Arielle Jacobs and John Jeffrey Martinin Disney's High School Musical(© Joan Marcus)
Arielle Jacobs and John Jeffrey Martin
in Disney's High School Musical
(© Joan Marcus)
The city's major companies are now on their traditional summer break, but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of theater to enjoy in the Philadelphia area this July.

Philadelphia's Academy of Music is the second stop for the national tour of the eagerly-awaited Disney's High School Musical (July 11-22). Adapted by David Simpatico from the hugely popular Disney Channel film, the show is the story of a high school basketball player who defies his cliquish friends to star in the school musical with an intellectually-gifted female lead.

July also bring the return of the national tour of the smash-hit Wicked to the Academy of Music (July 25-August 19). Based on Gregory Maguire's 1995 best-selling novel, the musical reveals how a pair of best friends in Oz became the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch. The score by Stephen Schwartz, of Pippin and Godspell fame, includes such new favorites as "Defying Gravity" and "For Good."

Theatre Horizon presents the family-friendly Broadway musical Once on This Island, featuring a book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty. This beloved tale of star-crossed lovers who try to overcome prejudice and racism is helmed by Horizon artistic director Matthew Decker.

For the sixth consecutive summer, the Hedgerow Theatre will delight local audiences with one of playwright Ray Cooney's breezy farces; this year's offering is Cooney's West End hit It Runs in the Family (July 6-September 9). A delirious comedy about a chaotic London hospital, it stars the always appealing Zoran Kovcic.

This month, you can sample the wares of several of the nation's top dramatists as PlayPenn culminates its third annual New Play Development Conference with a series of staged readings at the Adrienne Theatre (July 19-22). Performed by some of Philly's top actors, the readings include works in-progress by Andrew Case (The Rant), Russell Davis (The Day of the Picnic), Christina Ham (After Adam), Jennifer Maisel (There or Here), and Sean Christopher Lewis (Militant Language), as well as local playwright Aaron Posner's new adaptation of Chaim Potok's novel My Name is Asher Lev. All readings are free, but reservations are recommended.

The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival completes its 2007 summer season with a pair of very different comedies. First up on the 187-seat Arena Stage is Charles Ludlam's The Mystery of Irma Vep (July 11-August 5), a ridiculously far-fetched Gothic parody that amounts to a rollicking two hours of hilarity, theatrical sleight-of-hand, and madcap costume changes. Also on the company's mainstage is Shakespeare's celebrated comedy The Taming of the Shrew (July 18-August 5).