Friday, November 27, 2015

Archive: January, 2012

POSTED: Wednesday, January 18, 2012, 2:14 PM
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Felicia Boswell and Bryan Fenkart in the "Memphis" national tour at the Academy of Music.

By Howard Shapiro

The pumping musical Memphis celebrates an America whose definition of freedom is always evolving. The national tour, which pulled into the Academy of Music on Tuesday and is staying through Sunday, delivers the show about the ‘50s with the same high-energy and spirit as its Broadway rendition.

Memphis, which is loosely based on a true story about a young Memphian who integrated the music on the city’s radio stations, won the best-musical Tony in 2010, and its popularity across demographics has helped producers turn it into a new Broadway experience, across formats.

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POSTED: Wednesday, January 18, 2012, 11:42 PM

By Toby Zinman
For the Inquirer

If there is anything New Yorkers like to talk about more than restaurants it’s real estate. In the Footprint: The Battle over Atlantic Yards, performed by the Civilians at the Annenberg Center, is a musical docudrama about the unpromising topic of “eminent domain”—the complex real estate legality that can crush the individual homeowner in the jaws of corporate takeover. 

The Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn has dragged on for seven years; it began when Bruce Ratner decided to build an arena for basketball in Prospect Heights, a land grab that involved displacing more than 800 people, In the course of various battles, the community was split many different, often surprising ways: black leaders find themselves opposed by black citizens, liberal leaders find themselves allied with big money, a Russian oligarch buys the New Jersey Nets (herein referred to as the Nyets—one of two actually funny moments in the course of the 100-minute evening), the eminent architect Frank Gehry’s design is ditched, and the bloggers have a field day.

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POSTED: Tuesday, January 17, 2012, 11:52 PM

By Bill Reed
Inquirer Staff Writer

After rescuing the iconic Bucks County Playhouse from a year of dormancy, the new owners and operators are aiming to light up the New Hope stage for a May fund-raiser, two summer plays, and a Christmas holiday show.

"I can't imagine what it was like in 1939," when playwright Moss Hart put on the first show, Springtime for Henry, after converting the decaying 18th-century gristmill, Broadway producer Jed Bernstein said Tuesday. "It will be pretty exciting when the lights blaze on again.

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POSTED: Monday, January 16, 2012, 5:46 PM

By David Patrick Stearns

The first thing anybody needs to know about Ludwig Live! is that the cabaret show, playing at the Kimmel Center’s Innovation Studio, has little to do with Beethoven or even having laughs at his expense. Using tired devices such as the clash of high and low art, Ludwig Live!, which opened Friday, explores how intentionally ramshackle showbiz somehow holds the stage.

The concept is that cranky old Beethoven — played by Charles Lindberg, in the cheapest wig imaginable — is somehow back from the dead and taking his story on the road with a troupe of actors. But all have quit. The one survivor is his mousy, amiable stage manager, played by Katherine Pecevich, who is faced with playing all the characters in his life story as well as the legions of modern celebrities he credits himself with influencing, from Elvis Presley to Sarah Palin.

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POSTED: Friday, January 13, 2012, 10:54 PM

By Howard Shapiro

Bring on the mEEps. They live, well, a mEEp’s life, rising each morning in their forest of found-object playthings, testing the air with hand-puppet fingers, then flipping open the tops of their trunks or large cans to climb out and play as a group in whatever endeavors they choose. ‘Til bedtime.

There’s nothing in the theater like a delightful surprise, and these usually come in small chunks — a performance, a piece of unexpected stagecraft, a song or a riff of dialogue, and not generally an entire evening. Actor-playwright Ed Swidey’s The mEEp pROject, a world premiere from Simpatico Theatre Project that opened Friday night in the 5th-floor studio at Walnut Street Theater, is one of those rarities: a winner all the way, both his play and and the sweet, demanding 70-minute production it’s being given.

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POSTED: Thursday, January 12, 2012, 10:52 PM
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Andrew J. Tardif, Jonah Patten and Lyndsay Hart in a scene from Off-Color Theatre Company's "Tiny Tales from a Big Chair." Photo by Annie Halliday.

By Howard Shapiro

It’s the little inventive stuff in children’s theater that can excite the kids and charm the adults. In its first stab at family theater, the young Off-Color Theatre Company’s original show, Tiny Tales from a Big Chair, has the clever stuff, but not enough.

Tiny Tales
is supposed to be a comedy — the troupe of mostly University of the Arts grads first came together in the 2009 Live Arts Festival/Philly Fringe with a mission to create new comedy. For sure, the show is light-hearted throughout, but not as funny as it tries to be. It lacks the constant stream of stage business that would take it a notch up from merely amusing.

The show, which opened Thursday in the theater of the Gershman Y, contains five storybook one-acts, nicely performed by six actors who have good senses of the cartoonish characters they play. Indeed, the first half is built on a format made popular by TV’s Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon show in the ‘60s: A narrator reads from a storybook and the cartoon characters speak the dialogue and otherwise emote the way the narrative directs them to.

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POSTED: Thursday, January 12, 2012, 4:03 PM

By Wendy Rosenfield

"Body Awareness Week,” as Professor Phyllis explains at the start of the Wilma Theater’s production of Body Awareness, offers “a chance for everyone at Shirley State to just check in.” But in Annie Baker’s compassionate comic drama about a lesbian couple, their son Jared, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome, and a photographer who brings his “male gaze” to the festivities, the shallow political correctness of “checking in” leads to a much deeper excavation.

This is the first full-length play Baker wrote after graduating from NYU (her third, along with Circle Mirror Transformation and The Aliens — presented earlier this season by Theatre Exile — to be set in Vermont), and though her intimate script spies on both their kitchen table and their pillow talk, its women, Phyllis (Grace Gonglewski) and Joyce (Mary Martello), tend to behave according to their prescribed roles.

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POSTED: Tuesday, January 10, 2012, 2:48 PM

By Howard Shapiro


Jersey Boys, which will end its five-week run at the Forrest Theatre on Saturday, set records when the national tour was here last winter -- and is setting new ones now. The musical, still playing 90 miles away on Broadway, did very well when it crossed over the home of the Jersey boys and into the Pennsylvania border, with a record gross for the Forrest of $1,617,700 for a week of eight performances.

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About this blog

Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer where she reviews New York and London as well as Philadelphia. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of five books about modern and contemporary drama, and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). She was recently named by American Theatre magazine "one of the twelve most influential critics in America."

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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