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.

Courtney Cotter King brings sunshine and happiness to Rogue Bar

Courtney Cotter King is a breath of fresh air in the Valley music scene. The cutie pie is a talented singer/pianist with powerhouse vocals and melodies that will leave you dancing and smiling.

Courtney Cotter King at Rogue Bar

I checked her out at Rogue Bar this week, a dive bar that provided a cool contrasting background to her poppy tunes. She played tracks off her current album, Rooftops, deftly tinkling the keys with a full backing band. I would definitely say Cotter King is one artist to watch out for in the Arizona music scene — learn more about her here, and watch some videos from the show below.

Cold Beer & Cheeseburgers a stellar Old Town Scottsdale sports bar

Sports bars with great service are bank in my book. Often, I visit ones where the rowdy action that’s happening on TV and throughout the bar gives servers an excuse to neglect your dining needs or act hurried in their interactions, but I’m pleased to say Cold Beer & Cheeseburgers in Old Town Scottsdale is a great exception to this rule.

Cold Beer & Cheeseburgers in Old Town Scottsdale

I went there recently to watch the Indiana Pacers beat the Miami Heat (woo!) and had a great time chilling out on the mister-filled patio. We had prime seating in front of a large flat-screen television and a cool view of Old Town Scottsdale. Now I know why the patio is constantly packed whenever I drive by – the place has great food, a killer happy hour, 25 TVs and service with a smile.

One of the things that’s greatest about Cold Beer & Cheeseburgers is that their happy hour lasts until 7 p.m., and starts at 3 p.m. It features great specials, including $3 domestic pints and $5 appetizers.

As the restaurant name implies, the beer list is huge, but my favorite part about the meal was the delicious grilled cheese sandwich and side salad. The sandwich comes with fries or chips for $8, and with my salad, it was only $10. This was great bar food, a huge portion, with three types of cheeses and tomato. I added avocado, which is my favorite way to have it. I was impressed with the fresh salad, and left taking half my sandwich home.

Cold Beer & Cheeseburgers in Old Town Scottsdale

My companion’s Turkey Burger ($12) also looked generous, and he said it tasted graet. I stole some of his sweet potato tots (an extra $2), and they were worth the splurge – perfectly crispy and, again, a massive portion that had him taking half the meal home.

Cold Beer & Cheeseburgers in Old Town Scottsdale

Throughout the night, I was pleasantly surprised any server that passed by our table checked on us. Servers should work as a team, helping out each other’s tables with whatever they need, and that’s the philosophy here – really impressive.

The atmosphere was fun, with friendly banter and cheering among tables for the games. It’s casual and unpretentious, yet you’ll feel valued and have a great meal. Also, be sure to “check in” on Yelp, Facebook or Twitter to score 10 percent off your bill.

Learn more about Cold Beer & Cheeseburgers 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.

The Brush Bar in Old Town my new favorite Scottsdale spot

O…M…G. I found my new favorite thing to do in Scottsdale when I’m not eating or drinking yummy food and cocktails – painting at The Brush Bar!

This Old Town Scottsdale painting studio is one of those trendy wine-and-paint places, where an instructor leads attendees through painting an acrylic work of art, as painters may sip vino or their beverage of choice. I went last weekend with my friend Arian who so graciously took me as her guest, and we painted these panda masterpieces.

The Brush Bar painting class in Old Town Scottsdale

The class was about two-and-a-half hours long, and each painter got a canvas and plenty of paint and brushes to work with. A microphoned instructor broke down the painting stroke by stroke, and we were in a family class filled with little kids who were able to deftly recreate the panda because of the excellent instruction.

Painting at The Brush Bar in Old Town Scottsdale

When I walked in and saw what we’d be painting, I had doubts I’d be able to turn out something similar, even though I’ve always loved painting as a hobby. Because the instructor divided the painting into easy-to-replicate shapes, it wasn’t difficult to follow along, and I was thrilled with how my painting turned out.

The instructor played music throughout the class, and it was a lot of fun to paint and chat with my friend in-between the instructions. Even though we were in the family class (only $25 a class, compared to some classes that are $40 each), none of the kids were annoying, since everyone had their own little work station. It was seriously the most fun I’ve had in awhile, and I’d highly recommend a class. Plus, each one includes a complimentary glass of wine — fun!

The Brush Bar offers happy hour classes at a discounted rate, as well as open studio time where you’re free to grab a blank canvas and paint whatever you want. I think it’d be a super-fun date idea, and you can learn more about The Brush Bar here.

‘A Bloody Mary Christmas’ sells out Space 55

The 4-year-old A Bloody Mary Christmas at Space 55 got new life breathed into it, as new actresses took on the roles of the three lifelong friends living in Sun City during the holidays.

