Monday, May 30, 2016

The Invisible Hand

Ian Merrill Peakes &
Maboud Ebrahimzadeh
Pulitzer Prize winner Ayad Akhtar has written a political thriller that is being presented by Theatre Exile at Studio X (1340 S. 13th Street) through June 5. Thanks to Akhtar’s razor sharp script, superb acting by a small ensemble cast and the booming electronic sounds that accompany each blackout and new scene, this production is brilliant. Nick (Ian Merrill Peakes) is an American banker who is imprisoned in Pakistan by an Islamic militant group that doesn’t like the American banks. Knowing no one will pay his $10,000,000 ransom, Nick, a savvy financier, strikes a bargain to earn his freedom by trading in the international market. Since he is not allowed to touch a computer, one of his captors, Bashir (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh), makes the trades as Nick instructs him.  Nick explains, “The free market is guided by self-interest called ‘the invisible hand’. You just have to know what everyone needs.”  There are many short scenes ending in a blackout with character or furniture changes, always accompanied by the electronic blasts. This keeps everyone on the edge of their seats. This is not to say there is no humor.   In one day’s trading Bashir had made quite a bit of money and Nick wants him to sell.  He is disinclined to do so.  Nick, furious at his greed, yells, “Bears do well in a Market and so do Bulls but Pigs gets slaughtered”…to which Bashir replies, “Not in Pakistan.”  J Paul Nicholas portrays the Iman who is the titular leader of the Islamic group but absolute power can be removed absolutely as seen when Bashir dons the Iman’s robes. Anthony Mustafa Adair portrays Dar, who  is originally  the only one connected to Nick but becomes  a shadow of himself by the end of the play.   Bashir learns the market very well from Nick and makes a fortune on his own while causing riots in the streets. Terrorism, no matter what banner it carries is wretched and those caught in its web, whether perpetrators or victims, are forever changed.  Perhaps this is one of the many truths Akhtar has tried to portray. For more information or tickets, call 215-218-4002 or visit online at theatreexile.org. 

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Plough and the Stars

Harry Watermeier  &
Victoria Rose Bonito
The Irish Heritage Theatre, located in the Plays and Players Theater, 1714 Delancey Place is presenting The Plough and the Stars through June 11 in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the Easter Rebellion.  It is the third play in Sean O’Casey’s trilogy and also considered the most controversial.  Many of its themes are relevant today… a patriot feeling the call to serve his country by bearing arms, a loved one wanting him to choose to stay at home with her, feelings of bereavement over a loss leading to a loosening on one’s grip on sanity. The sets are simple yet effective as bars moving across the stage change the scene from a view inside a tenement building to a view outside a street corner.  Projections on a black curtain are shown as the stage is readied between acts. The Irish brogue is very strong and much of the dialogue is difficult to understand in the first two acts. There is a lot of arguing and very quick-paced shouting back and forth.  In the third and fourth acts, the pace seems to have slowed a bit and the dialogue is a lot more comprehensible. Michelle Pauls is an excellent Mrs. Gogan, Irish to the core and very set in her ways.  Mary Pat Walsh plays a stern neighbor, Bessie Burgess, always at odds, as she is a staunch supporter of the crown.  By the third act, with the men gone off  to war, the two women have made a peace of sorts.  Victoria Rose Bonito portrays Nora Clitheroe who desperately tries to keep her husband home. She is a self- centered character in the beginning of the play and this becomes even more apparent by the end. This is an interesting look at a view of war and the toll it takes on many. Although written about Ireland 100 years ago, countless truths can be found in it today. For production information and to purchase tickets, visit www.irishheritagetheatre.org.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sister Act

Eddie Souther, Dan'yelle Williamson,
Mary Martello & Ron  Wisniski
Come and delight in the joyous act of a lifetime as Walnut Street Theatre, 825 Walnut Street, presents Sister Act on its mainstage through July 17. Directed and stunningly choreographed by Richard Stafford, this toe-tapping musical comedy will have you rockin’ in your seats when you’re not falling out of them with gales of laughter.  Set in Philadelphia, Sister Act tells the tale of a talented young woman (Dan’yelle Williamson) from the “the hood” whose musical aspirations are put on hold when she witnesses a murder. While being hidden in a convent to insure her safety, she not only puts her musical talents to good use but develops a true understanding of friendship. Thwarted at every turn by Mother Superior (Mary Martello) but supported by Monsignor O’Hara (Ron Wisniski), high-spirited Deloris Van Cartier (Ms. Williamson), encourages the sisters in the convent to lift their voices in joy. Their rousing songs and exuberant dance moves are a delight to watch.  It is not only the sisters who enchant.   Every cast member has a captivating voice. From the good… police chief Eddie Souther (Kent Overshown) to the bad… murderer Curtis Jackson (Philip Michael Baskerville) solos are strong.  Bad boys Joey (Fran Prisco), Pablo (Tony Castellanos), and TJ (Billy D Hart) sing and dance their way right to your funny bone. The design team has done a spectacular job as well.  Scenic Designer Peter Barbieri and Lighting designer  Jack Mehler have not only accomplished quick scene changes by movements of screens and panels, but have designed a magnificent church with apparent stained glass and varying lights both on the stage and surrounding it. Costume Designer Gail Baldoni has given the production a multitude of outrageously entertaining dress. For more information or tickets, call 215-574-3550, 800-982-2787 or visit online at www.walnutstreettheatre.org or Ticketmaster. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

