TV celebs on stage
The Bucks County Playhouse brings in Patricia Richardson (Home Improvement) for its forthcoming Other Desert Cities (Aug. 18-Sept. 2), and George Wendt (Norm from Cheers) for Rock and Roll Man: The Alan Freed Story (Sept. 10-Oct. 1). And the McCarter Theatre has Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire) in Simpatico (Sept. 8-Oct. 15) by Sam Shepard.
The 'Hamilton' effect
The Kimmel Center is feeling the power of Mr. Ten Dollars. With the Hamilton national tour scheduled to hip-hop into Philly sometime in the 2018-19 season (no run dates yet), new audience subscriptions for the center's Broadway series are up a cool 228 percent over this time last year. That's 4,000 new subscribers and counting.
The Kimmel has accordingly gone nuts, laying 20 new events on top of its announced 2017-18 season - nice little add-ons like Les Misérables and Phantom of the Opera.
The Kimmel's not alone in going nuts. "The whole country has," says Kimmel vice president for sales and marketing Crystal Brewe. "This is our chance to make people fall in love with Broadway."
Brewe says theaters everywhere are talking about how to leverage the threefold gift of Hamilton: "It's good for new Broadway shows, it helps interest young people in Broadway," she says, "and first-time subscribers will come see Hamilton, and then come seven more times."
Among many intriguing shows during the Sept. 7-24 Fringe Festival are Hello Blackout! (Sept. 7-17) by New Paradise Laboratories, and Fishtown - A Hipster Noir (Sept. 8-11, 14-18, and 21-23) by Tribe of Fools.
Hello Blackout! is the prequel to New Paradise's memorable O Monsters, again featuring the quirky Kissimmee family. Whit MacLaughlin, artistic director, says Hello Blackout! "is about family life at the moment of the Big Bang." He's excited about the live music, written by Bhob Rainey: "If you wondered what the universe sounded like before it was created, this will be it." But will there be a real blackout? Oh, yes, says Whit.
Hot and funky Fishtown is the setting for Tribe of Fools' show. Inspirations, I'm told, include Chinatown, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and Black Mirror. Tara Demmy plays Low, a Luddite detective. It's Tribe's first female-led piece. Caitlin Weigel of the sketch comedy group ManiPedi is the main writer. Also involved is an app named NuVue, which gives us "characters' virtual-reality moments live on stage."
It'll all have the Tribe of Fools stamp. "There'll be some acrobatics, some circus," Demmy says, with "more dance and movement this time." The theme is worthwhile: "How technology sometimes keeps us from getting close to one another."
Welcome, Bob and Selma
The new Selma M. and Robert J. Horan Studio Theatre is a snug 100-seat space that the Arden Theatre Company has created for its 30th anniversary celebrations this season. First up for the Bob and Selma: Every Brilliant Thing (Nov. 9-Dec. 3), starring Scott "I'm Everywhere" Greer. Another anniversary move: Kash Goin's GoKash productions will be in residence at the Bob and Selma.