Fall performing arts ready to take flight
“Art teaches nothing, except the significance of life.”
— Author Henry Miller
Henry Miller wasn’t overstating the impact of the arts.
A play, a piece of music, a dance can bring endless joy, deep sorrow, full laughs, and profound insights.
And that is what in store for you with the performing arts that are on Tucson stages through December.
There’s no way one can do it all. So we’ve asked fans and experts what their must-sees are. And we weighed in ourselves,
But don’t limit yourself to our suggestions: go to tucson.com/calendar and see what else is happening in the Old Pueblo.
Who could turn down Melissa Etheridge? The Fox Tucson brings her “Yes I Am” 25th anniversary tour here and we cannot wait. (Fox Tucson, Sept. 16.)
Norteño/Conjunto artist Ramon Ayala joins Grupo Control, thanks to Casino del Sol. The concerts are rousing and you haven’t lived until you’ve heard Ayala play the accordion. (AVA, Sept. 21).
Rickie Lee Jones captivated us in the late ‘70s with her unique voice, and over the years she has been fearless as she experiments with her music. The Fox Tucson is bringing her and Anders Osborne, who has an astounding voice, for a night of magic. (Fox Tucson, Nov. 8)
Duo Assad, Brazilian guitarists Sérgio & Odair Assad have been dubbed “the best guitar duo alive” by New York Latin Culture Magazine. We think that may be true. They return to Tucson courtesy of the UA music school’s International Tucson Guitar Festival. (Holsclaw Hall, Nov. 10; festival continues through Nov. 18)
Postmodern Jukebox became Youtube stars with their new arrangements of just about any song. It could be jazzy, blues, standards — PMJ’s reinterpretations always reveal new layers to the songs. The Rialto Theatre treats us to the group. (Rialto, Nov. 21)
Educator and opera singer Ramon Aguirre will have his opera glasses busy this fall.
First up for him will be Arizona Opera’s “Maria de Buenos Aires,” with music by Astor Piazzolla, and a libretto by Horacio Ferrer. The operetta is about a woman who flees the slums of Buenos Aires, and it doesn’t turn out well for her (hey, it’s an opera).
“Legendary composer Astor Piazzolla can be considered one of last century’s musical geniuses,” says Aguirre. “His ‘Maria de Buenos Aires’ is a tango operetta and when you consider the only thing more passionate than opera is perhaps tango, this should be something to behold.” (Temple of Music and Art, Oct. 6-7)
He also plans on catching the UA school of music’s faculty concert with vocalists Yunah Lee, Andrew Stuckey and pianist John Milbauer performing song cycles for voice and piano. “This is technically not opera but will be performed by really fine opera artists,” says Aguirre. “I have not had the pleasure to listen to Ms. Yunah Lee but she has a strong reputation and I understand she has sung all over the world to great acclaim. Andrew Stuckey has a rich, beautiful baritone voice that I could listen to forever. Normally you'd have to travel to a big city and spend a lot of money to hear a recital with singers of this caliber, but we are lucky to have them as faculty here at the UA.” (Holsclaw Hall, Nov. 8)
And then he’ll head to Arizona Opera’s “Charlie Parker’s Yardbird,” with music by Daniel Schnyde and a libretto by Bridgette A. Wimberly. It “combines opera and jazz and is about legendary bebop saxophonist Charlie Yardbird,” says Aguirre. “That should be interesting in itself and I can't help but wonder if it will have bel canto scatting.” (Temple of Music and Art, Nov. 17-18)
We agree with his picks and would add the Túumben Paax "Nueva Música Mexicana" recital presented by University of Arizona Fred Fox School of Music. The acclaimed group consists of sopranos Lucía Olmos and Lorena Barranco, and mezzo-sopranos Carmen Contreras, Marcela Robles, Julietta Beas and Betzabé Juárez. Rodrigo Cadet conducts. (Crowder Hall, Oct. 4)
The Arizona Choir — made up primarily of graduate students from the University of Arizona’s Fred Fox School of Music — will sing about God's many forms with its “American God” concert. Musical themes from the Christian, Buddhist and Muslim faiths will be explored. Miguel Ángel Felipe, the UA’s new director of choral activities, will be leading the choir. (Congregation Anshei Israel, Oct. 21)
