Seven Last Chances to Fringe

Close Music For Bodies runs through September 24 at Christ Church Neighborhood House.

Close Music For Bodies @ Christ Church Neighborhood House | Through September 24
Michael Kiley sang with the catchy rock band Cordalene in the early 2000s, but he’s gotten a lot more experimental since then. In recent years, he worked on a series of sound installation/apps that layered and changed what listeners heard as they wandered through Rittenhouse Square and Race Street Pier with their earbuds in. Now Kiley brings us Close Music For Bodies, a decidedly non-technological audio experience in which audience members find themselves surrounded and infiltrated by singers on the move. Get ready to kick off your shoes. Not kidding.

Interior @ Our Lady of Mt Carmel Parish | Through September 23
Dance choreographer Leah Stein — a perennial favorite in Philly Fringe, not to mention the arts scene at large — teams up with violinist/composer Diane Monroe for an “intimate and expansive” audio-visual experience. Read more »

11 Things to Do in Comedy, Movies, Theater, Books and more

Jen Kirkman plays the Trocadero on Saturday.
(Robyn Von Swank)

Rock and Roll Man: The Alan Freed Story @ Bucks County Playhouse | Through October 1
George Wendt (Norm!) and Alan Campbell star in the world premiere of Gary Kupper’s musical about one of the fathers of rock ’n’ roll.

Ma’ Rosa @ Prince Theater Black Box | Wednesday, September 20
Philadelphia Film Society presents a screening of Brillante Mendoza’s 2016 film as part of their Passport to World Cinema series. Jaclyn Jose won Best Actress at Cannes for her portrayal of a meth-dealing convenience store owner in the Philippines. Read more »

O Festival Diary—Day V: The Wake World Is O17’s Glamorous Swan Song

Maeve Höglund in The Wake World at the O Festival. (Photo by Dominic M. Mercier)

Between September 14th and 25th, Opera Philadelphia will boldly go where few, if any, companies have gone before—a festival that brings seven events covering the broad spectrum of opera, and in some cases pushing it into the future. There are traditional works (Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at the Academy), new voices (We Shall Not Be Moved, which adds hip hop and spoken-word to the mix), big stars (reigning Met diva Sondra Radvanovsky in concert), and unusual venues (including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes). I’ll do my best to cover as many of these events as I can. You can also find more information about the O Festival on their website.

A tragic realization hit me as I waited for the start of David Hertzberg’s dense, maddening, but also sometimes breathtakingly lovely opera, The Wake World: I am neither as fabulous nor as intelligent as I like to think I am. Read more »

O Festival Diary—Day IV, Part II: War Stories

War Stories at the O Festival. (Photo by Dominic M. Mercier)

Between September 14th and 25th, Opera Philadelphia will boldly go where few, if any, companies have gone before—a festival that brings seven events covering the broad spectrum of opera, and in some cases pushing it into the future. There are traditional works (Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at the Academy), new voices (We Shall Not Be Moved, which adds hip hop and spoken-word to the mix), big stars (reigning Met diva Sondra Radvanovsky in concert), and unusual venues (including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes). I’ll do my best to cover as many of these events as I can. You can also find more information about the O Festival on their website.

At the core of War Stories, a provocative pairing of two works (one Baroque, one contemporary), is a haunting new opera by Lembit Beecher, which receives its world premiere here in O17.  The title is ironic—I Have No More Stories to Tell You is, in fact, full of disquieting story fragments, drawn from lived experience as well as terrified reliving. Set in the present, war dominates the lives of three character, most of all Sorrell, a female soldier now back at home and suffering from PTSD. At night, she lies in bed—though her husband tries to help her, she is largely beyond comfort.  Read more »

Music: 6 Shows to See in the Next 7 Days

Alice Glass plays Underground Arts on Tuesday. (Jupiter Keyes)

Matthew Sweet @ The Queen in Wilmington | Thursday, September 21
I caught Matthew Sweet’s performance at the Haverford Music Festival a couple weeks ago. Observations: 1) He sounds good, like really good. Voice like a hot fudge sundae. Pretty loud, too. 2) I knew way more songs than I thought I did. It wasn’t just “Girlfriend” and “I’ve Been Waiting.” It was “Time Capsule,” “The Ugly Truth,” “Devil With the Green Eyes,” etc. 3) “Sick of Myself” is still a great song. 4) I always assumed it was Sweet himself playing those catchy lead-guitar riffs, but he has a guy for that. I don’t know this guy’s name. 5) Havertown can drink.

 

Jay Som @ First Unitarian Church | Friday, September 22
The Bandcamp superstar returns for an all-ages show. I saw Jay Som play Boot & Saddle in the Spring, and was charmed by her intimate songwriting and jangly, guitar-pop sound. Read more »

O Festival Diary—Day IV, Part I: Sondra Radvanovsky in Recital


Between September 14th and 25th, Opera Philadelphia will boldly go where few, if any, companies have gone before—a festival that brings seven events covering the broad spectrum of opera, and in some cases pushing it into the future. There are traditional works (Mozart’s
Die Zauberflöte at the Academy), new voices (We Shall Not Be Moved, which adds hip hop and spoken-word to the mix), big stars (reigning Met diva Sondra Radvanovsky in concert), and unusual venues (including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes). I’ll do my best to cover as many of these events as I can. You can also find more information about the O Festival on their website.

