COVID killed public performances last year, forcing everything from Festivus concerts to Shakespeare to shift online. But with curtains rising again across Phoenix, this will not be the winter of our discontent.
This wide-ranging guide covers theater and live entertainment in Greater Phoenix from November through February.
Some venues listed herein require a negative COVID-19 PCR test or proof of vaccination to attend. Check individual websites for safety policies.
Arizona Broadway Theatre Returns
After closing last spring, Arizona Broadway Theatre (azbroadway.org) is back. “We’re so grateful for being open once again for the holidays,” says ABT spokesperson Michele Meyer. “This is the time of year to pause, to reflect on the previous months, and to be grateful. Thanks to the support of our patrons and our community, the long intermission of 2020 is over [and] the stage is set for our spectacular productions.”
5 Shows to Catch at ABT:
-> Laugh into your eggnog at Elf: The Musical, November 26-December 30.
-> Watch an American Idol alum in So This Is Christmas, December 20.
-> Get mired in mystery with Trouble at the Tropicana, December 29.
-> Learn about a burlesque legend in Gypsy: A Musical Fable, January 21-February 13, 2022.
-> Boogie to Jerry Lee Lewis’ music with Great Balls of Fire, February 22-March 13, 2022.
Southwest Shakespeare Company: Two for the Road
Southwest Shakespeare Company (swshakespeare.org) visits two Valley venues for a pair of performances this winter: Scrooge! A Holiday Panto, December 10-23 at Stagebrush Theatre in Scottsdale; and The Tempest, February 25-March 19, 2022 at Mesa Arts Center. Give our regards to Caliban!
Phoenix Theatre Rises Again
The Phoenix Theatre Company (phoenixtheatre.com) presents Million Dollar Quartet Christmas (November 17, 2021-January 2, 2022), imagining a seasonal serenade by Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins. Cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show runs through December 5. The new year begins with The Hello Girls (January 5-30, 2022), a musical based on the true story of World War I telephone operators. The musical Singin’ in the Rain closes out the winter bill from February 2-April 3, 2022.
Herberger Holiday Highlights
Opened in 1989 as part of a game-changing Downtown revitalization effort, Herberger Theater Center (herbergertheater.org) offers one of the theater community’s most comfortable venues, and diverse programming slate. This winter, the theater is staging three plays to raise holiday spirits:
-> Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical – November 7-December 24
-> Holly Jolly Christmas – December 6-16
-> My Mother’s Italian, My Father’s Jewish & The Therapy Continues! – December 29, 2021-January 30, 2022
More shows at Herberger (non-holiday edition): An Otherwise Magical Life, January 10-20, 2022; Reverend King & Minister X, January 31-February 20, 2022; The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show, February 5-March 13, 2022.
Ballet Arizona Brings Back The Nutcracker
-> Is it really Christmas without The Nutcracker? Fortunately, that’s a 2020 question. In 2021, the seminal two-act toy story – a yuletide tradition for countless families spanning several generations – is a full go.
“Our dancers are thrilled to once again create lasting memories for all who attend The Nutcracker,” says Leslie Marquez, Ballet Arizona’s director of marketing. “The addition of Tchaikovsky’s glittering score played to perfection by the Phoenix Symphony helps make this magical experience truly unforgettable.”
December 10-24 at Phoenix Symphony Hall. Visit balletaz.org.
Arizona Theatre Company’s Winter Romances
For Valley theater fans, ATC reliably hits that sweet spot between masses-pleasing polish and expansive, innovative artistry. Staging its shows at Herberger Theater Center, ATC resumed live theater in the fall. Its winter show slate comprises two productions, both romances with a dose of sardonic humor.
-> In Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, an imagined sequel to Pride and Prejudice, Mary Bennet is still single. But that could change when a surprise guest arrives at the family Christmas gathering. Runs December 9, 2021-January 2, 2022.
-> A sharp comedy about dating a dentist who might be a serial killer, Women in Jeopardy! tells the story of a sleuthing book club. Runs February 10-27, 2002.
12 Arizona Musicfest Concerts
An extended series of weekend-only music performances, Arizona Musicfest (azmusicfest.org) returns from October 2021 through April 2022. “As our community emerges from the difficulties of the last year, we are honored to entertain audiences with exceptional performances that will uplift and reunite friends, neighbors and artists around our shared love of music,” festival director Allan Naplan says.