We are especially looking forward to this one: Reveille Men’s Chorus joins voices with the UA Symphonic Choir for “Solace and Celebration,” a celebration of Día de los Muertos. They’ll be crooning tunes from a variety of genres, so expect everything from Gregorian chants to Johnny Cash. (Catalina Methodist Church, Nov. 4)
As the holidays approach, the voices become more abundant. Among the don’t-misses: True Concord Voices & Orchestra performing Handel’s Messiah (DesertView Performing Arts Center, Dec. 6; Tanque Verde Lutheran Church, Dec. 7; Community Performing Arts Center, Dec. 8, and St. Francis in the Foothills United Methodist Church, Dec. 9); Arizona Repertory Singers’ “Carol of Triumphant Joy!” concerts (Christ the King Episcopal Church, Dec. 7; Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Dec. 9; St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Dec. 14, and Christ Church United Methodist, Dec. 16), and, of course the annual “Patronato Christmas at San Xavier” concert. The fundraiser for the mission joins the Sons of Orpheus and the Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus — and the Tucson Girls Chorus for the Dec. 10 concert — at the church for a series of performances that have come to define the season in the Old Pueblo. Patronato San Xavier, a group dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the church, sponsors the event. (Mission San Xavier del Bac, Dec. 10-13)
Yvonne Ervin, the artistic director of the Tucson Jazz Festival is pumped to see the Cory Weeds Quartet, featuring David Hazeltine, a presentation of Pete Swan Productions. “I first saw David with vocalist Marlena Shaw at the Blue Note in New York City 25 years ago,” says Ervin. “David swings in any genre and his command of piano technique is exceeded only by his harmonic invention.” (Brother John’s Beer, Bourbon & BBQ, Sept. 14)
She’s also looking forward to Swedish jazz singer/musician Gunhild Carling at her Mister Bing’s supper club concert.
“I love Mr. Bings’ shows,” she says. “With fine dining, dancers and close-up magic, it’s like being at the Rainbow Room in the 1950s. I also adore Gunhild — while some purists write off her show as just a schtick, I think she’s a great entertainer and a fine musician on all of her instruments — from bagpipe to trombone to harp.” (Skyline Country Club, Sept. 30)
Jazz musician Brice Winston will be sharing the stage with Becca Stevens, who will be performing at the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance’s Jazz Legends Live concert. And he can’t wait to hear her. “This is sure to be a world-class performance with one of the most sought after vocalists on the jazz scene today,” he says. There are so many other greats in that event, too, including Jeffrey Haskell, Jason Carder, and, yes, Winston on the sax. (Crowder Hall, Sept. 21)
And Winston won’t miss the Jazz at Lincoln Center concert with Wynton Marsalis, brought here by UA Presents. “This band is a collection of some of the finest musicians on the international jazz scene, and led by one of the finest trumpet players the world has ever known,” he says. (Centennial Hall, Oct. 5)
A few days after that, you’ll find Winston at the Joe Saylor concert, with Phil Kuehn and UA faculty artist Angelo Versace, presented by the UA Fred Fox School of Music. Saylor has gained fame as the always-smiling drummer on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. “In addition to his near-celebrity status, Joe Saylor is an impeccable drummer,” says Winston. “Don't miss this.” (Crowder Hall, Oct. 8)
We agree with all those jazz picks, and would add the Amos Hoffman and Noam Lemish Quartet, whose music is a blend of jazz and Jewish folk. They are coming here courtesy of the Tucson Jewish Community Center. (Tucson JCC, Oct. 7)
Educator and performer Jose “Chach” Snook has a weakness for musicals, so high on his list is Broadway in Tucson’s “Waitress,” based on the 2007 movie of the same name. It about a waitress in a diner who makes wonderful desserts and is married to a lout. When she discovers she’s pregnant, she flees him and the town. “It has music written by the multi-talented Sara Bareilles,” says Snook. “I don’t think there is a song of hers I don’t like. Her melodies are catchy and lyrics clever, so I would be interested to see how she makes this story come alive.” (Centennial Hall, Dec. 4-9)
