Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Color Purple

Carla R. Stewart & Adrianna Hicks
The North American Tour of the Tony Award-winning revival of The Color Purple has returned to Philadelphia as part of Broadway Philadelphia, presented collaboratively by the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and The Shubert Organization.  It has an interesting minimalistic set comprised of chairs hanging on wooden columns at the back of the stage of the Forrest Theater and steps around the other sides of the stage. Three incomparable women from the 2016 Broadway revival lead the touring company- Adrianna Hicks as Celie, Carla R. Stewart as Shug Avery and Carrie Compere as Sofia. All three have exceptional talent and each has marvelous stage presence. but Adrianna Hicks steals the show in the second act when she finds “her voice” and the audience roars its appreciation. Gavin Gregory does a first-rate job of portraying the “Mister” you’ll love to hate as he abuses Celie, his 14 year old “ugly wife”. There is a dazzling three-woman chorus who appear intermittently, simultaneously singing, gossiping and chattering away. There are many delightful musical numbers with beautiful harmonies throughout the performance. One of the most effective numbers in the entire musical, however, is the rendition of “Hell No!” led by Carrie Compere as Sofia. It is a great motivation to spur the audience to chime in and chant “Hell No” as well, decrying situations where women allow themselves to be victims of abuse. This phenomenal production of The Color Purple runs evenings through Sunday, December 17, 2017, with additional matinee  performances  both Saturday and Sunday. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Peter Pan

Jo Vito Ramirez & Emilie Krause
The Arden’s Children Theater is presenting a fresh and original version of Peter Pan on its F. Otto Haas Stage through January 21, 2018. A very talented 4-member ensemble cast, playing multiple roles, joins Emilie Krause as Wendy and Jo Vito Ramirez as Peter Pan on an amazing journey from a campground to Neverland and back. Lighting Designer Thom Weaver’s brilliant use of lighting has everyone in an uproar as Peter and his shadow are re-connected after Wendy ”sews” it onto his feet. Children and adults alike are filled with wonder as Tinkerbell flits from Peter to one of the lost boys and back again, all the while whispering in Peter’s ear. Tinkerbell’s speech is provided by the violin engagingly played by ensemble member Eliana Fabiyi. The timing of Tinkerbells’ flight is “spot on” and is accompanied by many “ooos” and “ahhs” in the audience.” This is not your ho-hum Neverland. There are ropes to climb; tunnels to conquer, and a Captain Hook who is deathly afraid of a ticking crocodile. Spoiler alert. There IS a crocodile!  This is a fabulous show with a time-honored story in a brand new setting. Children of all ages are going to love it. For more information or tickets, call 215-922-1122 or visit www.ardentheatre.org

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Kimmel Events in January

The immensely popular Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood LIVE, based on the #1 PBS KIDS TV series, has delighted live audiences on stages across the country for three years. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood LIVE: King For A Day! will be at the Merriam Theater Friday, January 5, 2018 and Saturday and January 6, 2018. Daniel and all of his friends invite people of all ages to enjoy a brand new adventure in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe where Daniel learns what it takes to be King. The characters come alive on stage with new songs, teaching valuable lessons about kindness, helping others and being a friend. 

Les Misérables, part of Broadway Philadelphia’s 2017-18 season, presented collaboratively by the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and the Shubert Organization, will return to Philadelphia for a two-week engagement January 9-21 at the Academy of Music on the Kimmel Center Cultural Campus. Set against the backdrop of 19th-century France, Les Misérables, the story of broken dreams, unrequited love, sacrifice and redemption, is still the world’s most popular musical, breaking box office records world-wide in its 32nd year. It has been seen by more than 130 million people in 44 countries. 

Comedic genius Paula Poundstone will make her Kimmel Center debut at the Merriam Theater on Thursday, January 11, 2018 at 8:00 p.m. Ms. Poundstone has recently released her new book, The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness, She is known for her sharp spontaneous wit and smart observational humor and can be heard regularly on NPR’s #1 show, the weekly comedy news quiz “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me!”    Paula Poundstone won an American Comedy Award for Best Female Stand-up Comic and has released three performance CD’s. On July 8, 2017, she launched her own weekly podcast - Live from the Poundstone Institute. The podcast is produced in association with NPR station KPCC and is distributed by NPR. 

