Broadway’s Phantom Joins the Philly Pops for a Show Tunes Series

Hugh Panaro sings with the Philly Pops during the orchestra's 2014 Christmas Spectacular.

Hugh Panaro sings with the Philly Pops during the orchestra’s 2014 Christmas Spectacular.

Hugh Panaro played the title role in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway more than 2,000 times, and somehow he never got tired of it.

“The thing that’s so great to me about theater is it’s a living, breathing organism. The variable that’s always different is the audience,” Panaro says. “There are nights that you might not be feeling well, you might be sick or physically tired, but there were never nights were I was like, ‘oh gosh, I have to do this again.’ I always was excited to do the show, and I think you have to have a certain amount of gratitude, to realize how lucky you are to have this role.”

The Philly native grew up in East Oak Lane and went to Temple before making his Broadway debut as Marius in Les Miserables. When he later joined the Les Miz cast at the Walnut Street Theatre, earning a Barrymore Award in the process, it was as Jean Valjean. But Panaro is best known for The Phantom of the Opera: He’s been cast as both Raoul and the Phantom, the latter on and off over 15 years. Read more »

THEATER REVIEW: In Leper & Chip, Parallel Lives Meet on a Troubled Path

Katie Stahl and Liam Mulshine in Leper & Chip at Inis Nua. (Photo by Katie Reing)

Katie Stahl and Liam Mulshine in Leper & Chip at Inis Nua. (Photo by Katie Reing)

Leper & Chip lasts just over an hour, and has two actors on a nearly empty stage. If you’re wondering how much can happen under these circumstances, consider that just days ago, a lone man at a podium for 70 minutes nearly destroyed the concept of American democracy.

Lee Coffey’s virtuosic play is nearly as grim, though it’s action-packed and has humorous and even romantic moments. Set in a dangerous Dublin neighborhood, Chip (a young woman) and Leper (young man) are, after a fashion, a couple.  Mostly, though, they function in the play as separate narrators, providing complementary chronicles of the world they inhabit. It’s a place besieged by troubles coming on constantly and from all sides—a community where violence begets violence, and happiness stands only a fleeting chance. (If you are thinking this sounds like a contemporary spin on Shakespeare, you’re on the right track.) Read more »

17 Things to Do in Philly This Weekend

Balé Folclórico da Bahia performs at the Merriam Theater on Friday. Photo by Vinicius Lima

Balé Folclórico da Bahia performs at the Merriam Theater on Friday. Photo by Vinicius Lima

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 17

Balé Folclórico da Bahía @ Merriam Theater
The dancers, musicians and singers of Brazilian folk dance troupe Balé Folclórico da Bahía come to the Merriam with this energetic performance based on Bahian dances of African origin, featuring capoeira and samba.

Songs My Mothers Taught Me @ Arden’s Studio Theatre at the Hamilton Family Arts Center
Next up in the Arden Cabaret Series is Barrymore Award-winning actress Mary Martello, accompanied by her son Benjamin Rogerson on guitar and Ryan Touey on piano. She performs on Saturday, too.

Tancredi @ Academy of Music
You have two more chances to see Opera Philadelphia’s Tancredi, with mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe in the title role and Brenda Rae, in her Opera Philadelphia debut, as Amenaide. There are performances on Friday and Sunday. Read more »

Why You’re Hearing So Much About Garth Brooks’s Philly Shows

Trisha Yearwood, then-Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell and Garth Brooks

Trisha Yearwood, then-Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell and Garth Brooks pose before six shows at the building then known as the CoreStates Center in September 1998 | Photo: Chris Gardner/Associated Press

Garth Brooks is coming back to Philadelphia, and people want you to know about it.

Brooks was a megastar. Only The Beatles have sold more albums in the United States. When he last played solo shows in Philadelphia, in 1998, he attracted 115,212 fans to six shows at the CoreStates Center and made $2,509,672. His foray into rock music failed, but dude was still a rock star.

Brooks basically retired after his success in the 1990s, playing only occasionally and selling albums exclusively at Walmart. He played 186 shows at a residency in Vegas over four years, then began his first tour in nearly 20 years in 2014. It’s finally hitting Philadelphia this March, with four shows at the Wells Fargo Center (and two in one day!). Most tickets are the same price ($74.98), which is a pretty cool gimmick. Since it’s 2017, there are also $3,500 VIP packages.