“On Your Feet” is a songbook musical — not always a favorite — but it’s Gloria Estefan’s songbook, which is fun and exuberant. Broadway in Tucson is bringing it in. (Centennial Hall, Nov. 13-18) Another songbook musical comes to us courtesy of Arizona Onstage Productions: “Mamma Mia,” built around the music of ABBA. We’ve seen it millions of times, but this company always makes things seem fresh. (Berger Performing Arts Center, Nov. 24-Dec. 2)
And while we’re talking musicals, we can not wait for Arizona Theatre Company’s production of “The Music Man.” The play about a flimflan man who tries to hoodwink a whole town into buying instruments for the boy band he promises to start is funny and romantic and has wonderful music by Meredith Willson. And an extra incentive to go: the role of the lisping Winthrop will be played by 8-year-old Tucsonan Nathaniel Wiley. The Manzanita Elementary School fourth-grader first got the acting bug in classes at Live Theatre Workshop, where he still performs. Full disclosure: He is the son of the Star’s photo editor, Rick Wiley. (Temple of Music and Art, Dec. 1-30)
Some talented Tucson playwrights will have full productions of plays that we are looking forward to: Borderlands Theater’s “Sanctuary” about the Sanctuary Movement founded in Tucson in the early 1980s, is written by Milta Ortiz (Southside Presbyterian Church, through Sept. 23); Monica Bauer’s “The Real Machiavelli,” which is described as “One part sex farce, one part Italian-style commedia, and one part commentary on politics,” intrigues us (Roadrunner Theatre, Oct. 19-Nov. 11); and Elaine Romero’s “Like Heaven.” Here’s what the Arizona Repertory Theatre says about the comedy: “April dreams of singing the blues, but life and love are in the way. Her little sister can’t let her go and her friend Trudy worries about her eternal soul. Enter a mysterious stranger who unwittingly provides a path to escape.” (Tornabene Theatre, Sept. 16-Oct. 7)
The Tucson Labyrinth Projects stages “Dogs of Rwanda,” about a man’s recollection of the genocide he witnessed as a teen-aged missionary in Uganda. It teams up director Barclay Goldsmith with the talented Christopher Younggren as the lone actor in the play by Sean Christopher Lewis. (St. Francis in the Foothills United Methodist Church, Sept. 27-Oct. 14)
The Scoundrel and Scamp Theatre is staging Sarah Ruhl’s “Eurydice,” which uses letters lost between Hell and Earth to tell the love story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Anytime you can see a Ruhl play, grab it. And this company is impressive. (Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre, Oct.11-28)
Jaclyn Backhaus’ “Men on Boats” sounds just too interesting. It’s a retelling of John Wesley Powell’s 1869 expedition into the Grand Canyon. But there is not a man on the boat — they are all women, which turns the macho behavior inherent in explorers in the 1800s into a keen satire. Something Something Theatre Company is staging the play. (Temple of Music and Art, Oct. 12-28)
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” will be staged by The Rogue Theatre. The adaptation of Mark Haddon's bestselling book of the same name tells the story of an autistic teen who sets out to solve the mystery surrounding the death of a neighbor’s dog. Simon Stephens adapted the book for the play, which racked up awards in the states and London. (The Rogue Theatre, Nov. 1-18)
Actress/director Holly Griffith calls herself “an Irish theater enthusiast,” so she’s got the University of Arizona’s Arizona Repertory Theatre’s production of Martin McDonagh’s dark comedy, “The Cripple of Inishman,” on her to-go list. “That wry Irish wit is going to be a fantastic challenge for the talent at the university,” she says. (Tornabene Theatre, Nov. 4-Dec. 2)
The Tony nominated “Good People” will get a staging by Winding Road Theatre Company. The dark comedy by David Lindsay-Abaire takes place in an inner-city Boston neighborhood where a woman who has lost her job at the Dollar Store tries to think of a way to survive. She’s hoping an old beau who escaped the impoverished neighborhood could be her ticket out. (Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre, Nov. 1-18)