Juan de Marcos and the Afro-Cuban All Stars will bring the sounds of Cuba to the Kimmel Center Cultural Campus’ Merriam Theater on January 12, 2018 at 8:00 p.m. A unique orchestra, devoted to promoting the complete story of Cuban music, it incorporates the full spectrum of Latin dance music including salsa, mambo, cha-cha, bolero, and rumba. Beginning in the 1990’s the group has had several European tours.  The Afro-Cuban All Stars have been the subject of several documentaries and have received four Grammy® nominations. Over time, they have incorporated younger performers into the band and the musicians now range in age from 13 to 81.

The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in association with Live Nation welcomes neuroscientist, philosopher, and five-time New York Times best-selling author Sam Harris to the Merriam Theater on Sunday, January 14, 2018 at 8:00 p.m. Harris will discuss topical and thought-provoking subjects during a live recording of his 2017 Webby Award-winning podcast Waking Up.  Harris’ writings and lectures cover a wide range of topics but generally focus on how a growing understanding of ourselves and the world is changing our sense of how we should live. Harris received a degree in philosophy from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in neuroscience from UCLA. 
  
The exceptionally funny The Second City improv troupe returns to the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater for performances on Friday, January 19, 2018 and Saturday, January 20, 2018, Their new show, Look Both Ways Before Talking will feature The Second City’s signature improv comedy, audience interaction, and original of-the-moment sketches and songs. The Second City has launched careers of generations of the brightest and funniest comics. Alumni include Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Gilda Radner and Bill Murray. The company now has training centers in Toronto, Chicago and Los Angeles as well as four international touring companies.

Philadelphia rocker David Sweeny creates fun for the whole family with The Johnny Shortcake Show in the SEI Innovation Studio on Saturday, January 27, 2018 and Sunday, 28, 2018. This family-friendly performance is a dance party featuring songs for the young and old alike with original music. Themed around celebrating silliness, the show features soul music for children, teaches important life lessons and is like a big disco party. Johnny Shortcake is the captivating kid-centric personality of David Sweeny, who made a name for himself in the Philadelphia music and arts scene under his other persona – Johnny Showcase. This is a designated BBYO performance.

Philadelphia’s favorite radio DJ, Jerry Blavat, is back for his annual star-studded performance in Verizon Hall, Saturday, January 27, 2018 at 8:00 p.m. entitled Disco, Soul, and Doo Wop. The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts partners with Jerry Blavat every season for a variety show featuring special guests and beloved tunes. Attendees are invited to the Commonwealth Plaza for cocktails and dancing before and after every performance. This year’s show will feature performances by Philly’s Blue Magic; The Intruders; Ray Goodman & Brown; The Moments; The Clovers; Norman Fox & The Rob Roys; Eddie Holman; The Vogues; a special tribute to Jackie Wilson by his son, Bobby Wilson; and more.

International tango superstar German Cornejo and his world-renowned dance troupe, The Tango Fire Company of Buenos Aires will return to the Merriam theater in Tango Fire on Wednesday, January 31, 2018 at 8:00 p.m. Choreographer and tango star German Cornejo will be joined by his senuous and passionate partner Gisela Galeassi. An amazing cast will join them, featuring World Champion Tango champions and dancing greats from tango houses in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Conceived in 2005, Tango Fire premiered in Singapore and then toured extensively.







