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Philadelphia Spotlight: July 2008

Mamma Dearest

Susie McMonagle in Mamma Mia!
(© Joan Marcus)
Its Mamma Mia! mania in Philadelphia this July as the stage shows makes a return visit to Philly (Academy of Music, July 15-27) just as the new film adaptation hits the area movie houses. Featuring songs from the pop band ABBA and audiences that prefer dancing over sitting, this musical is a theatrical event unlike any other.

Theatre Horizon kicks-off its summer season with Stephen Schwartz's adaptation of Studs Terkel's best-selling novel Working (July 2-27). Featuring musical contributions from such noted composers as James Taylor, the musical focuses on America's unsung working class. Director Mathew Decker's new production weaves the voices of actual workers from the Philly region into the show's soundscape, a concept that continues Horizon's tradition of incorporating the stories of the surrounding community into its productions.

Quince Productions, LLC presents the Philadelphia premiere of Victor Bumbalo's Niagara Falls July 16-August 2 at the intimate Shubin Theater. Described as "Tony n' Tina's Wedding meets Queer as Folk" Bumbalo's comedy focuses on a pair of newlyweds who find their young marriage in jeopardy.

The city's smaller companies are represented at the Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia 4th annual Spark Festival (July 16-20). Staged at historic Plays and Players theatre, the theme of this year's event is "going against the flow." Featuring works from 11 companies, highlights include the Madhouse Theatre Company's tale of a mime gone mad, The Last Straw, Flashpoint Theatre Company's exploration of win-at-all-costs competition in Division III, and Naked Fish, a two-person play from EgoPo Productions about fishermen contemplating the nature of existence.

Fans of new plays can get a glimpse of developing works when Playpenn hosts a series of free staged readings at the organization's fourth annual New Play Development Conference (Adrienne Theatre, July 24-27). This year's conference features readings of eight new works, including new plays from such esteemed playwrights as local dramatist Bruce Graham (Any Given Monday) and Jeffrey Hatcher, who is represented with his new adaptation of J.M. Barrie's Dear Brutus.

The terrific young company Shakespeare in Clark Park returns for a third summer with a free outdoor production of the Bard's pastoral comedy As you Like It (July 30-August 3) at Clark Park in West Philadelphia. The twisting tale follows the exploits of young Rosalind who after finding herself banished from court by an evil uncle discovers romance in the untamed wilderness of the Forest of Arden.

If it gets too hot for you in the city, make your way to the bucolic Hedgerow Theatre where the suburban company is mounting Ray Cooney's delightful farce There Goes the Bride (July 10-August 31). Bride marks the seventh consecutive summer the theater has presented a Cooney farce and its past successes with the Brit playwright suggest Hedgerow's Bride will deliver an evening of uncontained hilarity.


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