Monday, March 2, 2015

POSTED: Friday, May 31, 2013, 3:21 PM

By Jim Rutter

The Arden Theatre first staged Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music in 1995 at the Arts Bank on Broad and South Streets. Two decades on, they've upstaged the musical with a gorgeously designed, magnificently presented production that, as a capstone to the Arden's 25th season, revels in its success.

Hugh Wheeler's book (inspired by Ingmar Bergman's 1955 film Smiles of a Summer Night) depicts the intermingled romantic follies of three couples: mid-40s lawyer Fredrik Egerman (Christopher Patrick Mullen) and his 18-year-old still-virgin bride, Anne (Patti-Lee Meringo), who teases her husband's seminary-student son, Henrik (Joe Hogan), even as he flirts with the maid, Petra (Alex Keiper), while his dad tries to rekindle a romance with actress Desiree (Grace Gonglewski), herself stoking the dying fires of an affair with Count Carl-Magnus (Ben Dibble), as his marriage to Countess Charlotte (Karen Peakes) falters.

POSTED: Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 2:20 PM

By David Patrick Stearns

PRINCETON - "Is this professional or volunteer?" asked one of the younger audience members at Into the Woods, now playing at the McCarter Theatre Center in a production by the Fiasco Theater. Good question.

Before the show began on Saturday afternoon, the scrupulously casual actors loitered around the stage, greeting friends in the audience, slowly coalescing into the intricate web of fairy tales retold by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine with a wisdom that grows deeper with repeated exposure.

POSTED: Tuesday, April 30, 2013, 3:52 PM
Philly-born Benj Pasek (left) and music-writing partner Justin Paul have gone from college dreams to sought-after status.

Benj Pasek, who grew up in Ardmore, is having a really good day. The 2003 Friends Central grad is nominated for a Tony, along with writing partner Justin Paul, for Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre for their work on "A Christmas Story," the musical adaptation of the beloved holiday flick. "A Christmas Story" was also nominated for Best Book and Best Musical.

"It’s the craziest day of my life. I’ve never gotten more text messages in my life. It’s so overwhelming," Pasek told me

He continued that he always watched nominations, and it was surreal knowing his name could be called (of course, he didn't expect it and was "shocked" by the announcment). "When you write a show that’s nominated for best score, best book and best musical, you know your show really resonated with people," Pasek said.

POSTED: Thursday, April 11, 2013, 1:52 PM

By David Patrick Stearns

Upon encountering Thomas Gibbons' play Permanent Collection by InterAct Theatre Company, you're likely to think: "Didn't this play start here?" "Didn't we live this drama?" "Do we have to go through it again?"

The answers are yes, certainly, and indeed. The play premiered at InterAct in 2003 and went on to tell the world about the Barnes Foundation's agonized journey into the real world, focusing not on the move from Merion to Philadelphia but on the first stages of undoing Albert C. Barnes' wishes by Richard Glanton, the foundation's African American president in the 1990s. The main issues are overt and covert racism directed at the man enacting what Philadelphians hate most: change.

POSTED: Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 1:58 PM

By Wendy Rosenfield
Only heaven and producer Whoopi Goldberg know why Sister Act — the 1992 film featuring Goldberg as Deloris Van Cartier, a soul singer who spies a murder committed by her gangster boyfriend and gets witness protection in a San Francisco convent — deserves its own musical in 2013.
It was cute, sure, but not exactly the type of flick people walk around quoting. Maybe changing its setting to 1970s Philly and rooting its tunes among TSOP and Philadelphia International Records-style slow jams is an appeal to the changing demographics of the Great White Way. Maybe Goldberg just really, really liked that movie; Broadway works in mysterious ways.
There’s about as much resonance in Cheri and Bill Steinkellner and Douglas Carter Beane's book as there is in, say, Mamma Mia!, another cheery populist confection (though in-jokes about Market St. misses vs. Rittenhouse Square matrons are always appreciated). But unlike that jukebox musical, Alan Menken’s original tunes and Glenn Slater’s lyrics add street-level grit to Sister Act.
Bad guy Curtis Jackson (Kingsley Leggs) and his henchmen sing an old school O’Jays-style ode to Deloris in “When I Find My Baby,” except inside the crooning and synchronized dance moves are lyrics such as these: “Ain’t gonna let that girl get away! No way! Because when I find that girl... I’m gonna kill that girl!”
“That girl” just happens to be a real-life Philly homegirl, Ta’rea Campbell. And whether it’s due to all this hometown flavor, Campbell’s exuberant, big-voiced performance, or all those glitter-habited South Philly nuns making a truly joyful noise, the whole thing works, and works in a way that combines sincerity, fun and good old rafter-rattling.
Veteran Broadway director Jerry Zaks knows which buttons his audience want pushed. Thus, Hollis Resnik’s Mother Superior — Deloris’ strait-laced nemesis — channels a world-weary Elaine Stritch (circa “I’m Still Here”) in “Haven’t Got a Prayer,” and Deloris’ sass carries not a little of Little Shop of Horrors’ girl-group gusto.
 So, no, Sister Act isn’t a particularly cutting-edge, or even very relevant evening of musical theater. However, it is a surprisingly good time that celebrates another very good time in this city’s musical history.

POSTED: Monday, March 11, 2013, 1:08 PM

By Wendy Rosenfield


There are plays about adolescence and plays for adolescents. Theatre Confetti’s inaugural production, A. Rey Pamatmat’s Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them, aims high at adults, but its bull’s eye is a younger target audience. 

POSTED: Wednesday, February 27, 2013, 1:08 PM

By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer 

It’s like going to a great party with lots of Champagne: Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical is so much fun, so spectacular to look at, with so many danceable songs, that we all just bounced out of the Academy of Music on Tuesday night. 

POSTED: Wednesday, February 27, 2013, 4:31 PM

By Toby Zinman

For the Inquirer 

Edie Falco is the big draw for The Madrid, a play by a little-known author who also happens to be a producer on Nurse Jackie, an enormously popular TV series starring Emmy-winning Falco in the title role.  Falco’s fame was firmly established as Carmen Soprano in The Sopranos, for which she won three Emmys, two Golden Globes and two SAG awards. The Madrid has none of the magnetic characters or the quotable dialogue of either of those shows. 

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