Saturday, November 18, 2017

Annie

Paul Schoeffler &
Tahlia Ellie
The charming musical Annie is appearing on Walnut Street Theatre’s mainstage through January 7th. Due to the children’s ages, all of the orphans are double cast including Annie. I saw Tahlia Ellie in the title role and she is proving to be an outstanding Annie. Her voice is phenomenal and her poise on the stage is equally remarkable. I imagine that Jenna Seasholtz’s performance as Annie is equally stellar. Tahlia is not the only star of this performance. Ellie Biron, making her theatrical debut as young Molly, makes a huge impression on the audience. The entire orphan ensemble brought down the house with their rendition of “You’re Never Fully Dressed without a Smile.” Mary Martello leaves her mark on every stage she graces.  As Mrs. Hannigan, the mean and nasty head of the orphanage, she is the character you love to hate. With great aplomb she keeps her charges in line with a whistle as she imagines herself dancing off “to easy street”. There are multiple set changes that take place very seamlessly and fantastic special effects for lighting both in Oliver Warbucks' mansion and in President Roosevelt’s cabinet meeting. Annie is a feel-good musical that is perfect for children of all ages.  This production is exquisitely done and will leave a smile on your face long after you have left the theater.  For more information or tickets, call 215-574-3555 or visit online at www.walnutstreettheatre.org

Friday, November 17, 2017

Every Brilliant Thing

Scott Greer
Scott Greer kicks off the inaugural production in the Bob and Selma Horan Studio Theatre at the Hamilton Family Arts Center, 62 N. 2nd Street with Every Brilliant Thing and he does so brilliantly. In the small intimate theatre in the round (square, actually), Scott speaks to each audience member before the show begins and asks if they’d mind reading a word or two from an index card when their number is called. Who can say "no" to Scott Greer ? Audience members are given cards and Scott begins his tale from the viewpoint of a 7 year old who has learned that his mom is in the hospital and is very sad. To alleviate her sadness he decides to make a list of all the brilliant things there are in the world wanting to give her hope. Scott calls out a number and an audience member who has that number on his card must read the word on it. As he gets older, his persona alternately puts the list away and takes it out to add to it. The first word on the list is ice cream; the audience member with card #1 is called on numerous times to say his word. The show is not just about reading words on a list.  Scott is ingenious and has the audience laughing throughout the performance. He enjoins audience members to become characters in his narrative and has an outstanding rapport with each of them as well as the rest of the audience who are completely engaged in each account he puts forth. This is a delightful engagement. Every Brilliant Thing is performed by a truly brilliant Scott Greer. For more tickets or information, call 215-922-1122 or visit online at www.ardentheatre.org

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Craftsman

 Ian Merrill Peakes, Dan Hodge
Paul L.Nolan & Anthony Lawton
Any time a new work by playwright Bruce Graham hits the Philadelphia stage, it’s time to head for the theater, and Lantern Theater Company’s presentation of the world premiere of The Craftsman is no exception. When Lantern Artistic Director Charles McMahon commissioned Bruce Graham to write a play under the auspices of the company’s New Works Initiative, the story of World War II Dutch art dealer Han van Meegeren became the basis of the phenomenal fictionalized drama that Graham has produced. Anthony Lawton is a craftsman in the truest sense. In Act I, he aptly portrays the wealthy, smug, brash art dealer accused of selling Vermeer’s, considered national treasures, to the Nazis. In Act II he demonstrates that he is also an artist with considerable talent, defying noted art critic Abraham Bredius, portrayed by Paul L. Nolan.  Ian Merril Peakes portrays a long-suffering Dutch leader of the resistance who hates the opulent van Meegeren for becoming rich while dealing with the Nazis. Graham does not portray one dimensional characters. The Craftsman is a fascinating mélange of character studies that reflect the after-effects of World War II in Amsterdam and the six-member ensemble cast does an excellent job of fleshing out each individual. Bruce Graham’s latest work is a brilliant portrayal of the damage that hate can do to the psyche, the high value that we place on art in our culture, and the lengths a person might go to fulfill an innate craving for recognition. The Craftsman will be playing at the Lantern Theater, 10th and Ludlow Streets, until December 10, 2017. For more information or tickets, call 215-820-0395, visit online at www. lanterntheater.org or visit the box office in person.                         

