If you’re looking for world-class theater, you’ve come to the right place. This fall, Philadelphia’s most illustrious performing arts organizations present engaging productions on stages across the city and beyond. From family-friendly fun to dysfunctional family drama, these can’t-miss shows are sure to captivate audiences.
‘Shrek The Musical’
Just in time for the holiday season, “Shrek The Musical” comes to life at the Walnut Street Theatre (825 Walnut St., 215.574.3550, www.walnutstreettheatre.org) starting November 5. Bring the whole family to see this kid-friendly performance based on DreamWorks’ hit animated movie. The story follows a trio of travelers—a shy ogre, a chatty donkey and an independent-minded princess with a secret—on an epic road trip of sorts, where they meet a cast of famous fairytale characters like Pinocchio, the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella and a talking gingerbread man. Theatergoers attending the matinees on November 16, 17, 23 or 24 can buy tickets for a pre-show tour of the venue, the oldest theater in the country and a National Historic Landmark.
Founding Father Alexander Hamilton made his indelible mark in Philadelphia, where he signed the U.S. Constitution at Independence Hall in 1787. Celebrate his legacy at a performance of “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony and Grammy Award-winning masterpiece, a hot ticket that completes its three-month run at the Forrest Theatre (1114 Walnut St., 215.893.1999, www.kimmelcenter.org) on November 17. Through a mix of musical styles like hip-hop, blues and rap, the show takes audiences along for the ride as Hamilton ascends from West Indian immigrant to America’s first Treasury Secretary.
While tickets to the show are notoriously expensive and hard to come by, with a little bit of luck you might be able to score a great seat with an even better price tag. Download the Hamilton app to enter a daily lottery where 40 tickets per show are available for just $10 each. And if the performance inspires you to learn more about the man, make your way to the Museum of the American Revolution, which has dubbed 2019 the Year of Hamilton; nearly 30 rare artifacts related to his life are on display.
‘Next to Normal’
The Goodmans might seem like the quintessential American family, but “Next to Normal” reveals the truth behind their idyllic façade. This two-act rock musical explores how serious issues, such as bipolar disorder, depression and death, affect not only the people who suffer, but those around them as well. The show, which debuted on Broadway in 2009 and went on to win honors including three Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, goes on at the Bristol Riverside Theatre (120 Radcliffe St., Bristol, Pa., 215.785.0100, www.brtstage.org) until November 24.
Clare Barron’s “Dance Nation” centers around a competitive troupe of pre-teens on a mission to win the national trophy at the Boogie Down Grand Prix. As the plot progresses, the girls—played by actors of all ages—learn about more than just rhythm and choreography; they discover the inner strengths, desires and dreams that make them who they are and inform the women they will become. The play, a finalist for this year’s Pulitzer Prize, runs at the Wilma Theater (265 S. Broad St., 215.546.7824, www.wilmatheater.org) until November 10.
If you liked “Mean Girls,” the hit 2004 film by Philadelphia’s own Tina Fey, then you’ll love the Tony-nominated musical, which debuted on Broadway last year and became an immediate smash hit with both critics and audiences. Starting November 19, settle into your seat at the Academy of Music (240 S. Broad St., 215.893.1999, www.kimmelcenter.org) to watch the hilarious antics of teenager Cady Heron, who moves from the African savanna to start high school in suburban Illinois. Thrust into this unfamiliar environment, she encounters—and then sets out to destroy—a clique of too-cool-for-school girls who rule the social scene.
‘A Small Fire’
Emmy and Tony winner Bebe Neuwirth stars as Emily Bridges in “A Small Fire,” which kicks off the Philadelphia Theatre Company’s 2019-20 season at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre (480 S. Broad St., 215.985.0420, www.philadelphiatheatrecompany.org). In business and in life, Emily is used to being in charge, until a mysterious medical condition forces her to depend on her husband and daughter. At times funny, heartbreaking and poignant, the play follows her uncertain transformation as she reluctantly reveals her vulnerabilities and does her best to diffuse the seriousness of her situation with humor. The production runs through November 10.