Although downtown Phoenix claims the Valley's greatest concentration of performance halls, including Symphony Hall, the Orpheum Theatre, and the Herberger Theater Center, there are major performing arts venues scattered across the Valley. No matter where you happen to be staying, you're likely to find performances being held somewhere nearby.
Calling these many Valley venues home are such major companies as the Phoenix Symphony, Arizona Opera Company, Ballet Arizona, Center Dance Ensemble, Actors Theatre of Phoenix, and Arizona Theatre Company. Adding to the performances held by these companies are the wide variety of touring companies that make stops here throughout the year.
While you'll find box-office phone numbers listed below, you can also purchase most performing arts tickets through Ticketmaster (tel. 866/448-7849 or 800/745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com). For sold-out shows, check with your hotel concierge, or try Tickets Unlimited (tel. 800/289-8497 or 602/840-2340; www.ticketsunlimitedinc.com).
Major Performing Arts Centers
Symphony Hall, 75 N. Second St. (tel. 602/262-7272; www.phoenix.gov/extranet/pccd/symphonyhall.html), is Phoenix's premier performance venue and is home to the Phoenix Symphony, Ballet Arizona, and the Arizona Opera Company. It also hosts touring Broadway shows and various other concerts and theatrical productions. The hall's Grand Drape is the world's largest piece of machine-made embroidery.
The Orpheum Theatre, 203 W. Adams St. (tel. 602/262-7272; www.phoenix.gov/extranet/pccd/orpheum.html), is the most elegant hall in the Valley. The historic Spanish colonial baroque-revival theater was built in 1929 and at the time was considered the most luxurious theater west of the Mississippi. Today, its ornately carved sandstone facade stands in striking contrast to the adjacent glass-and-steel City Hall building, with which the theater shares a common wall.
Although not the largest performance venue in town, the Celebrity Theatre, 440 N. 32nd St. (tel. 602/267-1600; www.celebritytheatre.com), often books good shows. With its revolving stage and no seat farther than 75 feet from the performers, this is a great place to catch the likes of Manhattan Transfer or Kenny G.
The Comerica Theatre, 400 W. Washington St. (tel. 602/379-2800 or 602/379-2888; www.livenation.com), is another of Phoenix's major downtown performance halls and seats from 2,000 to 5,000 people. It books many top names in entertainment, as well as the occasional Broadway show or international touring company.
The Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Grady Gammage Auditorium, 1200 S. Forest Ave. (at Mill Ave. and Apache Blvd.), Tempe (tel. 480/965-3434; www.asugammage.com), on the Arizona State University campus, is at once massive and graceful. This 3,000-seat hall is where touring Broadway shows perform when they come to the Valley.
The Scottsdale Center for the Arts, 7380 E. Second St., Scottsdale (tel. 480/994-2787; www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org), hosts a variety of performances and series, ranging from classical music to alternative dance. This center seems to get the best of the touring performers who come through the Valley.
In Scottsdale, the ASU Kerr Cultural Center, 6110 N. Scottsdale Rd. (tel. 480/596-2660; www.asukerr.com), a tiny venue in a historic home near the Borgata shopping center, offers up an eclectic season that includes music from around the world. The Kerr Cultural Center sponsors a couple of different free concert series.
With its sail-like shade canopies, sunken sculpture courtyard, numerous water features, and colorful architecture, the Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St. (tel. 480/644-6500; www.mesaartscenter.com), is the prettiest performing arts center in the Valley. Check out the performance schedule when planning your visit.
The Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Pkwy., Tempe (tel. 480/350-2822; www.tempe.gov/TCA), is centrally located and is on the shore of Tempe Town Lake. There are water views out its big wall of glass, and in the two performance halls, there are frequent jazz concerts, as well as performances by the Tempe Symphony, Tempe Little Theatre, and Childsplay, a local children's theater company.
Outdoor Venues & Series
Given the weather, it should come as no surprise that Phoenicians like to attend performances under the sun and stars.
Cricket Wireless Pavilion, 2121 N. 83rd Ave., Phoenix (tel. 602/254-7200; www.cricket-pavilion.com), west of downtown and 1/2 mile north of I-10 between 75th and 83rd avenues, is the city's top outdoor venue. This 20,000-seat amphitheater is open year-round and hosts everything from Broadway musicals to rock concerts.
Mesa Amphitheater, 201 N. Center St. (at University Dr.), Mesa (tel. 480/644-2560; www.mesaamp.com), is a much smaller amphitheater that holds a wide variety of concerts in spring and summer, and occasionally other times of year as well.
