Living legends, world premieres, international talent and Justin Bieber: You’ll find all of these (and more) here in the City of Brotherly Love this winter and spring. It can actually be a little overwhelming, if you don’t know where to start. So here, we present a well-edited (but wildly diverse) list of the very best bets in music, theater and the arts this season. If you can’t find something to do here, we don’t know what to tell you. Read more »
Sarah Gliko stars in Tom Stoppard’s “The Hard Problem,” opening January 6th at the Wilma Theater. | Photo by Jauhien Sasnou
For years, Philadelphia actress Sarah Gliko longed to perform at the renowned Wilma Theater under the directorship of its co-founder, the peerless Blanka Zizka. “But I was off of Blanka’s radar,” says the 36-year-old Point Breeze resident. “And then she saw me in Lantern’s production of The Liar, and things changed.” That was in 2013. Since then, Gliko has been cast in the Wilma’s critically acclaimed Don Juan Comes Home from Iraq in 2014 and last year as Ophelia in the theater’s intriguing adaptation of Hamlet. Then, for her third Wilma play in as many years, she landed the lead in Tom Stoppard’s first work in a decade, The Hard Problem, which opens January 6th. “This role is a real challenge,” she admits. “There’s so much material, and it’s loaded with some very heavy and heady ideas. I have to find the passion and movement underneath these big ideas and elevate the human story that is pulsing below. It’s not going to be easy.” Through February 6th.
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Laura Helm (center) with the ensemble.
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat has origins as early as 1968, when Andrew Lloyd Webber was asked to write a “pop cantata” for St. Paul’s Junior School. That first version of the now iconic musical was only 15 minutes long.
Needless to say, the show has become something of a feel-good staple for schools, community theaters, and, yes, a countless number of professional Broadway tours. The story is simple and ultimately uplifting, and the score is unquestionably that of early Andrew Lloyd Webber. With that said, I wasn’t expecting much out of the new production, which has planted itself here in Philly at the Merriam Theatre through the new year, but the dynamic direction and choreography by Broadway superstar Andy Blankenbuehler (responsible for the movement in the mega-hit Hamilton) breathe new, modern life into the musical. Read more »
Ticket arts writers weigh in on what they think are the most important local arts moments of 2015.
Lisette Oropesa’s in Opera Philly’s “Traviata”
It’s been a banner year generally for Opera Philadelphia, but Lisette Oropesa’s Violetta in Traviata (her first performance of the role) was special. The beautiful young soprano met every vocal demand — fiendishly difficult as they may have been – and acted it superbly. Opera lovers around the world pay attention to debuting Violettas – the great ones are so rare. Here in Philly, we found one. —David Fox
Philadelphia Film Society Saves the Prince
The gorgeous Prince Theater seemed to be in quite a bit of limbo: The resident production company had vacated a number of years ago, and their presentations were random at best. With PFS purchasing the building, the theater has becoming a bustling hub not only for movies (it’s now the only mainstream movie theater in Center City) but performing arts, and their Razz Room is hosting some of the hottest NYC cabaret acts around. —Bryan Buttler
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Sun in “No Child.”
“Oh, honey, you got an actor out of bed before noon!”
Nilaja Sun and I both chuckle pretty loudly.
“You were an actor too, weren’t you?” she asks.
I was sort of stunned. I told her I was for about three years right after high school.
“Oh, I could tell,” she says. “That prolonged laugh and that voice of yours gave that away!”
That’s how we start our 9 am phone conversation about Sun’s work as a teaching artist and actress. Sun has a host of television credits to her name, everything from The Good Wife to Nurse Jackie to Madam Secretary, but in the theatre world, she’s best known for her award-winning solo show No Child, which took New York by storm in 2006. In some ways, that work—about a teaching artist in a Bronx school—is reflective of Sun’s own passion for helping others unlock their inner stories. She’s been teaching since 1997, when, to use her words, she was a “wee little thing.” Read more »
Mrs. Meers, the controversial character, as seen in the 1967 movie version of “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” | Universal Pictures
The Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts has dropped a planned staging of the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie after students complained about racist portrayals of Asians in the play.
Two students — Jasmine Luca and Tai Joselyn — described the controversy in a Tuesday essay for The Notebook, saying the play should be re-named Thoroughly Racist Millie.
“Millie depends on disturbing stereotypes toward Asians,” the duo wrote. “The lead character, Mrs. Meers, appears in yellow face and is directed to speak in a fake Chinese accent. But since Mrs. Meers is not Asian, what do you think happens when someone mimics a Chinese accent to almost a completely non-Chinese audience? Just look at any of the YouTube videos of this character purposefully mangling Chinese.” Read more »
If you’re a regular Philadelphia theater consumer, then this new holiday video, featuring just about everyone you can possibly think of from our artistic community — from Blanka Zizka to chorus boys to a sleeping yellow cat — will surely make your holiday season a wee bit brighter.
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If you’re ringing in the New Year in New York, why not add some theater to your celebrations? Two comedies — one gay, one transgender — might be just the ticket. Both can be found off-Broadway, within a block of each other on 42nd Street, and both are in charmingly intimate venues that will make you feel almost part of the action. Best of all, they’re superbly performed, and will leave you with a smile (and, in the case of Hir, a lot to think about!).
Malcolm Gets, Jerry Dixon, Mario Cantone and Matt McGrath in “Steve” | Photo by Monique Carboni
Mark Gerrard’s play – a mostly humorous study of how quickly the comfortable lives of middle-aged adults can be disrupted – works hard to please the audience, and it does. The show is laced with funny one-liners, brightly paced by director Cynthia Nixon, and expertly performed by six fine comic actors, especially Matt McGrath and Mario Cantone. Ultimately, I found its affluent world too insular, but there’s plenty of humor and pathos. If you go, by all means get there early. There’s a captivating preshow concert of musical theater songs, lustily delivered by the cast. And make sure you stay for the deliciously sly curtain call, a mini-show in itself – it’s beguiling from start to finish, and you’ll want to sing along. (Full review here.)
Through January 3rd, New Group at the Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, thenewgroup.org.
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Deirdre Finnegan, Franklin Anthony, Mary Martello and Josh Totora in ‘The Three Maries’ | Photo by Christoper Sapienza, Wiseman Productions
What a sense of nostalgia I felt, entering the Prince Theater for the first time in years! I haven’t been in the main auditorium since the days when it was our leading venue for developing musical theater.
So I was especially joyful to be there to see a new musical: The Three Maries, by Michael Ogborn. At this point, the show looks like a work in progress – but even now, its tuneful, good-natured, boosterish Philadelphia charm is pretty irresistible.
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I couldn’t have an interview with Andy Blankenbuehler without asking about Hamilton, the mega Broadway musical which he choreographed that has equivocally become a cultural phenomenon. Sure, I was chatting with him about his new production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat —which is coming to Philly at the end of December — but his creative juice behind both productions is quite similar.
“It’s hard to talk about it because it is so big,” he says of Hamilton. “The process mirrored my life. My daughter was going through chemo while I was working on the show, so we were literally fighting for life, which is what the show is about. It’s a rite of passage. It tested everything that created my emotional life for the last 45 years, and it is all the things I’ve ever wanted to do.” Read more »