Scorpius Dance Theatre’s ‘Rock’ at Phoenix Theatre is drama in dance

The Valley is so lucky to have something as innovative as Scorpius Dance Theatre to bring unique theater-based dance to the stage. In their new production Rock, at Phoenix Theatre tonight, Friday, June 26, and tomorrow, Saturday, June 27, founder and choreographer Lisa Starry (whom you can learn all about here on Phoenix People) focuses on emotional narratives to drive the production, featuring vignettes on everything from lust and love to mental health.

Scorpius Dance Theatre ROCK Phoenix Theatre1The nearly 20-person cast powered through more than a dozen dance numbers, set to ʾ60s, ʾ70s, and ʾ80s hits such as The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black”, “Across the Universe” by The Beatles, and “Jack and Diane” by John Mellencamp. Solo electric guitarist Chadwick Steinmetz played shredding solo sets, opening the show with Jim Hendrix’s rocking version of the “Star Spangled Banner” and coming back on stage throughout the show to play.

The varieties of dances on display were vast, ranging from the flamenco during The Doors’ “Spanish Caravan” (you can learn about dancer Carlos Montufar here on Phoenix People), to the sexy and sultry moves in the comedic odd-person-out story during Van Halen’s “Pretty Woman”. There were some big company numbers where myriad dancers moved at once, but I love that Starry and her fellow choreographers created dances based on stories, giving audiences plots to follow even though there was no dialogue.

I really appreciated the inclusion of a dance featuring a pair of male dancers, as well as an all-male dance to Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher,” which featured a hot teacher in drag. During Joan Jett’s “Do You Wanna Touch,” all the male dancers deftly moved wearing high heels I would never even be able to walk in. Every dancer throughout the show seemed like they were having an absolute blast on stage, and that enthusiasm was contagious as it reached the audience.

Scorpius Dance Theatre ROCK Phoenix Theatre2

Besides the dancing, the aerial stunts in the show were amazing, including hanging from the ceiling by robe and fabric, and swinging through a hoop. The show also included a couple of really fun and beautifully produced videos, one featuring a dancer and her daughter, and another featuring the whole cast in hair metal garb at a roller rink. There were also some eye-catching costumes in the live show, making for a production that was constantly stimulating.

Every show I’ve seen by Scorpius Dance Theatre has been top-notch, and this one has to be my favorite so far. Tickets are $30 for shows tonight and tomorrow – get them here.

Phoenix Ballet’s ‘Rising’ at Mesa Arts Center awes

Last night, the Phoenix Ballet put on an emotional, innovative, entertaining performance melding traditional and contemporary ballet dance styles in its Rising show at Mesa Arts Center. The performance included five segments by five different choreographers, with music ranging from Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” to a very cute and humorous take on Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee.”

Phoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts CenterPhoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts CenterPhoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts CenterPhoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts CenterThe hour-and-a-half show touched on themes including love and death, with a cast of about a dozen graceful dancers whose technical movements never ceased to amaze. Their second show, today at 2 p.m. at Mesa Arts Center, is inexpensive to attend for the level of talent you’ll see — tickets start at only $20.

Phoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts Center Phoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts Center Phoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts Center Phoenix Ballet at Mesa Arts Center

The nonprofit takes its act on the road next to the Sedona Performing Arts Center on Thursday, May 21, then to Poland for the Lodz International Ballet Festival May 26 and May 27. The troupe has more in store for the Valley, too, and I can’t wait to see what’s next by this group whose talent is reaching worldwide destinations.

Learn more about Phoenix Ballet here, and get tickets to today’s show here.

‘Last Comic Standing’ Live Tour brings Joe Machi amazing-ness

I am not a huge fan of reality shows, but I got sucked in to this season of Last Comic Standing. I’ve always loved stand-up comedy, so in terms of vapidness, this is one of the better reality shows out there, I suppose. Host J.B. Smoove and the cast of mentors, including Wanda Sykes and Jay Leno, were entertaining in addition to the comics. I got to see the top five finalists live for the Last Comic Standing Live Tour last night at Mesa Arts Center.

Lachlan Patterson at 'Last Comic Standing' Live Tour

While each comic on the show decently held their own, there were two stand-outs: the winner, Rod Man, and my absolute favorite, Joe Machi. It’s challenging to be entertained by comedy when you’re watching it through a screen, and you aren’t surrounded by people laughing right beside you, but Joe was hysterical every time he appeared on the show.

Joe Machi at the 'Last Comic Standing' Live Tour

Machi reminds me of a little of the restaurant mascot Big Boy, just much, much paler. He’s totally shy and awkward off stage, but on stage, he tells really shocking jokes. Given the TV show only featured appropriate-for-TV-audiences comedy, that he could get away with some of the material he did was awesome. For example, one of his jokes involves Thomas Jefferson and Barack Obama – you take it from here.

