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Philadelphia Spotlight: February 2006
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The Cat's Meow

February 2 is Groundhog's Day, and February 3 might become known as Cat's Day in the Off-Broadway world. Also, keep an eye out for a humble rooster, a beleaguered dragon, an unattractive duckling, a petite mermaid, and a circus of fire.

By New York City
A scene from Moscow Cats Theatre
A scene from Moscow Cats Theatre
February 2 is Groundhog's Day, and February 3 might become known as Cat's Day in the Off-Broadway world. That's because Moscow Cats Theatre -- a most unusual circus act that became the talk of the town when it debuted downtown last season -- moves on up to the Lamb's Theater on that day for an open-ended run. Your puppy might be able to sit, lay down, roll over, and play dead, but these felines do tightrope acts, maneuver a rocking horse, and roll on a mirrored ball.

The Prospect Theater Company presents an adaptation of Walter Wangerin, Jr.'s The Book of the Dun Cow at the West End Theatre on February 4. This mythic tale follows Chauntecleer, a humble rooster who wages battle against a mysterious Wyrm for the fate of the earth. One Los Angeles Times writer opined that the original novel belonged "on the shelf with Animal Farm, Watership Down, and The Lord of the Rings."

Also opening on February 4, Cirkus Inferno brings together the combustible clowns Lucky and Lady, whose slapstick antics include fearsome pyrotechnics and astonishing sleight of hand. The show may be seen at Symphony Space for one day only as part of the Just Kidding festival; also set to perform at the same venue on February 18 is Justin Roberts, the 2003 Parent's Choice Gold Award-winning musician who's earning acclaim for his comic ditties.

Direct from the Netherlands, Baron Rabinovitsj brings his grand orchestra of seven musicians to Off Broadway's New Victory Theater, February 18-April 2. Among the players are a terminally tardy trombonist, an overly diligent violinist, and an out of tempo percussionist. Audience laughter during their performances is said to be fortissimo.

Manhattan Children's Theatre takes kids back to mythic times to encounter The Last of the Dragons. With a score by Kristin Walter, this musical based on E. Nesbit's short story tells of a prince's heroic journey to save a princess from a dragon -- and of his great surprise when he finds that neither wants to play along. Set to run February 18-March 16 at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre, the musical is all about how difficult it can be to break from tradition.

The Vital Theatre Company's new show literally defies description, because it's bound to change with every performance. Ren Casey and Brianna Tyson's Out of Orbit! A Choose Your Own Adventure Musical starts with a doomsday scenario: Scientists have detected a comet that has veered off course, ricocheted off the moon, and is hurtling dangerously close to the earth. How will massive destruction be avoided? Only you and your children can decide, February 18-March 26 at the McGinn/Cazale.

That bird might not have the shiniest feathers, but he sure can sing! A musical version of The Ugly Duckling, with an eclectic score by Debra Kaye and book and lyrics by Brenda Bell, teaches kids what real beauty's all about. If they arrive a half-hour early to the Marjorie S. Dean Little Theatre, they can also participate in a pre-show workshop about adapting literature for the stage and, as an added bonus, can make a special art project to take home as a souvenir.

Meanwhile, many old favorites are playing on Long Island: There's Anastasia (February 11-25) at the Airport Playhouse, Raggedy Ann & Andy (February 22-25) at Theatre Three, The Wizard of Oz (February 4-March 4) at Broadhollow's BayWay Arts Center, and The Little Mermaid at the Stage Theatre (February 4-March 18).


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