Fans of Broadway can see their favorite plays and musicals at Phoenix’s Valley Youth Theatre as it launches its 23rd season in August. The following plays tell a variety of stories about aspiring superstars who seek television integration, a pig and a spider who learn about the meaning of life, an orphaned girl who teaches a billionaire how to love other things besides money, and even bring back a beloved Spanish heroine.

Valley Youth Theatre (VYT) will be kicking off its 23rd season with “Hairspray,” Aug. 12-28. “Hairspray” tells the story of the plump yet extroverted Tracy Turnblad, who transforms into an overnight superstar at the Corny Collins show. Once she gains her popularity, however, Turnblad tries to win the heart of heartthrob Link Larkin, integrate the TV network, and earn the title as 1962 Baltimore Teen Queen. Audiences can also see Turnblad and her friends perform hits such as “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” “Good Morning Baltimore” and “Welcome the to Sixties,” as well.

From Oct. 7 to 23, VYT will bring back the famous Latina heroine - Nickelodeon’s Dora - in “Dora the Explorer, Live!: Dora’s Pirate Adventure.” In this play, Dora joins with her best friend Boots the Monkey and her cousin, Diego, as they go on an adventure to find Treasure Island. With the help of the audience, they will journey over Music Mountain, the Singing Bridge and encounter the Pirate Piggies. This show also includes unforgettable musical numbers and beloved characters.

VYT will kick off the holiday season with “A Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tail,” Dec. 2-23. This is VYT’s Christmas tradition, and has been shown annually for 16 seasons. This play tells the story of Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and their friends as they learn and celebrate the values of friendship, caring and sharing.

Kicking off 2012, VYT will be showing “Charlotte’s Web,” Feb. 3-19. Follow the story of Wilbur, the new pig on the Arabie farm who can only be seen by the family’s youngest daughter, Fern. Wilbur then meets a special spider named Charlotte, who tries to help Wilbur escape his dangerous fate. This play exhibits the values of hardship, friendship and passing on into time as “Charlotte’s Web” reminds audiences to treasure the wonder and miracles that are contained in the simplest of things.

Continuing into 2012, from April 6 to 22, “Freckleface Strawberry: The Musical” will make its Arizona debut. This play is based on a popular children’s book by actress Julianne Moore and stars VYT alumna and former Ahwatukee Foothills resident Kimiiko Glenn.

This off-Broadway play tells the story of 7-year-old Strawberry, who hates her freckles and gets teased and is a outcast to her classmates because of them. Strawberry then tries to find a way to remove her freckles by scrubbing them with soap and covering them with a ski mask so that she can fit in.

However, Strawberry finds out that everyone is unique and different, and she discovers that she has to accept who she is, including the freckles.

Going into next summer, “The Wiz” will play June 8-24 at the Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe St., in a enjoyable R&B twist to L. Frank Baum’s tale of “The Wizard of Oz.” This ’70s musical stars Dorothy and her friends Scarecrow, Tinman and Lion as they adventure down the Yellow Brick Road in order to find a brain, heart, courage and a home. The musical features numbers such as “He’s the Wiz,” “No Bad News” and “Ease On Down The Road.”

Valley Youth Theatre is located at 525 N. First St. in downtown Phoenix. For more information, call (602) 253-8188 or visit

• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Anna Carlos is a senior at Xavier College Preparatory and plans to attend the University of California, Berkeley this year. She is interning this semester at the Ahwatukee Foothills News.

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