And Comcast Spectacor is really pushing it. I’ve gotten four press releases about it from the WFC. A 40×40 banner was unveiled on the side of the building this morning. There was a promotional blitz for ticket sales for the fourth show, which was added this week and went on sale at 10 this morning. Comcast even tried to get a social campaign going: “Comcast Spectacor encourages all fans to help welcome the iconic country music star to Philadelphia and ‘get their Garth on’ by posting pictures to social media with a cowboy hat and the #GARTHinPhilly.” Read more »

THEATER REVIEW: In The Enchanted, Life and Death in Wonderland

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The Cast of The Enchanted at Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium. (Photo by Johanna Austin @ AustinArt.org)

What is it about the French? I think of myself as a reasonably educated, intelligent person—in most rooms, I can hold my own. But put me next to a Parisian raconteur, and I’m a country bumpkin. The French are so sophisticated, nuanced, ironic—nowhere more so than in their intellectual writing, where I often wonder if I’m misreading all the clues.

Theatrically speaking, this applies especially to Jean Giraudoux, whose elegant, elliptical plays are (to me, at least) tonally and thematically ambiguous. Luckily for Philadelphia, we have the perfect tour guide in director Tina Brock—she and her company, the Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, have made something of a specialty of his work.  Her delightful realization of The Enchanted—a tricky play even by Giraudoux standards—may be the surprise hit of the Philly theater season. Read more »

Songwriters, Win a Chance to Play at Firefly Music Festival

Quincy Mumford performs at the 2016 Philadelphia Songwriters Project finals show at Ardmore Music Hall. Photo by Doerthe Externest

Quincy Mumford performs at the 2016 Philadelphia Songwriters Project finals show at Ardmore Music Hall. Photo by Doerthe Externest

Submit a song to the Philadelphia Songwriters Project’s annual competition and you just might win a summer tour. This year’s theme is Songs of Our Time and all genres of music are welcome, including instrumental. Read more about what fits into the theme here.  Read more »

Music: 5 Shows to See in Philly This Week

Daya plays the Troc on Saturday. Photo from Facebook/The Official Daya

Daya plays the Troc on Saturday. Photo from Facebook/The Official Daya

July Talk @ Boot & Saddle | Wednesday, February 15
Peter Dreimanis’ scratchy, deep voice blends with Leah Fay’s light and sweeter tones atop driving guitar riffs and a thudding-but-danceable rhythm section on this Toronto-based band’s records, including last year’s Touch. They’ve opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Weezer and Alabama Shakes.

Read more »

Run in Your Undies for Cupid Charities

The Cupid's Undie Run is taking place in cities around the world this month. Philly's is on Saturday, February 18th. Photo provided

The Cupid’s Undie Run is taking place in cities around the world this month. Philly’s is on Saturday, February 18th. Photo provided

Keep the Valentine’s Day vibe going into the weekend with Cupid’s Undie Run, a party and fun run on Saturday where participants race in their skivvies. If that sounds a little more naked than you’re willing to be outside in public in winter, costumes, underwear over clothes, or just your usual February getup are all fine to wear, too.  Read more »

Mannequin Came Out 30 Years Ago Today

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Thirty years ago today, Mannequin was released.

It was not well received. “In Mannequin, [Andrew] McCarthy plays a hapless young man who is fired from one job after another, and [Kim] Cattrall plays an Egyptian princess who is reincarnated as a dummy in a Philadelphia department store window,” Roger Ebert wrote in his review 30 years ago. “When she comes to life, she gives him the inspiration to decorate great windows, and that gives him confidence in himself. I am not leaving out very much here.”

He’s right. The movie is stupid. About three years ago, a re-watch of Mannequin led me to write a story about how it’s the greatest movie ever shot and set in Philadelphia. That’s because Emmy, Cattrall’s character, is established as a time-traveler who has dated Christopher Columbus. But her love for Jonathan Switcher (McCarthy) is so great she decides to stay with him. The movie literally posits that the greatest period in human history is 1980s Philadelphia. How could we not love this film?

But despite being bad, Mannequin is eminently watchable. Why? Read more »

This Is Us Actor Brings His Play Lost Girls to Philly

Theatre Exile's production of Lost Girls opens in previews on Thursday, February 16th, and runs through Sunday, March 12th.

Theatre Exile’s production of Lost Girls opens in previews on Thursday, February 16th, and runs through Sunday, March 12th.

John Pollono is most comfortable in the theater, where a playwright has the final word. When he’s acting on television or in a movie, or watching one of his screenplays turn into a film, so much can change.

“I work a lot in features and in TV, but I keep going back to theater. It’s such a writer’s medium — I can collaborate on my own terms,” he says. With writing a movie, like his script for the upcoming Stronger, with Jake Gyllenhaal playing Boston Marathon bombing survivor Jeff Bauman, “there are so many people involved, so many variables. And it’s great, I love doing it, but theater is more of a pure form of writing. When you write a screenplay, writing becomes one of the facets of the filmmaking. With theater, writing is the singular facet,” Pollono says.  Read more »

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