May 23, 2015 |
'Inspired by actual events" has become one of the more misleading phrases used to push entertainment. In Memphis , now in a musically sensational staging at the Walnut Street Theatre, the claim to a factual basis creates huge dichotomies within the production, and makes a mess of the entire evening. In the 1950s, Memphis DJ Dewey Phillips broke radio's color barrier by becoming one of the first white DJs to play "race music," then a euphemism for rock-and-roll and blues sung by African Americans.
May 3, 2015 |
The sheer number of songs in I Love a Piano wouldn't surprise an Irving Berlin scholar - but their power and number astounded in Ray Roderick and Michael Berkeley's musical tribute. More than 50 selections from Berlin's songbook fill the delightful 95-minute production at the Walnut Street Independence Studio on 3. With a cast led by Ellie Mooney and Owen Pelesh, these songs soared, charmed with their winsomeness, and reminded listeners - with a nostalgic sense of loss - of the age in which Berlin wrote the lyrics and music for most of his greatest hits.
April 23, 2015 |
On one of last winter's snowy nights, playgoers arrived at the door of a Bala Cynwyd home, shed their jackets and boots, and took their seats - in this case, bridge chairs scattered around a living room. At "curtain time" - although the only curtains were on the windows - Deborah Baer Mozes, a petite woman with a megawatt smile, greeted those assembled, and gave a brief orientation. It was showtime at Salon Ariel - a theater troupe that makes house calls, if you will - and at the front of the room were the actors who would be performing a reading of a full-length play called Hungry Heart . The latest iteration of intimate, in-home performances - think home concerts - Salon Ariel hopes to fill a void in the theater world.
April 22, 2015 |
Reprise alert! Philadelphia Artists' Collective's stunning production of The Rape of Lucrece , Dan Hodge's one-man, many-character presentation of Shakespeare's epic poem, returns to Philadelphia this week for four performances only at the Wilma Theater. The piece, which was a runaway hit at the 2014 Fringe Festival, is a quick follow-up to PAC's The Fair Maid of the West . The combination of those shows - one an obscure tragic work by Shakespeare, the other a rambunctious big-cast 1631 comedy by Thomas Heywood - perfectly represents PAC's mission: the rediscovery of scripts undeservedly forgotten and neglected.
April 4, 2015 |
Children are invited to join the Continental Army, see what it was like to be a continental soldier, and learn army essentials Saturday at Valley Forge National Historical Park. First, kids will receive enlistment papers and old-time continental-style cash. They will then learn how to load, fire, and carry a dummy musket just as soldiers did in George Washington's day. Park rangers in full continental uniform will train the young recruits. Join the Continental Army Junior Ranger Program, 11 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Visitor Center at Valley Forge National Historical Park, 1400 N. Outer Line Dr., King of Prussia.
April 1, 2015 |
Remember Liberace? The Wisconsin-born piano prodigy who for decades reigned as an American superstar by building an entertainment empire of TV and a mainstay Vegas act that paid him up to $300,000 a week? If you don't, the Walnut's Independence Studio on 3 production of Liberace! contains plenty of historical information to fill you in. Writer/director Brent Hazelton's 2010 show winks at the idea that many may not remember the pop icon. After Jack Forbes Wilson's Liberace announces a drawling "I'm ba-ack!
March 27, 2015 |
Say the name "Liberace" and a dozen smiling images - each campier than the one before - pop into view, all fabulous, rhinestone-encrusted, fur-lined, and sprinkled with stardust. When he was part of the entertainment landscape from the 1950s through the 1980s on television or stage, Liberace's keyboard repertoire was one of showy pop/classical sides and willowy, winking conversational asides. And he was beloved, particularly by women, his sexuality rarely questioned (he won libel suits against Britain's Daily Mirror and Confidential magazine in the mid-'50s when they implied he was homosexual)
March 21, 2015 |
Agatha Christie's old chestnut of a novel, Ten Little Indians , was a best-seller in 1939 and was adapted for the stage in 1943. It creaks along under its politically correct title, And Then There Were None , on the Walnut Street Theatre's main stage, providing a mildly amusing evening and a mildly puzzling whodunit. As a murder mystery, it has more in common with the board game Clue than with Law and Order . The premise: 10 people, strangers to one another, have been invited to an isolated manor house in the middle of an island for a weekend.
March 12, 2015 |
THANK GOD for the Philadelphia Film Society! On Monday, it officially announced the acquisition of the historic Prince Music Theater, on Chestnut Street near Broad. The beloved theater had been shuttered since October, when the theatrical organization that occupied the building - the American Music Theater Festival - failed to find new leadership after its board chairman died. Prince reps tell me that the beleaguered theater had been in a constant state of bankruptcy but was being floated by its board chairman.
February 7, 2015 |
What's that smell? It's The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fair(l)y (stoopid) Tales at Walnut Street Theatre through Sunday. The hour-long musical comedy is based on the immensely popular 1992 book by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. Jack tries to save himself from being eaten by the Giant by regaling him with fairy tales, frequently fractured (Cinderumplestiltskin, anyone? Goldilocks and the Three Elephants?). Fairy-tale worlds converge and come to life as the audience goes on a journey into Jack's crazy world.