The great fun of Philly Theatre Week is taking advantage of the bargain-basement pricing to discover shows you never knew you’d like.
Seats for the 10-day blitz of theatrical productions — on stages Feb. 7-17 — come at three prices: $15, $30, and free, with tremendous values at all levels.
We scanned the lineup of offerings from more than 80 companies for the five best deals at each price point.
Visit phillytheatreweek.com for details on these shows, along with a downloadable program of all the offerings.
Many theaters are offering $15 Philly Theatre Week seats to regularly running shows. Take advantage: It’s a good way to get a taste of some of the season’s standout productions. These five are a steal at $15:
Youth (Feb. 7-10 and 12-17, Vasey Theatre, Villanova University). This new play by local luminary James Ijames is one of the big events of the season. (610-519-7474, villanovatheatre.org)
The Bridges of Madison County (Feb. 8-10 and 12, Philadelphia Theatre Company). This soaring musical of the romance of Francesca and Robert is part of Philadelphia Theatre Company’s ambitious 2017-18 comeback season. Some people like the musical better than the book or the film. (215-985-0420, philadelphiatheatrecompany.org)
Best of Cocktail Plays (Feb. 11-12, Philadelphia Distilling). Four short plays from Juniper Productions’ first two seasons. Sonya Aronowitz, head of Juniper, programs theater in places to eat and (especially) drink, so libations and light dinner fare are available before or after the show (but not included in the ticket price), including special cocktails “paired” with each play. (juniper.agency)
Ragtime: The Musical (Feb. 7-10 and 13-17, Eagle Theatre, Hammonton, N.J.). An immigrant, a woman of the upper classes, and a musician in Harlem, all in search of a self-designed American dream. It’s the Eagle’s biggest production yet. This off-the-beaten path venue is on theater insiders' radar for the technical feats it regularly employs to make its stage into something sweeping and magical. (609-704-5012, eagletheatre.org)
Clown Sex Ed (Feb. 7-10 and 14-17, Philly Improv Theatre). Tribe of Fools, the physical theater troupe that copped a Barrymore Award in November, tackles that most not-nostalgic memory of schooldays: sexual education class. What a crazy concept. (tribeoffools.org)
Some other $15 values: On Golden Pond (Feb. 7-10, Bristol Riverside Theatre); The Presented (Feb. 7-9, DaVinci Art Alliance), in which one-man show specialist Chris Davis explores the artist’s life in hilarious fashion; Julius Caesar (Feb. 7-8, 13, and 15, Media Theatre); Awake and Sing! (Feb. 7-10 and 13-17, Quintessence Theatre Company); the Equinox New Play Festival (Feb. 7-10, University of the Arts); and, for Valentine’s Day, Love (Feb. 14, Philadelphia Brewing Co.), a look at love scenes and breakups.
At this Theatre Week price level, you can see some of the best shows around, the hits everyone is talking about, without cleaning out your bank account. It’s both a bargain and a window on the quality that’s on the Philly theater scene right now.
Frankly, we want to see all the shows at this level. But to narrow it to five:
Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (Feb. 8-10, 12-17, Bucks County Playhouse). Sunday, Feb. 3, was the 60th anniversary of the Day the Music Died, when Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper all perished in a plane crash. Back by popular demand, this rocking bio-musical covers the career of Holly, a true rock-and-roll pioneer. (215-862-2121, bcptheater.org)
More shows with $30 tickets: Ken Ludwig’s A Comedy of Tenors (Feb. 7-10 and 12-17, Walnut Street Theatre), Saint Joan (Feb. 9, Delaware Theatre Company), Betrayal (Feb. 12-17, Lantern Theater Company), Hype Man: A Break Beat Play (Feb. 7-10 and 12-17, InterAct Theatre Company), and Becoming Dr. Ruth (Feb. 9 and 16, Act II Playhouse, Ambler).
If you’ve been looking to expand your horizons, this is your price point. The free offerings for Philly Theatre Week include everything from cabarets to food-linked productions. These five sweet events are even sweeter for being free.
(Note that seats for free Philly Theatre Week may be limited, and that some of the free shows require RSVPs online.)
The Spirit of Sojourner Truth: Ain’t I a Woman? (Feb. 10, Second Baptist Church of Germantown). One-woman show by Daisy Century about the life of the preacher, suffragist, and equal rights activist. Free with RSVP. (267-415-6882, beacontheatreproductions.org)
Overlook Googles You (Feb. 10 and 17, Philly Improv Theater). Overlook is one of Philly’s best-established improv teams. They’ll google a brave audience volunteer and create an entire show about what they find. (267-233-1556, phillyimprovtheater.com)
The Colored Museum (Feb. 16 and 17, African American Museum in Philadelphia). Theatre in the X does George C. Wolfe’s play, creating a fictional “living museum” in which “exhibits” probe the meaning of the black experience. Theater in the X executive director LaNeshe Miller-White says, “It’s so powerful to explore the stereotypes and attitudes around black people, to see how far we’ve come – and how far we haven’t.” Free with RSVP. (theatreinthex.com)
Jazz Cocktail Hour: Paula Johns Presents The Look of Love (Feb. 13, Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center, West Chester). Cocktails and nibbles beforehand, and then Johns and the Dave Hartl Trio perform highlights of the Burt Bacharach songbook, interlaced with stories of his work with lyricist Hal David, the great Dionne Warwick, and singers from Barbra Streisand to Elvis Costello. (610-356-2787, uptownwestchester.org)
Circadium: Test Flights (Feb. 13, Circus Campus, Mount Airy). In this physical theater “scratch night,” artists try out their works-in-progress for you. “We’ve had everything from circus acts to dance to spoken word,” says Shana Kennedy, executive director of the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts. “The challenging things we do reach audiences in a visceral way. Just seeing someone on a tightrope or a trapeze can be very powerful in itself. We’re bringing all the arts together.” (circadium.com/testflights)