November 30, 2013 |
Let us consider what the season has to offer - besides the Black Friday shopping demolition derby, parties soaked with eggnog, and general frenzy wrapped in pretty paper and too many bows. Folks, there's fun to be had amid the madness of gift-buying and wrestling with tangled strings of lights. As ever, the region this year delivers a multitude of events, and, as ever, we're unwrapping the highlights (there are a lot of presents). A Christmas Carol Charles Dickens' enduring 1843 tale becomes a tour de force when Scott Langdon performs every role, from Scrooge to Bob Cratchit to Tiny Tim (not to mention Fezziwig)
November 26, 2013 |
If you're wondering whether anybody under 90 remembers the singer and celebrity personality Sophie Tucker, who was born in 1884, the answer is clear: At least three people do. This tribute show, which opened Friday at the Walnut Street Theatre's Independence Studio on 3, is a bio-cabaret created by Richard Hopkins, Jack Fournier, and Kathy Halenda. Halenda plays Tucker, singing some great songs that are familiar even if Tucker is not attached to them in memory. Much of the pleasure in any biography is that you already know something about the subject and want to know more.
November 22, 2013
IT'S A good thing I thoroughly enjoyed "Elf," the musical-stage version of the hit 2003 movie that runs through Jan. 5 at the Walnut Street Theatre. If I hadn't, I'd likely have to surrender my membership in the human race. That's because only the Grinchiest of Scrooges (or is that Scroogiest of Grinches?) could give a "Bah, humbug!" to this merry melange of yuletide music and mirth. Like the film upon which it is based, "Elf" follows the misadventures of a bumbling but lovable North Pole denizen who, though raised from infanthood as one of Santa's elves, is actually a human being (hence his unusual height and inability to speedily and efficiently construct toys)
November 22, 2013 |
When Sophie Tucker called herself "the Last of the Red Hot Mamas," the plus-size ragtime café singer-turned-Ziegfeld Follies vaudevillian-turned radio and TV personality crafted an archetype, a sassy icon of traditional Yiddish song and bawdy comic tunes whose catalog was dwarfed only by her outsize personality. Tucker (1884-1966) was brassy, bodacious, loud and proud - Mae West and Fanny Brice rolled into one big lady. In her time she made hits of such songs as the slow, jazzy "Some of These Days," "Real Women Have Curves," and "Hula Lou," and in her wake she inspired the likes of Bette Midler.
November 16, 2013 |
My family doesn't celebrate Christmas. We don't even have a Hanukkah bush, that multiculti concession to the holiday's ubiquity and allure. However, every year we watch Elf , sometimes even in summer. Elf the musical, warming up the Walnut Street Theatre's main stage, attempts to capture the film's oddball appeal and repackage it with an even wider-eyed, toe-tapping, more universal appeal. With a book by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin, music by Matthew Sklar, and lyrics by Chad Beguelin, the story remains mostly the same.
November 15, 2013
IF YOU were to construct a backward-directed timeline of female performers who flaunted conventions of public behavior and decorum, you'd likely start with Miley Cyrus and Lady Gaga , and continue on through Madonna , Marilyn Monroe and Mae West , who was actually jailed for writing and acting in a Broadway show called "Sex" in the 1920s. But that line would end (and, actually, begin) with Sophie Tucker , whose fame has faded as the decades have rolled by, but who is the spiritual forebear of every headline-grabbing show biz femme fatale who has emerged in her wake.
November 8, 2013 |
WE WERE hoping to put off this column for another couple weeks, but because "Elf," the musical version of the 2003 hit Christmas comedy starring Will Ferrell , opened Tuesday night at the Walnut Street Theatre, there's no getting around it: The holiday season is upon us. Between now and the first week of the new year, venues throughout the region will present a cornucopia (to use a great holiday word) of seasonally themed and holiday-appropriate (and even inappropriate) programs.
October 4, 2013 |
THE WIDOW of Tom Clancy , the mega-best-selling author who died yesterday at age 66, has roots in Philly. Alexandra Marie Llewellyn , who went by Alexandra Clancy after she married the thriller author in 1999, is the daughter of former Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Philadelphia CEO J. Bruce Llewellyn , who died in 2010 with an estimated $160 million in the bank. Llewellyn led a group that bought the company that included Bill Cosby and Julius Erving . Man, I bet those were fun board meetings.
September 1, 2013 |
THE FALL theater season starts with a bang-and-a-half: the Thursday kickoff of the 18-day 2013 Fringe Festival (formerly the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe) staged by the likewise rechristened PhillyFringe organization. We'll have details in Friday's paper. Other seasonal highlights include the debut of the 530-seat Penn's Landing Playhouse (formerly the Independence Seaport Museum) and the opening of PhillyFringe's permanent home base on the northern end of the Penn's Landing complex, the return of actor Chazz Palminteri's autobiographical one-man show, "A Bronx Tale" (at the resurrected Prince Music Theater)
August 9, 2013
WHEN IT first crossed the Atlantic Ocean to America in 1985, "Les Miserables" was arguably the greatest spectacle Broadway had ever seen. With its groundbreaking, turntable-driven staging, space-dominating barricades and brilliant, reality-altering lighting schemes, "Les Miserables" provided a powerful visual experience that matched the sonic intensity of the score. But during the past decade, the venerated "sung-through" version of Victor Hugo's classic 19th-century novel of love, deceit, despair and redemption has been shrinking.