I love Machi’s deadpan sense of humor and am highly anticipating when he comes for a solo show, but I got a taste of his non-PG material at last night’s show. The top five comics from the show – also including Lachlan Patterson, Nikki Carr and Rocky Laporte – each had about a 20-minute set. Seeing the comics live and uncensored was 100 times funnier than watching the TV show, since they didn’t have to hold back at all and could really be themselves.

Rod Man of the 'Last Comic Standing' Live Tour

I was highly impressed with opener Nikki Carr, who did a hysterical bit about male anatomy and really let loose. Her R-rated material made her a standout in the night, and I was really glad I got to see her excel with edgy material.

Rocky, Lachlan and Rod Man were all on par with how they performed on the TV show, but Joe was, of course, my absolute favorite. It was notable of the five, he came out to the most applause, and I was so excited to “woo” and cheer him on – which he thrillingly responded to.

I loved that most of the comics brought mostly new material to their sets, showing off a refreshing new side viewers hadn’t seen before. Going to the live show is definitely worth it for both fans of the show and comedy lovers in general.

Learn more about Joe Machi here.

Scorpius Dance Theatre brings Duran Duran to Phoenix Theatre

Duran Duran music lovers were treated to a band extravaganza this past weekend during Scorpius Dance Theatre‘s Catwalk at Phoenix Theatre. The show featured two Duran Duran-themed acts, first with a slew of dances choreographed by Scorpius founder Lisa Starry (whom you can learn more about on Phoenix People here), then with live music by Duran Duran tribute band Rio.

Rio Duran Duran tribute band

Scorpius has been entertaining Valley dance lovers for 15 years now, and their shows are fun, colorful and full of talent. The troupe of more than 20 members has plenty of adept hot bodies, including aerial specialists who flew around the stage on ropes and hoops to add a cool layer to the show.

Scorpius Dance Theatre at Phoenix Theatre

I am not super-familiar with Duran Duran music, but I really enjoyed the show because the music was upbeat and lent itself to eye-catching moves. There was a sexy bedroom scene, an intense aerial solo, and lots of group numbers that showed off toned glutes under short skirts.

Starry has put on Catwalk several times now, and my only suggestion would be to have added more dancing to the live band aspect, which was awesome to see toward the end.

You’ll definitely want to check out one of Scorpius’ upcoming shows, including their classic stand-out A Vampire Tale (which I’ve always loved seeing.) Find the full Scorpius schedule here.

Scandalesque brings the sexy to The Pressroom

Local burlesque troupe Scandalesque has been going strong for 10 years now, and for good reason. The highly entertaining show, which includes everything from acrobatics and fire twirling, to sexy striptease and song-and-dance, features talented performers who craft carefully choreographed, polished acts for a highly professional performance.

Scandalesque at The Pressroom

I’ve been a fan of the troupe since I first saw them at the now-closed Paper Heart in Phoenix around seven years ago, and when I checked them out at The Pressroom in downtown Phoenix this past weekend, I was thrilled with how their Madonna/Marilyn Monroe-themed show turned out.

Scandalesque at The Press Room

Founders Pyrrha (Christy Zandlo) and Lady Fonatyne (Julianna Curtis) are the anchors of the show, performing many of the songs and getting the crowd pumped up for their supporting cast members. The ladies are both stellar singers with uber-hot bodies, and they draw inspiration from classic burlesque performances to put together their shows. A feisty host kept the action moving, with songs alternating between the two legendary singers.

Scandalesque at The Press Room

Each song included dazzling costumes, and there was always something cool to watch, whether it was feather fans covering up a nearly naked upper-half, or a performer climbing up and flipping around fabric high off the ground. Sure, there was a ton of skin being shown off, but the moves were classy.

Paired with live art, cigarette gals mingling in the crowd, a full bar and a ton of audience participation (including lucky guys who received lap dances), the event was captivating all around.

Find more on Scandalesque here.

Phoenix Improv Festival 13 brings clean comedy to the Herberger stage

Yesterday’s matinee show of the Phoenix Improv Festival 13 at the Herberger Theater in downtown Phoenix proved you don’t have to be dirty to be funny. Three awesome clean troupes took the stage, and their sets were super-impressive and brought some diversity to the otherwise raunchy festival.

First up was Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed from Tucson. The group played games and took lots of suggestions from the audience, and each member was super-strong when it came to devising unique characters. I especially loved the ladies in the group and would check them out if you’re ever down South and looking for something fun to do.

Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed

Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed

Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed

Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed

Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed

Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed

The Torch Theatre troupe Apollo 12 was up next. They’re not normally clean, so I was really happy to see them stretch a bit outside their comfort zone and still put on a great longform show that veered away from what you normally see at The Torch. Their set was really physical and injected a lot of energy into the show.