Students at Pima Community College take on Moliere’s delicious comedy, the once-banned “Tartuffe” — it seems religious leaders thought it was an attack the the church. The 1664 play has held up well — it’s considered one of the classics of theater. It’s about Orgon, a wealthy man who deeply admires the poor — and conniving — Tartuffe. So Orgon brings him home with the thought of arranging a marriage to his daughter. That does not go down well. (Pima Community College Center for the Arts, Nov. 8-18)
Buckle your seatbelts: This one ought to be a hoot. Jessica Sherr brings her one-woman show “Bette Davis Ain’t For Sissies” to Invisible Theatre. She takes on the persona of the great actress on the night before the 1939 Academy Awards. (Invisible Theatre, Nov. 16-17)
We were pretty surprised how much we enjoyed “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” last season at Live Theatre Workshop. So we are looking forward to seeing the sequel, “Snoopy!!!” We have high expectations. (Live Theatre Workshop, Nov. 29-Dec. 29)
Tucson actress/director Holly Griffith is practically bursting with anticipation for Artifact Dance Project’s “Positions of Power.” Adapted from Thomas Cullinan’s novel “A Painted Devil,” it’s the story of a Union soldier who finds himself in an all-female boarding house in the Confederate South.
“I can't contain my excitement,” says Griffith. “Claire Hancock is a talented choreographer and storyteller, and her adaptation ... should be full of mystery and drama.” (Stevie Eller Dance Theatre, Sept. 20-23)
Choreographer and actress Kelli Workman also has Artifact high on her list.
And she plans to catch Compania Flamenca Eduardo Guerrero at Fox Tucson. She checked the troupe out on YouTube and was impressed.
“This looks like a high quality, multi-layered production that will saturate the audience in many Spanish dance forms and music,” she says. (Fox Tucson, Oct. 31)
Dancer Elena Lucia Terry is a trained Graham dancer, so naturally she is anxious to see the Martha Graham Dance Company, here thanks to UA Presents. (Centennial Hall, Nov. 8)
And she is looking forward to University of Arizona School of Dance’s Premium Blend performances — student dancers perform works set on them by professional choreographers. “I love seeing flourishing dancers perform work, and see the dedication to their work and their craft,” says Terry. (Stevie Eller Dance Theatre, Nov. 14-18)
Come December, dancers big and small will be leaping across the stage with “Nutcracker” performances. Among them: Ballet Tucson (Tucson Music Hall, Dec. 7-9); Ballet Rincon (Vail Theatre of the Arts, Dec. 14-15); Tucson Regional Ballet’s “A Southwest Nutcracker” (Tucson Music Hall, Dec. 15-16), and a personal favorite, Dancing in the Street’s performance of "The Nutcracker." The children are irresistible, and the dance school’s founders, Soleste Lupu and Joseph Rodgers, are full of heart. (Leo Rich Theatre, Dec. 29-30)
Arts advocate Michael Fenlason has his sights set on University of Arizona music school’s Arizona Symphony Orchestra’s concert. Tucson Symphony Orchestra’s José Luis Gómez will conduct a program that includes selections from Manuel de Falla’s “El Sombrero de Tres Picos."
“There is probably no more perfect match of conductor and composer,” says Fenlason.
“While Luis Gómez loves his Schubert and Mahler at TSO, de Falla’s pieces are consistently and wonderfully delivered by this emerging and, in my view, fantastic young conductor.” (Crowder Hall, Sept. 15).
Fenlason also has plans to see True Concord Voices and Orchestra’s “American Rhythm” concert celebrating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
“The Grammy-winning True Concord will present music by Barber, Copland, and an extraordinary new piece by Jake Runestad, ‘Dreams of the Fallen,’ based on texts of Iraqi War veterans,” says Fenlason. “I’m buying tickets because of this Runestad piece. This is an exceptionally powerful and theatrical evening of music.” (Nov. 3 and 4 at Catalina Foothills High School, Nov. 3 at Valley Presbyterian Church in Green Valley).
