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Philadelphia Spotlight: November 2008

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Michael Walker and Amy Toporek in Hairspray
(© Mark Garvin)
Hairdos, munchkins, and one very ambitious Scottish king are just some of the things you'll find on Philadelphia stages this November.

The nation's oldest theater continues its 200th anniversary celebration as the Walnut Street Theatre presents the smash musical Hairspray (November 4-January 4). Based on John Waters' hit film, the story follows Tracy Turnblad, a young girl with a dream of dancing on a popular television program. Featuring an electrifying score by composer Marc Shaiman, the Tony Award winning musical is a sensationally entertaining show that is guaranteed to put a bounce in your step. The production stars Michael Walker as Edna Turnblad and Amy Toporek as Tracy, and also includes Barrymore Award winner Joliet Harris (Caroline, or Change) as the uncontainable Motormouth Mabel.

The Bristol Riverside Theatre presents Alan Ayckbourn's celebrated comedy Absurd Person Singular (November 11-30). The story of three married couples over the Christmas holidays, the production stars the enchanting Susan Stevens and Dan Hodge, who in the past two years has emerged as one of the area's most compelling actors.

The fledgling Magic Circle Theater Company makes its debut with a compact new staging of Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth (November 13-23). Arguably Shakespeare's most exciting play, director Josh L. Hitchens' vigorous 90-minute production doesn't contain the action to the stage, but instead utilizes the entire space at the intimate Shubin Theater.

Online relationships can have unexpected entanglements as seen in Carlos Murillo's gritty drama dark play or stories for boys (November 13-December 7). The play focuses on a destructive relationship between two adolescent boys who meet in an online chat room. A disturbing look at the social life of teens in the 21st century, dark play explores the increasingly thin line that separates the real and virtual worlds. The Theatre Exile production is helmed by one of the city's top directors, Deborah Block.

Lantern Theater Company presents Nikolai Gogol's rarely seen 1836 play The Government Inspector (November 21-December 28). Utilizing a new family friendly adaptation by Armina LaManna and David O'Connor (who also directs the production) the story concerns a small town that is thrown into turmoil when word spreads that an important government official will soon be making a visit. LaManna and O'Connor's adaptation aims to make Gogol's comic masterpiece accessible to audience members age eight to eighty with a production that emphasizes the play's madcap humor.

Families are also sure to enjoy The Wizard of Oz (November 28-30), as the Kimmel Center brings one of the most beloved films of all time to the stage at the Academy of Music. Director Nigel West's production uses the glamour of art deco Hollywood as a backdrop for the familiar story of a young girl who travels to a distant land and discovers the importance of home. Featuring dazzling special effects, the musical (which is based on the Royal Shakespeare Company's celebrated production) includes the classics "Over the Rainbow" and the delightful "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead."

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