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Philadelphia Spotlight: December 2008

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Nikki Snelson in A Chorus Line
(© Paul Kolnik)
This holiday season Philadelphia plays host to one of the greatest musical of all times when the national tour of A Chorus Line takes up residence at the Forrest Theatre, December 16-January 4. The winner of a Pulitzer Prize for drama and a staggering nine Tony Awards, Chorus Line remains as appealing today as when it first took the theater world by storm in 1975.

1812 Productions' previously visited the world of vaudeville in the company's delightful 2000 holiday show Big Time: Vaudeville for the Holiday and again in 2001 with the amusing sequel Another Big Time: More Vaudeville for the Holidays. In 2008, the comic troupe finds inspiration in vaudeville once again in Cherry Bomb: The Worst Act in Vaudeville for the Holidays (December 11-January 4) at Plays and Players Theater. Created by artistic director Jennifer Childs and the talented James Sugg; Bomb focuses on the infamous Cherry Sisters, who had a vaudeville act so awful it inspired audience members to hurl rotten vegetables at the unfortunate siblings.

Last year the Walnut Street Theatre scored a hit with director Madi Distefano's hilarious staging of Greater Tuna. This month, Distefano and original cast members John Zak and Benjamin Lloyd return to the Walnut Street Theatre Independence Studio on 3 in the sequel A Tuna Christmas (through January 4). Set on Christmas Eve, Zak and Lloyd perform multiple roles in depicting the somewhat uncultivated citizens of the tiny redneck town of Tuna, Texas.

For the second consecutive holiday season, the Wilma Theater highlights the off-beat humor of British playwright Roy Smiles with the U.S. premiere of Schmucks (December 3-January 4). Set during the 1965 New York City blackout, the show imagines a discussion between Groucho Marx and Lenny Bruce in which the two legendary comics debate the role of comedy in society.

The best musical from last season returns when the Azuka Theatre revives its production of the rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch in a one-night-only concert staging December 8 at The Troc. Featuring a gritty rock score by Stephen Trask, Azuka's production features the charismatic Dito van Reigersberg as the transgender rocker Hedwig alongside Kim Carson, who captured a Barrymore Award for her performance as Hedwig's longtime companion Yitzhak.

Jewish moms are the focus of the Philadelphia Theatre Company's production 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother (December 11-22) at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre. Penned by Judy Gold and Kate Moira Ryan and performed by Gold, the 70-minute monologue is drawn from Gold's own life (she is a Jewish lesbian mother of two) and interviews with 50 Jewish mothers. Gold is a master comic, but in Mother she shows the capacity to be not only extremely funny but surprisingly poignant as well.

The Arden Theatre Company has a well-deserved reputation as one of the city's top presenters of children's theater. For a sample of the company's expertise you can attend David Wood's stage adaptation of Roald Dahl's beloved children's book James and the Giant Peach (December 10-February 28) about the adventurers of young boy who crawls inside a magical (not to mention absurdly large) peach.


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