Phoenix Theatre Company creates a stage where the show can go on

Photo: Phoenix Theatre’s new outdoor stage, built in the courtyard of the historic Central United Methodist Church, allows theatergoers to enjoy productions safely.

In March 2020, live performing arts venues throughout the country halted in-person programming to help arrest the spread of COVID-19. The Phoenix Theatre Company was ready to stage “Something Rotten!” when it shuttered its doors – for the first time in its 100-year history. An entire community of theatre professionals suddenly found their livelihoods in question, as the company grappled with an uncertain future.

But in the summer of 2020, the company began preparations for an innovative new outdoor stage that would restart productions, built in the courtyard of the historic Central United Methodist Church, next door to the theatre. Just in time for cooler temperatures, the outdoor stage holds more than 250 patrons and supports fully socially-distanced and contact-free interactions. Built from the ground up in a startlingly short period of time, this brand-new venue is one of the first places in the country where audiences may attend live performances in person. Several months later, and two successful news productions under its belt, The Phoenix Theatre Company is pleased to continue its outdoor season into 2021, with a much-lauded spin on a music legend’s legacy and a thrilling and hilarious musical mystery.

In an Emmy Award-nominated performance seen on PBS, Angela Ingersoll celebrates Judy Garland. Ingersoll won acclaim starring as Garland in “End of the Rainbow,” including Chicago’s Jeff Award and Los Angeles Times’ Woman of the Year in Theatre. In concert, Ingersoll offers two glorious hours of virtuosic vocals, passionate storytelling and naturally winning humor. Chicago Sun-Times exclaims, “Phenomenal. Judy Garland has been reborn.” Featuring a powerful band, classic songs include “Over the Rainbow,” “The Trolley Song” and “The Man That Got Away.”

Next comes a spectacular whodunit musical – with a twist! Everyone is a suspect in “Murder for Two,” a comedy high wire act starring two remarkable actors playing all the parts. One actor investigates the crime; the other plays all of the suspects. And they both play the piano! Officer Marcus Moscowicz is a small town policeman with dreams of making it to detective. One fateful night, shots ring out at the surprise birthday party of Great American Novelist Arthur Whitney and the writer is killed…fatally. With the nearest detective an hour away, Marcus jumps at the chance to prove his sleuthing skills – with the help of his silent partner, Lou. But whodunit? A zany blend of classic musical comedy and madcap mystery, this 90-minute comedy was the Joseph Jefferson Award winner for Best New Musical Work.

“Live theatre experiences are something we need now more than ever,” says Producing Artistic Director Michael Barnard. “Our arts community is yearning to share our gifts of storytelling with our patrons. Theatre is an escape; it transports us to a world outside our own. It’s an incredible tool for empathy and hope. We can’t wait to share that with you again!”

The courtyard of the Central United Methodist Church is located at 1875 N. Central Ave., a half a block north of the theatre’s three-stage complex. Shows will have high-production values and smaller casts. All with the same level of intimacy patrons have come to expect from The Phoenix Theatre Company.
“We take our responsibility to our patrons and artists to heart,” says Karla Frederick, director of production. “The new programming is a gesture of love to the people who come see our shows and who have kept us going. It didn’t take a pandemic to remind us how much we love theatre, but I can say that we’re bringing a whole new kind of passion to this project.”

The Phoenix Theatre Company is proud to leverage its 100-year history into a historical future of live performance. “The creation of an outdoor theatre is just one way that we are fighting for the arts in Arizona,” says Managing Director Vincent VanVleet. “First and foremost, this is a stage for our community.”

For more information on upcoming productions, visit phoenixtheatre.com.

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