Dorothy, Toto, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion.

The show runs from May 21 through July 3rd.

Tarzan, the spectacular musical, based on the Disney film, tells the story of the boy raised by apes who meets and falls in love with Jane. When her entourage plans to kill the apes, his loyalties are tested. With book by David Henry Hwang and music and lyrics by Phil Collins, the show is sure to be a crowd pleaser. The show will run from July 9th through August 22nd.

Valley Youth Theatre

VYT, renowned not only for the consistent quality of its productions but also for its notable alumni (Emma Stone, Max Crumm, Chelsea Kane, and Jordin Sparks ~ just to mention a few), continues its ambitious undertakings by venturing Into the Woods. The show opens at the Herberger Theater Center on June 12th and runs through June 28th.

Desert Stages Theatre

Desert Stages Theatre also has two summer offerings.

Rumors, Neil Simon's zany comedy about a group of guests who arrive at a formal dinner party only to find that all is amiss is DST's selection for summer entertainment. There are no servants, the hostess is missing, and the host has shot himself. The story's arc is a trail of missteps and, yes, rumors. The show runs from June 5th through July 26th at DST's Actor's Café.

From July 10th through August 9th, DST's Mainstage Production will be Hair, the rock musical of the '60's that became the timeless representation of hippiedom.

Arizona Broadway Theatre

Dinner theatre is at its best, with consistently high quality productions in an engaging atmosphere, at Arizona Broadway Theatre. Two shows fill the bill for summertime entertainment.

Legally Blonde, which runs from July 10th through August 9th, is the popular story of Delta Nu sorority president Elle Woods as she crosses the country on a mission to find love at Harvard Law School.

Lucky Stiff follows from August 28th through September 20th. The work of Tony Award winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty is the story of a guy named Harry who has to travel to Monte Carlo with his recently murdered and embalmed uncle to claim his inheritance.

Scottsdale Musical Theater Company

As Summer nears its end, Scottsdale Musical Theater Company will be sizzling with its staging of the classic musical Gypsy. It's the right time to remember that there's no business like show business!

The show will run from August 20th through the 23rd at the Tempe Center for the Arts.


The transition from Summer to Fall is marked by ASU/Gammage's presentation of Wicked.

Dubbed by Variety as "a cultural phenomenon," the show continues to travel the country and break box office records. Its run at the Gammage Auditorium extends from August 26th through October 4th.

Photo credit to Arizona Broadway Theatre

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From This Author Herbert Paine