I was introduced to the theater when I was eight years old when my parents brought me to see the musical, “Cats.” Instantly, I was hooked – not only on the production, lights, sets, and costumes, but also on the fact that grownup actors were getting paid to be the center of attention for two hours! Many years have passed since that memorable night at the theater, but one constant has remained and that’s my passion for theater and the arts. Fortunately, I live in Downtown Phoenix where there are several options for theatergoers.
The oldest theater in Downtown Phoenix and the one with the most history is the Orpheum Theatre. Construction of this Spanish Baroque Revival-architecture began in 1927 and was completed in 1929. Intricate murals and moldings were incorporated into the design giving guests the feeling they were enjoying shows “al fresco.” Through the years, the building has been a movie theater, a performing arts theater, and a place to watch traditional Spanish films. At one point, the murals and moldings in theater were painted black to prevent any distractions from the shows and films. The black paint among other things were removed and repaired when The City of Phoenix undertook the task of a twelve-year $14 million restoration. The Orpheum Theatre has hosted great acts such as Chris Botti, Bryan Adams, Lewis Black, Morrissey, Jerry Riopelle, Alvin Ailey and Momix. Now the theater is home to musicals, plays, comedy shows, concerts, and special events. You can even take a guided tour, free of charge, to learn more about this beautiful piece of Phoenix history.
The Herberger Theater Center sits in the heart of Downtown Phoenix across from Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel at Third Street and Van Buren and is home to three stages where you can watch amazing performances by Actors Theater, Arizona Theatre Company, and Center Dance Ensemble. Spending time in Downtown Phoenix during lunch? Enjoy the Herberger Theater Center’s popular Lunch Time Theater series that features one act matinees. The Center Stage seats 800 while Stage West seats 320 and the black box-style Performance Outreach Theater (Kax Stage) seats 120. I recall attending “Five Guys Named Moe” at The Herberger Theater Center in my high school years and quite honestly, there’s not a bad seat in the house! You feel as though you are watching a show on Broadway with the intimacy this theater offers. The Valley Youth Theatre also puts on productions at The Herberger Theater Center during the summer months, which allows young and old opportunities to escape the summertime heat and enjoy this space.
Comerica Theatre is the newest and largest addition to Downtown Phoenix. Boasting 5,500 seats this massive addition to Downtown Phoenix is unique in the sense that it can change the seating and layout of the theater depending on the use of the space. Concerts, comedians, dance shows, and even boxing can be accommodated. My sister and niece recently enjoyed a night with Long Island medium Theresa Caputo. Interested in a behind-the-scenes perspective? Stroll along Fifth Avenue where you might see tour buses and trucks for the traveling sets and lights parked and waiting for the tour’s next destination. I recently walked by Comerica Theatre on the night of the “American Idol” tour and was surprised to see so many trailers!
As Shakespeare said, “All the worlds a stage,” and Downtown Phoenix is certainly no different. So buy your tickets, get dressed up, and enjoy a night at the theater.
203 W. Adams Street, Phoenix, AZ 85003
Herberger Theater Center
222 E. Monroe Street, Phoenix, AZ 85004
400 W. Washington Street, Phoenix, AZ 85003
* This post was written by both Alex Turley and Katie Brashear, Complex Director of Public Relations, Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel.