November 10, 2014 |
When the power was shut off at the Walnut Street Theatre's Port Richmond scenic and prop shop a few years ago, it could have meant trouble. But, there in the dark, producing artistic director Bernard Havard saw an opportunity. It turned out the landlord hadn't been paying the utility bills or the mortgage. So, rather than risk eviction, the Walnut bought the building - more than tripling its space from 24,000 to 85,000 square feet. "To be able to control our own destiny has always been a priority for me," Havard said.
November 8, 2014
YOU MAY still be munching on Halloween candy, but like it or not, the holiday season is here. Certainly retailers are already on the case, and so is the region's theater community, which has a diverse menu of offerings ready for serving. As always, the fare includes both the season-specific (the annual staging of "A Christmas Carol" at Princeton University's McCarter Theatre) and the family-friendly ("Mary Poppins" at the Walnut Street Theatre; " Rodgers & Hammerstein 's Cinderella" at the Academy of Music)
September 14, 2014 |
THEATER season has kicked off, as always, with the Fringe Festival, now in its 18th year. Between now and the holidays, the region will see a slate of performances ranging from Broadway-blockbusters like "Newsies" to dramas like Arden Theatre's take on "Great Expectations" to one-person presentations on a dizzying array of topics - including a cheeky zoology lesson by Isabella Rossellini. If you blink you'll miss what figures to be the most talked-about one-night stand on the schedule - the musical horror story "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County" by Stephen King, John Mellencamp and T Bone Burnett.
September 13, 2014 |
A big, cheerful, gorgeous dumb blonde of a musical comedy, 9 to 5: The Musical , the Walnut Street Theatre's season opener, is, like many a dumb blonde, good for a fun night out. (OK, OK, is every new-wave feminist going to call the gender police? Aw, shucks.) Based on the 1980 movie of the same name (its screenwriter, Patricia Resnick, wrote the show's book), Dolly Parton wrote 16 songs for the Broadway show, each with her signature country sound; the excellent cast belts them out with gusto.
July 18, 2014
THAT PHILLY-based actor Forrest McClendon is spending this week in Wisconsin is hardly big news. After all, the Land of Beer and Cheese is a popular place for rest and recreation in mid-July. But of the untold numbers of people currently visiting America's Dairyland, McClendon is unique: He is one of only 10 thespians there as part of the Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship. Named for famed early-20th-century stage actors Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne , the fellowship is a weeklong master class conducted at Ten Chimneys, the couple's estate in the bucolic town of Genesee Depot.
June 2, 2014 |
SUMMERTIME IS DOWNTIME for many of the region's theater companies, who'll spend the next couple of months gearing up for the 2014-15 season. But there are still plenty of good shows for theatergoers of all stripes and interests, especially those with a fondness for Broadway musicals. Unfortunately, our town doesn't offer much in the way of outdoor theater. Blame the humidity. One fine exception: the annual Shakespeare show in West Philly's Clark Park, this year taking on "Henry IV" with a vast cast of locals enacting the battle scenes.
May 24, 2014 |
Confession: I had never seen How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying , the musical comedy concluding the Walnut Street Theatre's season. Its reputation, of course, preceded it. One of the major Frank Loesser shows (Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock, and Willie Gilbert wrote the book), it won the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for drama and seven Tony Awards. So I was expecting greatness. Ah, well. Think of a singing Mad Men , but without the complicated attitude. How to Succeed is also a satire of corporate America, of the ambitious, gray-suited yes-men with skinny ties who connive and backstab their way up the ladder, and their over-coiffed secretaries determined to hook a tycoon.
May 23, 2014
HAD ENOUGH of deformed, subterranean opera-house denizens, barricade-building, 19th-century French student revolutionaries, musical adaptations of obscure movies and the endless parade of Disney characters come-to-life? Then head to the Walnut Street Theatre and bask in the glory of the way things used to be, when musicals sparkled with clever comedic banter, genuinely funny jokes and honest-to-goodness songs that stayed in your head long after the curtain fell, as opposed to dialogue delivered via instantly forgettable melodies wrapped in ersatz rock or watered-down R&B. Through July 13, the Walnut is presenting "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying," one of the most popular musical comedies of all time.
May 14, 2014 |
Neil LaBute is a frustrating, infuriating playwright, who also occasionally taps a direct line into the heart of men's darkness. Simpatico Theatre's version of LaBute's In a Dark Dark House , a taut 2007 drama about a family's secrets, recently retooled by the playwright, provides a conduit for that line, and for all the elements that make him so confounding and compelling. As directed by Harriet Power, this is a nervewracking hour and a half. All three characters - adult brothers Drew and Terry and 16-year-old Jennifer, whom Terry meets at her father's miniature golf course - squirm like bugs under a magnifying glass in the hot sun, each trying to wriggle out of their own skin as one or the other continues to apply the fire.
May 4, 2014 |
Everyone's done it. Yes, what you're thinking, too. But every regular theatergoer has seen (or will see) I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change . Lyricist Joe DiPietro and musician Jimmy Roberts' 1996 battle-of-the-sexes musical comedy ran Off-Broadway for more than a decade and has been staged across the country. Few companies I've seen have staged it with the same charm and comic aplomb as the production now running at the Walnut Street Theatre's Independence Studio on 3. DiPietro's book pokes evenhanded, light fun at the courtship habits of two couples: Man 1 (Christopher Sutton)