Throughout the year, the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, 7380 E. Second St., Scottsdale (tel. 480/994-2787; www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org), stages outdoor performances in the adjacent Scottsdale Amphitheater on the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall. The Sunday A'fair series runs from January to April, with free concerts from noon to 4pm on selected Sundays of each month. Performances range from acoustic blues to zydeco.
Two perennial favorites of Valley residents take place in particularly attractive surroundings. The Music in the Garden concerts at the Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 N. Galvin Pkwy. in Papago Park (tel. 480/941-1225 or 480/481-8188; www.dbg.org), are held on Sundays in January and February. The season always includes an eclectic array of musical styles. Tickets are $21 for adults and $8 for children 3 to 12; garden admission is included. In the spring and fall, there are also Friday-night jazz concerts. Up on the north side of the Valley, just outside Carefree, el Pedregal at the Boulders, 34505 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale (tel. 480/488-1072; www.elpedregal.com), often has free live music on weekends (usually Sun afternoon).
Outdoor concerts are also held at various parks and plazas around the Valley during the warmer months. Check local papers for listings.
Lunch & a Show -- At downtown Phoenix's Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe St. (tel. 602/254-7399; www.herbergertheater.org), lunch break means the actors hit the stage while the audience grabs sandwiches for Lunch Time Theater. Throughout much of the year, 30- to 45-minute plays are staged at noon Tuesday through Thursday. Tickets are only $6, and inexpensive boxed salads, sandwiches, and pasta salads can be ordered in advance.
Classical Music, Opera & Dance
The Phoenix Symphony (tel. 800/776-9080 or 602/495-1999; www.phoenixsymphony.org), the Southwest's leading symphony orchestra, performs at Symphony Hall (tickets mostly run $18-$88).
Opera buffs will want to see what the Arizona Opera (tel. 602/266-7464; www.azopera.org) has scheduled. Each season, this company stages up to five operas, both familiar and more obscure, and splits its time between Phoenix and Tucson. Tickets cost $25 to $144. Performances are held at Symphony Hall.
Ballet Arizona (tel. 602/381-1096; www.balletaz.org) performs at both the Orpheum Theatre and Symphony Hall and stages both classical and contemporary ballets; tickets run $17 to $121. The Center Dance Ensemble (tel. 602/252-8497; www.centerdance.com), the city's contemporary dance company, stages several productions a year at the Herberger Theater Center. Tickets cost $22.
With nearly a dozen professional companies and at least as many major nonprofessional companies taking to the boards throughout the year, a play is always being staged somewhere in the Valley. So, for much of the year, theater fans will have plenty to choose from on a visit to Phoenix.
The Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe St. (tel. 602/254-7399; www.herbergertheater.org), which is located downtown and vaguely resembles a Spanish colonial church, is the city's main venue for live theater. Its two Broadway-style theaters together host hundreds of performances each year, including productions by the Actors Theatre and the Arizona Theatre Company (ATC). Actors Theatre (tel. 602/253-6701 or 602/252-8497 for tickets; www.atphx.org) tends to stage smaller, lesser-known off-Broadway-type works, with musicals, dramas, and comedies equally represented; tickets go for $28 to $70. The annual production of A Christmas Carol is always a big hit. ATC (tel. 602/256-6995; www.aztheatreco.org) is the state theater company and splits its performances between Phoenix and Tucson. Founded in 1967, it's the major force on the Arizona thespian scene. Productions range from world premieres to recent Tony Award winners to classics. Tickets run $30 to $69.
Phoenix Theatre, 100 E. McDowell Rd. (tel. 602/254-2151; www.phoenixtheatre.net), has its performance venue in the Phoenix Art Museum building and has been around for more than 90 years. Musicals are the mainstays here; tickets to most shows are $30 to $62. If your interest lies in Broadway plays, see what Broadway Across America-Arizona (tel. 480/965-3434; www.broadwayacrossamerica.com/tempe) has scheduled. The series, focusing mostly on comedies and musicals, is held at the Gammage Auditorium in Tempe; tickets usually cost between $20 and $64, with the occasional higher-price tickets for a real blockbuster show. The Theater League (tel. 800/776-7469 or 602/262-7272; www.theaterleague.com) is another series that brings in Broadway musicals. Performances are held in the Orpheum Theatre, and tickets range from $50 to $60.
If you're staying in Scottsdale and are looking for something to do with the whole family, the Scottsdale Desert Stages Theatre, 4720 N. Scottsdale Rd. (tel. 480/483-1664; www.desertstages.com), stages primarily musicals and children's theater productions. Tickets range from $12 to $25.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.