All shows take place at Highlands Church in Scottsdale, except where noted.
-> The Christmas Serenad3: Friday, December 23
A Brassy Christmas: Friday, December 10*
-> Chris Mann: Friday, January 7
-> John Lloyd Young: Monday, January 10
-> Bernadette Peters: Friday, January 28
-> Sergio Mendes: Monday, January 31
-> Steve Tyrell: Friday, February 4
-> Kenny G: Saturday, February 19
-> Festival Sinfonia: Sunday, February 20**
-> Sarah Chang & Festival Orchestra: Tuesday, February 22*
-> Festival Orchestra POPS!: Friday, February 25*
-> Beethoven’s 9th: Sunday, February 27*
*at La Casa de Cristo in Scottsdale
**at Pinnacle Presbyterian Church in Scottsdale
The Phoenix Symphony’s Seasonal Offerings
Located in its own, multi-purpose performing arts venue, Symphony Hall, the Valley’s signature classical music entity is the only full-time, professional orchestra in the state of Arizona. After sitting out the entire 2020-2021 season due to COVID-19, artistic director/maestro Tito Muñoz and co. are back with a spirited winter slate.
-> For those in the holiday spirit: Holiday Pops (December 3-5); Handel’s Messiah (December 16-18); New Year’s Eve Celebration (December 31)
-> For classical music lovers: Beethoven and Rachmaninoff (January 14-16); Elgar and Mendelssohn (January 21-23)
-> For pop fusion fans: Hot Latin Nights (January 7-9); Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong and the Queen of Jazz (February 4-5); Music of Frank Sinatra and Beyond (February 18-20)
Arizona Opera: Merry Mariachis and Bullfighters
Founded by opera advocates in Tucson, Arizona Opera (azopera.org) staged its first production – The Barber of Seville, naturally – in 1976 and hasn’t stopped hitting those high Cs since. This winter, the Opera is giving audiences some Latin love.
-> Set in Michoacán, Mexico, during Christmas, El Milagro del Recuerdo (The Miracle of Remembering) tells a tale of familial traditions through mariachi music. Runs December 3-12.
-> A lusty stew of infatuation, gypsy wiles, murder and bullfighting, Arizona Opera’s rendition of Carmen moves the action from 19th-century Spain to the Spanish Civil War. Runs January 28-30.
Go West, Show Fan: The Vista Center for the Arts
Built in 2008, this Surprise-based theater and show promoter is likely the one and only professional Valley show venue run by a school district: Dysart Unified. Educate yourself with this winter Vista highlight reel (thevistaaz.com).
-> Count Basie Orchestra – November 13-14. The legendary jazz pianist and bandleader died in 1984, but his show goes on.
-> Arizona Philharmonic’s We Wish You Christmas – December 18. Yuletide chamber musicianship, featuring the vocal stylings of “three esteemed Arizona sopranos.”
-> Ambrosia – January 22. With five Top 40 singles between 1975-1980, these SoCal rockers were contemporaries of Steely Dan and other jazz-progressive standard-bearers.
Innings Fest Tip Sheet: Four Lower-Bill Bands to Catch
Baseball and music. Nationwide, even worldwide, there’s nothing quite like Innings Fest, returning to Tempe Town Lake this February after a 2021 hiatus. “We are excited to get back in the batter’s box after a year off,” festival director Tim Sweetwood says.
-> Superstar rock bands Foo Fighters and Tame Impala headline the 2022 festival (inningsfestival.com), but the second-tier is gaudy with talent, too. “We love where the lineup landed,” Sweetwood says, singling out White Reaper, Del Water Gap and Briscoe.
Our picks for some undercard acts to catch at Innings:
-> Saturday, February 26: Neo-soul Seattle band The Dip leads a dance revival early in the afternoon, while SoCal pop trio Almost Monday brings irresistible hooks.
-> Sunday, February 27: English singer-songwriter Jade Bird makes modern country-folk music, while local favorite Sydney Sprague (“She’s starting to tour nationally,” Sweetwood notes) crafts angst-ridden indie rock.
Find a full lineup and ticket info at inningsfestival.com.