Jeffrey Carlson
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
Jeffrey Carlson
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
The area's theater companies look to begin the new year on a winning note with a flurry of highly-anticipated productions in January. The Philadelphia Theatre Company gives local theatergoers the first peek at Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally's new work when it presents the world premiere of Golden Age (January 22-February 14). The play is set in 19th-century Paris where McNally takes us backstage at opening night of the opera I Puritani. The cast includes Rebecca Brooksher, Jeffrey Carlson, Hoon Lee, and Marc Kudisch.

The Walnut Street Theatre is a beehive of activity this month with new productions on both of its stages. In its main auditorium the Walnut launches the world premiere of The Eclectic Society (January 19-March 7). The first original work from playwright Eric Conger, Society is set on a college campus in 1963 where an African-American student is trying to navigate both his classes and an American society undergoing radical change. The Walnut's Studio on 3 is staging the world premiere of The Prince (January 19-February 7). Conceived by Walnut artistic director Bernard Havard and written by Philadelphians Armen Pandola and Bill Van Horn, the homegrown story concerns an unethical politician who serves not only his constituent's interests but his own as well.

Bibliophiles may want to visit the Mauckingbird Theatre Company's Capote/Baldwin Repertoire (January 8-31), which features a pair of solo works about the gay literary icons Truman Capote and James Baldwin. In Tru, the wonderful Chris Faith portrays the volatile Capote during his somewhat cantankerous relationship with Manhattan's elite. Performing in repertory is the world premiere of The Threshing Floor created by and starring local actor/playwright James Ijames. Spanning four decades, the new work explores Baldwin's turbulent life and career as one of America's most influential novelists.

This month the Arden Theatre Company stages the Philly debut of Tanya Barfield's lyrical exploration of cultural and personal identity Blue Door (January 14-March 21). A poignant investigation of the role memory plays in both developing and maintaining our sense of self; the production stars Kes Khemnu who gave a dazzling performance in the Arden's production of The Piano Lesson.

Ambler's Act II Playhouse is remounting their hit summer production of the musical Respect this month at Center City's historic Society Hill Playhouse (January 27-April 18). Performing Top 40 tunes including "Respect" and "I Will Survive," the show is a fast-paced account of the female experience in 20th century America.

Finally, Philadelphians apparently can't get enough of Wicked. The smash musical from Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman about life in Oz before Dorothy's arrival makes a return visit to the Academy of Music (January 6-24) to once again thrill audiences with its charming score and eye-popping costumes.