The new year brings a diverse array of theatrical productions to Valley stages, from classics to the cutting edge. Here are our top picks for January.
‘Cooking With the Calamari Sisters’
A pair of plus-size Italian ladies — played by men — sing songs from the old country and yuk it up on an imaginary cooking show in this touring production. Their motto is “Screw the gym, pass the lasagna.” Note: Some risqué humor.
Details: Continuing through Sunday, Jan. 29. Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe St., Phoenix. $53-$59. 602-252-8497, herbergertheater.org.
Fountain Hills Theater has drafted a lineup of celebrity couples – starting with former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and his wife, bestselling author Brenda – to perform this popular play about a long-distance relationship that lasts a lifetime. Local notables performing also include former Phoenix Suns center Steven Hunter, radio personality Pat McMahon and Fox 10 weatherman Cory McCloskey.
Details: Thursday, Jan. 5, through Sunday, Jan. 15. Fountain Hills Theater, 11445 N. Saguaro Blvd. $18-$25. 480-837-9661, fountainhillstheater.com.
‘Fiddler on the Roof’
Arizona Theatre Company doesn’t produce a lot of musicals, but when they do, they do it up right. This production opened in Tucson, where the Arizona Daily Star raved, “It’s not just the powerful singing and acting, the set with the Marc Chagall-inspired backdrop, or the impressive dancing that will grab you. It is the honesty of this production.” An all-time classic from 1964, “Fiddler” is based on Sholem Aleichem’s tales of a Jewish family caught between tradition, modernity and persecution in early 20th-century Russia, and it features the tunes “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Sunrise, Sunset.”
Details: Friday, Jan. 6, through Sunday, Jan. 29. Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe St., Phoenix. $25-$100. 602-256-6995, arizonatheatre.org.
The latest national tour of this family favorite is helmed by its original director and lyricist, Martin Charnin. It’s the same production that played at ASU Gammage last year, although not the same cast. A feel-good story about an orphan girl who wins the heart of a gruff millionaire during the Depression, it features the familiar “Tomorrow” and “It’s the Hard Knock Life.”
Details: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, and 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14. Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St. 480-644-6500, mesaartscenter.com.
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They’re the Knights of the Round Table and they dance whene’er they’re able in this Lerner and Loewe musical based on T.H. White’s “The Once and Future King.” In this dinner-theater production, you’ll hear the tunes “The Lusty Month of May” and “If Ever I Would Leave You.” Just don’t expect to hear the lyrics quoted at the opening of this blurb — that’s from Monty Python.
‘Hamlet’/‘Much Ado About Nothing’
Southwest Shakespeare promises stripped-down, fast-moving versions of two familiar plays in its annual winter rep fest. “Much Ado” will be set at a jazz club, complete with live band, in post-World War II America.
‘3 No Trump’
NOT a political show. Theater Works’ world-premiere comedy about a women’s bridge club is written by Cathy Dresbach, a star of the local theater scene who got her start writing and performing sketches on “The Wallace and Ladmo Show.”
Details: Friday, Jan. 13, through Sunday, Jan. 29. Peoria Center for the Performing Arts, 8355 W. Peoria Ave. $14-$36. 623-815-7930, theaterworks.org.
A trailer-park denizen with a love for booze and kitschy décor thinks her thrift-shop find is a Jackson Pollock painting worth millions, setting up a battle of wits with a snooty New York art expert in this 2011 comedy by Stephen Sachs. Inspired by a true story.
Details: Friday, Jan. 13, through Sunday, Jan. 29. Theatre Artists Studio, 4848 E. Cactus Road, Suite 406, Phoenix. $15-$25. 602-765-0120, thestudiophx.org.
‘Night of the Chicken: Curse of the Crusty Claw’
The fourth installment in Valley playwright Carrie Behrens’ horror-spoof series about a teenage girl coping with a peculiar superpower: She transforms into a giant chicken. It’s performed in the style of a 1940s radio play, complete with foley (sound effects) artists onstage. Kid-friendly.
Details: Friday, Jan. 13, through Sunday, Jan. 29. Space 55, 636 E. Pierce St., Phoenix. $10-$15. space55.org.
‘Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat’
A Mancini-esque jazz score adds some extra zest to this stage adaptation that faithfully delivers both the rhymes and the look of the beloved picture book. Childsplay’s production is appropriate for ages 3 and up.
Details: Saturday, Jan. 14, through Sunday, Feb. 19. Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway. $12-$26. 480-350-2822, childsplayaz.org.
‘The Illusionists: Live From Broadway’
Looking more Vegas than Broadway, this touring production features the razzle-dazzle prestidigitation of seven magicians, including Andrew Basso, a Houdini-inspired escape artist, and Dan Sperry, the gothed-out “anti-conjuror” whose macabre stunts made him a fan favorite on “America’s Got Talent.”
Details: Tuesday through Sunday, Jan. 17-22. ASU Gammage, Mill Avenue and Apache Boulevard, Tempe. $20 and up. 480-965-3434, asugammage.com.
‘Fifty Shades of Felt’
If you thought the simulated puppet sex in “Avenue Q” was too dirty, you might want to avoid All Puppet Players’ spoof of the S&M romance “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which includes an audience quiz on cutesy names for obscure and bizarre sexual practices. This remount (pun intended) is a warmup for the company’s season finale of “Game of Foams” in April.
Details: Friday, Jan. 20, through Saturday, Feb. 11. Playhouse on the Park, 1850 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. $18; $50 VIP. 602-254-2151, allpuppetplayers.com.
Phoenix Theatre’s comic riff on Sherlock Holmes is written by Ken Ludwig, author of the popular farce “Lend Me a Tenor.” The cast reunites crowd favorites Toby Yatso and Pasha Yamotahari from the Hitchcock spoof “The 39 Steps.”
Details: Wednesday, Jan. 25, through Sunday, Feb. 12. Phoenix Theatre, 100 E. McDowell Road. Call for prices. 602-254-2151, phoenixtheatre.com.
Broadway fans disappointed that Patti Lupone’s concert in Scottsdale was canceled got a heckuva a consolation prize with her replacement. McDonald is a six-time Tony Award winner, most recently for her performance as Billie Holiday in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.” She will be joined by Broadway singer Will Swenson and her old friend Seth Rudetsky, best known for his inside Broadway humor on SiriusXM satellite radio.
Details: 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28. Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 E. Second St. Sold out. 480-499-8587, scottsdaleperformingarts.org.
An eccentric watchmaker contemplates the nature of time in this touring production that combines surreal visuals and live music by a string quartet and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. The show apparently defies description — at least to the reviewers who have attempted to boil it down to an elevator pitch, only to leave the reader scratching his head. And frankly, that’s exciting as heck for a jaded theater buff who thinks he’s seen it all. Part of ASU Gammage’s “Beyond” series, which spotlights cutting-edge theater and dance.
Details: 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28. Galvin Playhouse, Arizona State University, Nelson Fine Arts Center, Mill Avenue and 10th Street, Tempe. $20. 480-965-3434, asugammage.com.