2012 Fall Guide: Theater

Broadway hits, political humor and musicals galore.

By J. Cooper Robb
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Sep. 19, 2012

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Gaffes equal laughs: Dave Jadico and Reuben Mitchell bring the hilarity as formaer Gov. Mitt Romney and President Obama in 1812 Productions' This is the Week That Is: The Election Special.

Photo by Mark Garvin

The Wilma begins its new season where it left off with the 2011-12 campaign, continuing Tony Kushner’s epic “Gay Fantasia on National Themes” with their production of Angels in America Part II: Perestroika. The entire cast from director Blanka Zizka’s spring production of Angels’ first part, Millennium Approaches—recently recognized with seven Barrymore Award nominations—returns for Perestroika, which advances the story of a diverse group of New Yorkers trying to survive in the Big Apple during the early years of the AIDS epidemic. If you missed Part I, the Wilma will be staging Angels in America in its entirety on select dates, which, 20 years after Perestroika debuted, remains one of theater’s most potent experiences. (Sept.19-Oct. 21)

The Arden Theatre Company begins its 25th anniversary season with director Terrence J. Nolen’s production of the hit Broadway musical Next to Normal. An unsentimental investigation of the impact mental illness has on one suburban American family, the musical covers a wide range of emotions in composer/lyricist Tom Kitt’s evocative and supremely catchy rock score. Conceived by Nolen and video and scenic designer Jorge Cousineau, who previously co-conceived the Arden’s unique staging of Sunday in the Park with George, the new production capably utilizes Cousineau’s skills to visually represent the inner thoughts and feelings of Normal’s emotionally damaged but courageous characters. (Sept. 27-Nov. 4)

Political junkies can get their fix with 1812 Productions’ absurdly funny This is the Week That Is: The Election Special. The annual production, which features a revised script every night, is usually performed during the holidays. Every four years, however, the company transforms the variety show-style production into a political satire that lampoons the presidential race. This year’s version includes an election pageant, complete with swimwear and talent competitions, and some candidate crooning in a sketch titled American Presidential Idol. Every year, the production plays to sold-out houses at Plays and Players Theater, so find your photo ID, and get your tickets early for this box-office smash. (Sept. 27-Nov. 4)

Philadelphia Theatre Company pulls out all the stops with the world premiere of the ambitious new Stars of David, a musical stage adaptation of Abigail Pogrebin’s celebrated book Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk about Being Jewish. The show features some of contemporary theater’s greatest composer/lyricists, who translate the interviews of famous Jews—including comic legend Joan Rivers, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Leonard Nimoy and Tony Kushner—collected in Pogrebin’s book into song. Among the composers contributing their talents are Marc Shaiman (Hairspray), William Finn (Falsettos), Tom Kitt (Next to Normal) and the recently-deceased great, Marvin Hamlisch. (Oct. 17-Nov. 18).

Barrymore Award winning director Ozzie Jones makes his debut with First World Theatre Festival when Jones helms the company’s production of Glenn Alan’s Don’t Sing No More Blues for Me at CEC’s Meeting House Theater in West Philly. The first play in Alan’s spiritual blues trilogy, Sing focuses on a young black man who attends the funeral of a mother he never knew. Set in a barbershop in a small town where secrets are hard to keep, the play explores black male achievement and the impact the choices we make have on our family and the community at large. (Oct. 18-28)

October 24 marks the return of the imaginative company Gas & Electric Arts, which opens its season with the regional premiere of the unusual drama Behind the Eye. Performed on the tiny stage at Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, the play focuses on the globetrotting, trend-setting Lee Miller, who left a life of modeling to become the muse of artist Man Ray and an iconic figure in the surrealism movement. Directed by Lisa Jo Epstein, the stylish production features original music by Melissa Dunphy and stars Kittson O’ Neill as the enigmatic Miller. (Oct. 24-Nov. 18)

Azuka Theatre has established itself as the place to go for theater that uses off-beat characters and whimsical situations to explore serious and topical issues. This Halloween, the company continues their mission to bring 20 30-year-old adults to the theater with the unique comedy Pookie Goes Grenading. Written by the promising young dramatist J.C. Lee, the story follows a gang of high school misfits intent on making a shocking realistic film that includes blowing up a police station and torching the school auditorium. After kidnapping their guidance counselor, the radical filmmakers find themselves the targets of a nationwide manhunt in Lee’s satire about filmmakers who will go to any length to create their art. (Oct. 31-Nov 18).

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