DO THIS: Kiss of the Spider Woman

11th-hour-kiss-spider-womanThe rise of 11th Hour is one of Philly theatre’s great success stories. Now in their 11th season, they’ve grown from a fledgling group of recent college graduates, to the most significant force for new musical theatre in the city.

A relatively recent innovation is their Next Step Concert Series, in which musicals — sometimes well-known works, sometimes premieres — are done without costumes and scenery, and with minimal staging.

But don’t think for a minute this means they’re not theatrical! I saw two of their concerts last year — Cy Coleman’s The Life, and Pasek and Paul’s Dogfight — and they were more vibrantly alive than many fully produced shows I’ve seen. The young casts, brimming with talent, are a special pleasure. Sure enough, this series has become a Philly season highlight for those in the know. Performances nearly always sell out.

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Theatre Exile Wins Big at 2015 Barrymore Awards

A scene from Theatre Exile's "The Whale."

A scene from Theatre Exile’s “The Whale.”

It was a big night for Theatre Exile as the company’s production The Whale took home a ton of Barrymore Awards, making them the most-winning theater of the year at tonight’s ceremony at the Merriam Theatre.

A scene from Theatre Horizon's "Into The Woods."

A scene from Theatre Horizon’s “Into The Woods.”

Both The Whale (Outstanding Overall Production of a Play, Outstanding Direction of a Play) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? led Theatre Exile to five wins, followed by Theatre Horizon, who scored four awards, all for their innovative staging of Into the Woods (Outstanding Overall Production of a Musical, Outstanding Direction of a Musical). 11th Hour Theatre Company, Flashpoint Theatre Company, InterAct Theatre Company, People’s Light, Philadelphia Artists’ Collective, and The Wilma Theatre had two wins each. Read more »

REVIEW: Equivocation at Arden Theatre Company

Eric Hissom as Shag | Photo by Mark Garvin.

Eric Hissom as Shag | Photo by Mark Garvin.

The deeply satirical, deeply dark, and deeply humorous Equivocation opened this Wednesday evening at the Arden’s Arcadia Stage, and the Bill Cain play is so good that one can’t help but be moved by the rough-and-tumble troupe of quasi-Shakespeare actors.

But in this play-within-a-play, it isn’t quite William Shakespeare: It’s Shagspeare, Shag for short, and the actors, who in real life have all previously played a combined total of over 100 of the actual Shakespeare’s great works, take on the complexities of how artists and writers deal with questions of truth, morality, and death. Read more »

REVIEW: Bullets Over Broadway at Academy of Music

Michael Williams and Emma Stratton (Photo by Matthew Murphy).

Michael Williams and Emma Stratton | Photo by Matthew Murphy

Olive, a stripper who wants to be a serious actress, says this of her previous stage experience in the musical Bullets Over Broadway: “I call it interpretive dance: The audience interpreted it one way and the Catholic Church interpreted it another.”

That’s the kind of zany gag that fills the nearly three-hour Woody Allen/Susan Stroman musical which kicked off the Broadway Philadelphia season last evening. The original Broadway production, which opened in April 2014 and closed five months later, earned a half-dozen Tony nominations. This touring show, which recreates Stroman’s signature choreography, highlights some emerging musical theater talent, although the play itself isn’t terribly well-crafted or thoughtful. Read more »

Luna Theater Homeless After Two Years at The Parish House

Photo from Google Street View

Photo from Google Street View

Luna Theater sent out an email to its supporters this morning notifying them that the company is essentially homeless after being housed for two years in the Parish House of the Church of the Crucifixion. In the email, founder and Producing Artistic Director Gregory Scott Campbell wrote:

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REVIEW: Theatre Exile’s Rizzo

Photo by Paola Nogueras

Frank Rizzo (Scott Greer) and Marty Weinberg (Paul L. Nolan)| Photo by Paola Nogueras

A special theatrical alchemy happens when a great actor plays a bigger-than-life, flawed but charismatic personality. Think of Orson Welles’s Charles Foster Kane, Burt Lancaster’s Elmer Gantry, and Robert Preston’s Harold Hill. A couple of years ago, Bryan Cranston won a Tony portaying one such figure from the real world — Lyndon B. Johnson.

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REVIEW: Wilma Theater’s Antigone


Jennifer Kidwell and cast in Wilma Theater’s “Antigone.” | Photo by Alexander Iziliaev

When I was a theater student, I was fascinated by stories of the Greek tragedies in their earliest performances — multi-day outdoor festivals, attended by tens of thousands, for whom the event was as much ritual as drama.

What must that be like, I wondered? The few Greek plays I had seen were … well, plays, and fairly dry ones. Audiences applauded politely — but after the final curtain, they were mostly talking about where to go for a post-show nightcap. Would I ever experience a Greek tragedy with the visceral, even sacred, power they once had?

I have now. The Wilma’s hypnotic, altogether extraordinary Antigone has many virtues, but most of all this — it presents a play about loss and memorialization in a way that is both timeless and timely, deeply connected to spiritual beliefs and also politics, and riveting from start to finish.

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Inis Nua Theatre Company “Hooks” Fergie’s Pub for Season Opener

"Hooked!" stars Corinna Burns, Charlie DelMarcelle, and Rachel Brodeur

“Hooked!” stars Corinna Burns, Charlie DelMarcelle, and Rachel Brodeur

It makes a lot of sense that a theater company whose mission is to stage provocative theater from Ireland, Scotland and Wales might get a little help from theater-loving Fergus Carey, aka Fergie—Philadelphia’s best known Irish import and pub owner—when it was discovered that its new theater space wouldn’t be ready in time for this week’s season premiere. So, in a happy turn of events, Inis Nua will debut Gillian Grattan’s three-person Irish comedy, Hooked!, this Wednesday on the second floor of Fergie’s Pub.

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17 Things to Do in Philly This Week

Late Mayor Frank Rizzo Comes to Life in New Stage Play

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 3.49.36 PM

Photo by Robert Hakalski

Play readings don’t normally culminate in shouting matches or near-fistfights, but leave it to this world premiere about our controversial late mayor to change that. In May 2014, during a talkback after a reading of the script, one attendee relentlessly fumed at playwright Bruce Graham (The Philly Fan) for going too soft on Rizzo.

“Graham threatened to take him out in the parking lot,” says Best of Philly-winning actor Scott Greer (right), who plays Rizzo in the Theatre Exile production. “That’s how the discussion started.”

Greer, Graham and director Joe Canuso met with everyone from former mayor Wilson Goode to a Rizzo bodyguard to ex-con Vince Fumo to Rizzo right-hand man Marty Weinberg to develop the play, loosely based on Sal Paolantonio’s definitive biography.

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