If/Then

BROADWAY PHILADELPHIA PRESENTS

IF/ THEN

PHILADELPHIA PREMIERE OF

If/THEN AT THE

                      ACADEMY OF MUSIC

                           JUNE 21-26, 2016

 Featuring Original Broadway Cast Members Jackie Burns and 
  Anthony Rapp,   Joined by Tamyra Gray and Mathew Hydzik

Broadway Philadelphia presents the Philadelphia premiere of If/Then at the Academy of Music June 21-26, 2016. The first National Tour of this production brings together original Broadway cast members Jackie Burns and Anthony Rapp with Tamyra Gray and Mathew Hydzik. This original Broadway musical reunites the creative team behind the Pulitzer prize winning and Tony Award winning Next To Normal. The musical follows two story lines in the life of Elizabeth, a city-planner who moves back to New York to restart her life. When her life splits into two paths, If/Then follows both stories simultaneously. It reflects on the choices and contradictions that we face in our everyday life.  Anthony Rapp will play Lucas, an old college friend of Elizabeth who reconnects with her when she moves back to New York City.  Tamyra Gray will play Kate, an elementary school teacher and Elizabeth’s new neighbor and Mathew Hydzik will play Josh, a handsome doctor and army reservist who meets Elizabeth on her first day back in New York City.  For more information about If/Then, visit IfThenThe Musical.com   Tickets can be purchased by calling 215-893-1999, by visiting www.kimmelcenter.org. or the Kimmel Center Box Office. Group sales are available for groups of 10 or more and can be purchased by calling 215-790-5883.




Friday, May 20, 2016

Broadway Philadelphia's 2016-2017 Season

An American in Paris
The Kimmel Center

For The Performing Arts

And The Shubert Organization

 Present

Broadway Philadelphia

Broadway Philadelphia, presented by the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and the Shubert Organization has announced its 2016-2017 Season. The upcoming season productions have a combined 29 Tony Awards.  Additionally  four new national touring shows will be making their Philadelphia Premieres.   An American in Paris will be at The Academy of Music from November 22-27 2016. It is the new Tony Award winning musical about an American soldier and a mysterious French girl each yearning for a new beginning in the aftermath of war.  With unforgettable songs from George and Ira Gershwin, the show earned more awards than any other musical in the 2014-2015 season.   Mamma Mia!  will be at the Merriam Theatre from December 27-December 31, 2016.  This is the smash-hit musical that combines ABBA’s greatest hits.  See it and have “the time of your life”.  The Bodyguard  will be at the Academy of Music from February 21-26, 2017. Based on a film by the same name, the award-winning musical will star Grammy Award nominee Deborah Cox.  Former Secret service Agent turned bodyguard, Frank Farmer, is hired to protect superstar Rachel Marron from an unknown stalker.  A romantic thriller, The Bodyguard features many classics such as “I Wanna Dance with Somebody" and “I Will Always Love You.” The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time will be at Academy of Music February 28-March 5, 2017. Hailed as “one of the most fully immersive works ever to wallop Broadway” by the New York Times, this is a Tony Award winning new play about fifteen year old Christopher who is exceptionally intelligent but ill equipped to interpret every day life.  When he falls under suspicion for killing his neighbor’s dog, he sets out to identify the true culprit which leads to an earth-shattering discovery and a journey that will change his life forever. The King and I will be at The Academy of Music  March 22 – April 2, 2017.  One of Rogers & Hammerstein’s finest work’s, The King and I has a myriad of classic    tunes including  “Shall We Dance” and “Getting to Know You.”  Set in 1860’s Bangkok, this musical tells of the relationship between the king of Siam and Anna, the schoolteacher he hires to teach his many wives and children.  Cabaret will be at the Academy of Music April 4-9, 2017.   Direct from Broadway, the celebrated opus returns to Philadelphia with well-known songs including “Cabaret”, “Willkommen” and “Maybe This Time.” Hedwig And The Angry Inch will be at the Forrest Theatre April 18- 23, 2017.  This musical sensation tells the story of one of the most unique characters  ever  to hit the stage.  Motown The Musical  will be at the Academy of Music May 30- June 11, 2017.  Featuring classic songs such as “My Girl “ and “Aint No Mountain High Enough”, Motown the Musical  follows Berry Gordy’s journey from featherweight boxer to the music mogul who launched the careers of Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, and Smokey Robinson.   Fun Home will appear at the Forrest Theatre June 13-18, 2017. Winner of five 2015 Tony Awards, including “Best Musical,” Fun Home follows Allison at three different ages as she explores and unravels the mysteries of her childhood.  Wicked, at the Academy of Music July 26- August 27, 2017, looks at what happened in the Land of Oz from a different angle. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Secret Garden

