Although built as a movie theater, the Orpheum would occasionally have live performances, either in conjunction with a movie, or as a stand-alone performance without a movie. Some of these live performances, like the Gene Bumph Dance Academy or Guido Diero – World’s Greatest Accordionist, featured local acts, while others featured performers who toured nationally. Here are a few examples from the 1930s.
You’ve Got to Start Somewhere – Because it was part of the Orpheum Circuit, from 1929-33 the Theatre had vaudeville performances (usually on weekends during “snowbird season”) along with a movie. On March 16, 1929, in addition to the film (“A Woman of Affairs” w/Greta Garbo and John Gilbert) there was a single act – “Madame Rose & her Dancing Daughters”. Only one of those “daughters” was actually a daughter of Madame Rose – a teenager named Louise Hovick. At some point during the 1930s Louise changed her name to Gypsy Rose Lee. Her career in burlesque provided her with a good living, although more than one “observer” commented that her routine was “more tease than strip”. Her autobiography, published in 1957, was a best seller, and provided the basis for the stage musical and film “Gypsy.”
Follies – (February 4, 1935) The Follies was an American phenomenon. Created by Florenz (Flo) Ziegfeld in 1907, its motto was “Glorifying the American Girl”, and although its list of performers would include Will Rogers, W.C. Fields, Bert Williams, Eddie Cantor, Fred Astaire, and Fanny Brice, the Follies was best known for its spectacular set pieces, where dozens of beautiful women, wearing dazzling costumes that showed as much (or more) skin as the law allowed, would be serenaded by songs such as “A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody”. The last full edition of the Follies occurred in 1931. Ziegfeld died in 1932, and his wife, Billie Burke, kept the franchise going for a few more years, partly to pay off back taxes that Ziegfeld owed the government. Burke moved to Hollywood in the early 30s, where she had a successful film career – including as Glinda (the good witch) in “The Wizard of Oz”.
Bojangles – When Bill “Bojangles” Robinson appeared at the Orpheum on March 20, 1936 (the film was “Preview Murder Mystery” w/Reginald Denny, Gail Patrick, and Frances Drake) he was already a well-known “colored” entertainer. A magnificent and athletic tap dancer, he appeared along with actor/singer Clarence Muse and pianist Harvey Brooks. Robinson’s popularity soared when he appeared with Shirley Temple in “the Little Colonel” (1935) – one of four pictures he did with Temple. The newspaper advertisement for his appearance stated that “the entire balcony would be reserved for our colored patrons”. (This seemed to have been the case with most if not all downtown movie theaters – whites could sit anywhere, but “colored patrons” could only sit in the balcony.)
Kari R. of Phoenix is the winner of our raffle prize of two tickets to Theater League’s presentation of a concert version of “The Music Man”. You can be a winner too by purchasing raffle tickets at select Orpheum events or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s Coming Up at the Orpheum
December 01 - The Music Man (Concert Version) 8:00p
December 02 - The Music Man (Concert Version) 2:00p, 8:00p
December 02 - The Music Man (Concert Version) 1:00p, 6:30p
December 05 - Warren Miller's "Line of Descent" 7:30p
December 09 - Dance Motion: Sylvie's Holiday Dream 2:00p, 7:00p
December 10 - Dance Motion: Sylvie's Holiday Dream 2:00p
December 12 - Free Public Tours 12:00p, 1:00p
December 12 - Downstairs at the "O": Nicole Pesce Trio (Jazz) 6:30p
December 15 - Phoenix Ballet: The Nutcracker 7:00p
December 16 - Phoenix Ballet: The Nutcracker 2:00p, 7:00p
December 17 - Phoenix Ballet: The Nutcracker 1:00p, 5:00p
December 21 - Phoenix Ballet: The Nutcracker 7:00p
December 22 - Phoenix Ballet: The Nutcracker 7:00p
December 23 - Phoenix Ballet: The Nutcracker 2:00p, 7:00p
December 24 - Phoenix Ballet: The Nutcracker 12:00p
December 26 - Free Public Tours 12:00p, 1:00p
Support the Friends
Attention Fry’s Shoppers – Donate to the Friends every time you shop at Fry’s, and it’s free. Fry’s is donating $2 million a year ($500,000/quarter) to Arizona non-profits. To participate, go to www.FrysCommunityRewards.com and register your Fry’s VIP card, and select Friends of the Orpheum Theatre as your non-profit of choice. Remember: your donation is free, and this program is separate from the gas program. Last year, the Friends received nearly $700 from Fry’s. Also: if you are already a member of the Program you have to re-register in August. Just go to the e-mail location shown above and follow the directions to re-enroll.
Attention Amazon Shoppers - Now you can donate to the Friends when you order from Amazon! AmazonSmile is a website operated by Amazon that lets customers enjoy the same wide selection of products, low prices, and convenient shopping features as on Amazon.com. The difference is that when customers shop on AmazonSmile (smile.amazon.com), the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases to the charitable organizations selected by customers. Click smile.amazon.com , sign in, and shop! It’s that easy!
Support the Friends, Become a “Star” – A unique way to support FOTOT. For $100 you can purchase a brick which will be placed in the “Avenue of Stars” located just east of the Theatre in the City Hall Plaza. You can purchase a brick to honor your family, a friend, someone you admire, or to celebrate an event (graduation, birthday, etc.). For more information, visit our website.
Become a Member of the Friends – Join us as we preserve and illuminate the heritage of the glorious Orpheum Theatre. Visit our website at fototphx.org to learn more.
Visit the Theatre
Did You Know – The light rail has two stops that are less than a 10 minute walk from the Orpheum. Whether you’re coming from the East Valley or from Northwest Phoenix, taking the train allows you to avoid traffic as well as the cost of parking your car.
Friends of the Orpheum Theatre
A 501c3 nonprofit whose Mission is:
To support the art, culture, and history of the Orpheum Theatre through outreach, education, and volunteerism.