A Bloody Mary ChristmasWhile I’ve always loved watching the founding members on stage as Blanche, Bertha and Mabel (Shawna Franks, Jacque Arend and Stacey Reed, who also serve as writers), it was neat to see a new cast interpret the ladies. This year’s trio starred Toni Jourdan, Elizabeth Athetis and Leslie Barton, who played the memorable friends who have no problem swearing up a storm or singing about their affection for alcohol.

A Bloody Mary Christmas at Space 55Tonight is the last night for the 2013 season of the play written by Denny Guge and directed by Kevin Flanagan, and the show is already sold out. I love seeing so many senior citizens in the audience for a community theater show in downtown Phoenix — next, they should go see some improv at The Torch Theatre.

Following A Bloody Mary Christmas, which hits the stage at 7 p.m., is 7 Minutes Under the Mistletoe at 9:30 p.m. This is one of the coolest theater productions ever, where anyone who goes on stage gets seven minutes to do whatever they please — no auditions are required. You never know what you’re going to see, and I highly recommend it. Get tickets here.

‘Night of the Chicken 3′ at Space 55 a fun time for both kids and adults

Night of the Chicken 3 is a great way for kids and adults alike to get in the Halloween spirit. The play at Space 55, modeled after old school radio dramas that have homemade sound effects galore, features an ensemble cast revolving around the character of Andi, a high schooler who is prone to turning into a “werechicken” during times of high stress.

Night of the Chicken 3I’d never seen a play in the “radio drama” style, and it was really fun to watch as each castmate came up to the mic, script in hand, while a sound effects duo used everything from brightly colored fans to signify the werechicken transformation, to homemade grass to ruffle whenever a character was walking through a field. The sound effects were probably my favorite part of the show, with a table of diverse objects that created the perfect sonic backdrop to the spooky, yet totally kid-appropriate, action happening on stage.

Night of the Chicken 3It’s no wonder the first incarnation of the play came back in 2009 — the story is timeless, fun and perfect for getting excited about Halloween. Catch it tonight, Friday, October 18 and tomorrow, Saturday, October 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Space 55 in Phoenix. For more details, go here.

Wine Warehouse of Scottsdale a must-visit for wine lovers

If you’re a wine fan in the mood to try something new but don’t know where to start, head to Wine Warehouse of Scottsdale in north Scottsdale.

Wine Warehouse of ScottsdaleThe store/bar opened this month and features dozens of wines and craft beers for any price range and taste.

Wine Warehouse of ScottsdaleWhat’s coolest about the spot: lounging at the bar is an awesome place where you can sample wine before you throw down to purchase, and the vibe is friendly and relaxing, unlike what you might find if you just go to Trader Joe’s.

Wine Warehouse of ScottsdaleI went there this week with some friends to try some of their selections, a variety of red and white wine, including a carbonated red called Bellina that tasted so awesome, just like cherry Coke, I took a bottle home with me. At $8.99, it was a steal and a must-try!

Wine Warehouse of ScottsdaleMonday’s through Friday’s, the Warehouse hosts a happy hour, with $9 wine flights, $2 off wines by the glass, and $3 of create-your-own six-packs of beer.

Wine Warehouse of ScottsdaleThe coolest deal, though, is you’re always able to create your own 12-pack of wine bottles for only $60 from what’s available at that price point. Like our hosts pointed out, the case would make a great set of holiday presents, with quality selections at only $5 a pop — what a steal!

Wine Warehouse of ScottsdaleThe bar is also offering up periodic wine tastings, including one Saturday, September 28, from 5-7 p.m., which will include free cheese plates and wine samples. I had some of the Warehouse’s cheese and fruit when I went, and it was delicious.

Wine Warehouse of ScottsdaleBesides my favorite wine, the Bellafina from Italy, we also tried the Lo Nuevo, a refreshing Spanish white wine; the Viognier, a clean and acidic wine from Northern California; the Drops of Jupiter, a red wine from San Francisco that is actually made by Train guitarist Jimmy Stafford; the robust Mercer Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington; and the smooth Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon from Wente Vineyards.

Wine Warehouse of ScottsdaleI thought they were all great choices to sample, and I liked all of them. I’m usually not a white wine drinker, but I enjoyed the ones I tasted, especially Lo Nuevo from my dad’s home country.

Wine Warehouse of ScottsdaleWine Warehouse has plans to open a patio with TVs, and I think it’d be a fun yet practical place to visit if you want to have a glass of wine and save money by drinking a bottle at home. It’s not as formal as some wine bars, which can be great for happy hour, and the store’s atmosphere, with fun ceiling hangings such as a cupcake, give it a welcoming feel. Check them out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WineWarehouseofScottsdale.

Phoenix Improv Festival 12 hits Herberger Theater Center in Downtown Phoenix

Phoenix Improv Festival 12 is in full swing, as the 3-day comedy fest kicked off last night at Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix. The festival features troupes from around the country, as well as a bevy of local improvisers, and I love it because everything is completely made up and based off audience suggestions.