Alex Keiper & Bailey Ryon
The Arden Theatre Company, located at 40 N. 2nd Street in Old City, Philadelphia, is presenting The Secret Garden on its F. Otto Haas Stage through June 26.  This deliciously delightful production can be enjoyed on many levels, literally.  There is the marvelous acting, the beautiful music and the clever use of stage props.  Attention must also be drawn to the action on the stage, above the stage, and actually below the stage.  This is a multi-level event and it is difficult to decide where to appropriate most of your attention. Jorge Cousineau, set and video designer, co-conceived this intriguing production with artistic director Terrence J. Nolan. The end-result is captivating. Scenes have been designed in miniature and placed in chronological order on a turntable beneath the stage.  A videographer shoots the scenes “in real time” during the performance and they are projected onto the stage, appearing as different views outside of a house window.  It is not only fascinating to watch the views change on stage, but if you are fortunate enough to have a seat near where the videography is taking place, you have a mesmerizing show to watch beneath the stage.  Onstage, the results are equally remarkable.  The staging is superb as actors move up and down staircases or move in and out of the wings to sing their solos or duets. Bailey Ryon is marvelous in her role of Mary Lennox, but then everyone else is outstanding in their role as well.  When Jeffrey Coons (Archibald Cravens) sings, whether it is a solo, a duet, a quartet or with the company, magic happens. Elisa Mathews has some beautiful solos and duets, as Lily Craven. Martha, played by Alex Keiper, is a meek character in the beginning but can certainly belt out a song in the second act when she encourages Lilly to “Hold On.” Everything about this performance works as smoothly as a long-running Broadway show. Don’t miss an opportunity to see The Secret Garden at the Arden.  For more information or tickets, call 215-922-1122, visit online at www.ardentheatre.org. or walk up to the box office at 40 N. 2nd Street in Old City Philadelphia.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Man of La Mancha

Danny Rutigliano &
Robert Newman

Bristol Riverside Theatre, located at 120 Radcliffe Street, Bristol, Pa. Is presenting Man of La Mancha through June 5. Dreaming "the impossible dream" in broad rich tones is TV and stage star Robert Newman. Devotedly by Don Quixote’s side is the inimitable Sancho Panza, faithfully portrayed by Danny Rutigliano. Belting out song after song is Tamra Hayden depicting Aldonza, Don Quixote’s Dulcinea.  Adding to the richness of the harmonies on stage is the delightful music sung by Robert Farruggia in his role as Padre.  This is a great production with a large, talented ensemble cast. The audience is hooked instantly by a very percussive opening in an underground prison cell during the time of the Inquisition. Moments later gasps are heard throughout the theatre as a long staircase opens and descends from the ceiling for the entrance of Don Quixote, and his guards. The results of the creative team are exceptional. Roman Tatarowicz is responsible for the brilliant set design; Linda Bee Stockton for costume design, Ryan O’Gara for lighting design and Liz Atkinson for sound. The music of Man of La Mancha is enough to engage an audience, but the acting in this production is first rate as well. For more information or tickets, call 215-785-0100 or visit online at brtstage.org. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Cirque du Soleil's Ovo