Educator, actor and opera singer Juan Jose Aguirre will be catching Tucson Symphony Orchestra’s “Star Wars: A New Hope” concert, which will feature the orchestra performing the John Williams score while the 1977 film plays.
“I am a big ‘Star Wars’ fan and while I've heard this gorgeous music quite a bit in the movies, there's nothing like experiencing it live in an acoustic setting,” says Aguirre, who teaches opera in the Tucson Unified School District's Opening Minds Through the Arts program. “I think people … will gain a deeper appreciation for the genius of John Williams if they can just sit in a concert hall and be absorbed in his music.” (Tucson Music Hall, Nov. 24-25)
Aguirre also has the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra’s Mexican Independence Day concert on his list, an event sponsored by Mexican Consulate in Tucson and the Instituto Cultural Mexicano de Tucson.
He admits to a bias as he was born in Mexico. But he has attended the annual concert in the past and he knows what to expect.
“It always provides great music and variety,” Aguirre says.
“Maestro Linus Lerner has a good ear for talent and he always brings great singers down from Mexico to join his very underrated Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra.” (Sept. 15, Oct. 20-21, Fox Tucson Theatre)
Randy Spalding, a retired teacher and board member of Arizona Friends of Chamber Music, plans to catch pianist Yasmin Alami and TSO violinist Joseph Rousos-Hammond perform a program by Beethoven, Paganini, Ysae and Grieg. “Yasmin is an amazingly gifted pianist who performs throughout the world, and is living in Tucson,” says Spalding. (Sept. 14, Rincon Congregational Church UCC).
He’s also anxious to catch the Beijing Guitar Duo, Meng Su and Yameng Wang, presented by UA Presents. “These young, Chinese, female guitarists challenge my preconceptions of what guitarists look like and where they’re from,” says Spalding. “I like that!” (Nov. 15, Crowder Hall)
Here are our must-see choices:
Cellist Nicholas Mariscal is a Tucson native and one-time standout with the TSO’s Young Composers Project. He’ll team up with the orchestra to perform Khachaturian’s Rhapsody for Cello. Also on that bill: Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 3. It’ll be an exciting evening. (Tucson Music Hall, Nov. 30 and Dec. 2)
Pianist Daniel Hsu is young (21), gifted and coming here thanks to the Friends of Chamber Music. The Mercury News in San Jose, Calif., says Hsu, who was the Bronze Medalist in the 2017 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, is a poet at the piano and has “an expressive edge to his playing that charms, questions, and coaxes.” We figure Hsu is a real up-and-comer. (Leo Rich Theater, Dec.16)
The University of Arizona Fred Fox School of Music’s annual “Music + Festival” 2018 (Oct. 10-16) features a whole slew of enticing programs, including Daniel Asia’s piano music performed by Tannis Gibson, and Dana Muller and Gary Steigerwalt on piano four-hands (Holsclaw Hall, Oct. 12), and chamber music performed by violinists Timothy Kantor and Tomasz Pajak, cellists Theodore Buchholz, Jacob Ginn and Diana Yusupov, and Edward Goodman on the sax (Holsclaw Hall, Oct. 14).
And we’ve heard Christopher Herald play jazz and were quite impressed, so we are looking forward to his concert where he’ll perform a mix of old and new classical works for the sax. (Pima Community College Center for the Arts, Nov. 15)
Arizona Friends of Chamber Music, arizonachambermusic.org, 577-3769
Arizona Onstage Productions, arizonaonstage.org, 882-6574
Arizona Opera, azopera.org, 293-4336
Arizona Repertory Singers, arsingers.org, 490-9057
Arizona Repertory Theatre, theatre.arizona.edu, 621-1162
Arizona Symphony Orchestra, University of Arizona, music.arizona.edu, 621-1162.
