REVIEW: Matilda: The Musical at the Academy of Music

Photo by Joan Marcus for Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre.

Photo by Joan Marcus from Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre.

Is a show like Matilda: The Musical too big to properly tour?

That question was definitely on my mind last evening after I left the performance at the Academy of Music. The touring Broadway musical has come a long way since, say, the first national tour of Cats, which pretty much employed a strand of Christmas tree lights on the stage and called it a “set.” But at least that set worked.

Last evening’s Matilda was plagued with technical malfunctions throughout the performance, including one that literally stopped the show during act one, causing an announcer to broadcast that the set was having difficulties. The other major malfunction took place during the climax of the show. I won’t give the plot away, but the moment was supposed to involve a piece of chalk magically writing a message on a board. Let’s just say the chalk stopped working. Read more »

7 Awesome Concerts to See in Philly This Week


The indie and electronica fan will have a good time this week on the music scene, especially at Union Transfer. With the classic indie rock of Minus the Bear, the masterful synths of Neon Indian, or the futuristic pop melodies of Grimes, it might just feel like summer again. Feeling more in the mood for a throwback icon? Catch Don Henley of The Eagles at the Academy of Music. Click through to each day, or check out the full list below.


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In the Wings: Cherry Hill’s Ben Lipitz, Star of The Lion King

Hakuna Matata! The triumphant return of Disney’s blockbuster Broadway musical The Lion King hits the Academy of Music stage May 20th through June 14th, and one of the tour’s leading men/warthogs is local. Ben Lipitz is a Cherry Hill native who plays the lovable Pumbaa in the Julie Taymor directed show. We caught up with Mr. Lipitz to grub worms, dirty jokes and his crush on Miss Piggy.

Nick Cordileone and Ben Lipitz in 'The Lion King.'

Nick Cordileone and Ben Lipitz in ‘The Lion King.’

My name is … Ben Lipitz

I am a … right-handed actor who can tell a great dirty joke. Read more »

In the Wings: The Cast of Opera Philadelphia’s Don Carlo

Verdi’s classic tale of a love triangle gone wrong is taking shape at the Academy of Music as Opera Philadelphia presents Don Carlo. We wanted to lighten up the otherwise tragic tale, so we sat down with the opera’s three leads, Leah Crocetto (Elisabetta), Michelle DeYoung (Princess Eboli), and Dimitri Pittas (Don Carlo) and had them take our rapid-fire Q&A about their experiences on stage and, boy, did they reveal some interesting secrets!

Leah Crocetto

Leah Crocetto

Leah Crocetto

My name is … Leah Joanne Crocetto, the first born daughter of Richard and Marcia Crocetto of Waterbury, CT and Brookfield, CT, respectively.

I am a … superhero. No. But if I were a superhero, I would want my super powers to be the ability to fly. Invisibility would be to hard: There would be too much information to glean. Flying. Yep! Flying is the ability for me. I would, of course use my super power for good and quick travel. It would come in handy in this job.

On opening night … my family will be here! I am so excited whenever they are in the audience. I will also look into the balcony and feel my dad with me. I dedicate each performance to him.

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The Interview: Philly-Born Opera Great Eric Owens

The Philly native turned bass-baritone opera great has performed in concert halls the world over. This month he returns to star in Don Carlo at the Academy of Music. Opens April 24th. 

Eric OwensGive us your Philly bio.
Born and raised in Mount Airy. Went to Central, then Temple and the Curtis Institute of Music. And Settlement Music School. So my connection is not at all tangential.

Why opera?
I started out with piano and oboe, but I had been a fan of opera for quite some time, since I was eight or nine—just listening to it on LPs. I saw Tosca at the Met at 16, and opera won the battle.

I know you’ve performed at the Met, Carnegie Hall, throughout Europe. Any favorite houses?
Well, actually, the Academy of Music. It’s the oldest continuously operating opera house in the country. It’s just beautiful.

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PHOTOS: Last Night, There Was An On-Stage Proposal During Dirty Dancing at the Academy of Music

Nobody puts Baby in the corner, especially when you’re going to propose to her!

Malik Murray knew that his girlfriend Alissa F. Chase loved the movie Dirty Dancing, and he knew she would have to see the live stage version playing here in Philly at the Academy of Music. What Chase didn’t know was that Murray flew in from Los Angeles and was waiting back stage at the Thursday evening performance. At the end of the show, Murray took to the stage and popped the big question. Chase, of course, said “yes.”

Murray and Chase first met when they were students at Penn State, but they soon drifted apart when Murray took a job in Los Angeles. They rekindled in 2012 after a brunch at Northern Liberties Green Eggs Cafe, and have maintained a long-distance relationship since then.

Below are more photos from the special moment. For information on Dirty Dancing playing through April 5, click here.

Gillian Abbott’s Advice to Young Performers: “You Are Enough”

Gillian Abbott Header

Dirty Dancing fell in my lap. It never was on my radar.”

That’s what the multi-talented Gillian Abbott told me when we started chatting about her role as Frances “Baby” Houseman in the movie-turned-musical headed to the Academy of Music at the end of March. Abbott is a classically trained dancer, a graduate of Juilliard, a former Cirque du Soleil performer (she signed on when she was 17), recently made her Met Opera debut in their epic production of Prince Igor, and starred in several independent films. Clearly, she has a performer’s spirit; that was evident during our time together where we talked about Dirty Dancing, her training, and two injuries that, if anything, progressed Abbott’s performance evolution.

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Meet the Man Who Trained the Four-Legged Star of Annie

William Berloni

William Berloni

“I’ve seen more young actresses who play Annie pee on stage than dogs who pee on stage.”

That’s William Berloni‘s answer when I ask him the question everyone wants to know: How does the Tony Award-winning theatrical animal trainer control his loving, furry crew from having an accident while performing on Broadway?

“Honestly, if [Annie] hasn’t taken a break to pee, that poor thing will explode when she’s in that red dress at the end of the show.” Read more »

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