Apollo 12

Apollo 12

Apollo 12

Apollo 12

Apollo 12

Apollo 12

Apollo 12

Apollo 12

Apollo 12

And, closing out the show with an amazing set, was Jester’Z, a shortform troupe from Scottsdale I’ve had the pleasure of performing with. Their musical chops blew me away! They performed several scenes Broadway-style, and it was some of the best musical improv I’ve ever seen! Definitely see them when you have a chance, since every show they do is consistently great. Learn about founder Jef Rawls here on Phoenix People.

Jesterz

Jesterz

Jesterz

Jesterz

Jesterz

And keep up on news for next year’s Phoenix Improv Festival here.

Phoenix Improv Festival 13 brings national troupes to Herberger Theater

Night two of the Phoenix Improv Festival 13 at the Herberger Theater in downtown Phoenix was one of the funniest nights of improv I saw in a long time. The show was consistently funny, with troupes from all over the country and some veteran performers from Arizona taking the stage.

First up was JaxN Reed, with two of my favorite female improvisers (and two of my former instructors), Stacey Reed Hanlon and Jacque Arend.This duo has been performing together for almost a decade in various troupes, and their chemistry is always unstoppable.

JaxN Reed

JaxN Reed

JaxN Reed

JaxN Reed

JaxN Reed

JaxN Reed

A duo from Los Angeles, Street Lightning, was up next. They had high energy and strong characters in their fast-paced show — the highlight, for me, being a precious scene about hedgehogs.

Street Lightning

Street Lightning

Street Lightning

Street Lightning

Yet another duo took the stage next, Tandem, from Rock Island, Illinois. The lady in the troupe, Leslie Mitchell, used to perform in the Valley, and I can see why they made it to PIF this year. Their characters were unforgettable, and I liked their format of reverting back to old scenes as characterization progressed.

Tandem

Tandem

Tandem

Tandem

Tandem

Another L.A. troupe, featuring the guys from Street Lightning, called Mister Town City went next. They performed the classic format the Harold, going off an Easter-appropriate suggestion of “Jesus.” My favorite scenes involved Jesus himself, and the troupe worked really well together.

Mister Town City

Mister Town City

Mister Town City

Mister Town City Galapagos, one of the Valley’s longest-running improv troupes and the most-traveled, was up next. The troupe is made up of founders of the Phoenix Improv Festival, and they proved why they’re one of the mainstays with their intelligent comedy.

Galapagos

Galapagos

Galapagos

Galapagos

Galapagos

Galapagos

I really liked Michael Keaton, another duo, from Minneapolis, because the characterization was so strong and distinct throughout the scenes. There was a lot of emotion within the characters, and I thought Hannah Wydeven was a standout performer of the night.

Michael Keaton

Michael Keaton

Michael Keaton

Michael Keaton

Finally, closing out the show, was Switch Committee, a current headliner at Improv Olympic in Chicago — very impressive. The guys were the most physical of the night, falling and running off the stage at times and jumping on each other throughout their scenes. It was frenetic and funny and a great way to close out the night.

Switch Committee

Switch Committee

Switch Committee

Switch Committee

Switch Committee

Switch Committee 1

There’s more improv at the festival tonight. Go here for details and tickets.

Phoenix Improv Festival 13 kicks off at Herberger Theater

The Phoenix Improv Festival, now in its 13th year, kicked off last night at the Herberger Theater in downtown Phoenix with troupes from the Valley. Tonight, groups from both Phoenix and around the country perform on the big stage, while tomorrow features an all-ages matinee show and more national and local troupes at night. Find more info here, and check out photos from last night’s show below.

Here’s Unicorn Warpath:

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UnicornWarpath2

UnicornWarpath1

Here’s Dutchman:

Dutchman2

Dutchman1

Here’s EXit 185:

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EXiT1855

EXiT1854

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EXiT1852

EXiT1851

Here’s Salmon Shane:

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SalmonShane6

SalmonShane5

SalmonShane4

SalmonShane3

SalmonShane2

SalmonShane1

Here’s Mail Order Bride:

MailOrderBride4

MailOrderBride3

MailOrderBride2

MailOrderBride1

Here’s Judd:

Judd8

Judd6

Judd5

Judd4

Judd3

Judd2

Judd1

Here’s Robot Destroyers from Planet Earth:

RobotDestroyersfromPlanetEarth5

RobotDestroyersfromPlanetEarth4

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RobotDestroyersfromPlanetEarth1

Here’s Light Rail Pirates:

LightRailPirates2

LightRailPirates1

Here’s The Displacers:

TheDisplacers3

TheDisplacers2

TheDisplacers1