Thursday, January 26, 2023

A Soldier's Play


Eugene Lee and ensemble cast 

The revival of the award winning  A Soldier’s Play  is being presented by the Kimmel Cultural Campus and the Shubert Organization through February 5, 2023 , at the Forrest Theatre, 1114 Walnut Street. This national tour stars Norm Lewis as Captain Richard Davenport and Eugene Lee as Sergeant Vernon C Waters but that is only the tip of the iceberg. While both of these men are outstanding in their individual roles, the expertise of the rest of the cast cannot be overlooked.  The scene is set in an  army barracks  of a Black unit in 1944 in Louisiana. When a sergeant is murdered, no one seems to worry too much until someone is brought in to investigate. There are many people who had a reason to kill the sergeant. (  I had thoughts of doing so myself. ) Through a series of investigations and flashbacks, the crime is solved. The acapella singing that is woven throughout the piece  is soulful. The changing of the lighting to place accents  is masterful. This is a powerful work on many levels. Tickets can be purchased by calling 212-239-6200, visiting www.telecharge.com or visiting the Forrest box office (1114 Walnut Street.)


 

Friday, January 20, 2023

Last of the Red Hot Lovers



 

Susan Riley Stevens & Scott Greer

Walnut Street Theatre, located at 825 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Pa., is presenting Neil Simon’s Last of the Red Hot Lovers on its main stage through February 5, 2023. Scenic Designer Brian Froonjian has done an outstanding job designing the set of a Manhattan apartment in the ‘60s.This is one of Neil Simon’s funniest comedies with built in laughs every minute or two.  Scott Greer is one of the finest comedic  actors in Philadelphia and is excellent in his role of Barney Cashman, the 47-year-old owner of a fish restaurant who wants to bring a little excitement into his life on the one afternoon that he knows his mother will be out of her apartment. On three separate occasions he invites a woman to meet him in his mother’s home and each instance is hilarious for completely different reasons.  First  Elaine Navazio (Grace Gonglewski ) enters the scene . Outgoing and brash, she is disappointed that Barney doesn’t have an apartment with a better stocked bar and a supply of cigarettes. When he sets up for his next guest with  more choices of drink and cigarettes laughter peals throughout the audience. Jessica Bedford portrays Bobbi Michele, his next guest but she is so hyper that drinks aren’t needed and the only thing she smokes is pot. Barney’s  final attempt is with Susan Riley Stevens, portraying Jeanette Fisher who is a long-time acquaintance. Jeanette is suffering from severe melancholy and is extremely depressed, resisting Barney’s offers of champagne. Barney chases her around the apartment nonetheless. This theatre experience is downright fun!  For more information or tickets, call 215-574-3550 or visit online at WalnutStreetTheatre.org or Ticketmaster.com


Sunday, December 18, 2022

Charlotte's Web

 

                                        

                                                     Ensemble Cast of Charlotte's Web

Arden’s Children Theatre is presenting its 4th iteration of Charlotte’s Web on its F. Otto Haas main stage through January 29, 2023. It was adapted from E.B White's book by Joseph Robinette. Casie Girvin is a beautiful Charlotte and trained with the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts for this role. She makes her entrance into Wilbur the pig's barn by sliding upside down on silk scarves and then walking backwards like a spider followed by a few tumbles. She vows to save her friend’s Wilbur life. “If I can fool a bug, I can fool a man,” she muses and then spins “Some Pig” in her web. Of course it is seen as a miracle by Wilbur’s owner, and when it is replaced by “terrific, and “radiant,”  Mr. Zuckerburg decides to spare Wilbur's life and take him to the County Fair. The farm also has a  Goose and Gander who speak everything in triplicate and a rat who scavenges everywhere for bits to eat. Wilbur befriends all but his best friend is Charlotte who is works very hard to save him but becomes exhausted while doing so. When she spins a sack with over 500 eggs and tells Wilbur she will die before they are hatched, Wilbur promises to watch over them. Wilbur ends by contemplating that “It isn’t often that someone comes along who is a good friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” This is a show that can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages. The young children present asked very serious questions of the actors. My 14 year-old granddaughter, who had seen the show in 2018, really enjoyed it, and I thought the performance was very well done.  Tickets may be purchased at the Arden Box Office or online at ardentheatre.org. 



Friday, December 9, 2022

This Is The Week That Is


                                                      Patsy ( Jen Childs ) on her stoop

1812 Productions, Philadelphia’s only All Comedy Theatre Company, is presenting its annual political satire This Is The Week That Is  at Plays and Players Theatre, 1714 Delancey Place, through December 31, 2022. The extremely talented 7-member ensemble cast is composed of both veterans and new members, all of whom have demonstrated talent in singing, dancing, writing, and being outrageously funny. Jennifer Childs is the head writer; Sean Close heads the news desk and Pax Ressler is the music director when not performing. Benson Thomas, Jackie Soro, Lexi Thammavong, and Robyn Unger round out the cast, all of whom open the show with banter back and forth about why 2022 is not an ”idyllic” year. A humorous sketch follows: Biden in Jeopardy which has 3 ages of Biden competing for the correct answers. The audience roars at the final jeopardy question “Where is Kamala?”

