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Philadelphia Spotlight: May 2011

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Eric Kunze and Melinda Chua
in Miss Saigon
(© Bruce Bennett Photography)
Many of the Philadelphia area's largest theaters conclude their seasons this May with productions from some of the world's most noted playwrights and composers. The city's largest theater company Walnut Street Theatre concludes their season with the blockbuster musical spectacular Miss Saigon (May 17-July 17). Penned by the composers of Les Miserables, this modern adaptation of Madame Butterfly is set during the fall of Saigon in the concluding days of the Vietnam War. A tragic tale about the love between an American soldier and a Vietnamese girl, the show is a spectacle that must be seen to be believed.

Philadelphia Theatre Company wraps their season with Lynn Nottage's affecting drama Ruined (May 20-June 12). Inspired by interviews conducted in Africa, the play is a touching and inspirational work about people on both sides of the bloody civil war in the embattled nation of Congo. This is the first opportunity for Philadelphia audiences to witness the play that was rightly accorded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

Interact Theatre Company presents A. Zell Williams' In A Daughter's Eyes, which recently won the 2011 Smith Prize from the National New Play Network (NNPN). Inspired by the true story of Mumia Abu-Jamal, an activist and journalist convicted in the death of a Philadelphia police officer, it follows two women -- the lawyer-child of an incarcerated Black Panther, and the daughter of the white police officer Abu-Jamal allegedly killed.

For the first time in their history, the Wilma Theater is staging a work by renowned British playwright Alan Ayckbourn with the production of Ayckbourn's wickedly funny comedy My Wonderful Day (May 18-June 19). Helmed by guest director Richard Hamburger, the plot focuses on an Afro-Caribbean cleaning woman who brings her young daughter to work with her in the London home of a wealthy couple in the midst of a turbulent love affair.

The Arden Theatre ends their 2010-11 campaign with the world premiere production of The Flea and the Professor (May 4-June 12). A new musical featuring music by Richard Gray and a book by the hugely talented Jordan Harrison (who is also responsible for the show's lyrics), the story is based on the final tale by Hans Christian Anderson. A celebration of the unknown, the jaunty musical follows the exploits of a young professor and a flea who is both the professor's best friend and constant companion. Intended for children and adults of all ages, the production employs all manner of stage magic to bring to life the pair's adventurous journey to the four corners of the globe.

One of the few companies not concluding their season is People's Light & Theatre Company which treats audiences to the Philadelphia area premiere of Horton Foote's classic Dividing the Estate (May 11-June 5). Set in 1987 Texas, the play focuses on a prominent family that suddenly finds itself on the brink of financial ruin. Director Abigail Adams' acclaimed ensemble is led by the peerless veteran actress Carla Belver as the family matriarch Stella.

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