The new theater season kicks into high gear in the West Valley with plenty of thought-provoking plays, original works and big mainstream musicals.

Many of the professional, community and youth theaters also will boast at least one Arizona premiere for the upcoming year.

“We just want to continue having entertaining and inspiring shows for every one of all ages,” said Robyn Allen, Theater Works artistic director.

Cassandra Klaphake, Arizona Broadway Theatre’s managing artistic producer, said they want to be accessible to all generations.

“There is something for the adults and quite a bit of family fare as well,” she said.


With the exception of one production, the professional dinner theater in Peoria took a cinematic approach with the new season. All of the musicals and plays have movie versions.

Klaphake said this year they’re hoping to build a younger audience, along with keeping their regular patrons. And one of those ways includes an Arizona premiere.

ABT will be the first theater in the state to tackle the Broadway adaptation of Disney’s “Tarzan: The Musical.”

“We’re very excited about this show, which will be perfect for the entire family,” Klaphake said. “It’s going to be a spectacle.”

The show features elaborate costumes, sets and a lot of flying for Tarzan. In addition to this musical, other ABT productions will feature major technical aspects, including rain for “Singin’ in the Rain.”

Klaphake said they’ll kick off the season with the most requested musical from their patrons, “A Chorus Line.” But don’t expect the original Michael Bennett choreography seen in most productions.

Look for new dance sequences from ABT choreographer Kurtis Overby.


The Surprise community theater enters its second full season, which the co-founders believe is the most ambitious yet.

“We really wanted to get aggressive and bring shows that had name recognition and be accessible to all ages,” said Richard Vines, co-artistic director.

Vines and Matt McAuley, also a co-artistic director, said they hope the 2011-2012 season not only generates new audience members but actors as well.

Last season, the co-founders directed all of the shows, but this season will include some new directors.

McAuley and Vines said a play-selection committee met to help determine the season, which kicks off with the comedy “Noises Off.”

“It’s one of my favorite shows and shouldn’t be too far out there; it’s one of the funniest written in the last 15 years,” said Vines, who directs the show.

The theater company performs at Valley Vista High School Performing Arts Center, in conjunction with Dysart Education, on the main stage. But they’ll also have a show in a more intimate setting in a lecture hall set up for performances.

The artistic directors said they’re particularly exited about “Cheaper by the Dozen,” which they hope to have many young actors audition for and plenty families in the audience.

“The show is a sweet story about family, and many of the younger people probably remember the Steve Martin movies,” McAuley said.


The Glendale youth troupe will be reviving two productions and bringing a premiere of a school edition of a hit Broadway show.

Kenny Grossman, artistic director of Spotlight, said they chose to re-stage “Annie Jr.” and “Godspell Jr.” now that they have a permanent theater. For years, the theater had a number of performances at different venues, including the West Valley Art Museum.

“There is so much more than that we can do now with our own space that we’re looking forward to fresh new looks of these shows,” Grossman said.

But Spotlight’s biggest challenge this season will be Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd: School Edition.”

Even though it’s a school edition with shortened songs and edited dialogue, Grossman said the story remains intact, but it’s more than about the violence.

“Sweeney Todd is about a tortured soul who has a love for his lost family and not just about slitting throats, but the violence does help tell the story,” he said.


The youth theater is in its third season, and artistic director Jim Gradillas said the troupe is primarily known for its original productions.

But this year, more well-known musicals have been added to the mix, after the successful run of “Les Miserables: School Edition” last season.

This includes the Arizona premiere of “Happy Days: The Musical.”

“We were looking at ‘Grease,’ when this was suggested to us and we read it,” he said. “Everyone is familiar with the TV show.”

There are still several original plays and musicals that will be produced on the CSYT stage.

Gradillas said he’s most excited about his penned play “The Color of Me,” which will tackle prejudice.

“This show is about more than just the color of your skin, but includes weight, height and even whether you’re smart,” he said.


The community theater is heading into its 26th season at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts.

Allen, Theater Works’ artistic director, said the season has something for everyone in the youth, adult and Puppet Works programs.

“It’s important that we inspire audiences of all ages,” Allen said.

Allen said Theater Works has a diverse lineup and can’t wait to kick off the season next week with the Shakespeare classic “Romeo & Juliet.”

“There hasn’t been Shakespeare at local West Valley theaters in a long time, and we’re glad to bring it back,” she said.

In addition, Theater Works will premiere the Arizona debut of the Holocaust drama “All Through the Night” in the McMillan Black Box. The play is based on real interviews with German women as they deal with marriage, work, religion and motherhood.

“I researched this show and from the moment I read it, I was riveted,” she said. “It has such a powerful message.”

During the youth productions, Allen said they plan to provide study guides to teachers and students after the performances.

“It’s important that students really get down to the roots of these stories,” she said.

Mitchell Vantrease may be reached at 623-876-2526 or

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