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Philadelphia Spotlight: December 2006

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Maggie Lakis
in The BFG (Big Friendly Giant)
(© John Flak)
It is never too early to introduce children to the magical world of theater. This month Philadelphia-area theaters offer numerous opportunities to take the kids to a show, and there's plenty of great stuff on tap for adults too.

For years, the Arden Theatre Company has been presenting high-quality children's theater -- and this season appears to be no exception with the Arden's production of The BFG (Big Friendly Giant). Adapted by David Wood from Roald Dahl's beloved children's book, this is the story of a young orphan who embarks on a fantastical journey into the land of giants. Acclaimed designer Aaron Cromie brings the tale to life with a collection of puppets and dolls ranging from the miniature to the towering 14-foot-tall giant (through January 21).

The Philadelphia Theatre Company is producing the first family production in their history with their staging of storyteller David Gonzalez's The Frog Bride (December 22-30). For this contemporary adaptation of an old Russian fairy tale, Gonzalez employs a jazz-funk score and video projections to bring a modern slant on the classic coming-of-age story about a prince who goes in search of a wife and instead returns with a frog.

Hometown star Andrea McArdle, who garnered a Tony Award nomination for her performance as Little Orphan Annie in the original Broadway production of Annie, makes her Prince Music Theater debut playing a very different Annie in the Irving Berlin classic Annie Get Your Gun (December 2-31). The show includes such well-known tunes as "Anything You Can Do," "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun" and the infectious showstopper "There's No Business like Show Business." Local favorite Jeffrey Coon and Broadway veteran John Scherer head the large supporting cast.

The Wilma Theater offers audiences' an alternative to the lighthearted holiday fare with their production of Athol Fugard's stirring drama My Children! My Africa! (December 6-January 7). Director Blanka Zizka's new production stars the hugely talented Glynn Turman, perhaps best known to television audiences for his role on HBO's The Wire.

In the past few years no theater company has produced more entertaining holiday fare than 1812 Productions. This season, they tackle the ever-changing political landscape with the comedy This Is the Week that Is: Political Humor for the Holidays (December 1-January 7). This new show will be updated on a daily basis to reflect the changing political landscape.

The Flashpoint Theatre Company brings back their annual production of David Sedaris' amusing one-acts The Santaland Diaries and Season's Greetings to Our Friends and Family (December 6-22). Irreverent and a tad naughty, Diaries looks back on Sedaris' job as an elf working at Macy's where he encountered not only hordes of screaming children but a particularly flirtatious gay elf named Snowflake. The equally humorous Greetings focuses on a housewife whose cheerful holiday season is interrupted when a young woman shows up intent on winning the affections of Mrs. Dunbar's hubby and teenage son.

Azuka Theatre gets into the holiday spirit with the return of local playwright Veronica Griego's madcap comedy 'Twas the Night (December 9-31). Helmed by gifted director Tom Reing and starring the multi-talented Lee Etzold, the show is a behind-the-scenes look at a live TV show where nothing goes exactly as planned.

Heading down to Wilmington, Delaware Theatre Company is presenting writer/director/producer Kevin Ramsey's musical biography Sam Cooke: Forever Mr. Soul (December 9-24) in a world premiere production starring Temple University graduate Lawrence Stallings. The production features 29 of the late vocalist's greatest songs including "Cupid," "Having a Party," and "Twistin' the Night Away."

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