A recital is not an opera, but let’s not get too sniffy. O17 is wisely embracing a wide range of musical experiences, and even the Met does the occasional recital. More important, stars are and have always been a major component of opera, and recitals can be an avenue to bring in high-wattage glamour that might not otherwise be available.

Glamour is something Sondra Radvanovsky certainly provided. In two gowns—one midnight blue-and-black, the other green, each with dramatic jewelry to match—she looked every inch the gorgeous diva, but her friendly, even self-effacing manner (she apologized for relying on a music stand, but she’s in the midst of Norma rehearsals at the Met) instantly won over the audience. Anthony Manoli was her supportive pianist. Read more »

Let’s Watch a Bunch of War on Drugs Videos

Adam Granduciel and The War On Drugs play the Dell Music Center on Thursday. (Dustin Condren)

This Thursday, Philly rock heroes The War on Drugs play their biggest hometown show yet — headlining Connor Barwin’s Make The World Better Foundation fundraiser at the recently revamped Dell Music Center.

NFL linebacker Barwin, indie rock’s largest fan, was often spotted at shows around town when he played for the Eagles, thus leading to his teaming up with show promoters R5. Together, they’ve staged yearly concerts benefitting his charity that builds playgrounds and parks. Previous incarnations, at Union Transfer, were headlined by Hop Along, Waxahatchee and Kurt Vile. (Barwin signed with the Rams in the off-season, but remains committed to making the world better.)

This year Connor and co. are expanding their horizons by holding the event in the Dell Music Center. The large outdoor amphitheatre in Strawberry Mansion recently underwent $6 million in renovations. Read more »

THEATER REVIEW: Simpatico at McCarter Uneasily Straddles the American Dream

Mierka Girten, Michael Shannon, and John Judd in Simpatico at McCarter Theatre Center. (Photo by Richard Termine)

Two things you’ll know from the first minutes of Simpatico—you are very much in a land that can only belong to Sam Shepard; and the McCarter/Red Orchid production’s director, Dado, knows how to put this darkly funny, tonally complex world on the stage.

All of this is great news for me, since Sam’s my jam. I’ve loved his work since I discovered it as a student living in suburban Southern California, a vast wasteland he understands as no one else does. Most of Simpatico is set there—and to a native, at least, the litany of place names (Glendora, San Dimas, Azusa, Cucamonga) toll like a mournful bell. Here is where America has gone to die.  Read more »

O Festival Diary—Day III: We Shall Not Be Moved

Lauren Whitehead in We Shall Not Be Moved at the O Festival. (Photo by Dominic M. Mercier)

Between September 14th and 25th, Opera Philadelphia will boldly go where few, if any, companies have gone before—a festival that brings seven events covering the broad spectrum of opera, and in some cases pushing it into the future. There are traditional works (Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at the Academy), new voices (We Shall Not Be Moved, which adds hip hop and spoken-word to the mix), big stars (reigning Met diva Sondra Radvanovsky in concert), and unusual venues (including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes). I’ll do my best to cover as many of these events as I can. You can also find more information about the O Festival on their website.

We Shall Not Be Moved is another world premiere—yet it will be chillingly resonant to Philadelphians old enough to remember the source material. I arrived here in 1990, five years after the MOVE bombings and fire that destroyed a neighborhood—but the incident still dominated conversation and the general political landscape. My office was just a couple of miles away, something I thought about often. Read more »

O Festival Diary—Day II: In O17’s Die Zauberflöte, the Magic is in the Technology

Rachel Sterrenberg and Jarrett Ott in Die Zauberflote at the O Festival. (Photo by Steven Pisano)

Between September 14th and 25th, Opera Philadelphia will boldly go where few, if any, companies have gone before, with O17—a festival that brings seven events covering the broad spectrum of opera, and in some cases pushing it into the future. There are traditional works (Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at the Academy), new voices (We Shall Not Be Moved, which adds hip hop and spoken-word to the mix), big stars (reigning Met diva Sondra Radvanovsky in concert), and unusual venues (including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes). I’ll do my best to cover as many of these events as I can. You can also find more information about the O Festival on their website.

Another day, another challenge. Last night, I gave a quick and enthusiastic response to Elizabeth Cree, a world premiere work I’d never heard before. Tonight brought the comfort of familiarity, with Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte in Opera Philadelphia’s home theater, the Academy of Music. This time, at least I’m on terra cognita—in fact, I taught the opera last week as part of a musical theater course.

Still, there’s nothing simple about Zauberflöte, which despite its fairy-tale tone dwells in ambiguities and big, dark questions. The musical demands are formidable. But it’s a great choice for O17, as the mythical setting (usually a fantastic take on ancient Egypt) lends itself to imaginative rethinking. Read more »

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