Arizona Theatre Company, arizonatheatre.org, 622-2823
Artifact Dance Project, artifactdanceproject.org, 235-7638
Ballet Rincon, ballet-rincon.com, 574-2804
Ballet Tucson, ballettucson.org, 623-3373
Borderlands Theater Company, borderlandstheater.org, 276-9598
Broadway in Tucson, broadwayintucson.com, 1-800-745-3000
Casino del Sol, casinodelsol.com, 855-765-7829
Community Performing Arts Center, performingartscenter.org, 399-1750
Dancing in the Streets, ditsaz.org, 867-8489
DesertView Performing Arts Center, dvpac.net, 825-2818
Fox Tucson, foxtucson.com, 547-3040.
Fred Fox School of Music, music.arizona.edu, 621-1162
Invisible Theatre, invisibletheatre.com, 882-9721
Live Theatre Workshop, livetheatreworkshop.org, 327-424
Mister Bing’s, misterbingspresents.com, 991-5307
Patronato San Xavier, patronatosanxavier.org, 407-6130
Pete Swan Productions, tickets for Cory Weeds are at tucne.ws/coryweeds
Pima Community College, pima.edu/community/the-arts/center-arts, 882-9721
Rialto Theatre, rialtotheatre.com, 740-1000
Roadrunner Theatre Company, roadrunnertheatrecompany.org, 401-3626
The Rogue Theatre, theroguetheatre.org, 551-2053
Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre, scoundrelandscamp.org,
Sons of Orpheus, sonsoforpheus.org, 448-3300
Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance , Saaca.org, 797-3959
Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra, sasomusic.org, 308-6226
St. Francis in the Foothills United Methodist Church, stfrancisumc.org, 299-9063
Tanque Verde Lutheran Church, tvlc.org, 749-1606
True Concord, trueconcord.org, 401-2651
Tucson Jewish Community Center, tucsonjcc.org, 299-3000
Tucson Labyrinth Project, dogsofrwandatucson.org, 329-2910
Tucson Regional Ballet, tucsonregionalballet.org, 886-1222
Tucson Symphony Orchestra, tucsonsymphony.org, 882-8585
UA Presents, uapresents.org, 621-3341
University of Arizona School of Dance, dance.arizona.edu, 621-1162
Winding Road Theatre Ensemble, windingroadtheater.org, 401-3626
AVA Amphitheater, 5655 W. Valencia Road at Casino del Sol
Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway
Brother John's Beer, Bourbon & BBQ, 1801 N. Stone Ave.
Catalina Foothills High School, 4300 E. Sunrise Drive.
Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd. on the University of Arizona campus
Christ Church United Methodist, 655 N. Craycroft Road
Christ the King Episcopal Church, 2800 W. Ina Road
Community Performing Arts Center, 1250 W. Continental Road, Green Valley
Congregation Anshei Israel, 5550 E. Fifth St.
DesertView Performing Arts Center, 39900 Clubhouse Drive, SaddleBrook
Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St.
Grace St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 2331 E. Adams St.
Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave.
Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway
Mission San Xavier del Bac, 1950 San Xavier Road
Pima Community College Center for the Arts, 2202 W. Anklam Road
Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St.
Rincon Congregational Church UCC, 122 N. Craycroft Road
Roadrunner Theatre, 8892 E. Tanque Verde Road
The Rogue Theatre, 300 E. University Blvd. in the Historic Y
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, 3738 N. Old Sabino Canyon Road
St. Francis in the Foothills United Methodist Church, 4625 E. River Road
Scoundrel and Scamp Theatre, 738 N. Fifth Ave. in the Historic Y
Skyline Country Club, 5200 E. St. Andrews Drive
Southside Presbyterian Church, 317 W. 23rd St.
Stevie Eller Dance Theatre, 1737 E. University Blvd.
Tanque Verde Lutheran Church, 8625 E. Tanque Verde Road
Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave.
Tucson Convention Center, including the Leo Rich Theatre and the Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave.
Tucson Jewish Community Center, 3800 E. River Road
University of Arizona Fine Arts Complex, which includes Crowder and Holsclaw halls, the Marroney and Tornabene theaters, at the southeast corner of North Park Avenue and East Speedway.
Vail Theatre of the Arts, 10701 E. Mary Ann Cleveland Way
Valley Presbyterian Church, 2800 S. Camino del Sol, Green Valley