By The Genre, 2015-2016
By Richard Schultz, October 2015 Issue
In our daily lives, smartphones and social media reign king. Yet, in this midst of our technology-driven society, live performances are more sacred than ever before.
While production styles and genres vary, the dynamic and immediate communication between a performer and audience is a guarantee. And divergent themes strike up a diverse array of palpable emotional responses for audiences.
So, whether you’re looking for a harmonious blend of music and lyrics, craving a hearty laugh or wanting to be moved by the searing reality of drama, the upcoming theater season offers strong contenders in each of the following genres.
Company, ASU Lyric Opera Theatre
Sept. 25-Oct. 4
Stephen Sondheim’s game-changing musical is a sophisticated and honest look at modern, adult relationships. From musical theater’s most renowned composer, Company is largely regarded as a trailblazer of the dark-comedy, modern-musical genre and is the winner of seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score, Best Lyrics and Best Book. On the night of his 35th birthday, confirmed bachelor Robert contemplates his unmarried state. Over the course of a series of dinners, drinks and even a wedding, his married friends explain the pros and cons of taking on a spouse. And the habitually single lead character is forced to question his adamant retention of bachelorhood during a hilarious array of interactions.
Snapshots: A Musical Scrapbook, Arizona Theatre Company
Tucson: Nov. 28-Dec. 19 | Phoenix: Dec. 30-Jan. 17
This new romantic musical comedy blends some of the best-loved songs from composer Stephen Schwartz’s Broadway shows (Wicked and Godspell) with some of his lesser-known gems. Meet Sue and Dan, a couple who have drifted apart after 20 years of marriage. Together, they discover a box of photographs that leads them to relive the memories of their past selves. Snapshots re-imagines favorites from Stephen Schwartz’s vast catalogue in new and exciting ways in a story in which every couple will see themselves.
Passing Strange, iTheatre Collaborative
In this daring musical, that takes you on a journey across boundaries of place, identity and theatrical convention, Stew brings us the story of a young bohemian who charts a course for “the real” through sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Winner of the 2008 Tony Award for Best Book, this funny and moving coming-of-age tale offers a vivid look at a middle-class Los Angeles teenager who grows up to be a singer-songwriter. His route takes him from the church choir to a punk band and from sexual liberation in Amsterdam to an artistic straitjacket in a Berlin arts commune — a hell from which he emerges with an epiphany. Loaded with soulful lyrics and overflowing with passion, this show takes audiences on a quest for personal discovery and artistic authenticity.
City of Angels, Theater Works
Feb. 19-March 6
This clever and multi-Tony award-winning musical is well overdue for a revival. It’s actually two shows in one, with two interwoven plots – one dealing with the writing of a screenplay and the other, the enactment of that screenplay. Set in glamorous and seductive 1940s Hollywood – the world of film studios and flimsy negligees – the show chronicles the misadventures of Stine, a young novelist, attempting a screenplay for movie producer/director, Buddy Fidler. Interestingly, the show boasts two musical scores: one provides the cast with numbers to help reveal certain emotions or to celebrate particular moments in the way that only music can and the “other” score was written to emulate a period movie soundtrack. It’s entirely appropriate, then, that the final curtain comes down on this sidesplitting musical comedy with two happy endings.
Rock of Ages, Arizona Broadway Theatre
May 27-June 19
It’s the tail end of the big, bad 1980s in Hollywood, and the party has been raging hard. Aqua Net, Lycra, lace and liquor flow freely at one of the Sunset Strips last legendary venues, a place where sex machine Stacee Jaxx takes the stage and scantily clad groupies line up to turn their fantasies into reality. Amidst the madness, aspiring rock star Drew longs to take the stage as the next big thing and longs for small-town girl Sherri, fresh off the bus from Kansas with stars in her eyes. But the rock and roll fairy-tale is about to end when German developers sweep into town with plans to turn the fabled strip into just another capitalist strip mall. The score features hits by rock bands like Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and more.