Rocky Broadway Review: Rocky Wins

rocky-broadway-musical-review-marquee

On Thursday, February 13th, the new musical version of Rocky premiered on Broadway in New York City, and some 1,500 effusively enthused Rocky fans–including Sylvester Stallone, Tom Hanks, and Paul Rudd–braved the cold, slushy mess that was Manhattan to see it. I was one of them. Read more »

February Theater Guide: What’s Opening On Stages This Month in Philadelphia

brainspunk all my sons

BrainSpunk Theater presents a classic by iconic playwright Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman, The Crucible). All My Sons opened on Broadway in 1947, and won Miller a Tony and Drama Critics Circle award. It tells the story of the Keller family, in a post-WWII American town. The father, Joe Keller (played by Jaron Battle), is forced to confront dark secrets when his son falls in love with the daughter of his former business partner, who, it warrants mentioning, is in jail. Feb. 22–March 9, $15, Sky Box at the Adrienne Theater, 2030 Sansom St.

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Philly’s Puppet Arts Movement is Growing

Philadelphia Puppet Show Gesualdo, in Heaven

Photo by Jauhien Sasnou

Philadelphia is already known as a physical theater hub in the United States, and now our puppet arts movement is growing. (That’s right, I said puppets.) Imaginative creators like Sebastienne Mundheim, Aaron Cromie and Peter Gaffney are at the forefront of the charge, and last summer, Swarthmore College hosted a six-day national puppet festival. This month, Gaffney debuts Gesualdo, in Heaven, a work about 16th-century Italian murderer-nobleman Carlo Gesualdo, with life-size wooden puppets and live music. Sesame Street this is not.

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TONIGHT: The Renegade Company Takes On Grimm in Juniper Tree

Artwork by Eric Scotolati and Daniel Kontz.

Artwork by Eric Scotolati and Daniel Kontz.

The Renegade Company kicks off Juniper Tree, its adaptation of the Grimm stories that follows Hans and Greta as they encounter a legion of familiar-with-a-twist characters: ”a boy punished by his wicked stepmother, a princess fleeing her wrathful husband, an imp spinning straw for a miller and his daughter.” Northern Liberty’s fab Random Tea Room will be there providing a “custom sensory collaboration” with each performance. Jan. 29-Feb. 8, 7 p.m., $20, First Presbyterian Church, 201 S. 21st St., therenegadecompany.ticketleap.com.

Yo Broadway! It’s Rocky the Musical

Rocky The Musical On Broadway

Photograph by Steven Laxton

Andy Karl knows what you’re thinking. He had the same reservations before agreeing to play Rocky Balboa. How do you turn that film—“Yo Adrian!” and Art Museum steps and all—into a Broadway musical? Stick to the script. “He loses at the end, but his loss is his win,” says Karl, sipping water at a dim midtown Manhattan hotel bar. “He goes the distance; he’s found love. Love is a huge part of what musicals are about. When you think of it, Rocky is all about finding love, finding dignity.” The fights? Merely bookends of the show. But, he adds, “They’re spectacular.”
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Philly Author Warren Hoffman Tackles Racism on Broadway in “The Great White Way”

warren hoffman broadway

Philly writer Warren Hoffman is set to release his second book, “The Great White Way: Race and the Broadway Musical,” on Feb. 6.

Are you ready for this, musical theater nerds? The original title of West Side Story was East Side Story, and it was supposed to be about warring groups of Jews and Catholics, not Sharks and Jets.

That’s just one of the nuggets of wisdom I got from Philadelphia writer and theater guru Warren Hoffman. He shares that and a myriad other little-known Broadway tidbits in his forthcoming book, The Great White Way: Race and the Broadway Musical (Feb. 6, Rutgers University Press). For the project Hoffman spent hours digging through archives at the New York Public Library, among other places, where he was able to read documents that would make any Broadway fan weak in the knees — including drafts of the aforementioned East Side Story.

“It was like feeling history,” says Hoffman, who was recently appointed associate director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Center for Jewish Life and Learning. “No one has written a book about [race and the Broadway musical]. I’m proud of that,” he says.

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DO THIS: Pig Iron Theatre’s
“Lights, Ham-eras, Action!”

TIX_Jan_Pig-Iron

Photo courtesy of Jauhien Sasnou.

In 1995, a group of Swarthmore grads decided to start a “dance-clown-theatre ensemble,” performing strange works in church basements. They called it Pig Iron Theatre Company. After nearly 20 years, the brainchild of Dan Rothenberg, Dito van Reigersberg and Gabriel Quinn Bauriedel (pictured, left to right) has become Philadelphia’s most prestigious independent theater group, helping put our theater scene on the map in a major way. (Take that, New York!)

Their annual benefit at the Troc is the biggest single-day theater event in the city, with an 800-plus crowd every time. This year’s punny theme: “Lights, Ham-eras, Action!” Expect drag queens, acrobatics, song-and-dance numbers worthy of an Oscars opening — oh, and pure genius. Fri., Jan. 24, 7 p.m., $25-$150, 1003 Arch St.

TONIGHT: Gary Shteyngart, Phosphorescent, an ’80s Party and More

Our daily roundup of what’s happening tonight in Philadelphia. Quick note before we move on: All tonight’s events are subject to cancellation because of weather. Be sure to double check before heading out in the cold.

gary shteyngart

THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED: New York Times best-selling comic novelist Gary Shteyngart is returning to the Free Library of Philadelphia to share stories from his latest memoir, Little Failure. (Fun fact: The book was released via a funny trailer starring big-namers James Franco, Rashida Jones and Jonathan Franzen.) The story goes back in time to when Gary was a small boy living in Leningrad named Igor Shteyngart. Eventually it follows him to America — where he is given the name “Gary” — and offers a witty glimpse into his experience as an American immigrant. The evening’s conversation will be led by Daniel Torday, author of the National Jewish Book Award-winning The Sensualist and visiting professor of creative writing at Bryn Mawr College. Tue., Jan. 21, 7:30 p.m., $15, Central Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine St.

Three more events after the jump

Perhaps the Weirdest Show Ever Opens In Philadelphia Tonight

teena-geist-stairwell-symphony

I know that we tend to be pretty quick with the superlatives in this business, but I don’t think it’s any exaggeration to say that Teena Geist’s Stairwell Symphony, which opens tonight, may be one of the weirdest, strangest, and most bizarre live shows that you’ll ever see. It’s also totally worth seeing, based on a Teena Geist performance I saw last year at L’Etage. Read more »

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