Sunday, November 5, 2017

December Events at the Kimmel

The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, in association with Live Nation, welcomes John Mulaney to the Academy of Music on Friday, December 1, 2017 and Saturday December 2, 2017. Best-known for his work on Saturday Night Live, Mulaney’s much anticipated new tour Kid Gorgeous reached capacity, causing a second and third performance to be added. Mulaney recently starred in the Broadway hit, Oh Hello  and released his third stand-up special, a Netflix original entitled The Comeback Kid.


The Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia returns to the Perelman Theater on the Cultural Kimmel Center Campus Saturday, December 2, at 8:00 p.m. The Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia led by Terell Stafford and joined by special guest pianist Orrin Evans and Eric Reed will celebrate the music of renowned jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk in Monk’s Dream. Stafford is also the Director of Jazz Studies and Chair of Instrumental Studies at the Boyer College of Music at Temple University. The Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia is a non-profit organization dedicated to presenting the highest quality of jazz to the greatest number of people.

The National will be appearing in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center on December 4th. Their appearance will be part of a world tour in support of their 7th studio album, Sleep Well Beast. The album was recorded in Hudson Valley, New York; Berlin; Paris and Los Angeles. They are debuting their track “The System Only dreams in Total Darkness,” which was released in a Cases Reas-directed video.

American Gospel Singer Lady Tremaine Hawkins will be honored at the Philadelphia holiday tradition, A Soulful Christmas, in Verizon Hall on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. This event returns for its fifth year with a communal gathering of regional singers performing holiday spiritual, gospel and classic favorites. This year’s performance will also feature special guest Marvin Mills on the Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ. Lady Tremaine Hawkins was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1999. Audiences will be invited to sing along with some of the songs during the concert. There will also be performances from the Philadelphia Heritage Chorale Youth Choir, Philadelphia A.M.E Mass Choir, Citywide Praise Dance Collaborative and several others.

The North American Tour of the Tony Award-winning revival of The Color Purple returns to Philadelphia December 12-17, 2017 as part of Broadway Philadelphia, presented collaboratively by the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and the Shubert Organization. The Color Purple is the tale of 40 years in the life of a family in rural Georgia. It celebrates the healing power of love and the importance of a zest for life. Cast members from the 2016 Broadway revival lead the touring company. The Color Purple won two 2016 Tony Awards and the 2017 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album


Kimmel Center’s resident dance company PHILADANCO will perform its fall program at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts’ Perelman Theater December 15-17, 2017. H_I_S_T_O_R_Y will feature Walking with Pearl about historic choreographer and dancer Pearl Primus; the world premiere of Pieces of My Heart, choreographed by Sonia Hawkins and a piece performed by special guest artist and Kennedy Center Honors Award winner, Carmen de Lavallade. The Philadelphia Dance Company presents the highest quality of professional dance  performance and improves the skills of emerging and professional dancers and choreographers. PHILADANCO is celebrated across the nation and around the world for its innovation, creativity and preservation of predominately African-American traditions in dance

Brian Reed, co-creator and host of ground-breaking podcast S-Town, will appear at the Merriam Theater on Sunday, December 17 at 7:00 p.m. In An Evening with Brian Reed:Creating S-Town: A New Way to Tell a Story,  Reed will give fans an opportunity to hear how this podcast was created.  He will let his audience know how this innovative podcast was created and how he and his collaborators developed an entirely innovative type of storytelling. S-Town recently reached a new industry high with downloads of 16 million within the first week. Reed spent more than three years collating content for S-Town which has won critical acclaim for elevating audio storytelling into the realm of great literary works.

STOMP, the international percussion sensation, will be returning to the Merriam Theater from Tuesday, December 26 through Sunday, December 31, 2017. STOMP, which started as a group of street performers 25 years ago in the UK, has performed in more than 50 countries and has received numerous prestigious awards worldwide. Playing to enthusiastic audiences and rave reviews, Stomp creates rhythmic sounds from everyday household and industrial objects including brooms, hubcaps, radiators and shopping carts as they dance their way across the stage. Eight zippo lighters create a mesmerizing light and sound show. STOMP creates an exciting journey through sound.