MuChuChu2Local troupe Apollo 12 kicked things off on a high note, with memorable scenes that included cast members writing wishful letters to God. Apollo 12 is one of the Valley’s longest-running improv troupes, and member Bill Binder is part of the reason longform improv theater The Torch Theater exists in central Phoenix — get to know more about him and the Valley improv scene here, and check out Apollo 12 here.

Next up was Pawn Takes Queen, a three-person troupe with some lady power (which is always nice to see) from Cedar City, Utah. This troupe was the highlight of the night for me. They took the suggestion of “burgers” and weaved a 25-minute scene of three friends whose latest burger business venture is a failure.

Pawn Takes Queen1Their set stood out to me because they created rich characters with really strong relationships. It had the most honesty within the scenes I saw all night, and I loved watching the characters involved. Learn more about the troupe here.

Comrade was up next, from Burbank, Calif. This was my first time seeing these guys, and they were fun to watch. I thought the lady in their group really stood out because she added really funny dialogue and touches to the scenes, and I always love to see strong females on stage.

Comrade improvThe group had one main storyline that went off on several tangents throughout their show, and I thought the format was interesting because of all the callbacks. The group did a good job of bringing back earlier elements into later scenes, which is impressive. Learn more about them here.

Local troupe MuChuChu, whose members both have Arizona roots, was up next. This two-person group created strong characters in a Harold format. Two storylines were introduced, and then characters and themes were brought back throughout the show before everything was tied together. It’s hard enough for a four-person troupe to do a Harold, but this twosome did a stellar job.

MuChuChu improvClosing out the show was HawkinStroth, from Hollywood, Calif. I saw them last year, too, when they used the word “retard” heavily throughout their set, and last night’s show of theirs was a little disappointing because I felt there was a lot of arguing between their characters and not enough accepting of factors that were introduced. One of the main tenets of improv is to agree to whatever is going on in the scene and work with it, not deny it — it was odd to see a veteran duo have so many moments of denial last night.

HawkinStroth improvRegardless, I’m guessing they’ll be back for future PIF’s, so find out more about them here.

The Phoenix Improv Festival continues tonight at 7 p.m. at the Herberger. Sunday, April 21, from 2 p.m. to about 6:30 p.m., there is an all-Arizona showcase, so you can see all the great improv troupes from all over the state who are currently performing. I’ve been a live improv fan for 7 years now, and if you still haven’t checked it out yourself, I suggest you head to the Herberger this weekend pronto. Check out more about my love for improv here, and leave a comment with your favorite improv experience.

Uber drives you around Phoenix in style

If you’ve ever had to wait in a cab line after a night full of dancing in Old Town Scottsdale in your highest of heels, you know how annoying the process can be. One time, I hopped in an unmarked car in the cab line just because I wanted to get the heck out of Old Town — and thankfully, it was indeed a cab, though my hasty decision made by my foot pain probably wasn’t the wisest.

If you’re someone who would rather be fully in control of your ride home, even when you’re not driving, you might want to try out Uber, a private car service that only requires a few taps on your smartphone to get you home safely in no time. The company gave me $100 to try them out, which came in really handily for a friend’s recent birthday.

Uber

Download the Uber app on your smartphone, and you’ll enter in your credit card information during sign-up so you don’t have to worry about getting out cash for each ride. Access the app, and you’ll immediately see where the closest driver is — sometimes, they’re less than 5 minutes away. After you choose your pickup location, you’ll be able to track the driver as they’re making their way toward you. Payment is taken from your account information, so you just need to get in and ride away to your destination.

Currently, Uber’s main areas of service include Old Town Scottsdale, Tempe and downtown Phoenix. Uber has something called “Surge Pricing,” which increases rates during peak times depending on driver availability. If there are more requests than there are drivers, users will be prompted to pay higher rates that they’ll also have the option to accept or deny. On the night I used Uber, I was picked up in Paradise Valley, and I experienced Surge Pricing at a 1.75 higher rate than normal, at around 2 a.m. on a Saturday night. For more info on it, go here.

Also, Uber’s pricing in general is slightly more expensive than a cab ride, with base fares starting at $7, at $3.25 per mile. Something neat about the Uber app is that it allows you to calculate an estimate of your ride, which is helpful. Get all of Uber’s pricing here. 

There were a few things I really liked about my Uber ride. First, the car was just a lot cooler than a cab. There were flashing colored lights that made me feel like I was in a swanky limo, and there were water bottles for all the passengers. The black town car was sleek and cool, a chic ride if you’re planning on a nice date and really want to impress your companion beyond the typical cab.

Also, since Uber tells you the name and phone number of the driver, make of the car and license plate number, you can rest assured you’re getting as safe a ride possible. The star rating by the driver’s name (out of 5 stars) also gives you an idea of what how highly ranked the driver is by previous passengers. It’s neat the drivers are held to high standards.

Uber just added SUV service for all you big car lovers. Use promo code PHXSUV for $5 off your first SUV ride before April 30. For more information on Uber, go here.