This is the 17th year for this production, and it is one of the freshest and most clever that I have ever seen. ( I have seen all but the  initial one. ) Instead of bringing audience members up to the stage and perhaps embarrassing them, this year all audience members are asked to answer a brief survey and place their answers in a box. Cast members later take a few of the papers, call out the audience member's name and comment on what is written or compose songs on the spot incorporating the information. The audience members can be embarrassed right in the comfort of their own seats!

Perhaps the most original part of the evening was four Christmas songs vying for most popular: “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “Frosty the Snowman.”  The first was represented by a Santa; the second by a woman in a nightgown using a walker to gets around; the third was dressed in brown fur with a red nose and the fourth had a hat, a carrot nose, and two branches for arms. An audience vote was taken between the first two and Santa won. In the contest between the next two, Frosty won. It was announced that the audience would get a chance to vote between Frosty and Santa in the second Act. 

The Philadelphia take on the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy is excellent. The little girl rejects a nutcracker and instead happily takes a “Gritty “ doll to bed with her and dreams of a life-sized Gritty who dances with her.

Unexpectedly a negative ad is projected onto one of the three screens. Two legs are shown. “Is this what you want your children to see? VOTE NO for I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.”

The Second Act determines the winner of the favorite Christmas song, has all of the up-to date news and of course, Patsy from her stoop on Schunk  Street.

If you have seen This Is The Week That Is before, you will probably be thinking about seeing it this year. If you are hesitating, don’t, because this year the show is fabulous. If you have never seen it, you must. You won’t be sorry. For more information or tickets, visit 1812productions.org.


Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Jagged Little Pill


The Kimmel Cultural Campus and The Shubert Organization will present the Broadway hit Jagged Little Pill at the Academy of Music from January 3 – 15, 2023. Inspired by the rock album of the same name by seven-time Grammy Award winner Alanis Morissette , Jagged Little Pill is part of the 2022-23 Broadway Series. 

 

Jagged Little Pill is a jukebox musical featuring Alanis Morissette’s groundbreaking hit songs such as “You Oughta Know,” and “Head Over Feet.” It interweaves the songs with the pain of the fictional Healy family and ultimately tells their story of healing and empowerment. The Healy’s appear to be an ideal suburban family – but when the cracks beneath them begin to surface, they must choose between maintaining the status quo, or facing the jarring truth about themselves, their community, and the world around them. 

 

Jagged Little Pill officially opened on Broadway on December 5, 2019, at the Broadhurst Theatre after beginning previews November 3.  Heidi Blickenstaff will reprise her role from the Broadway production as Mary Jane Healy; she is joined by Lauren Chanel  as Frankie Healy, Chris Hoch as Steve Healy and Dillon Klena as Nick Healy. The cast also includes Jade McLeod as Jo and Allison Sheppard as Bella. 

  

In the fall of 2020, the musical garnered a season-leading 15 Tony Nominations – including Best Musical – and Grand Central Publishing released a coffee table book that followed the journey of Jagged Little Pill to Broadway, with behind-the-scenes photos and stories from Alanis Morissette, Diablo Cody, the cast, and more. Following the show’s big Grammy Award win in 2021, Jagged Little Pill also won Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical (Diablo Cody) and Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Lauren Patten).  

  

Follow @jaggedmusical on Twitter, @jaggedlittlepill on Instagram, and @jaggedmusical on Facebook 

 


Thursday, December 1, 2022

CINDERELLA


     Kathryn Brunner & Rebecca Robbins

 

Walnut Street Theatre at 825 Walnut Street is presenting CINDERELLA through its now extended date of December 31, 2022. Originally written for television, this Rogers and Hammerstein’s musical has been updated to include messages of kindness and care for the common folk of the prince’s realm. This production is an absolute delight for audiences of all ages. My 14-year-old granddaughter who has grown up with the theatre since attending the WST children’s theatre as a tot, was enamored with the sets , the costumes, the dancing, and the music. Kathryn Brunner is a marvelous Cinderella. With wondrous stage presence, a beautiful smile, and a gorgeous voice, she sings many solos as well as duets with Prince Topher ( Brent Thiessen ), Marie ( Rebecca Robbins) and songs with Madame (Mary Martello) and her stepsisters. Not only are the solos and duets delightful, but the ensemble numbers are also incredible both vocally and with the beautiful choreography of Gerry McIntyre. The most astounding moments of the production are the two times that Marie takes a wand, tells  CINDERELLA to twirl around and her everyday dress becomes a ballgown. It defies explanation! For more information or tickets to this amazing show, call 215-574-3550 or 800-982-2787, or visit online at www.walnutstreettheatre.org or ticketmaster.com.

A Soldier's Play


 The Kimmel Cultural Campus and the Shubert Organization will be presenting the Philadelphia Premiere of Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of  A Soldier’s Play January 24 - February 5, 2023, at the Forrest Theatre. This show  not only won the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, but it also received a 2022 Tony Award for best revival of a play. A Black sergeant is murdered on a Louisiana  Army base in 1944. An investigation leads to questions about service and loyalty to the country. Emmy, Tony, and SAG Award nominee Norm Lewis will star as 'Captain Richard Davenport.’ Joining  him will be Broadway, TV and film star Eugene Lee who originated the role of ‘Corporal Bernard Cobb’ in the original 1981 Off-Broadway production of  A Soldier’s Play.  In this production he will have the role of 'Sergeant Vernon C. Waters.'  Tickets can be purchased by calling 212-239-6200, visiting telecharge.com or appearing in person, beginning on January 3, 2023, at  the Forrest Théâtre box office, 1114 Walnut Street.