crickets gathering around
unexplained ovo  (egg)
Cirque du Soleil’s Ovo, appearing at the Liacouras Center, is a captivating look at the world of insects at work and play. No need to fire up your imagination. The outstanding creative team has done all of your work for you. From the moment the show begins, you are transported into the Lilliputian world of the ant, spider, firefly, cricket and Ladybug as they astonish and amaze everyone observing them in their dazzling habitat. The costumes are magnificent. Most insects have two; a complex one as they wander around the community and a sleeker one as they perform their acrobatic feats. And what acts they are!  A row of ants juggle large kiwis and corn on their feet and interchange them with each other with millisecond precision. A mind-boggling dragonfly balances on his hand and maneuvers over and around a giant plant stalk while the leaf opens and closes on a projection screen behind him. His amazing balance would rate a 10 from an Olympian judge. An astonishing butterfly struggles to emerge from a cocoon high up the ropes and succeeds as long flowing silks materialize along with her body. As a spider contortionist slowly and spectacularly weaves her web, the web appears not only on the projection screen behind her but on the floor as well; several crickets are magically attracted. The pi├Ęce de resistance is the dozen member cricket and ant community who cling to a climbing wall, jump off to a trampoline, bounce back to the wall and run straight up, only to bounce down and begin anew with double and triple flips. Throughout the performance the arena is alive with the buzz of insects, achieved both with live instruments and an electronic keyboard.  Several characters have their own sounds and individual themes.  The foreigner, who arrives with an egg, is smitten with the Ladybug. They are spotlighted on several occasions; as they “converse”, high wires and other equipment are surreptitiously set up in the darkness. On other occasions, live music is spotlighted to divert the audience’s attention from the equipment arrangements. Everything about this performance is enthralling. It may be a unique concept to view the world from an insect’s point of view, but every aspect of Ovo is riveting. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Beyond My Backyard

Jennifer Childs as teen-aged Tabitha
Not since Why I’m Scared of Dance by Jen Childs has an audience been treated to a smash hit showcasing the  brilliance of the multi-faceted Jennifer Childs. I Will Not Go Gently, a world premiere comedy  written and performed by Jennifer Childs is being produced by 1812 Productions and can be seen at Plays and Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey Street through May 15. It  explores Jen as a middle aged British rock star, Sierra Mist, attempting a come-back tour in the US; Sierra Mist’s #1 fan from adolescence, Abby, who broadcasts podcasts at 3:30 a.m due to her insomnia; Abby’s teenaged daughter, Tabitha;  Abby’s grandmother, a 90 year old strand-up comic,  and Daphne Thundergrass, a motivational speaker who  inspires everyone to find the super hero within themselves.  Jen’s partnership with Christopher Colucci not only produces the music for Sierra Mist’s rock show, including her famous (and hysterical) “Jack in My Box”, but also the musical interludes occurring during each character change. Jorge Cousineau is the best video designer in the business and has proved it yet again with his spectacular vision of Jen as a superhero, videos at a high school reunion, and an exploration of Y2K. No words can adequately describe Jen’s talent. Watching her morph on stage from a British rock star to an adoring 40-something Mom is startling enough. But when she next becomes a teenager who texts, skypes, talks on the phone, iPad, computer and does homework simultaneously, you can fall out of your seat laughing. Just when you think Jennifer can’t be any funnier, she becomes a 90 year old grandmother who decides to become a stand-up comic. The grandmother may be stand-up but the audience is rolling around on the floor. Don’t miss I Will Not Go Gently, a hilarious tribute to aging, as only Jennifer Childs can present. For more information or tickets, call 215-592-9560 or visit online at www.1812productions.org.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Machinal

Mary Tuomanen & Ross Beschler
Whenever Thom Weaver is the Lighting Designer of a production, it is a sure bet that the results will be remarkable.  He is the best in his field.  When he oversees the entire creative team, (lighting, scenic, costume, and sound) it can be nothing short of phenomenal. And so it is with EgoPo’s current production of Machinal.  The third in a series - American Giants II (women playwrights) Machinal  by Sophie Treadwell, is being presented by EgoPo Classic Theater and is running  at the Latvian Society, 531 N.  7th Street through May 8. Loosely based on the life of Ruth Snyder who was executed for murdering her husband, this production is intense. Boundless symbolism requires your utmost attention, but having given it, you will be rewarded with appreciation of a confluence of art forms that are rarely seen together in one piece… mime; the shedding of clothes to strip one’s identity;  stilted movements of automatons; fluid movements of a ballet; a Greek chorus; opera; and cacophony emanating from the stand-up microphones. Mary Tuomanen, the only actor not in the ensemble,  is extraordinary in her role as the Young Woman. As she portrays a wide range of emotions… fear, repugnance, resignation, desire, determination and bewilderment, she has the audience eating out of her hand. This piece may require your concentration but it is worth every second of it!  For more information or tickets, call 267-273-1414 or visit online at www.egopo.org