Margie Salvante, the soon-to-be former executive director of the Theater Alliance, said that extended seasons are anecdotal evidence of our theater scene's robustness. They're also good news for audiences, who can choose from a host of productions extending into the summer months.
The Wilma Theater started out strong this year with Tadeusz Slobodzianek's "Our Class" but slumped for its other winter and spring offerings, Annie Baker's "Body Awareness" and Sam Shepard's "Curse of the Starving Class." But the season-ender, Tony Kushner's epic "Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches," has broken box-office records for the South Broad Street theater despite being scheduled in a tough slot without the added benefit of school groups at a time of year when people are fleeing the city for downashore and other vacation environs. "Millennium" runs through Sunday; the second part of "Angels," called "Perestroika," will open the 2012-13 season. If "Millennium Approaches" is any indication, "Perestroika" (which we prefer to the first half) is must-see. Chris Bartlett, executive director of the William Way Community Center, and Gloria Casarez, director of the Mayor's Office of LGBT Affairs, will host a free panel on HIV treatment and prevention at 7:30 p.m. Monday. (Wilma Theater, through Sunday, $23-$56, 215-546-7824, wilmatheater.org.)
Tiny Dynamite Productions gained prominence with its casual theatergoing experiences, a Play, a Pie and a Pint, at which a cheap entry fee gave theatergoers a pint of beer, a slice of pizza and admission to a short play. But the company makes a run at traditional theater with Martin Crimp's "The Country," about a distant couple who move out of the city, only to have their problems catch up with them. "‘The Country' is the antithesis of a Play, a Pie and a Pint," said producing artistic director and "Country" star Emma Gibson. "For starters, no pies and pints." Gibson said that although she hasn't seen much of an overlap in audience between the oft-sold- out a Play, a Pie and a Pint and "Country's" early outings, the former event's popularity has brought more industry people to the new show. (Walnut Street Theatre, Studio 5, 825 Walnut St., through Sunday, $15-20, 215-574-3550, tinydynamite.org.)
The Arden Theatre Co. is also trying something new with its first commissioned musical, "Tulipomania." The show looks at what some consider the first economic bubble burst: In 17th-century Holland, prices for tulip bulbs soared then quickly fell, ruining the Dutch economy. Six strangers gather in an Amsterdam hash bar to recount the eponymous era. (Arden Theatre, 40 N. 2nd St., through Sunday, $29-45, 215-922-1122, ardentheatre.org.)
The Philadelphia Theatre Company is also getting into the musical business this summer by screening a series of movie musicals, including "Funny Girl" (July 11), "Bye Bye Birdie" (July 18), a sing-along "Grease" (July 25) and "Dreamgirls" (Aug. 1). PTC scored a blockbuster with its production of the musical "Scottsboro Boys" this season.
Theater doesn't entirely go away when July begins, with Shakespeare in Clark Park mounting "The Merry Wives of Windsor" (Clark Park, Chester Avenue & 43rd Street, 7 p.m. July 25-29, free, shakespeareinclarkpark.org) and the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival at DeSales University taking on the Bard ("The Tempest," "Much Ado About Nothing") alongside Tennessee Williams ("Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"). The Savoy Company similarly goes old school with a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado" (Longwood Gardens, 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, 8:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, $27, 610-388-1000, savoy.org).
"There's still stuff out there to do in Philly," Glaccum said about the extended summer season. "Come use our air conditioning!" n
Contact Molly Eichel at 215-854-5909 or email@example.com, or follow on Twitter @mollyeichel. Read her blog posts at philly.com/entertainment.